By SUSAN LEATHERS
In a town like Nolensville, where the population has grown threefold since the turn of the 21st century, helping history come alive to those with no institutional knowledge of the place they now call home can help build community.
Historic preservation also grows in importance when so much of what built the town — farms and agricultural-based enterprises – are quickly disappearing.
A new book, Images of America: Nolensville, does just that.
After two years of painstaking research, interviews and hunting down more than 900 photographs, authors Beth Lothers and Vicky Travis are excited to spread the word that a project first considered five years ago, has finally made its way to local stores and online retailers.
The 127-page, soft-cover book is one of Arcadia Publishing’s popular Images of America series. The series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns and cities across the country through vintage photographs and explanatory words.
When the authors started the project, “we had like 20 pictures in our possession,” says Travis, a journalist who has called Nolensville home for close to 25 years. “We knew the book would contain a minimum of 180 photos and thought we’d never be able to find that many.
“It was like following the bread crumbs,” she says of finding photos that illustrated stories they wanted to include and the right people who could share context about specific photos they collected.
Lothers recalls a breakthrough moment at the Nolensville Library when they were researching the 1966 integration of local schools.
“We really wanted to speak with someone who was there that day, and in walks Jackie Green,” Lothers says.
Green, it turned out, was a Nolensville School third grader in 1966. Her personal experience and perspective provided answers to the authors’ questions.
They collected, borrowed and scanned over 900 images representing Nolensville’s modern history, which dates back to 1797 when town namesake William Nolen experienced a broken wagon wheel near Mill Creek. Quickly taken with the area, Nolen ultimately decided to claim 120 nearby acres of a Revolutionary War land grant.
The book includes historic maps and drawings to illustrate stories before photography became commonplace in the late-1800s.
“The hardest part was deciding what photos stayed and what didn’t,” Travis says. In the end, 240 photos made the cut. The six-chapter book begins with “Settler Stories” which introduce the town’s earliest residents and ends with “Coming Together,’ about its churches, parks and schools.
Another difficult decision was deciding what photo would be featured on the sepia-toned cover. In the end, an image of former Nolensville Co-operative Creamery and the local farmers who owned it was selected.
Travis hopes readers will find the photo-based history accessible, entertaining and educational. Lothers says the experience has made her appreciate the past every day.
“I don’t turn on a faucet without thinking of the early artesian wells. I don’t grumble as much about a pothole, thinking of the rough, holed earth that was called a road with a toll gate. I don’t worry as much about school rezoning, when I recall the one-room classrooms that burned and the tent students met under while the locals assembled a school.
“History provides perspective.”
Images of America: Nolensville (Arcadia Publishing, March 11,2019, $21.99) is available at local stores and from online booksellers.