Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Most of us have some fond memory of time spent at Carter Caves State Park. It’s a lovely little slice of earth, eons in the making, and a real asset to the county. But the park as we know it today – a place open to and maintained for the public – is less than a hundred years old. Before it was a state park, the land was held in various private hands. But it’s transformation from private holding to public began a little over 100 years ago, when a group of local investors purchased the cave property from “the Timmons heirs of New York,” in January of 1924.
The investors included a Mr. William Tabor, of Garrison; Wick Strother, J.A. Bagby, J.M. Rose, T.S. Yates, R.M. Bagby, and Dr. J Watt Stovall, of Grayson; and J.F. Lewis and O.M. Lewis of Carter City.
That group had plans, the January 1, 1924, issue of the Carter County Herald noted, to build a road into the property and a hotel, and to operate it as, “one of the greatest summer resorts in the country.”
The land wasn’t handed over to the state for use as a park until 1946, and the Cascade Caves – the largest set of caves in the park – weren’t added to the park land until 1959.
Still, the park as we know it today owes its existence not to the state. Not to owners and investors from outside the area. But to locals who took it upon themselves to make something for our area from the things we had available around us. They created something enduring and enriching. For us and for visitors to our area. Maybe there’s a lesson in there we should keep in mind.
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