Baxter, Tennessee “The City of Goodwill”

This week’s stop in our tour of the Upper Cumberlands is Baxter, Tennessee.  Dubbed “The City of Goodwill,” The March of Progress publication devoted three pages and eight beautiful black and white photographs to the city of Baxter, Tennessee.    

Located along the Tennessee Central rail line, it is described as a “convenient trade center” and said to ship hardwood and pulp wood products as well as poultry and dairy products, corn, tobacco and livestock. 

The city offers greetings and a welcome to “kindly folk out on the plains, to other thousands in metropolitan communities, North, South, East and West.”  The article seems to reach out specifically to people who have their roots in the Upper Cumberlands in hopes those people would return to enjoy the traditional hospitality and natural beauty of the Baxter area.  Or, perhaps this welcome is issued to folks with no attachment to the area and an offer for them to make it home. 

Unlike the articles for many of the towns in this booklet, this welcome is the only recruiting hint in the article.  While the natural beauty and fertile land are touted, it is in the education offered there that the most emphasis is placed.

Baxter Seminary was established by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1908.  At the time of our tour, the school was thriving with enrollment of boys and girls from a large area.  The Seminary dedicated itself to vocational training not necessarily of church leaders as the name would lead you to think, but for “good citizenship and public service.”

I am not personally very familiar with the Baxter area and I was fascinated to read about this school.  At www.ajlambert.com, I found a “History of Baxter Seminary”.  From that document, it seems that there was a traditional seminary program in addition to the high school and collegiate studies.  The basis of all the programs seems two-fold:  Christian values and self-help. 

There were many opportunities for tuition to be waived and it seems that all of the students had to work.  Much of the building projects were completed by the students, in fact there is a drawing of a stained-glass window depicting children pulling a plow which broke ground for the first building on the campus. 

Baxter Seminary was sold to the county in 1959 and reopened as Upperman High School. The high school is still open although it was relocated in 1976.