As we continue our 1940’s tour of the Upper Cumberlands, today we’ll make a stop in Livingston, Tennessee. For those of us native to the plateau, Livingston is distinctly “under the mountain”. The nearest movie theatre to Jamestown, it was a frequent destination for young people. Unfortunately, that theatre closed and with it some of the Livingston traffic surely turned another direction. However, in 1940, hopes were high for the little town on Highway 52.
The 1940 census counted 1,527 people within the city limits of Overton County’s county seat. It was strategically located with state highways leading directly to Celina, Jamestown, Cookeville and Byrdstown. There was also a planned highway that would be designated Cordell Hull Parkway and would lead to Monterey.
The March of Progress publication reports Livingston had, “nine different manufacturing and processing establishments in active operation; seventeen retail stores supplying the town and the country around; two drugstores, and an up-to-date hospital; the town enjoys the services of four hotels and five cafes… nine courteous filling stations and auto repair shops.” The city was served by nine public utility agencies.
Notice the pictures that were offered to represent Overton County. The town shot shows off a line of 1930’s era automobiles. The rural shot shows farm machinery pulled by an early tractor, with a second man required to ride on the implement. I’ve mentioned several times on the blog how long horses and mules were still utilized in our rural communities. In fact, I’ve just recently had an opportunity to visit with a World War II veteran who confirmed that at the time he was drafted, his father still did not have a car. And, his grandfather actually never drove despite living until 1976. So, I can’t help but wonder if the pictures were very carefully framed if not actually staged. Of course, this being a promotional publication, we would certainly want to show the most progressive side of every community.
The rich natural resources of Overton County are not touted quite so loudly as in some of the other communities. Crawford was part of the Wilder-Davidson mining complex; while the operation was declining somewhat by the end of the 1930’s, it is surprising that this community is only mentioned in a long list of the rural communities of Overton County. The Dale Hollow Reservoir wouldn’t be completed for a few years after this article was written and probably its recreational asset was not fully understood.
The article is summarized with an invitation to tourists and industrialists alike. Hospitality, friendship, willing and anxious laborers are presented as the best reasons to visit or relocate to Livingston, Tennessee.