Hello…My name is Jeff Stewart. Actually, I was born Jeffrey Franklin Stewart, on Columbus Day 1950 at the old Smith Memorial Hospital. The hospital building is no longer here, but was located on the corner of South High Street and Second Avenue behind the Baptist Church. I, of course, am still glad to be here.
I have pretty much lived my whole life in Winchester and hold many fond memories of growing up here. My Grandmother’s home was located where Holt’s Diner is now, next to the “Old Jail Museum”. While staying with her, the Oldham Theater, Jenkins and Darwins, Rollins and Levan, Russells, The Men’s Store, The Chuck Wagon Restaurant and many other commercial establishments were within an easy walk. My fondest memories as a child are walking to the square on Saturday afternoon with twenty-five cents to see the Saturday Matinee at the Oldham while enjoying a coke and popcorn.
I went to school in Winchester at Mary Sharp, Mrs. Shook’s, and Clark Memorial. I hold many fond memories of these schools, the students, and the teachers. I learned a great deal, especially about discipline. I then graduated from Sewanee Military Academy, The University of the South, and Nashville Law School.
My family has been deeply rooted in Winchester’s legal, political, and merchant history.
The Stewart side represents the legal and political part of the equation. On the whole, the Stewarts have only been here just a little over a hundred years. My Great Grandfather T.L. (Thomas Lawrence) Stewart, an attorney, and his wife, Mary Fricks Stewart moved here from Dunlap, Tennessee around 1914, about the time he became Chancellor of the 12th Judicial Division (a state trial judge). His judicial division covered 14 counties and extended to Polk County next to North Carolina. He traveled to these counties by train and bus. His son, my Grandfather, Arthur Thomas “Tom” Stewart, was also an attorney. He was elected District Attorney General and prosecuted John T. Scopes in Dayton in 1925, which is now referred to as “The Monkey Trial”. Most people will remember the case because it featured the cross examination of William Jennings Bryan by the famous ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow in a clash of science vs. religion about creationism, “Darwinism vs. The Bible”. This was the first nationally broadcast trial in US history. My Grandfather later would serve his country as a United States Senator for Tennessee from 1938 to 1948. He served on the Armed Services Committee during World War II and was instrumental in locating Camp Forrest Military Training base here, which is now Arnold Air Force Base. My father, Lawrence Fricks Stewart, was also an attorney, and practiced law here before becoming Chancellor of the 12th Judicial Division and later the 12th Judicial District. I returned to Winchester after Law School and began my law practice in 1978 with Greg O’Neal. I was later joined by my younger brother Mark. In 1989 I became Chancellor of the 12th Judicial District (Franklin, Grundy, Marion, Sequatchie, Bledsoe, and Rhea Counties) and served until my retirement in 2018.
I am married to Linda Ann Mayberry Stewart and we have two sons, David (married to Julie) and John (married to Camille). As you can imagine, both of my sons have law degrees. David practices law with my brother Mark and John works at Arnold Air Force Base. I am also a proud Grandfather of Owen, Audrey, Ben, Griffin and Annalise.
My middle name is Franklin. That comes from my mother, Catherine Beulah Franklin. The Franklins have been in Franklin County since the early 1800’s. Certainly not early enough to have the county named after our branch on the tree, but close enough. They were mostly farmers from the Broadview community. However, the Winchester story I want to tell about the Franklins concerns my great grandfather, James Beauregard Franklin. He was a farmer and the father of seven sons and one daughter.
My grandfather, Claude Franklin, was one of the seven, and as previously mentioned, he lived next to the Old Jail. The back of his house faced what we now call the Dinah Shore Boulevard. He was one of several people who donated land to make the building of that road possible.
I mentioned my great grandfather Franklin was a farmer, but his obituary in 1930 states: “Death Calls Father of the Franklin Boys”. Between his seven sons, they operated five businesses on or near the square in Winchester. The Farmer’s Store and Franklin Bakery were just two of them. I remember my Grandfather’s Farmer’s Store very well, located catty corner to the present location of Winchester City Hall. It was a hardware store for farmers and others as well as equipment and appliances. My fondest memory of a Franklin business, however, was the Franklin Bakery. My olfactory senses can still recall the sumptuous smells of doughnuts and fried pies. I believe, to this day, their fried pies were the best ever produced. It was located behind the present location of Dr. Eddie Eichenberger’s office.
The Franklins have been long associated with the Methodist Church in Winchester from its earliest years. The Stewarts joined them later and it is still my family’s church home.
Winchester has been a wonderful place to grow up and raise my family. From the sleepy town of my youth where the stores were closed on Wednesday and Sunday, Greyhound had a bus station, fast food was a carry out meal from the Scenic Restaurant or Chili from the Pool Hall to the now thriving industries, new schools and shopping opportunities, and multiple eating establishments (dine in drive thru or carry out). We are now a modern coming of age city. Being part of a city is knowing its history and being part of its present while helping build its future. I love Winchester, its memories, its history, how rivers have turned into lakes, its people, old and new, its past and its future. I hope you love it too!