Bartlett celebrated its 150 years in style throughout 2016

Editor's note: This series ran regularly throughout 2016 to highlight Bartlett's history in honor of its 150th anniversary. This column concludes the series, but it's not the last time we will invite members of the Bartlett Historical Society and others to write about local history. Look for occasional future columns on inside pages of The Bartlett Express.

Bartlett-Sesq-logo-SMALL-WEThe city of Bartlett spent the past year celebrating our 150th anniversary! We hope you were a part of at least one of the many events held during the year. Looking back, it was a very good year filled with many events exhibiting the history of Bartlett and what Bartlett is today. In the summer of 2015 Mayor McDonald came up with the idea of a celebration our birthday and asked Alderman Paula Sedgwick to head up a Sesquicentennial Committee to make it happen. The other aldermen enthusiastically got on board, with David Parsons volunteering to put together a BBQ cooking contest at the Bartlett Festival, Bobby Simmons putting together a golf tournament and Jack Young organized a gospel sing.

A meeting at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year with the art teachers in all the Bartlett City Schools brought them on board. They came up with many ideas and ways the schools could contribute. The 2016 year was kicked off with each school putting up a large student-created banner across its lobby, giving their vision of the sesquicentennial. Each banner was unique and portrayed a part of Bartlett’s history. Sesquicentennial banners were put on poles up and down Stage Road and at entrances to the city; historical highlights were posted on the City’s Facebook page on Throwback Thursdays. Channel 24 broadcast videos highlighting the city’s 150th anniversary throughout the year. A special highlight was an original play written by Ashley Spriggs, Music teacher at Altruria Elementary, which the second grade performed with songs, costumes and props. It was an outstanding performance.

In January, Mayor McDonald announced a “Beards for Bartlett” contest and challenged men in Bartlett to grow beards for the sesquicentennial. Lapel pins “Beards for Bartlett” were available for purchase in the mayor’s office with proceeds going to the construction of the West Tennessee Veterans Home in Arlington.

Businesses were invited to participate and sponsor some of the events, and those responding were the Bartlett Station Commission, Saint Francis Hospital-Bartlett, First Tennessee, Brother International Corporation, Bank of Bartlett, Herbi-Systems, The Bartlett Express, Timothy Hacker, D.D.S., McDonald Insurance & Financial Services, Mid-South Solutions, Andy B’s and First South Financial.

In April the History Weekend gave people a glimpse of what Bartlett was like “in the olden days” with carriage rides. Bartlett Historical Society members and others dressed in period costumes, portraying people who lived in Bartlett long ago. Tours of historic churches and a vintage car show were also featured. The Southern Gospel Concert was also held that weekend at Ellendale Baptist Church with several gospel groups entertaining the audience with old gospel favorites.
May brought the Pickin’ Picnic Bluegrass Festival at the Bartlett Performing Arts & Conference Center and the Sesquicentennial Golf Tournament at the Quail Ridge Golf Course, benefitting our area veterans.

The annual July 4th Fireworks Extravaganza celebrated Bartlett’s 150th birthday along with America’s 240th birthday with a car display, entertainment, food and a spectacular fireworks display at the Bobby K. Flaherty Municipal Center.

The Bartlett Festival in September celebrated the sesquicentennial with the Bartlett Stagecoach on display and hot air balloon rides on Friday night. On Saturday a BBQ Cooking Contest, vintage car show, crafts, entertainment and more culminated in another spectacular fireworks display. The Beards for Bartlett contest was judged with many men with many different kinds of beards participating. After the event many of the men went home and shaved off their beards.

Efforts were made to find the oldest citizen in Bartlett and citizens who are lifelong residents of Bartlett resulted in a very small response. Of the responses, Ruby Wilkes Glenn was the oldest person. She was a resident of Kings Daughters and Sons Home and was 107 years old. Her nephew Baron Wilkes and wife Susan are longtime Bartlett residents. Sadly Ms. Glenn she died on Christmas Day. Another respondent was Mary Williams Levy, who is 90 years old. She was born in Bartlett and a member of the Norwood and Williams families and has lived in Bartlett most of her life.

Three people responded that they are lifelong residents, and they included:

  • Alan George, whose grandfather, John George Sr., was principal of Bartlett High School from 1922 to 1940 and whose father, John George Jr., was a prominent figure in Bartlett and served as aldermen in the 1950-60s.
  • JoAnn Freeman Jones, whose father, W. J. (Jody) Freeman, was the longest serving alderman in Bartlett’s history, serving 32 years from 1957 to 1992. He was also born in Bartlett and her mother, Mary Ann Blakely, lived in Bartlett since she was 8 years old. JoAnn’s children and grandchildren also reside in Bartlett.
  • Glenda Fletcher, who has lived in Bartlett in the Ellendale area all her life.

The finalé of the year was the Christmas Parade with the theme “Happy Birthday Bartlett,” where the schools and other organizations created awesome floats celebrating Bartlett. The Grand Marshall of the parade was Dr. David Stephens, superintendent of Bartlett City Schools, who was named Tennessee Superintendent of the Year, which added frosting to the sesquicentennial birthday cake. During the year Bartlett ranked seventh in the “12 Best Towns in Tennessee to Put Down Roots and Call Home” — a little more frosting.

The Bartlett Historical Society has collected so much new information about our city during the year about families, events and memorabilia. We would like to hear about your family’s history. Please contact us at (901) 373-8344 and share your family’s story.

What a wonderful year! What a wonderful city to live in! Aren’t you proud to be a part of it! We would like to thank the Sesquicentennial Committee, which included Alderman Paula Sedgwick, Debbie Gelineau, Shirley Jackson, Mick Wright, Rachel Landsdown, Jack Coleman, Sue Griffith Coleman and the many others who worked so hard. Mayor McDonald, could you leave a note in your desk to the mayor in 2066 to tell him/her of our spectacular year and throw out a challenge for the same to happen on our 200th anniversary!

Proud Bartlett residents will be happy to know it’s not too late to buy sesquicentennial memorabilia. In fact, it’s available now for half price, including the city’s collectible Christmas ornament for 2016, shirts, hats and more. Call Debbie Gelineau, Bartlett community relations director, at (901) 385-5590 for more information.

Written by Suzanne Griffith Coleman, special to the Express.