By Joe M. Casey, Local Historian
Lynchburg’s Frontier Days celebration began 50 years ago when Lynchburg American Legion Post 192 held their first “Big Fourth of July Celebration” on July 4, 1962 at the Legion Recreational Area. It was a big day of entertainment with a beauty contest, bingo, Little League baseball, swimming, barbecue and lots more. This event was the forerunner that three years later, in 1965, evolved into “Frontier Days” that is still held in Lynchburg today.
Along about this time period, a big interest in horseback riding as a hobby developed among many area residents. Several local men, including Grady Massey (1907-1993) and Charles “Chick” Hinkle (1921-2007) of the Lois community started organizing trail rides on horseback through the countryside. On Thursday morning, June 6, 1963, over 100 people participated in a Ride-a-Thon accompanied by a Wagon Train that left from Jack Daniel Distillery and made their way to Lois where they had a lunch break. They continued down Farris Creek Road to the Ernest Smith Walking Horse Stables. The ride ended in a large field near Hurdlow School where they camped for the night. The group left the campsite Friday morning and disbanded along the trail ride back to Lynchburg. Gene Albritton, a Church of Christ minister, was trail and wagon master for this ride.
This was the first event of this type to be held in Moore County in 25 years. The last Ride-a-Thon had been held in 1938 when a group of 50 horseback riders, led by Dr. Boyd of Nashville riding “Old Chief,” owned by the Harrison family, left Lynchburg in the morning and rode to Marble Hill, where they had lunch and returned to Lynchburg in the afternoon. Some of the riders that took part in that ride were Charlie Spann, Charles Harrison, Will K. Parks, Alton Pierce, Jr., Albert Byrom, Ernest Smith, R.E. Cobble and Grady Massey.
The second Ride-a-Thon and Wagon Train in 1963 was held on Thursday, July 4, in conjunction with the American Legion Fourth of July Celebration. That morning, over 200 people left from Jack Daniel Distillery in horse drawn wagons, on horseback and pony carts for a fifteen mile trail ride that took them to Lois where they had a rest stop, then continued down Farris Creek to Hurdlow and eventually on to the farm of Otis Templeton in the Edde Bend community. The group camped for two days and nights on the banks of Elk River near the old Indian Mound. Gene Albritton was again the trail master for this ride.
In 1964, eight Cherokee Indians from Cherokee, N.C., under the direction of Chief White Eagle (William Pasley) and Chief Blue Cloud, took part in the annual Ride-a-Thon and Wagon Train. The group left Lynchburg on Friday morning, July 3, with over 200 riders in buggies, carts and on horseback. Gene Albritton was wagon master assisted by directors “Chick” Hinkle, Grady Massey, Wilburn Fanning and Lacy Grammer.
That year the wagon train traveled up the highway to Good Branch Road, out through Hickory Hill and Bakertown, on to Lois for a rest stop, then down Goose Branch to the new campground on Mulberry Creek, on to the Joe Daniel farm where the group camped until Monday morning. The American Legion operated a concession stand at the campsite all through the weekend.
In 1964, as the wagon train made its way along the highway through “the cut” near Lois, one of the wagons was attacked by the Cherokee Indians. The occupants of the wagon, Charles “Chick” Hinkle and his wife Laura, along with Randy Renegar, were captured and held as hostages. Upon arrival at the campsite, the Indians held a ceremonial war dance and peace party with the white men and the hostages were released. It was estimated that about 8,000 people either participated or visited the camp during the weekend.
The next year, 1965, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first “Frontier Week” celebration to start Monday, June 28 and continue the entire week in conjunction with the third annual Ride-a-Thon and Wagon Train held on the Fourth of July weekend. Chamber officials that year were Harold Pool, President; Bob Bobo, Leroy Wilkinson, Ray Benderman and Truman Ashby. Mayor Lon Burton issued a proclamation to make the event official.
The town was decorated in a frontier theme with displays in the store windows. Men were encouraged to grow beards and everyone was urged to wear western attire the entire week to give Lynchburg the appearance of an old frontier town. There was entertainment on the town square each night, but the big night was Friday night, when Boyce Hawkins of WSM television in Nashville served as master of ceremonies for the activities. Chief White Eagle and Chief Blue Cloud, with a group of Cherokee, presented a program of Indian dances and other entertainment. Patricia Lewis of Hurdlow was crowned Frontier Queen; Doug Warren was judged as having the best beard; and Ray Benderman had the best moustache.
The third annual Ride-a-Thon and Wagon Train left Lynchburg on Saturday morning, July 3, 1965, led by Bro. Gene Albritton and wagon trail masters Robert Smith, Skip Inlow, Glenn Smith, Lloyd Smith and Sutton Woodard. The group of riders took the same 16 mile trail ride it took the year before to the Joe Daniel farm south of town. The camping area was enlarged with additional land obtained from J.D. Tucker and Crawford Matlock. On Saturday night, the Cherokee gave a performance in the center of the camping area. On Sunday morning, Bro. Gene Albritton delivered a sermon at the campsite. Approximately 200 riders with horses, buggies, carts and wagons had made the trail ride, while hundreds of others camped for the weekend, but did not take the ride.
The next two years, 1966 and 1967, Frontier Week was a big success. Brenda Tucker was crowned Frontier Queen in 1966 and Lynchburg pharmacist, Harold Pool, won the best beard contest.
In 1967, it was estimated that more that 400 horseback riders and 50 wagons participated in the trail ride and camped on the Joe Daniel farm. Wagon Master that year was Charles “Chick” Hinkle assisted by Grady Massey, Dale Copeland, Lloyd Smith and Wilburn Fanning. Darlene Sprouse was crowned Frontier Queen during “Frontier Week” and Randy Renegar, a student at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, won best beard contest.
Dr. Leroy Wilkinson, Chamber of Commerce President, announced in June 1968 that the fourth annual Frontier Week had been canceled “due to lack of interest and participation in carrying out plans for the events.”
The annual Moore County Ride-a-Thon and Wagon Train was held as scheduled in 1968, but with a new campground. The big trail ride left Lynchburg Thursday morning, July 4, with more than 250 horseback riders, 12 covered wagons and several pony carts. They traveled through Tolley Town and out to Lois where they halted for a rest stop and lunch. The group proceeded along Preston Ridge Road to the “Chick” Hinkle farm to camp throughout the weekend.
In 1969, the Chamber of Commerce made a decision to sponsor a three-day event on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before the Fourth of July, instead of the week-long celebration. The name was changed to Frontier Days and the Lions Club helped to promote the event that year. The annual Ride-a-Thon and Wagon Train left on Friday morning, July 4 and took the same route to the Hinkle farm near Lois for three days of camping.
Frontier Days was not held in 1970, but the trail ride and wagon train took the same route and camped for the third year on the Hinkle farm.
1971 was Moore County’s 100th birthday. That year the Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations planned a three-day Frontier Days to include a Centennial Celebration in observance of the county’s 100th birthday, to be held on Wednesday, June 30; Thursday, July 1; and Friday, July 2. On Saturday morning, July 3, the annual Ride-a-Thon and Wagon Train led by Charles “Chick” Hinkle, left Lynchburg and took the same route through Lois to the Hinkle campground.
To kick off the county’s birthday celebration, a Centennial Flotilla of 52 boats left from the Lost Creek area on Tims Ford Lake on Sunday afternoon, June 27. The flotilla of boats proceeded down the Elk River Channel of the lake to the Dry Creek area near Winchester in Franklin County. At that point, Moore County Judge M.P. Riggins and other county officials met with officials of Franklin County and presented them a treaty of friendship for another 100 years of continued unity between the two counties. This historic event was witnessed by a crowd of more than 300 people.
During this decade, 1962-1971, a lot of people in the Moore County area put in a lot of work and effort to establish “Frontier Days,” a tradition that is still celebrated today in historic Lynchburg.