Ed Holcombís History of
Hollow Rock, Tennessee
Transcribed by Joe Butler
Before 1867 the town of Hollow Rock, Tennessee, did not exist. In this year,
the Nashville and Northwestern Railroad was completed, a station and telegraph
office opened, and was given the name of Hollow Rock, taking its name from a
large rock nearby.
Prior to this, there was a small settlement on the Memphis to Bristol Stage
road at the intersection of the Paris Road located a few feet east of the present-
day Prospect Baptist Church. The Stage Road is known as U.S. Highway 70.
This settlement was called Sandy Bridge and was established in 1830. The
settlement had a post office, which also served as the stage office, and a log
inn. Zephaniah Harris was Postmaster and inn keeper. At that time there were
few bridges across the streams and a bridge across the Big Sandy River was
noteworthy enough to inspire the name of the settlement, Sandy Bridge.
A Frenchman making a tour of this country in the winter of 1832 described
his stay at this inn thusly:
"Sandy Bridge is nothing but a small inn built of logs. In the room where I write this
there are three beds of which stopping travelers, whatever their numbers or sex throw
An immense fire burns in the chimney. One freezes in this room despite a fire
which would roast an ox. Just a little while ago I wanted to take a glass of water that
had been brought to me, but being so imprudent as to leave it five minutes without
drinking it, I found it frozen."
Andrew and Lucinda McMackin owned a sixty-seven acre tract of land
adjacent to the new station. In 1867 they had this land laid off in streets and
numbered the lots. Most of these lots were north of the railroad, but some were
south of the tracks between the railroad and Hollow Rock Creek. The streets
were not named until later. A street just north of the railroad and running east
and west became Front Street. The next east and west street was Main and the
next, Cedar. The streets running north and south were as follows beginning on
the west side of town: Spring Street, Cemetery Street (later changed to
Seminary Street), and Depot Street, which soon became and still is a gulley.
These were followed by Hotel Street, named for a hotel started but never
finished at the east end of Front Street. Seminary and Depot streets were
connected to Front Street by alleys.
The first recorded deed was to N. B. Lipe, who bought several lots between
the railroad and the creek and two lots on Front Street between Hotel Street and
an alley. Andrew and Lucinda both signed these deeds, but Andrew died before
the others were signed. Thereafter all were signed by Lucinda. Both Andrew
and Lucinda are buried in a private cemetery at the north end of Spring Street.
N. B. Lipe built a store at Front and Hotel streets and a dwelling on Seminary
Street which still stands today. Among those buying lots and establishing
businesses were: Alex Phillips, J. G. Martin and Co., E. N. Lovelace and Co., W.
H. Lowry, John Spellings, and S. W. Muzzall, who in later years was known as
Uncle Steve. He had been an officer in the Confederate Army and after the
Confederate defeat at Island No. 10; he escaped capture by crossing Reelfoot
Lake swimming from one cypress stump to another. Most of these businesses
were on Front Street between Spring and Hotel streets. Saloons were located
between the railroad and creek. The railroad station was also south of the
tracks. It is said that during the time saloons were operating eighteen men were
killed in Hollow Rock. Two of the saloons were The Star and The Hollow Rock.
Later, there was a saloon south of the creek on the road from the railroad to the
present-day Prospect Baptist Church. This was the famous or perhaps infamous
Yellow Front Saloon. A patron of the saloon became angry with the owner and
staged an all night feast and drinking party for his friends. The next morning
they mounted their horses and raided the saloon throwing out the proprietor and
wrecking his business. The saloons were outlawed by the local option liquor
The town of Hollow Rock was chartered and incorporated February 3, 1869,
and the streets were given names; then, the town was unincorporated again.
There is no record of who the officials were or why this was done.
In 1911 the town was again incorporated with F. A. Penick as Mayor.
Aldermen were: A. Nunnely, S. F. Holcomb, W. M. Edwards, J. P. Cooper, and J.
The townís first doctor was Dr. Joe T. Henslee, a brother-in-law of N. B. Lipe.
He began practicing medicine in 1868 and built a home at the north end of Hotel
Street. This home was destroyed by fire about 1960. Dr. Henslee was soon
joined by Dr. Hance Lassiter and Dr. J. I. Martin. Later, the town was served by
Dr. G. H. Watkins, whose home still stands on Highway 70; Dr. W. C. Bomar;
and Dr. L. L. Duncan, who practiced here for about fifty years until his death in
1945. Dr. Duncan was a leader in civic affairs serving as president of the bank
for many years, serving several terms on the local school board, and he was
active in the business of the church. When World War I began, Dr. Watkins
gave each young man that volunteered a twenty-dollar gold piece.
During the early 1900ís, there were three doctors practicing in Hollow Rock:
Duncan, Trevathan, and Compton. In 1946, Dr. C. T. Cox moved from Westport
and practiced until his death in 1949.
Before 1875, there was a small school located on a road coming into town
from the northwest and being a little west of the present day Mill Street. In
1875, the Methodist Church built and began operating a school on the site of the
present day Prospect Methodist Church. The school was named the West
Tennessee Seminary. The school remained in operation until 1887, when the
Methodist Conference voted to give the building and grounds to the people of
Hollow Rock for a public school. After a time the building was moved to the
north end of Seminary Street and rebuilt as a two-room school. The Seminaryís
equipment and finances were moved to McLemoresville and became part of the
famous McLemoresville Collegiate Institute. Later, another room was added and
this continued to be the school until a two-story building was erected in 1919 on
the same lot for both elementary and high school. In 1927, the Central High
School was built on Highway 70 and the two-story building was used for grades
1-8. In 1960, the two-story building was replaced by a new facility. In the fall of
1980, all grades were transferred to the Highway 70 location after a new high
school and elementary classrooms were built and much remodeling was done on
In 1875 an important business, the Hollow Rock Roller Mill was built to grind
wheat into flour and corn into meal. The first owner was J. H. Harding. Later, n
ell was built on the mill and carding machinery was installed to clean and comb
wool. In those days, there were many sheep. The Mill was located on Mill Hill
on what is now Mill Street. Jerome Penick bought the Mill and Carding Factory
and operated them until his death in 1897. Arvil Penick and his father-in-law
then became the owners, and later Mr. Penick was the sole owner.
During these years farmers raised wheat and had it ground into flour for their
own use and paid the miller a toll. Besides selling locally the miller shipped his
part in barrels to nearby cities. Farmers came long distances, and there were
so many at harvest season that each one would take a number and wait his turn.
The mill furnished a campground for those having to wait overnight. The flour
and meal were hauled home in barrels. Eventually, plant diseases caused
wheat production to become unprofitable. Raising sheep became unpopular
because of their grazing habits and many sheep being killed by dogs.
In the early 1920ís, small gasoline powered grist mills came into use to grind
corn. These could quickly be cranked up to grind small amounts of corn. The
steam mill could not afford to raise steam for small amounts, and most
communities soon had a grist mill. This put an end to the roller millís business.
Mr. Penick then went into the sawmill business using his steam boiler for power.
After Mr. Penick died in 1930, the business was discontinued and the
machinery sold for scrap. Henry Ford expressed an interest in the carding mill,
but he would not buy it because there were no dates on it.
During the early 1900ís, Hollow Rock was a thriving town with good markets
for farmerís produce. Sam Holcomb started a produce business in 1902 and
bought eggs, poultry, butter, wool, hides, and furs. Much of the eggs and
poultry were shipped to New York City in car loads, and large amounts were
sent by express to cities throughout the southeast. In the spring when chicken
prices were their highest, farmers would wait in line with their wagons to unload
into poultry cars built for shipping chickens by rail. After Sam Holcomb moved
to Murray, Kentucky, Edgar Holcomb managed this business until his death in
In 1892, the Paducah, Tennessee and Alabama Railroad building south from
Paducah reached the N. C. & St. L. Railroad line at a point two miles east of
Hollow Rock. This became known as Hollow Rock Junction, and later the town
became Bruceton. In 1893, the P. T. & A. built south to Lexington. It was the
intention of the builders to run parallel to the N. C. & St. L. to Hollow Rock and
then go southward. After a right-of-way had already been acquired, some
landowners with property south of town who wanted the road to run through their
property, including Frank Chambers, Dr. Watkins and a Mr. Smith, gave a
banquet for the Chief Engineer of the railroad that included oysters, champagne
and fine cigars. By giving a right-of-way, they persuaded him to reroute the line
to run south of Prospect Cemetery and over a hill south of town. In 1895, the P.
T. & A. went bankrupt and was acquired by the N. C. & St. L. As soon as the
new was built, Frank Chambers endeavored to start a rival town to Hollow Rock.
This was located on the Stage Road slightly west of the present-day Central
High School. The railroad put in a siding and a flag station. Efforts were made
to get Hollow Rock merchants to move to the new town, but only Frank Phillips
and Ed Lovelace did. A two-story brick hotel was built with a ballroom in it. It
stood on ground now in the Prospect Cemetery and was called the Alabama
Hotel. Other ventures including a poultry dressing plant located there, but the
town did not flourish and lasted about five years.
As trains became longer and heavier, they began to have much difficulty
pulling the hill south of town, and in 1924 this line was rerouted to run parallel to
the other line from Bruceton to Hollow Rock and then southward. This was very
nearly the same route as planned in 1893.
In 1893, the great Hollow Rock fire destroyed most of the west portion of
Front Street. According to the Hollow Rock Record, a local newspaper, the fire
started in Phillips Drug Store and spread east to Kirkís Grocery, then to U. G.
Butlerís Drug Store and finally to C. F. Phillips Dry Goods Store. Over
$25,000.00 worth of property was destroyed.
In 1899, the railroad bought a thirty-two acre tract of land west of the upper
road from downtown to the Stage Road with the intention of having their shops
and terminal here. After considerable grading, including a wye to turn their
engines on, the plan was dropped, and the terminal was built at Hollow Rock
Junction. Heavy flooding by the creek is believed to be the reason for the
change in location. About this time a Mr. Barnett was farming the hill just east
of town, plowing with a horse and cow harnessed together. Mr. Barnett would
also collect "slop" from the hotel and feed it to the fish in a nearby pond.
A missionary Baptist Church was organized in 1846, and a cemetery was
started adjacent to it. These were both named Prospect. A road ran diagonally
across the creek bottom to the church from Front Street. This road remained in
use for several years after the church had been moved. In 1929, the railroad
gave the church the land, and a new church was built at its present sit on Hwy.
70. At this time, the trustees were L. L. Duncan, J. P. Cooper, L. A. Depriest,
John Wyatt and C. N. McMackins. C. C. Sledd was pastor. In 1850, the church
became affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
Before 1882, the Methodists attended church at Pisgah Methodist Church
about three miles north of town. In this year, J. G. Martin sold to F. S. Burrows,
J. H. Jordan, M. S. Martin, B. F. Chambers, S. W. Muzzell, J. C. Green and M.
L. Bennett, the trustees of the Methodist Church South, a lot on Seminary Street
for a church location. The present-day church is on this site. Also, there was a
church commonly called the Northern Methodist on Duncan Street located just
west of the school campus. The membership dwindled, and in 1916 it closed its
doors. In 1928, the property which consisted of a church building and a
parsonage was sold. For years, the Methodists had what was called a
Tabernacle. This was a large building open on all sides and equipped with
benches. It was located on the present site of Buckley Park and was used for
church revivals, political rallies, trials and other worthy causes. It was sold to a
private owner in 1918.
A Masonic Lodge was organized at Marlboro in 1860. The town of Marlboro
was about five miles north of Hollow Rock. This Lodge moved to Hollow Rock in
1871 and was renamed the Hollow Rock Lodge. It was located north of the
railroad on the west side of the upper road to the Stage Road. Sometime
between 1899 and 1910, the Lodge was moved to Buena Vista, but it retained its
name. In 1924, a group of Masons in Hollow Rock organized the Eureka Lodge
with the Rev. T. M. Boyd as Master. They used the second story of a store at
Seminary and Main as a meeting hall. About 1938, the Eureka Lodge merged
with the Hollow Rock Lodge at Buena Vista. In 1971, a storm destroyed the hall
at Buena Vista, and in 1972 the lodge returned to Hollow Rock to share a hall
with the American Legion.
Early day cotton buyers were S. W. Muzzall and W. H. Lowry. Muzzall had a
cotton gin on Mill Street and afterwards Lowry had one on the north side of
Cedar between Seminary and Depot streets. About 1910, John Cooper entered
the cotton business and soon had a large business. His gin was located on the
west side of Spring Street at Main. In 1942, J. D. Cooper bought half of the
business and it became the Hollow Rock Gin Company. Many growers passed
other gins to bring their cotton to their gin. Often wagons would wait in long
lines to be unloaded. At the height of the ginning season, the gin would run day
and night except on Sundays. After John Cooper retired in 1953, members of
his family and J. D. Cooper continued to run the business until 1970 when J. D.
bought the other half of the gin. Farmers changed their main crop from cotton to
soybeans when raising cotton became unprofitable in this area, and the local gin
business came to an end on 1976.
In the early 1900ís, some of the merchants and business people were: W. B.
Bowen, Hardware; Hill Bros., Grocery; W. A. Green, Dry Goods, Clothing, and
Shoes; Green Stokes, Grocery; George Bennett, Grocery; and Bill Harvey,
Grocery. Bill Harvey had a rule that with the purchase of a cigar, he would give
one match; two cigars, two matches and so on. Mr. Bowen was also a constable
and once captured a murderer in the gullies east of town.
A blacksmith shop was important for the repairing of farm equipment and
horse shoeing. Hollow Rock always had one blacksmith and sometimes two.
Clark Rogers was a blacksmith for many years. He was followed by H. M.
(Budge) Prince. With the coming of cars and trucks, garages became necessary
to do repairs. One of the first repair shops was operated by Homer Rogers and
later by T. S. Jenkins and son, Conway; then Carver Bros. and others.
For some years the Hiram Blow Stave Co. of Nashville operated a stave mill
about 300 yards west of the business section. This was the principle place of
public employment until it was destroyed by fire in 1909.
The banking needs of the community were supplied by a branch of the
Camden Bank and Trust Co. located in the corner of a store on Front Street until
1907. At this time, the Bank of Hollow Rock was organized by J. R. Presson, L.
L. Duncan, Charles Royalty, W. M. Edwards, L. L. Spellings, and H. P. Bayless.
The new bank remained in the store until a new building was completed in 1910
at the corner of Main and Seminary on the west side of Seminary. The first
cashier was a Mr. Justice followed by Hal Fry, L. A. Depriest, Annie Robertson,
Geraldine Parrish and Clarice Allen. In 1951, the bank became a branch of the
Bank of Huntingdon. A new building was constructed in 1980 ad the bank
moved to its present site at the corner of Seminary Street and Highway 70.
In 1920, a section of Tennessee Highway No. 1 was built from Huntingdon to
Camden and followed the Old Stage Road through Hollow Rock. Except for a
short section in Madison County, this was the first paved highway in West
Tennessee outside of Shelby County. Later, this road became U. S. Highway 70
and eventually, it was widened to a four-lane and a curve was eliminated.
About 1885, a hotel was built facing Front Street on the east side of an alley
connecting Depot and Front streets. This hotel was owned at different times by
W. H. Lowry, S. B. Anderson, J. E. Kennedy, L. L. Duncan, and finally by Mrs. A.
Nunnely in 1901. The hotel was near the railroad station and traveling
salesmen, usually called "drummers" in those days, and others would walk
across the tracks to it. They would hire horses from a nearby livery stable and
call on merchants in the surrounding territory. Railroad men on runs into Hollow
Rock Junction would often walk to the hotel. In 1920, the railroad took Front
Street for a siding, and this made it inconvenient for cars to park around the
hotel. Mrs. J. R. Presson was running a boarding house on the north side of
Main between Seminary and Depot streets. She enlarged this and entered the
hotel business. This business was well located, had comfortable rooms, and
soon became noted for its good food with "fried chicken" being the specialty of
the house. Traveling men would arrange their schedules to spend the night
there, and others would plan their trip to have their noon meals there. After Mrs.
Pressonís death in 1930, the hotel became an apartment house and later
burned. Her husband, Bob Presson, practiced law in Hollow Rock for over 40
years until his death in 1952.
Between 1900 and 1920, an extensive clay mining operation was carried on
here. The clay was mined east of the town and hauled to the railroad in
wagons. A. Nunnely was the owner of the operation, and Hill Bros. contracted
for the hauling.
An exciting event of 1909 was the wreck of the "Pineapple Special," a fast
freight train. A bull got caught in an open trestle 100 yards west of the station.
The train wrecked when it hit the bull. None of the crew was seriously injured,
but it was a disaster for the bull.
About the same time a Mr. Bain, owner of a restaurant and soda fountain,
wished to sell out because of poor business. Learning that a prospective buyer,
whose name is not remembered, but who bore the nickname of "Popcorn
Jimmy," would arrive on the morning train to spend the day and investigate the
business, Bain distributed a sum of money among the young men and boys with
instructions to come in and start spending when Jimmy arrived. When Jimmy
arrived the men came in and began buying briskly while Bain complained to
Jimmy how poor business was that day. A trade was made and Bain took a
used car in trade. This was when cars were rare in Hollow Rock. In a few days
Bain had tire trouble, and it was discovered that instead of air in the tires they
had been packed with sawdust.
In 1915, two men came to Hollow Rock who would leave their mark on the
community: Professor E. E. Wright from Kentucky and Roland H. Buckley from
Palmersville, Tennessee. Professor Wright came to be the principal of the
three-room school and became a guiding spirit in developing the fine school
system that Hollow Rock and Bruceton now have. He served as superintendent
of all schools in the district after Hollow Rock and Bruceton districts were
combined until he was elected to county office in 1936.
Mr. Buckley came to Hollow Rock to teach a newly organized band before
going to the Army in World War I. He married Willowdean Duncan, the daughter
of L. L. Duncan. Upon returning from overseas in 1919, Buckley entered the
drug store business. A most pleasant memory of those days is the Buckley Drug
Store where you could get the best ice cream and fountain cokes around. He
operated this business for 52 years until his retirement in 1971. During this time
he was ably assisted by his wife. She was an accomplished musician and
taught piano for many years. Having a great love for music, Mr. Buckley
organized a new band giving his services without charge ad teaching music to
many boys and young men throughout the area. This training was a great value
to some of them in later life. In 1954, he was elected mayor of Hollow Rock and
served three two-year terms. During those years, Seminary Street was
extended south to Highway 70, the streets were blacktopped, and the
corporation was extended south of the railroad.
In 1919, George Bennett, the last merchant on Front Street, moved to Main
Street and what had once been a thriving business street was no more.
The Hollow Rock Creek became subject to heavy flooding and when the
ground around the railroad station became miry, the station was moved to the
north side of the tracks in 1920. Before this was done, there occurred
something that was probably a first and last in railroad history. A wagon driven
by Ruben Dodd got mired in the mud, and the horse team could not pull it out. A
train crew hitched a long rope from their engine to the wagon and extricated it.
Rail passengers were often confused by the names Hollow Rock and Hollow
Rock Junction, and sometimes they would get off at the wrong station. In 1921,
the railroad asked Hollow Rock to give up its name so the Junction could
become simply Hollow Rock. This request was promptly and indignantly refused
by the City Fathers.
Immediately after World War I, a Legion Post was organized and named for
Warren A. Kyle, the first Carroll countian to die by enemy action in the war. A
new band was organized under the auspices of the Legion. This band played at
Legion Conventions, political rallies, and gave concerts for citizens of the town.
This continued until the outbreak of World War II, when members were called to
service. They served in many parts of the world, and several were decorated for
valor and outstanding service to their country.
Before television came into our homes, people in the smallest towns had to
create their own amusements and pastimes. Some of these were playing
checkers on benches in front of stores, pitching washers in the alleys and under
trees, swimming in the creek, church socials, public debates, and occasionally a
traveling drama and vaudeville show would be in town. Each town had its
baseball team, and the Saturday afternoon game was eagerly awaited.
During the 1930ís a softball park with lights was built, and the game was
played by both men and women teams. Perhaps the favorite pastime was
simply "loafing" on the sidewalks or around the stoves in the stores and barber
shops, both of which remained open several hours each night except for
Sunday. There was much joking and telling of tall tales, some of which were
probably not true. The coming of television brought most of this to an end.
At different times new areas were annexed to the incorporated town. When
the railroad moved its shops and terminal to Bruceton, it hired many people
which caused a sizable increase in population for the town. As competition from
trucks increased, the railroad station began to lose business, and in 1932 the
job of agent came to an end. Thereafter, the station had a caretaker.
Passengers could board trains, but there was no local freight service. For many
years Hollow Rock had three passenger trains each way daily. This dwindled to
one each way and in 1952 passenger service ceased, and the station was torn
By the 1970ís, the merchants were suffering strong competition from
department stores, chain stores, and shopping malls in the larger surrounding
towns. As the businessmen in town died or retired their businesses were not
continued. O. J. Mabry ran a store longer than any other merchant in the townís
history, and when he died in 1956, the last dry goods and clothing store in town
Although the town has a much larger population now than it did in 1883, it
has fewer business enterprises than it did in 1883. The town has become a
bedroom community for people working elsewhere and a pleasant home place
Friend, forbear to criticize this humble effort until you have achieved a better.
Ed P. Holcomb
Edited and Published By
Lillian Cooper Rice
According to the 1980 census report, Hollow Rock today has a population of
955, white: 847; black: 108. The town government is formed by a Mayor and
board of Aldermen with a term of office for two years. The town has two
policemen and a volunteer fire department which includes 20 volunteers and 1
fire truck that holds 400 gallons of water. The town is served by a local railroad,
the Seaboard Systems Railroad; truck lines for freight service; and bus lines for
transportation of freight and passengers. Communications is provided by a town
post office serving approximately 2500 customers; a telephone company; and
television and radio stations and newspapers serve our community from all
networks. The Hollow Rock-Bruceton School District has grades Kindergarten - 12
with a total enrollment of 936. Institutions of higher education are available
within a short driving distance. Several civic organizations are active in the
community including the Masonic Lodge, Quarterback Club, Jaycees, Ladies
Home Demonstration Club, Antique Car Club, Little League and Senior Citizens
Club. Many recreational activities are readily available, including three
Tennessee State Parks within 30-40 miles of Hollow Rock. All principle religions
provide places of worship in the area.
Businesses in Hollow Rock today include a saw mill, tractor sales, service
station, two restaurants, florist & greenhouse, two antique shops, two grocery
stores, drug store, three beauty shops, appliance repair shop, two used car
sales, craft shop, barber shop, material shop, and also the Bank of
Huntingdon - Hollow Rock Branch, U. S. Post Office, and Hollow Rock City Hall.
Churches in the city limits are Prospect Baptist Church, Hollow Rock Methodist
Church, Hollow Rock Church of Christ, Mt. Nebo Baptist Church, Mt. Pisgah
Methodist Church, and the Mid-Town Church of Christ.
According to Post Office Records Department a post office was established as
Sandy Bridge on January 11, 1830. Its name was changed to Hollow Rock on
February 27, 1868.
Names of the postmasters and dates of their appointment are:
Sandy Bridge, Tennessee - January 11, 1830:
Zephaniah H. Harris...............January 11, 1830
Robert H. Moore.....................March 30, 1835
Ezekiel Hazlett....................August 27, 1838
Aaron Green.........................April 28, 1843
James H. Porterfield..............October 19, 1846
David Green.......................December 3, 1850
Jesse H. Lowry....................January 29, 1858
Charles F. Phillips..................June 18, 1866
John Park........................November 29, 1867
Hollow Rock, Tennessee - February 27, 1868:
John G. Martin........................May 11, 1868
James Arnold......................January 17, 1870
Amos T. Martin.......................March 3, 1871
John M. Rowe........................April 25, 1873
John T. Henslee...................October 22, 1874
J. S. Murray.........................July 26, 1876
John L. Murray......................August 4, 1876
William A. McCall..................January 9, 1877
Thomas W. Grissom.....................May 23, 1879
John L. Cox.......................November 8, 1880
Benjamin Kendall................September 16, 1885
John L. Cox.........................April 22, 1889
James A. Martin...................December 2, 1889
Ulysses G. Butler...................April 22, 1890
William R. Jordan...................April 12, 1893
William H. Lowry....................April 28, 1893
J. Monroe Phillips..............September 13, 1897
Benjamin F. Chambers.............February 15, 1899
John L. Cox.....................September 18, 1899
Nevada C. Cox....................November 24, 1900
William M. Edwards................February 5, 1912
Thomas C. Lowry........................May 5, 1914
Sam B. Hester......................August 25, 1928
William R. Rice..................February 11, 1929
Leon W. Crews....................February 28, 1958
Lillian C. Rice..................December 25, 1982