The roadside historical markers of East Tennessee highlight the fascinating personalities and significant events of a culturally and historically rich region. Forthree years, Kxville News Sentinel columnist Fred Brown presented the storiesbehind the local markers placed by the Tennessee Historical Commission. He searchedthe highways and back roads of East Tennessee, tracking down markers with directionsthat were sometimes more specific than ?Highway 11, Greene County.?Arranged by county, the entries link East Tennessee's past and present and highlightthe ermous diversity of the state's history from its prehistoric past through its involvement in World War II. The markers detail bitter struggles with Native Americans in the eighteenth century, but also explain the unique contribution of Cherokee culture and civilization, such as Sequoyah's development of the Cherokee syllabary. Brown commemorates the numerous Civil War sites throughout the region, but he also includes the service of East Tennesseans in later wars. One marker commemorates Kiffin Yates Rockwell, a founding pilot of the Lafayete Escadrille, a famed squadron of aviators in World War I. Ather marker details the achievements of Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser of Greene County, who was posthumously decorated for his leadership of a First Marine Division Rifle Platoon on Okinawa.The markers also showcase East Tennessee's unique political history. They tell thestory of the ?lost state? of Franklin in the 1780s and record the region's efforts to secede from the state when Tennessee left the Union in 1861. Brown's narrative also explains the nature of opposing political factions throughout the decades through the biographies of their leaders, such as Elihu Embree, a Quaker abolitionist who founded an antislavery paper in East Tennessee.From the vantage of the armchair or out on the road, Marking Time is a surprisingand engaging trip on the byways of East Tennessee's politics, culture, and history through the stories of the men and women who shaped the state.
Fred Brown is a feature writer and senior writer for the Knoxville News Sentinel and past president of the Knoxville Writers Guild. He is coauthor of Serpent Handlers: Three Families and Their Faith and the author of Growing Up Southern: How the South Shapes Writers.