published Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Sister Diaries: Life in Chattanooga in the early 1900s

Frank Robbins

The Times Free Press is printing condensed versions of articles produced for the Chattananooga Area Historical Association. For information on the association, call LaVonne Jolley at 423-886-2090 or visit

Editor’s note: This an excerpt of a series about Sophie and Nelle Scholze, sisters in Chattanooga at the turn of the 20th century.

May. 13, 1900: (Sophie) Mr. (Joe) Williams got tickets for Ned and I to the Baldur Ball. He also got windows for us in the office above the Live and Let Live Drugstore. The parade was beautiful. The Kentucky School Cadets marched. They certainly looked fine. The Alton Park and Hill City (floats) were the prettiest ones. (Baldur was Norwegian god of Spring, signifying bold and brave. A well-known Chattanoogan, he reigned as Spring Festival king. His true identity was not revealed until he arrived at the waterfront and his mask was removed.)

May, 18, 1900 (Sophie) Tuesday morning was the flower parade and it was certainly beautiful. The Highland Park float won the prize. Tuesday night we went to Midway (on 11th street with its large arch and numerous booths) and we had a real nice time. Wednesday morning we practiced down at the Auditorium for the Coronation. (Chattanooga’s popular Spring Festival began in 1898 and ended in 1910. A News Free Press article in 1995 noted: “It was Mardis Gras, the Tournament of Roses, The Riverbend Festival, The Cotton Ball, May Day, the Country Fair, a Civil War reunion, the circus, the Tennessee Sportsfest, a New York ticker-tape parade and the Armed Forces Day parade all wrapped into one big event.”)

May, 28, 1900 (Sophie) Yesterday the event of 1900 occurred in the eclipse of the sun. Its path did not run through here, but it became very dark. In the factory they had to light lamps to be able to work. It was a great event in astronomy as they were able to study the corona and the gases around the sun, as the paper said. The sun must have punctured a hole in the side of the moon, which must have ruined a great many photographs.

April 14, 1907 (Nelle) Oh it’s awful, it’s awful — these last few words of my darling papa whom I loved and honored. Last Sunday morning, it was raining and rather cool and disagreeable. Beth’s little girl Ollie May came running in the kitchen calling Miss Nellie, Miss Nellie. I asked her what was the matter, and she would not tell me. I called Sophia and grabbed papa’s raincoat and ran down the hill, and when I ran in the house Aunt Matilda met me and told me my papa was hurt. Beth was just going out with the whisky and camphor. I ran on and met them carrying papa on a stretcher. They brought him into his room and he kept saying, “Oh my shoulder, my shoulder” — then they put him in the bed. About 10:30 Dr. (Henry) Berlin (native of Germany, advocate of Erlanger Hospital) came in. Dr. Boyd talked to Dr. Berlin and they told us they would have to wait until the morphine had worn off. About 11:30 he took worse and seemed to choke and put his hand up to his head and said “Oh it’s awful, it’s awful.” Then he had that terrible, terrible death rattle until he grew weaker and weaker. He passed peacefully away just as if he were asleep.

(News accounts of the horse and buggy accident described an animal that brought Robert and son George down Wauhatchie Pike toward Scholze Tannery and became unruly as it approached the new concrete abutments of the Southern railway bridge. George tried without success in “pulling him up.” Robert was thrown against a telegraph pole, over a railing, and down a 25 foot embankment off St Elmo Avenue.)

Dr. (Jonathan) Bachman read two eulogies, one written by Col. Tom Fort and one by J.A. Caldwell. The house porch and yard were all crowded with people. The Mannerchor sang one German song and “Nearer My God to Thee” out on the porch. (Robert’s obituary was carried locally in the Daily Times, the News, and the Star, which described him as a leading member of the German American community, and also in a German language newspaper in Nashville).

Sophie Scholze Long in the 1950s became active in attempts to save Cameron Hill that proved unsuccessful and Moccasin Bend that did bear fruit decades later with a national park. In his Jan., 2, 1961, Times column, “Devotion to a Cause,” Alfred Mynders wrote “Looking Backward finds that Mrs. Sim Perry Long has been working for a city beautiful all of that time. There had to be a local leader, a persistent voice, an unquenchable spirit.”

Frank (Mickey) Robbins, an investment adviser at Patten and Patten, is founding president of the Friends of Moccasin Bend National Park and grand-nephew of Sophie and Nelle Scholze.

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