published Monday, May 19th, 2014

Pioneer Days: New Soddy-Daisy event is a celebration of local history, old-time skills

A rake made by Larry Ridge.
A rake made by Larry Ridge.
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    A. B. McRee works on a wooden spoon.
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    Dave Sheppard creates an animal using a wood chisel.
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    One of Dave Sheppard's toys.
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    Larry Ridge demonstrates a food pedal lathe at Horsin' Around in Soddy-Daisy. Ridge will be demonstrating his skills at Pioneers Days.
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    Larry Ridge demonstrates a food pedal lathe.
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    A. B. McRee works on a wooden spoon.
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IF YOU GO

* What: Pioneers Days

* When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. May 31.

* Where: Poe's Tavern, 9835 Dayton Pike, Soddy-Daisy.

* Admission: Free.

Poe's Tavern, originally built in what would be called Poe's Crossing (eventually Daisy and later Soddy-Daisy), has been an important landmark in the area for almost 200 years.

On May 31, crafters will gather on the tavern lawn for the first Pioneers Days, a celebration of the history of the tavern, the area and the time when things were made by hand.

Organizer Bud Ellis says the event is not designed to be a craft fair, as such, with vendors selling their wares, but as a demonstration of how things were done.

"The crafters are not there to sell," he says. "They are there to show people how to make things when they have nothing."

Ellis says he has enlisted the services of a carver, a lather, a blacksmith, wool spinners, quilters and someone who will demonstrate the art of tatting doilies.

"We will also have an antique black-powder gun display," he says. "I'm still looking for a wheel-thrown potter."

Dave Sheppard, an instructor at Horsin' Around, the Soddy-Daisy business founded by Ellis that teaches people to build wooden carousel horses has been spending his time lately carving traditional children's toys in anticipation of Pioneer Days.

"I primarily make carousel animals, but that doesn't fit into the 1850s time period," he says. "Lately, we've been making ball-and-chains and small animals like bears and a couple of dogs. Something that would be a toy at that period."

Sheppard had spent his career shaping metal into usable objects, but got into carving about 20 years ago and says it is a great way to unwind.

"I come from a machinist background, and I first got involved with wood as a way to relax and work off some stress," he says. "I've come to like carving quite a bit."

A.B. McRee used to carve as a youngster and took it up again just before retiring as an electrician from DuPont. These days, he likes to take the waste wood from the carousel horses made at Horsin' Around and carve spoons from it. He will be demonstrating the process at Pioneer Days.

"We have an old-time spoke bench that I'll be working with," he says. "We also have an old pedal-operated lathe we'll be using."

Carving is a fulfilling hobby, he says. "I like working with my hands and making something out of nothing."

Poe's Tavern was built in 1817 by Hasten Poe, and his descendents still live in the area. It served as Hamilton County's first seat of government and its first courthouse when the county was organized in 1819.

The building also served as a way station for 1,900 Cherokees on the Trail of Tears in 1838 and was a hospital for Union and Confederate troops at different times during the Civil War.

The original building was torn down in 1915 and its timbers were used as the foundation for a house that currently sits on the site. Students of the Chattanooga Woodworking Academy and volunteers recreated Poe's Tavern in 2011 and built it in the park where it now resides.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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