NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Zach Kinslow's passion for history led him to Dickson and the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum.
But before Kinslow was hired as the museum's new site manager in December, his enthusiasm for yesteryear, which started at a young age, intensified in recent years while working at the President James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia.
Kinslow's care for antiquities he developed while leading tours and speaking about Polk's home from 2015 to 2019 became evident in recent weeks — he found the family of Clement Railroad Hotel Museum visitors from 100 years ago.
Kinslow was handling the Dickson museum's former hotel guest book for "conservation purposes." The guest book is currently displayed for visitors to the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum, which operated as a hotel from 1913 to 1954 and is the birthplace of former state Gov. Frank G. Clement.
He said about every six months, pages in older books need to be turned "to preserve the pages from the light and ink." While doing so, Kinslow of course glanced at years worth of visitors from decades ago.
"I love to see the names and places and try to make connections with these people," Kinslow said.
The decades-old guest book from the former Hotel Halbrook in Downtown Dickson.
He noticed a unique last name: Uffelman.
Kinslow thought of Austin Peay State University history professor, Dr. Minoa Uffelman, who he met while earning his master's degree.
HALBROOK HOTEL VISIT
Kinslow contacted Uffelman and discovered she is indeed a direct descendent of those visitors in 1921.
"I am afraid we don't know why they were staying at the hotel," Uffelman said. "I hope it was for a joyous occasion and not a sad one. I looked at the death dates for the Uffelman relatives and no one died near that date. That doesn't mean they weren't attending a cousin's funeral from another branch of the family."
"I hope it was for a wedding or a graduation or perhaps even a family reunion," she added. It's a mystery."
Uffelman provided the museum with images of those family members and others.
"Now this register is used by the museum to discuss, not only the history of the Hotel Halbrook, but family connections and early 20th century rail travel," Kinslow said.
"Making history personal is something we tend to forget. Our families...we all have a history in this state and in this community. I love being able to bring that to people," Kinslow added.
Kinslow grew up in small town Mt. Pleasant, part of a high school graduating class of 64 studin Maury County. He enjoyed history as a youth.
"I remember the first book as a child I ever read cover to cover was a book on the history of U.S. presidents my grandmother had," Kinslow said.
He was the first in his immediate family to go through college and worked three jobs while earning that degree.
Once in graduate school at APSU and working at the Polk museum, Kinslow started in an outreach position. Essentially, he often talked about and promoted the museum off the facility grounds.
"I've always loved history and was always good at history. But being able to work with artifacts and the public in a way that is constructive and more meaningful than a classroom,"Kinslow said. "It gave me an opportunity to delve into the lives of the people in the area where I grew up. And I loved it."
While working outreach is when he first visited the Clement Railroad Hotel Museum in 2018. He enjoyed his experience, which played a large part in his seeking his current position.
"Everything lined up for it to be a perfect fit," Kinslow said. "My experience has been fantastic. Dickson is truly a great community to be in, live in and work in."