Before her death in 2004, Martha Bachman McCoy began conveying her historic family farm to the town of Walden. The town and volunteers are now preparing for a Memorial Day opening picnic and future use as a park.
Martha McCoy's grandfather, Jonathan Waverly Bachman, served under Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee.
Leaving the Civil War as a chaplain, he joined First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga in 1873 and served as pastor for 51 years. During the yellow fever epidemic, he ministered on the streets to the sick of all classes, creeds and colors and became affectionately known as the Bishop of Chattanooga.
His son, Nathan, was born in Chattanooga in 1878 and attended Baylor School. He attended a number of colleges including the University of Chattanooga. He had a special sense of humor and bore the reputation, which he did not deny, of having taken a horse into a dormitory at the University of Virginia.
"I guess I had a harder time than any other boy in the world finding a college president who suited me. But I just had to find one who was competent," he said.
Bachman earned his law degree at UVA. He started his law practice in 1903 and was elected Circuit Court judge and later Associate Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court before being appointed to the U.S. Senate to replace Cordell Hull, who became Franklin D. Roosevelt's Secretary of State.Bachman then won a full term and supported TVA legislation. "Nate" was regarded as a wise and conscientious servant of the people.
His untimely death at age 58 was a shock to his mountain friends and to all of Hamilton County. A News-Free Press remembrance spoke of his legislative accomplishments along with his gentleness, good humor, unfailing courtesy and kindliness. A 30-day mourning followed. Bachman School was named after the senator.
The recorded history of the Bachman-McCoy property dates back to October 1863, when the Federal Army seized it from a shoemaker named Edmond to provide a stopover on Anderson Pike for provisions headed to Chattanooga.
After the Battle of Chickamauga, the rugged road over Walden's Ridge was the only route for the 50 to 80 wagons per day necessary to supply the besieged Union troops in the town below. Gen. Ulysses Grant rode by on Oct. 23.
The Bachmans bought the Anderson Pike property in 1912. The senator became a great lover of the mountain, its people, history, flora and fauna. The family home was open to all.
Among his personal friends he counted equally Vice President John Nance Garner, the coal miners of Smoky Row (Timesville Road), senators, legislators, and the prohibition era moonshiners who made their living along the creeks near his place.
His farm on Signal Mountain became a Southern gentleman's dream. A large orchard produced bushels of apples. He was particularly proud of his kennels of hunting dogs. A large garden provided quantities of foodstuffs every summer. Most of the produce was given to the mountain people, who Bachman was fond of calling the old settlers. At Christmas time, many came to give their season's greetings often walking long distances.
Historian Karen Stone wrote that Nathan's daughter, Martha Bachman McCoy, rode her horse all over the mountain and loved its people. She adored animals and often fed the wild ones, foxes on one side of the house and raccoons on the other, so they would not fight.
A graduate of GPS and Sweet Briar College, she served on the boards of Little Miss Mag Day Nursery, GPS, the Red Cross and the Family Service Agency while volunteering at Moccasin Bend Mental Health Institute. She raised her daughter Sally on the mountain, where she was the first female custodian of Union Chapel, also known as the Little Brown Church, a long stone's throw from their mountain home.
Recently the town instructed volunteers to prepare the farm for a Memorial Day old-fashioned picnic with food, music and activities open to the public.
Afterward, the town will open the 38 acres as a public park, available for community activities including weddings and special events.
Frank "Mickey" Robbins, an investment adviser with Patten and Patten, is coordinator of this local history series. For more, visit Chattahistoricalassoc.org or call LaVonne Jolley 423-886-2090.