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Contributed photo / William Walldorf made wagons and carriages from an old fire hall on the side of Cameron Hill.

(Editor's note: These journal entries have been edited for clarity, but most of the original spelling and abbreviations have been left to retain the journal's colloquial flavor.)

Recently, I discovered a journal my grandfather, William Frederick Walldorf, kept from 1904 to 1933 about his travels and daily life. Growing up in Trenton, Mich., he married Mary Heinrich in 1895, also from Trenton, and moved thereafter to 118 Baker Street in Hill City (North Chattanooga) because he felt the climate was better for his asthma.

Serving clients in College Hill, Cameron Hill and Fortwood, he operated Will F. Walldorf Carriage Works, a livery stable and carriage repair company, in a former 1800s firehall on Cameron Hill. Besides horse-drawn carriage repair/manufacture, he later converted Cadillac auto bodies to open Coca-Cola delivery trucks.

The family often visited his parents, Eva and Ludwig Walldorf, and siblings Nina, Adam and Fred in Michigan by motorcar. He recorded some horrendous journeys. Initially, the roads were little more than compacted dirt. They had to cross streams on shallow fords in the roadbeds on thin tires and often patch flats or replace them along the way. Here is an entry of just the first day north to Nashville in his "old Dodge touring car":

"Left Chatta. June 11, 1919, at 8 a.m., going around old Lookout Mtn. on fine Wauchatchie Pike, then rough roads to Rankins' Ferry, where crossed the Tenn. [River]; made good time heading to the Cumberland Mtns., where we [went] into very rough roads & some steep climbing getting on top; we were stopped at tollgate, paid 50 cents to get into the worst kind of roads, got stuck in mud and had to fill with pine branches to get out; soon were held up at another Tollgate Road ($1.00), and then had better [time] running down the mtn., getting as far as Murphresboro. Had puncture, got thru 2nd tollgate, had another, got into Nashville at 9:30 p.m., stopped at the Toulane Hotel "

On his return, he recorded they had, in 11 days: 6 punctured tires, 4 blowouts and replaced 2 sets of tires, "but was fine trip." Other less eventful but long motor trips were to New York City, Toronto, Washington, D.C., New Orleans, St Louis, Houston and many to Florida for health.

Community fires were prevalent in the day and hard to control with only tankard horse-drawn trucks. Will Walldorf recorded many disastrous fires, including: "Chickamauga Buggy Co., 1/9/03; Raerselo Brewery, 5/26/03; Wardlaw fire, 5/11/07; Lkt. Mtn. Inn & 3 houses, 11/17/08; Hamilton County Courthouse, 5/7/10; F. Spurloch Riverview home, 10/26/13; Cha. Golf & Country Club, 11/04/14; Rose Whiskey House, 1/12/09; auditorium, 5/9/16; Mtn. City Stove, 11/04/04 & 4/5/17; Gilman Paint, 12/27/16; Betts house, 4/12/22; Odd Fellows lodge & 3 houses, 1/27/24; Sig. Mtn. Inn, 2/4/24; Willingham Lumber Mill, 7/2/25; and Scholze Tannery, 5/30/30."

Community events included: "finest May Festival, 5/23/04; Spring Festival (Olympic Park), 6/4-9/06; boat race on river, 1/1/09; TN. goes all dry, 6/30/09; Saloons close Chatta., 9/25/13; auto parade, 7/4/11; [Theodore] Roosevelt visits, 10/19/12; Patten Hotel opened, 4/1/08; Grand Road Race, 3/13/15 ('very cool'); 50 smallpox deaths, 1/18/15; [WWI] draft parade, 9/5/17 & draftees leave Chatta., 9/19/17; influenza kills 14 soldiers a day, 10/17/1918; Billy Sunday tent revival, 11/25/19-12/31/19; N.Y. Gov. Al Smith visit, 10/12/28; Lindbergh visit, 10/25/27; and [WWI] Armistice Anniversary Parade, 11/11/32."

Among the many deaths he recorded are: "Old blacksmith Yager, 10/17/03; Old Mrs. B. Ochs, 2/2/08; Ed Turner hung, 2/27/08; Watermellon Johnson, 1/30/08; Synder-Thompson duel (Thompson death), 8/26/10; Geo. Kernofer 'blown to pieces', 6/26/09; Sam Divine, 11/17/15; H.S. Probasco, 6/14/19; Jas Peglar split his wife's head with an ax & killed himself, 4/24/24; H.W. Voight, 1/9/26; and Fred G. Voight, 1/9/26."

The early 1900s were particularly cold as Will found the "river frozen over," 12/16/17; temperature of 3 above on 12/26/04; 4 below on 4/19/05; all-day sledding on 2/3 & 4/05; 8 degrees on 1/3 & 4/11; and 14.2" of snow on 1/7/11.

Having heard of many previous catastrophic river floods in Chattanooga, he logged the Tennessee River levels as "33.5 feet, 3/6/13; 31 feet, 3/14/13; 47.7 feet, 3/1/17; 35 feet, 3/27 /17; and the next real high as 37.5 feet, 4/31/32."

And, in travels, his recipe for bedbugs: "Equal parts Whitelead linseed oil & gasoline. Use feather, put in joints."

Charlie Walldorf is a lifelong Chattanoogan and a real estate broker for The Group.

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