See Rock City

See Rock City

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Somerville, TN

Somerville is a town in Fayette County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 2,519 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Fayette County.

Town Of Somerville

Somerville TN - The nucleus of settlement was begun in the middle of the county and it was named Somerville in honor of Lt Robert Somerville, who fought in the War of 1812 and was killed in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. Memphis was six years old at this time and LaGrange, a small village which took its name fro LaFayette's home in France, had become the home of a number of families of wealth and refinement.

Among the first property owners in Somerville were Jim Brown and George Bowers. The records show that Dr. Josiah Higgason, who came to Somerville from Hanover County, Virginia, and married Amy Elizabeth Cocke, daughter of Thomas Jones Cooke, bought for $50, on January 14, 1829, "a certain lot of ground in the town of Somerville". The old Higgason home, more than 100 years old, still stands on Main Street and is occupied by Dr. Higgason's great-granddaughter.

On July 23, 1831, George Bowers deeded to "the Commissioners of the Female Academy, William S. Gray, Benjamin F. Gray, John C. Cooper, Albert G. Hunter, John Brown, Michael Cody, Thomas C. Hudson, Isaac B. McClellan, Robert A. Parker, Bennett H. Henderson, and Washington L. Hannum, and their successors forever in trust (nevertheless,) for the use and benefit of a Female Seminary, and for no other use, interest, or purpose whatever (a piece of land) $50."

Water Tower

Thus, before the town was chartered a school for higher education was established, and for 70 years the Somerville Female Institute flourished. Until the end of the nineteenth century, the original purpose of the commissioners was carried out. But with the coming of the new century, the "Institute" and the "male Academy" were converted into a public school, under the name of the Fayette County High School.

In the Interim, churches had been established in the little settlement and practically the same grounds on which they now stand. Presbyterian (1852), Methodist, Episcopal, and Baptist churches were erected. The name given the Methodist Church when it was first established was Green Coe Chapel, in honor of the young lieutenant from Somerville who lost his life during the Mexican War.

By 1835, Somerville and her sister village, LaGrange, had proved that their venture at settlement was permanent, and applied to the State legislature for charters. On January 5, 1836, the LaGrange charter was signed by Ephraim Foster, speaker of the House of Representatives, and signed by Jonathan Webster, speaker of the Senate, and on May 11, 1836, it was sworn to before Luke Lea, Secretary of State, at Nashville. In that same month the following "Act to incorporate the town of Somerville" was passed:

Antique Fire Truck at Fire Department

Fair Theatre

The Town of Somerville purchased the Fair Theatre in 1999 from Mr. And Mrs. Norman Fair. The Fairs built the movie theatre in 1935, and on a special night in October of 1935, the projectors were turned on for the first time in the new theatre building on East Market Street of downtown Somerville, Tennessee. The Fairs continued to show movies until the theatre was damaged by fire in June of 1953. It was renovated and reopened in April of 1954. The new theatre featured wide-screen CinemaScope pictures with improved sound.

Mr. and Mrs. Fair were a vital part of employment for the youth and teenagers of Fayette County, utilizing them in every aspect of the theatre, from selling tickets, running the projector, working concessions, and ushering.

Age and declining health prompted the Fair family to sell the theatre to the Town of Somerville in 1999. Since the Town acquired the theatre, it has benefited the community for a variety of uses, including its original purpose of showing movies, local religious groups have held worship services there, youth meetings and musicals, and puppet shows for children. The American Cancer Society Relay-for-Life teams continue to use it as a fund raising location, holding musical shows and beauty pageants. Several groups have leased the theatre to hold family musical events. Political groups have used the facility for political rallies. The Fayette County Cotton Festival holds a live auction annually in the theatre, plus other Cotton Festival events. Professional story tellers, in conjunction with the Fayette County Library and the Memphis Arts Council hosted the Fayette County School children for a storytelling event.

The theatre was the stage for acting lessons for local children taught by Ms. Irene Crist, an actress originally from Maryland. Ms Crist assisted in the great effort to revive the performing arts of Tennessee with her weekly instruction of adolescent and youth.

We have hosted the Germantown Symphony Orchestra and the Opera of Memphis, sponsored by The Bank of Fayette County, for our citizens to experience the culture of a live symphony. It has been used for a 6th grade graduation/promotion ceremony.

The theatre just completed its first-ever theatre live play season, presenting such plays as "Always...Patsy Cline", "Smoke on the Mountain", "Diamond Studs...The Life of Jesse James", and "Our Town". Local actors and musicians were used to produce these plays. Many volunteers and sponsors help make these presentations possible.

The purpose of the Fair Theatre is to produce the highest quality professional theatre of artistic merit for the people of West Tennessee, residents of Somerville, Tennessee, Fayette County, Tennessee, and the surrounding areas, drawing the citizens of these areas closer together, and allowing the different schools and cultures to pull together and work together for the benefit of our citizens.

The Fair Theatre has four goals:

To have an impact on people's lives by creating theatre that simultaneously questions and entertains ....

To develop within the community an appreciation for ... And an understanding of .... The art of theatre and its themes ....

To make theatre central to Somerville's surrounding towns, Fayette County's adjoining counties, and the metropolitan Memphis, Tennessee area ....

To make an artistic contribution to the American Theatre by developing a creative environment where talented theatre artists can work on classical, contemporary, and new plays of merit and stature ....

Fayette County Art

Jeanyne Rankin 

This year Fayette Cares held an art contest to determine what image would adorn this season’s Holiday Gift Card Fund Raiser. Jeanyne Rankin of Oakland, Tennessee submitted her chalk pastel of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Somerville, Tennessee. Her art was chosen from among 5 entries. Jeanyne donated her original art to Fayette Cares, and it will be used to produce the 2008 Holiday Gift Cards and Limited Edition Prints.

Hallowed Halls of Fayette County

Hallowed Halls Artwork

The prints and cards are printed with ultraviolet-resistant ink on acid-free paper. The prints are 11” X 14” numbered limited edition. Only 1000 prints will be produced.

Cards may be ordered blank, with a standard greeting, or with a personalized message. There is no extra charge for standard greeting. Minimum order to personalize is 100 cards at an additional cost of $20.00.

Jeanyne is a native of Houston, Texas but has lived in Tennessee most of the last 27 years. She has lived in Oakland 4 years. She has enjoyed painting most of her life but only in the last 10 years has she spent more time in her “art corner.” She considers herself basically self-taught but has taken a number of classes throughout the years. She prefers to paint with acrylics, watercolor and chalk pastels but has also worked with colored pencil, oils, charcoal, pen/ink and other media. She enjoys creating abstract art as well as realistic subjects such as landscapes, still life, buildings such as homes and churches and recently has begun painting caricature portraits using chalk pastels. Her works ranges in size from large 22” x 30” pieces down to very small miniatures no larger than 1” square. She is honored to have her art chosen for this year’s holiday card fund raiser.