A look at the history of the City of Celina from the early 1800’s


NOTE: The following story was on file at the Clay County museum, author unknown. It was compiled in the mid-1980’s.

According to at least two historical records, Colonel James McColgan and Hugh Roberts purchased 113 acres of land from Spilby C. Winston of Sumner County, Tennessee on September 22, 1832 for $250; and they laid off lots and streets for a town site just south of the Obey River and just west of the Cumberland River.

This became the village of Celina which was named for Celina Fiske Christian, the daughter of Moses Fiske, an early educator in the area. The town was incorporated on February 2, 1848. One-half of the original 113 acres purchased was sold to Charles Moore for a ferry. This ferry was later sold to B. Peterman, and later to Kyle Brothers.

Celina was burned by the Yankees in April of 1863; and it ceased to function as an incorporated town until after Clay County was formed.


Post office established

A post office was established near the town of Celina (One record has it listed as being approximately four miles from Celina on the Livingston road.) on May 27, 1828. James O. Barnard was listed as the postmaster.

Other postmasters have been: Robert Nivins, October 10, 1828; John F. Vass, March 18, 1831; Micajah L. Armstrong, September 14, 1836; Robert Hemphill, April 10, 1838; Washington L. Vawter, November 2, 1842; Robert Hemphill, September 29, 1843; S.B.M. Fowler, February 10, 1846; Loudon C. Armstrong, August 23, 1847; Zachariah Van Hooser, November 3, 1849; Laudon W. Oglesby, December 13, 1854; L.B. Peterman, December 5, 1860; Robert P. Brown, September 18, 1866; (Post office changed from Jackson County to Clay County.)

James L.F. Brown, July 15, 1878; John J. Brown, March 30, 1880; Daniel W. Cullom, June 24, 1884; John  Monroe, December 13, 1889; Zerilda W. Monroe, August 22, 1890; Alfred J. Maxey, June 1, 1893; Mrs. Ann Maxey, September 8, 1894; William T. Moore, July 8, 1897; Hampton G. Maxey, May 6, 1914; Woodford C. Monroe, April 12, 1921 (acting postmaster); Woodford C. Monroe, May 15, 1922; Mrs. Dora W. Williams, July 1, 1934 (acting postmaster); Albert Jackson Dale, October 24, 1936 (acting postmaster); Albert Jackson Dale, February 2, 1937; John B. Overstreet, August 26, 1944 (acting postmaster); John B. Overstreet, June 16, 1948; Kenneth W. Overstreet, December 29, 1965 (acting postmaster); Kenneth W. Overstreet, November 7, 1967; Burton E. Carter, March 29, 1986. (Researched by Edwina Napier, who has served as postal clerk under the last four postmasters at the Celina Post Office.


Old Town farms

After 1863, the first Celina became known as “Old Town.” It was a thriving center of commerce. It had one main street, Union, which began at the river bank and ran southeast for approximately 340 yards. Three other streets, Water, Walnut, and Spring, ran westwardly and ended at Union Street which terminated at the public road going over the Low Gap to Livingston and Gainesboro.


Businesses and business people

Old Town had many businesses over the years. Some of them were: a general merchandise store built by Hibbit and Maxey which was later purchased by A.P. Green and then by W.L. Brown in 1883; a general merchandise store operated by L.T. Armstrong; A.A. Moore’s Merchantile; a general store and drug store owned by Stone and Oglesby; a saddle shop owned by Joe Gist; Alex Spear’s blacksmith shop; a livery owned by Champ Williams; a milliner shop owned by Pearl Farrell; an ice house; a casket house owned by John Buchanan; a warehouse owned by the Cumberland Grocery Company; the Kyle Ferry owned by Millard Kyle.

Occupational licenses issued in 1892 on record in Clay County Courthouse were: Willis and Bradley, retail liquor dealer; Mills and Haile, auctioneers; Nop Harrison, log merchant; A.J. Whitson, Willis and Hull, Gilliland and Brother, W.C. Willis, Hull and Willis, log merchants; McDonald Moore, Kyle and Hatcher, log merchant; Stephen Mills, peddler; R.B. Sullivan, peddler; Green and Comer, J.L. Wood, J.R. Gist, J.C. Chowning; and Ellis Kirkpatrick.

In 1893, the following occupational licenses were issued: W.G. Parker; W.C. Willis; J.N. Nixon; Hull and Arnold; M.D. Moore; J.C. Chowning; John L. Wood; Green Corner; Ellis Kirkpatrick; A.J. Maxey, hotel; D.W. Cullom, hotel; John Monroe, hotel; and Chapman and Steel, photographers.

In 1895, the following occupational licenses were issued: merchants–L.S. Brown, I.J. Gregory, and Moore Brothers; hotels–D.W. Cullom and William L.A. Maxey; peddlers–Bernie Davis, J.C. Thomspon, I.C. Hale and Brothers, and Ike Selinsky; distilleries–R.L. Sherrell, B.S. Johnson, L.A. Williams, J.L. Wood, Hargrove and Willis, E. Kirkpatrick, J.W. Reader, J.C. Chowning, I.H. Hale, E.D. Maynord, Willis and Hull; logging–Kyle and Hatcher, W.H. McCormock, M.M. Smith.

Occupational licenses issued in 1896 were: William Spivey, W.J. Moore, W.L. Brown, M.F. Green, P.D. Sillis, W.G. Parker, J.R. and M.S. Baker, J.H. Nixon, Arnold and Johnson Hull, Moore Brothers, Willis and Bradley, E. Maynord, D.W. Biles, Hargrove Willis Company, E. Kirkpatrick, Willis and Hull; and distillery licenses were issued to I.A. Williams and Willis and Bradley..

Occupational licenses issued in 1898 were : merchants–W.H. McCormack, Kyle and Sons, Green and Windle, L.S. Brown, M.C. Green, Green and Jenkins, J.H. Nixon, A.J. Whitson, H.H. Kyle, I.J. Gregory, S.D. Denton; Hull, Willis and Johnson; Ceclia Parker, J.H. and M.A. Baker; Biles and York; A.W. Crabtree; Allen Rich and Company; Moore Brothers; logging–W.H. McCormack, Hull and Willis, M.M. Smith and Company; livery–I.A. Maxey and W.C. Lowery; innkeepers–W.C. Lowery, D.W. Cullom; lunch stand–W.C. Lowery; other merchants–Copas and Ross, D.W. Biles, Chowning and Hunter, Laishley and Rich, E. Maynord.

The following purchased licenses in 1899: log merchants–Hull and Riley, Green Brothers, Weaver and Kirkpatrick, Green and Weaver, W.H. McCormick, U.J. Moore, W.L. Brown; merchants–A.W. Crabtree, H.L. Harlan and Company; Allen Rich and Company; Chowning and Hunter, Kirkpatrick and Harlan, Copass and Ross, J.W. Reeder, L.S. Brown, G.J. Jenkins, Green and Jenkins, Al J. Whitson, and J.H. Nixon; hotels–W.C. Lowery, and Mrs. E. Cullom; feather revovators–Beard and Kemp; livery stable–W.C. Lowery; and auctioneers–J.F. Haile and Company.

Licenses purchased in 1900 were: merchants–J.H. Stephens, J.W. Green, E. Mainard, J.H. Baker, J.W. Reeder, Willis and Johnson, Chowning and Hunter.

Licenses purchased in 1901 were: merchants–Staggs and Arnold, J.M. Staggs and Company, J.M. Robinson and Company, Butler and Deceter, Hogan and Deices, A.J. Whitson, Baker Brothers, J. Luck Brothers, J.J. Harlan; hotels–W.C. Lowrey, Mary Peterman, Ella Cullum; feed stables–W.C. Lowrey, Mary Peterman, and Ella Cullum; distilleries–N.W. Riltes, T.A. Williams; peddler–J. Luck Brothers; other merchants–E. Kirkpatrick, G.J. Jenkins, Hill and Hogan, Willis, Hull Johnson, C.R. Willis, Hawks and Company, P.T. Biles, John Bean, A.L. Harlan, A. Rich and Company, Moore Brothers, R.C. Russ, Chowning and Hunter, J.H. Baker, Allen and Cannon.

Merchants listed in 1905 were: E. Kirkpatrick, R. Heard and Company, R.L. Ross, Saddler Griffith and Clark, Hawkins and Carmack, Whitson, and Dale, E.S. Dale, J.C. Chowning, Baker and Company, Davidson and Willis, Plumlee Brothers, Saddle and Hudson, J.A. Pedigo, and George W. Davidson.


The riverboat legacy

Riverboats brought merchandise into Celina for distribution not only in Celina but throughout the Upper Cumberland area. In 1833, at least three riverboats came to the upper reaches of the Cumberland River–the Mayflower, the Tom Yeatman, and the Rambler. Other riverboats that plied the Cumberland during the years of the riverboat traffic were: the Celina, the Burnside, the L.T. Armstrong, the L.T. PLumlee, the Quick Step, the J.J. Gore, the Dunbar, the Will J. Cummins, the J.H. Hillman, the Benton McMillan, the Henry Harley, the Albany, the Rowena, the Bob Dudley, and the Joe Horton Falls. The Joe Horton Falls was contructed in 1913; and it operated for many years.

When she was a young girl, Billie Faye Brown Thurman made several trips to Nashville on the Joe Horton Falls. She described it as being a very luxurious riverboat with three levels. The first level held livestock that was being shipped to market; and the second level had berths for sleeping on the sides. This second level also had the cooking area; and at mealtimes, long rows of tables covered with white table clothes were set up for dining. Mae and Madden Garret of the Free Hill’s Community were the cook’s on this riverboat.

A piano was located on this second level; and if someone on board could play the piano, they had music dancing for entertainment. On the third level was located the pilot house. Mrs. Thurman remembered being invited up to the pilot house where the pilot kept a stalk of bananas; and he would allow his visitors to pick a banana from the stalk. Mrs. Thurman remembered that this was the first stalk of bananas that she had ever seen.

It took about one week to make the trip from Celina to Nashville. The riverboats brought many visitors to Celina thus causing many hotels to prosper in Old Town; such as: The Riverside Hotel owned by Champ Williams; the Dale Hotel owned by W.T. Dale-later called the Red Letter Hotel; L.B. Peterman’s Hotel; and the Meadows Hotel owned by Tom Meadows. The Meadows Hotel had several full-time boarders. When the community fair was held, people came from miles around and stayed at the hotels to attend the fair.

Celina had an outstanding fair grounds with excellent facilities. It had a reviewing stand, a band stand, grandstand with promenade, excellent areas for horse shows, livestock shows, and entertainment. Skagg’s Circus also preformed at the fair grounds.


Prominent families in Old Town

Prominent families living in or near Old Town were: W.C. Willis, L.B. Peterman, R.P. Brown, Captain Hughes, Dr. Johnthan Davis, John J. Brown, Joseph Roberts, James Roberts, Landon Oglesby, Nancy Rich, Albert Rich, Rial Rich, Joseph Rich, John H. Stone, Sallie Gearheart, Hugh Gearheart, Ben Gearheart, Abe Gearheart, Dr. William Shields, Richard Stone, Isaiah Fitzgerald, Dr. B.S. Plumlee, Varney Andrews, William Hamilton, Evan Arms, Vanus Fowler, the Biggerstaffs, Walt Comer, H.G. Tinsley, Palo Conkin, M.G. Hayes, J.J. Annoette, Newton Plumlee, William Walker, Hugh Plumlee, W.C. Lowery, Mike Kirkpatrick, Thomas Stone, W.S. Saddle, Hall Holman, P.A. Dalton, Thomas Minor, L.S. Dalton, Randolph Langford, T.J. Mabry, Wilson and J.T. McColgan, Irvin Langford, Lafayette Harlow, Millard Kyle, G.W. Stone, Allen Skipworth, John L. Maxey, E. Kirkpatrick, M.F. Green, A.P. Green, W.G. Parker, and the Poindexters.


Some people may recognize this young lady on her bike (circa 1935).

Some people may recognize this young lady on her bike (circa 1935).



 Town starts to take shape

In 1870, the new town of Celina was formed. Most accounts state that ten acres were purchased from A.P. Green, and then surveyed and divided into lots by Bill Gore. The lots were then sold at public auction by Richard Brooks, auctioneer. However one account states that Arch P. Green, Blew Gist, and W.M. Savage as a committee purchased the town site from Mrs. Susan Hannah Davis, the widow of Isaac Davis, for $40 a year for the remainder of her life.

It further states that on June 22, 1872, town lots were sold at public auction with Richard (Dick) Brooks serving as auctioneer. As the lots were sold, Mrs. Davis made a deed to the above named Committee who in turn made a deed to the commissioners. The commissioners then made a deeded to the purchasers. As Mrs. Davis only had a life-time dowery in the lots, the town was sold through Chancery Court in Gainesboro to clear the titles after Mrs. Davis’ death.

All accounts agree that on April 27, 1872, contracts were awarded for the public buildings to be erected in the new county seat, Celina. D.L. Dow of Cookeville, Tennessee was awarded the contract for construction of the courthouse. The contract price was $9,999.00 with a completion date set for October 1, 1873. The brick for the courthouse was made from clay dirt taken from the public square, and the lumber was dressed by hand. Carpenters who assisted Mr. Dow were: David Buchanan, F.M. Buchanan, and W.C. Garrett. The first court session was held in the courthouse in June of 1874. This building has been in constant use from 1874-1986. The contract for the jail was awarded to W.H. Watts of Oak Grove for the construction of a log jail with a contract price of $2,200 and a completion date of January 1, 1873. Celina has had three jails.


Hotel built in new town

The first business started in the new town of Celina was a hotel owned by Coe and Martin. It was later owned by A.J. Maxey; and it was next sold to E.S. Dalton who owned it when it was destroyed by fire in 1924. Benton and John McMillan built a general store and law office which later sold to Mrs. Hattie Brown and W.F. Brown who operated it until it burned on Christmas night in 1902. Captain J.K.P. Davis ran a saloon on the southwest corner of Dow and Martin streets for several years. Some of the later businesses were : J.A. Howard Hardware, Buford and Cherry Dry Goods, Bob Parsons Grocery and Ice House, Ford Garage, W.L. Brown and Sons Dry Goods, Mrs. Lovie Napier’s Restaurant, Bob Ray’s Restaurant, Kirkpatrick’s, Maxey’s Drug Store, Dale’s Theater, Burnette’s Dry Goods and Furniture Stores, Ell Dale’s Grocery, Lawson’s Department Store, the Dollar Store, Eads Department Store, Napier’s Grocery, Napier’s Drive-In, “Blooney” Napier’s Restaurant, “Blooney” Napier’s Market on East Lake Ave.; Boone’s Grocery, Dennings 5 and 10, Clay County Co-op, W.T. Marshall Feed Supply, Goodpasture’s Grocery. Lay Simpson and at least two grist mills have been located in Celina.


Banks start to spring up

W.L. Brown tore down old Hibbitt and Maxey Store, and the lumber was used to build Bank of Celina. This bank was located on the northwest side of the public square. The Bank of Celina has been in three different locations in Celina. In 1974, the Bank of Celina constructed a new building on East Lake Avenue. The Bank of Celina was organized in 1895 by M.F. Green, A.P. Green, H.H. Kyle, J.T. Anderson, A.G. Maxwell, and George W. Stephens. Another bank was located in Celina at this time, the Farmers and Merchant Bank which merged with the Bank of Celina in 1928. The president of this bank was Dr. Bilyeu and the cashier was R.L. Donaldson.

When the merger of both banks took place, the Bank of Celina moved to a new building where Terry’s Drug Store is now located. In 1918, the president of the Bank of Celina was W.L. Brown who served in this capacity until 1944 when Ed Fowler replaced him. Other presidents of the Bank of Celina have been J.A. Howard, M.D. Cherry, Grady Sidwell, H.R. Gates, Clyde King, and Kerry Eads.


Celina finally incorporated

In 1909, Celina was incorporated by an act of the Legislature. Hugh H. Kyle was the Mayor, and W.C. Davidson was City Recorder. Other mayors of Celina have been: W.F. Brown 1917-1932; Charles L. Haile, 1932-1937; J.B. Hamilton, 1937-1941; E.P. Fowler, 1941-1947; Edward Mayfield, 1947-1955; Cecil Buford, 1955-1957; Clyde King, 1957-1959; Joe A. Clark, 1959-1960; W.H. Mayfield, 1960-1961; Willis Spear, 1961-1963; J.H. Overstreet, 1963-1969; Durell Brown, 1969-1970; J.B. Dale, 1970-1971; Ralph Hamilton, 1971-1981; Wayne Rich, 1981-1985; and W.H. Reneau 1985.

The Henry Horton Bridge spanning the Cumberland River at Celina was begun in 1928 and completed in 1930. For approximately four years, it was a toll bridge. Toll collectors were: Walter Roberts, Forrest Rich and Cordell Donaldson. Completion of the bridge brought an end to Old Town as a business district; and the people moved to the new sections around the square. The first switchboard was installed in Celina in 1910. In 1914, Charlie Kyle became the first person to own and drive a Model “T” Ford, and in 1926, Jim Guffey was the first person to have electricity installed in his home.

The very first home built within the city limits of Celina was the Hugh Robert’s home which was built in 1780. He was of Quaker origin and his home was probably used for a meeting house. This house stood within the borders of three states-North Carolina, the State of Franklin, and Tennessee. It has been a part of a territory and of seven counties. Legend has it that Mr. Roberts migrated here to avoid military service. He was the first settler in the Celina area.


Interesting tidbits from the 

City of Celina charter of 1909

EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is a brief collection of notes and facts from the original City of Celina charter, passed by the state General Assembly on April 29, 1909, and signed into law by Gov. Malcolm Patterson on May 1. Many of the provisions will show how times have changed. 

• Terms of office for the mayor and aldermen were originally two years, and remained that way until recent times, when the charter was amended to lengthen the terms to four years. As there is now, three aldermen were to be elected along with the mayor. The mayor’s annual compensation could not exceed $100. 

• Section 7, points 1 and 2 gave city officials the power to enact laws to preserve “the health, quiet, peace and good order…..including such quarantine regulations, not to exceed one mile outside of town limits, as occasion may require.” It also gave the mayor and aldermen the power “to declare what is a nuisance, and to prevent and remove the same.”

• The original property tax levy was not to exceed 40 cents on each $100 of taxable property. 

• Fines up to $50 could be charged for various offenses, and the city was to build a “town prison or calaboose, in which to confine all parties violating the town ordinances.”  The city was also to build a workhouse for people not paying fines to work out their sentence. Offenders unable to pay fines or simply sentenced to time in jail could also labor on the city streets or other “town works.”

• The city was also authorized “to prevent engines, trains, wagons, or any other obstructions from blocking the streets of said town, and to regulate their speed and the speed of horsemen, buggies and vehicles through said town.”

• City officials were also authorized to “elect a Town Recorder, a Town Treasurer, and Town Marshall, and shall provide for the compensation of said officers. No person shall be eligible to any of these offices unless at the time he would be eligible to the office of Mayor.” 

• The Recorder had a variety of duties, including trying cases as the former Justices of the Peace did, assessing and collecting taxes, and presiding over meetings in the absence of the mayor.