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Decatur Co TN
Parsons Depot

PARSONS, A RAILROAD TOWN

By R.C. Stegall (Parsons Peavine Festival September 2007)

In 1886 the Tennessee Midland Railway Company was chartered to run from Memphis easterly to Virginia and cross teh Tennessee River at Perryville. The proposed railroad was well promoted. The early estimates disclosed that an easy alignment was possible, with a maximum grade of not over one percent and at a cost not to exceed $17,000 per mile. Sponsors met in July 1887 and subscribed $1,250,000. Contracts were let and laying track began in 1887 from Memphis and completed to Perryville in 1889 but never went any further - they ran out of money. The dreams of a Trans-Tennessee Railroad ended with a turntable near the west bank of the Tennessee River.

Following a foreclosure sale in 1895 the Tennessee Midland Railway was sold to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company which then made a permanent lease of the line to the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. This alignment removed the 24 mile Lexington to Perryville branch from consideration as an eventual part of main line track. The Perryville branch, known affectionately as the "Pea Vine" would continue to serve Decatur County until its last run on October 31, 1936. By then the automobile age was coming on strong with improved roads and bridges providing highways of commerce far exceeding that offered by the little railroad. The "Pea Vine" had been redrailed by progress.

Very little remains today as a reminder that a railroad once crossed the county from near Beacon to Perryville. Over the years the physical evidence has all but disappeared. Dig in the righ place behind Parsons Mortuary or the old Produce House or Ice House locations and you might find residue of cinders from one of the old steam engines or ballast that once formed the bed for the tracks. Walk east from the Sonic Drive Inn and you soon enter the cut made to keep the tracks within one per cent grade limit. Its story is included in the book, "Ghost Railroads of Tennessee", by Elmer G. Sulzer. That story is of the past but the real story for the present is the town of Parsons.

The largest town in the county owes its very existence to the Tennessee Midladn Railway Company and an enterprising farmer/land owner named Henry W. Myracle. The railroad crossed the n orthwest corner of Mr. Myracle's land. While the railroad was under construction Mr. Myracle made a deal to get a town built on his property. He made available 143 1/3 acres to the Railway Company and they agreed to build a depot and help start a town. The railroad engineer, Mr. L.H. Burke, laid out the town in a uniform block pattern with evenly spaced streets and cross alleys on each block. Tennessee Avenue, the main business street, began at the railroad's right of way near the depot (about where the BP station is today) and extended to the south property line near what is today Seventh Street. Tennessee Avenue generally split the town with 3 parallel streets to the west and 4 parallel streets to the east. The survey plat showed 44 whole and partial blocks. The Railway Company owned the 22 even numbered blocks and Mr. Myracle retained the 22 odd numbered blocks and a town was born.

The loss of the railroad was a blow to the county and especially the town of Parsons but by then Parsons had a modern paved state highway and the Tennessee River had a bridge at Perryville. Most of what the railroad hauled could now be hauled by truck and delivered to the customer's door. Buses and passenger cars offered a more flexible and convenient way to travel. The ghost railroad we call the "Pea Vine" needs to be remembered as the reason there is a dot on the map labeled Parsons.

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