Capture the heart of West Tennessee along the Cotton Junction Trail
Fields filled with white, fluffy cotton, small towns home to specialty shops, quality meals that’ll leave your mouth happy and music that’ll keep your feet dancing the whole night can all be found while traveling along the Cotton Junction Trail. Stop off at some of the 98 sites for a glimpse and a taste of a simpler time in West Tennessee.
You can’t start off the Cotton Junction Trail without perusing the Cotton Museum, which will give you an overview of the plant that changed the world, built Memphis and influenced the city. Notice the floor as it is the original of the Memphis Cotton Exchange. Take a tour of Cotton Row, the historic block surrounding the museum. Travel around Memphis for some more history at the National Civil Rights Museum and Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. Score old-fashioned comfort food at The Little Tea Shop before embarking further out to West Tennessee.
Travel through Nutbush, the unpretentious hometown of “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll” Tina Turner and the heart of a true cotton community. From the operating cotton gin to the fields upon fields of the crop that surround this small community, Nutbush is famous for the crop as well as famous in the Ike and Tina Turner hit, “Nutbush City Limits”.
Jackson, Tenn. will give you the International Rock-a-Billy Hall of Fame, a collection of rock-a-billy memorabilia and a celebration of early 1950s acts like Elvis Presley, Rayburn Anthony, Carl Perkins and Carl Mann. Rock-a-billy is still a big influence in the West Tennessee sound along with blues, country and jazz.
From music to museums, head to Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum to learn the story of the Jackson railroad engineer, John Luther Casey Jones who sacrificed his life for the lives of his passengers April 1890 during a train wreck near Vaughan, Miss. Jones’ life and the railroad age is commemorated in this 8,000-square-foot museum that also has a life-size replica of his locomotive and restored home. Stop by Brooks Shaw’s Old Country Store for more than 250 varieties of candy, souvenirs and an authentic ice cream parlor, named one of the Top 50 Ice Cream Parlors in America. The historic 1925 era Wellwood Country Store has been restored and recreated, giving guests an old-time feel as they walk along the hardwood floors. Be sure to partake in one of the three buffets served daily at the Old Country Store which has selections like country ham, turnip greens and cornbread among many other choices.
Travel to another small town tucked away in West Tennessee where hundreds of porcelain teapots reside. Trenton is home to tradition and one of the most beautiful courthouses in the state. The 1899 Gibson County Courthouse stands at attention as a testament to history and change. Peruse the shops and visit the restaurants. If you’re in the area in late April, attend the Teapot Festival, a week-long celebration of Trenton’s reputation for having the world’s largest collection of porcelain Veilleuses-Theieres, an ornate type of teapot. The teapots date back to 1750 to 1860 which are located in the Trenton City Hall.
You’ll find an antique print shop, a four-stand cotton gin, pioneer homestead and more than 1000 species of trees at the Green Frog Village which celebrates Tennessee’s agrarian history. You can even stay in a restored 150-year-old cabin!
Conclude your rural journey in Brownsville at the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center where you can learn a variety of things from the regional museums. From what’s swimming in the Hatchie River to how cotton affected the town and the surrounding areas, to the musical heartbeat of the region, the exhibits are a wealth of information. Go outside and see the last home of Sleep John Estes, a blues legend, and the childhood school of Tina Turner, Flagg Grove School.
Have you embarked on the Cotton Junction Trail? Let me know about your travels in the comments below!