Find Providence, Live Music at Casey Jones Village
When I say that there are several new things to see and do at Casey Jones Village in Jackson, don’t take me too literally. The Village is one of those places that’s cool because it’s old, so even the “new” stuff goes waaaay back. Here’s a sampling:
From 1837 to 2010, this home stood in Trenton, Tennessee, 30 miles north of Casey Jones Village.
Townspeople climbed to its roof in 1862 to witness the Civil War Battle of Trenton. But in recent years, the house was fighting a battle of its own, surrendering its grandeur to time and the elements. It was doomed for demolition until Clark and Juanita Shaw stepped in.
Clark Shaw is the son of the late Brooks Shaw. He and his wife, Juanita, mother, Anne, and sister, Deborah Shaw Laman, help direct things at the Village.
To understand why the Shaws would care enough about a dilapidated house to bisect it, move it across town and restore it, you need some family history: Deborah calls her father, Brooks, “the original American picker.” A country boy who worked in a country store (in the Wellwood community near Providence, Tennessee), Brooks naturally took to collecting remnants of Tennessee’s country culture when he was advised to find a way to relax following a heart attack. Deborah remembers: “Back in the 1960s, people didn’t care about antiques the way people do now. We just went out on Saturdays and started collecting these antiques and it really became a passion.”
The family’s collection of relics from rural Tennessee overflowed, and they opened a museum and eatery near downtown Jackson in 1965. In 1978, they moved the operation to Casey Jones Village. And their penchant for picking grew – today, Brooks Shaw’s Old Country Store is decorated with all of those old antiques (some 15,000 of them), and built with salvaged materials: wooden doors and brick floors from Edgewood, a local residence built before the Civil War; a staircase post and rail from Jackson’s erstwhile Cochran Grocery; wall boards from barns around the county.
So collecting décor begets collecting building materials begets collecting buildings – like Providence House, which now looks like this:
Celebrate the grand opening of Providence House at Casey Jones Village Oct. 10. An open house will begin at 10 a.m. followed by a ceremony at 11. On any given day, the house may be reserved for special events, but visitors to the Village will be able to view it, take pictures on the front porch and attend living history events inspired by it, including a commemoration of the Battle of Trenton on Dec. 15.
Also scheduled to debut this month: The Village Chapel, a century-plus-old church relocated to Casey Jones Village from Tennessee’s Haywood County. Though it may be reserved for special events, most days you’ll be able to peek and sit a spell inside this vintage country church.
Music Highway Crossroads
Music Highway Crossroads (MHC) debuted in the Village last summer, but thanks to local musicians (including MHC manager Steve Patterson), there’s more live music here than ever. Tuesdays, sign up or settle in for open mic night; Thursdays, listen or join in on the area Plectral Society jam; Friday or Saturday night, catch whatever gigs Steve has booked.
MHC’s vibe is organic, nurturing and reminiscent of a listening room – Steve challenges performers (who may be amateurs or pros depending on the night) to hone their craft, encourages them to join in when they’re comfortable and expects audiences to listen respectfully. Through it all, he loves to tell stories and educate visitors.
“A lot of people recognize the tune, but not its origin,” he tells me, speaking of his musical influences like west Tennessee blues masters Furry Lewis and Sleepy John Estes. So whether you meet Steve inside MHC or on the store’s front porch (where he’ll likely be playing some combination of guitar, harmonica and spoons), he’ll be happy to share a story or song. Ask him about local legends like Luther Ingram, or what it’s like to compete at Memphis’ International Blues Challenge. Bonus: MHC just opened a café serving sandwiches, salads and desserts alongside the music.
Of course, you wouldn’t dream of visiting the Village without walking through the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum, eyeing authentic rail cars along the way, or stopping into Brooks Shaw’s Old Country Store for the decadent Southern-style buffet (or at least a taste of ice cream or fudge). Surrounded by the Shaw family’s antiques collection, playing bottle-cap checkers on an upturned barrel, drinking soda with a bygone name like Bubble Up, it’s simple to find present-day pleasure in the things of the past.
What’s your favorite thing to do at Casey Jones Village?