To those who live and grew up in Chattanooga and the surrounding region, the historic district of St. Elmo may be a section of the city occasionally taken for granted. But in her new book, “Chattanooga’s St. Elmo,” author Gay Morgan Moore has provided a revealing and engaging look at the history of the St. Elmo area and what makes it so unique.
With more than 200 images, the book contains stories of hardship, conflict, reconciliation and triumph for the early residents of Chattanooga.
“I truly enjoyed researching the book,” Moore confides. “I met so many generous people who shared their history in the St. Elmo community with me. To a person they told me what a good community it was and still is. Many shared that it was a wonderful place to grow up.”
She said everyone knew everyone else, and the kids roamed the neighborhood and the side of Lookout Mountain, riding their bikes, playing ball, skating and in winter, sledding.
“It is exciting to be able to tell their stories,” she added. “St. Elmo is so much a part of Chattanooga history, as it was the home of many industries like Wheland Foundry, Chattam and Double Cola. The railroads and the inclines are also an important part of St. Elmo history.”
Moore gives attention to both old and more recent time periods, so readers can trace the thread of history from the present all the way back to the beginning. She also describes how small and large businesses alike have helped the economy of Chattanooga to grow and flourish.
Describing the inspiration behind her third book in the series of “Images of America,” Moore said, “I have always been interested in history, not so much dates, facts, and famous people, but more about how ordinary people lived, worked, and reared their families. I think people are interested in local history because it is so personal to them, for they and their families lived it and experience it daily as they go about their lives. They enjoy seeing their history and that of the people they know recorded in print.
“I would like readers to take from this book an increased appreciation for the history of the area (Chattanooga and the surrounding communities,) especially the community of St. Elmo,” Moore said.
One of St. Elmo’s most defining characteristics is how much it has grown, so Moore dedicates an entire chapter to talk about how the small early community was more like a large family. She specifically addresses the impact that schools and churches had on the close friendships formed in St. Elmo’s early years.
The construction of roads, inclines and railroads played an important part in the development of the city of Chattanooga and St. Elmo was one of the prominent areas where these advancements were made.
“It was a wonderful, close-knit, family-oriented community in which to live, work and to go to school and church for many years,” Moore said. “It fell on hard times for a while, but is enjoying a renaissance as people, especially young people with families come into the community, restore the lovely old homes and make their own St. Elmo history. I would like for this book to honor the people who shared with me their family stories. I hope they are pleased with the final product.”
The book concludes with accounts of two landmarks in St. Elmo’s history — the 100-acre Forest Hills Cemetery, and the flood of 1917. “Chattanooga’s St. Elmo” is part of the “Images of America” series, and it earns the right to be classified with Moore’s other outstanding books in this collection.
The book feels very personal, thanks to pictures and stories from actual residents of St. Elmo or those who have relatives who lived in the area during the 1800s and early 1900s.
In the words of the author, “This book cannot tell the complete St. Elmo story, but it is my hope that it will serve as an entertaining tribute to the citizens past and present who make up this lovely and vibrant community.”
The book took one year from the initial proposal until publication. There will be a book signing by Moore at the Barnes and Noble at Hamilton Place Mall on Oct. 19 from 4 to 6, and on Oct. 27 at Forest Hills Cemetery, 4016 Tennessee Ave., in Chattanooga from noon to 5 p.m.
“Images of America: Chattanooga’s St. Elmo” is available at area bookstores, online retailers or through Arcadia Publishing at www.arcadiapublishing.com.
For more information, call 888-313-2665.