Tom Newman and the Village of Hawk Creek

By WILLIAM WRIGHT Lifestyles Editor
Posted 8/2/16

A very old, yet new, community is on the horizon in Bradley County. It will be an historic community constructed to serve as a monument to the men and women who helped build this country into …

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Tom Newman and the Village of Hawk Creek

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A very old, yet new, community is on the horizon in Bradley County. It will be an historic community constructed to serve as a monument to the men and women who helped build this country into a nation more newcomers want to live in than any other place in the world.

The Village of Hawk Creek is the brainchild of Tom Newman, an 82-year-old man who possesses the pioneer spirit of America’s early settlers. A man with a dream of a log cabin community that reflects the hard work, courage, independence and determination of his forefathers to succeed in frontier America.

The moment you set foot on his nostalgic community, you can feel a shift in the climate to a bygone era — the 1800s. The community or village that rests on some 250 acres of Newman’s farm is small, rustic, simple, unoccupied and untainted by the latest technology. Instead, one is surrounded by flowing trees, green grass and a soothing creek that invites you to the wonderland of the great outdoors, and the lifestyle of the early settlers who helped make America great.

The Cleveland native who lives in McDonald is doing what is virtually unheard of in the 21st century. Over a period of more than 40 years, Newman purchased five log cabins, carefully taking each one apart, moving them to his property and meticulously putting them back together again.

Not only is he interested in capturing and preserving the life of colonists on the frontier of Tennessee, Newman said he wants to share a message with today’s youth.

“I want to show young people the skills and the hard work that it took the early settlers to build their house, to build their home,” Newman said. “I took those logs down, moved them in here and put them back up. That’s hard work! But that’s nothing compared to what those pioneers had to live with. I think young people need to know a little bit about that, if they can. This land was built on hard work.”

Newman clearly exemplifies such values, and said he wants the younger generation to embrace those values more before it is too late. His incoming Village of Hawk Creek offers a powerful statement that the industrious worker who is willing to do hard labor can still accomplish anything. Newman said he developed his skills over the years, “through trial and error.”

“I have a blacksmith shop out here. I did go to blacksmith school, but I’m not a very good blacksmith,” he admits. “I made some of the tools hanging in the shop — the others were made by blacksmiths at the time. I like log cabins and old things. I looked up the people’s ancestors who built these. The fifth one I brought in, which I’m working on right now, belonged to the ancestors of E.L. Ross. They had four cabins up there. This is the one they lived in. I’m turning it into a combination of an old church and an old schoolhouse, because I thought it would be good for that.

“Since all of the cabins were moved in here from somewhere else, I had to mark all the logs, take the roof off, take the tin off, take all the stuff out, take the logs down, move them in here, build a foundation and put them back up. One of the cabins was moved in here in 1969 from between here and Chattanooga just off of Lee Highway. They were all built sometime between 1830 and 1850.”

According to Newman, taking down each stone making up the huge stone chimney on one of the two-story log cabins was tough. The stones were “harder to move than the logs, because I could handle the logs with tractors, but the stones — I had to pull the chimney down where it was, then move each stone and put them in the truck. I hired a rock mason to set them back up and reset the mortar.”

Along with the cabins and a blacksmith shop, there is a smokehouse and tavern on the property, making the village a resourceful little community with artifacts and interesting amenities that would appeal to historians. Newman pointed out that, “Most of the time historians don’t like cabins that have been moved. They like the ones that are still in their original place. But, I couldn’t do that.”

When asked about the name, the Village of Hawk Creek, Newman explained, “The little creek running down over here runs down into a bigger creek. It starts on my property and it ends on my property, and it was named Hawk Creek. This was my ancestor’s property. They started farming here 150 years ago, and we’re still farming here. My son is farming it. It’s an historic farm. When I bought these log cabins and started doing reconstruction on them, it started out as a hobby and it still is. I’ve been working it on and off for 40 years now.”

Turning his property into a history-rich tourist attraction where people can come and be reminded of the way the early settlers lived and worked has been a dream of Newman’s for decades. Now, after more than four decades, his dream is about to become a reality, one that will capture the imagination of tourists, teachers with their students and Old West and Civil War enthusiasts who enjoy American history.

“I’m going to have a free fall festival on Nov. 5, with all the local craftsmen out here,” Newman said. “People will be able to come in, see these cabins and see what it was like to live back then.”

He said part of his dream is to have re-enactors dressed in authentic 17th century costumes who could demonstrate lifestyles of the early settlers and mingle with tourists as they roam the area. That, however, may have to wait for another time, according to Newman, who said he is working hard to meet his Nov. 5 deadline.

In the meantime, he has a professional carpenter and two local youths helping him with his project. At the same time he is teaching them how to work with their hands, and why hard work is still important.

“The boys enjoy it. They can’t do much and they’re still learning, but they’re very enthusiastic,” he said. “They work hard and they’re very energetic.”

The Village of Hawk Creek is expected to be a very popular tourist attraction, loaded with antiques and vintage items of a bygone era. It will be a literal walk through the 1800s unlike anything most people who cherish American history have experienced.

Located at 345 Johnson School Road in McDonald, the Village of Hawk Creek is tentatively set to open on Nov. 5.

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