Archived Story

Author of Route 58 book to speak Sunday

Published 12:00am Monday, July 14, 2008

COURTLAND-For three years, author Joe Tennis traced the path of U.S. 58, looking for tales that could explain the history of Virginia in a new book.

The Virginia Beach native found &uot;The Flood&uot; at Franklin – the devastating 1999 overflow of the Blackwater River.

And he found Nat Turner’s Insurrection in 1831 outside what used to be called Jerusalem – what is now Courtland.

On Sunday at 2 p.m., Tennis, 39, is speaking on his latest book, &uot;Beach to Bluegrass: Places to Brake on Virginia’s Longest Road&uot; (The Overmountain Press, $17.95), at Walter Cecil Rawls Library, 22511 Main St., in Courtland.

&uot;Beach to Bluegrass&uot; includes 58 chapters and more than 100 original photos of places along U.S. 58 – including a full-page color photo of Barrett’s Landing on the Blackwater River.

Stories include Johnny Cash’s last concerts in Hiltons, legends of the Great Dismal Swamp, origin of &uot;The Real Mayberry&uot; of TV fame, ghosts and the Civil War.

&uot;Route 58 is unique, in that it goes from the big cities of Hampton Roads to small towns like Courtland, Clarksville and Clinchport,&uot; said Tennis, a full-time features writer for the Bristol Herald Courier in Bristol.

&uot;This is Virginia’s longest road, stretching more than 500 miles – and follows, largely, a straight line from east to west, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Cumberland Gap. Along the way, I wanted this book to show the diversity of Virginia – in the terrain and in the history.&uot;

Besides Franklin and Courtland, part of the route goes through Isle of Wight County at Carrsville, not far from where the author’s paternal grandparents, Robert and Marion Tennis, are buried at Rescue.

Tennis’s father, Richard Tennis, a 1951 graduate of Smithfield High School, came up with the book’s main title.

Connie Henderson, a librarian in Franklin, helped with research, Tennis said.

&uot;I spent four hours at the library one day, leafing through books and old articles from The Tidewater News by Jamie Brown and Wendy Walker,&uot; Tennis said.

&uot;Then, as I was leaving, Connie suggested that I come back to the area when the book was done and do a talk at a local library. So, I’m excited to return.&uot;

For more information on the author’s talk, call 653-2821.

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