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County renames archives to honor Lynch

“… she doesn’t do this for herself, she does it to preserve the history of the county.”

State Rep. Charles Sargent

Last Friday was Williamson County’s archivist and museum curator, Louise Lynch’s last day on the job. She knew there would be a retirement party, and she fully expected the traditional retirement gifts. What she got was totally unexpected and brought tears to her eyes – something most people who know her have never seen.

“She saved the Williamson County story,” said County Mayor Rogers Anderson. “What do you get for a lady like Mrs. Lynch who clearly encompasses the meaning of public servant?”

You rename the building where she has lovingly spent the last 15 years carefully developing a home for items she kept track of and preserved for many years in the hope of a special place for them. When the sign arrives, the building at Five Points where Louise Lynch has created and preserved the county’s history will be renamed the Louise G. Lynch Archives and Museum – the G is for Gillespie – her family name.

“This is a perpetual gift that in some small way demonstrates the value of what she has done to preserve and protect the history of Williamson County – all of Williamson County, from Brentwood to Burwood and College Grove to Fairview,” Anderson said. “This was her baby; she birthed it and brought it to what it is now with love and it shows in the end result.”

Because of her tireless efforts, Williamson County has one of the nicest, most organized archives in Middle Tennessee, said County Historian, Rick Warwick, who has been working with Lynch since 1975 when they were both members of the local historical society.

“It will be said in years to come, the foundation for the Williamson County Archives rests squarely on the shoulders of Louise Lynch,” Warwick said.

When the Old Courthouse went through renovations in the 1980s the state took the county’s archives for a short time. When they were sent back to the county before the courthouse renovations were completed, Lynch found a place to store them in the Old Jail. There they remained until the county purchased the Old Post Office at Five Points.

“We started the archives in the basement of the Old Post Office in July, 1993 with boxes, boxes, boxes,” Lynch said. “We tried to get them straightened out, but we didn’t have much room.”

As a volunteer with no budget for supplies, Lynch took whatever second-hand supplies she could find – desks from schools, chairs, tables and desks from the old Williamson County Hospital to create organization and a place where people could search for information.

While Lynch managed the county archives in the basement of the Old Post Office, she dreamed of a larger, more accessible location where the public might actually enjoy visiting.

After the county purchased the former Battle Ground Academy campus, Lynch thought that would be the place, but there were other needs for the campus. A new library moved on Columbia Avenue, breathed new life into her dream and the library’s former location became the perfect place to house the archives and create a museum to tell the county’s story.

Lynch worked her magic on a shoestring budget.

“I went to three museums with (former county executive) Clint (Callicott) and (Brentwood historian) Vance Little and got ideas about what we wanted and what we didn’t want,” Lynch said.

Many people worked together contributing both time, work and items like the sound system for the visual time line, the background paintings, old and new quilts, and more.

“Dr. Williams gave us an old still, somebody gave us a barrel and Boudleaux Bryant gave us permission to use “Rocky Top” in the scene,” Lynch said.

The log cabin in the museum was once a smokehouse located on a farm that was going to be developed. Lewis Bumpus, former Solid Waste director, moved it to the museum and a couple other men built the fireplace.

“People bring in all sorts of things,” she said.

During World War II, young “Raymond Mayfield wrote a letter home but he didn’t have an envelope so he put it in a piece of leather with the name and address on it,” Lynch said. “It got there.”

After all these years, the family was concerned this little piece of local history would be lost so they donated it to the museum’s Military Room.

“The Military Room is what I am most proud,” Lynch said.

Items in the room transcend wars from the Revolutionary War to current wars with personal testimonials from soldiers who served in World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf Wars.

To take boxes and an odd assortment of random pieces of history and weave them into the story of a county is a rare gift to that county.

“She is a dynamic person,” said County Commissioner Lew Green. “To create something from a basement to this – she’s responsible.”

Fellow commissioner, Steve Smith agreed.

“She’s created something here at the archives we’re all very proud of,” he said. “She’s a real servant to Williamson County and we are fortunate to have her in our community.”

Col. Stan Tyson, a former commissioner, has been working alongside Lynch for many years – both with different but similar dreams. His was to create Veteran’s Park to honor all Williamson County veterans.

“Louise and I worked together very closely to make it a package,” said Tyson, who spends hours volunteering at the Archives and Museum in a variety of areas. “Williamson County lives again in this building.”

“I’ve traveled to a lot of sites in Tennessee and there is not a county anywhere that has an archives and museum like Williamson County,” said State Rep. Charles Sargent who, as a former county commissioner, watched the facility emerge. “There are items in this museum the state would like to have. Louise has the respect of all the people I know because she doesn’t do this for herself, she does it to preserve the history of the county.”

Bobby Langley received a lot of help from Lynch while researching his own family’s story for his book, “Ruby’s Son,” a story about growing up the Beasleytown section of Franklin.

“She helped me find stuff I didn’t know,” he said. “She is a world of knowledge. She knows not only people, she knows the county. She will be missed. I’m going to miss her.”

“She’s one of the nicest persons I ever knew,” said Leonard Jones, Williamson County housekeeping supervisor. “I think it’s a wonderful thing naming the building after her.”

Posted on: 2/6/2013


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