Many “city slickers” may wonder what its like to live in “small town” USA. Are parenting styles different? Do small town residents live differently? The answer to both questions is yes and no. At the age of three, my parents and I came to my mother’s hometown of Ringgold, GA from York, Nebraska. My mother’s family had been here since before Civil War days, making them a well known name in Catoosa County. I don’t remember the move and I vaguely remember anything about our time in Nebraska, but my memories of growing up in Ringgold are strong and wonderful. Situated in the middle of the Bible Belt, Ringgold literally has several churches of varying denominations. In the old days, every citizen was occupying a family pew on Sunday and Wednesday for service and fellowship. Churches were also involved in school activities and still are. Ringgold First Baptist hosts the senior bachelorate service every year for each graduating class. Besides religion, what else does this small town have to offer? Well, a lot to be exact. Life in Ringgold and her small town neighbor, Tunnel Hill is not one of hustle and bustle. Everyone knows everyone and secrets are very hard to keep in these towns. The police officers are greeted on a first name basis by many of our residents because these brave men and women attended the same schools we did and come from some of the oldest families in the county.
You could say our towns compare greatly to the old television show “The Dukes of Hazzard” only without the bumbling deputy and evil Boss Hogg. Most of this area is made up of farmland and rich wooded areas. Downtown Ringgold and Tunnel Hill consist of a few stores, gas stations and fast food chains, bordered by a historic district to preserve our rich history and origin. Ringgold was once home to a Cherokee tribe, thus giving it its name. The Cherokee leaders agreed to the construction of a federal highway that would run through Ringgold, to Savannah with the starting point in Knoxville, TN in 1803. Construction was completed in 1805 in part due to the signing of the Treaty of Tellico. Later, Cherokee removal would come knocking during the Trail of Tears. Soon, Scotch-Irish families settled into Ringgold from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and parts of Virginia. Farming abounded in this small town, and many of these families are still here. Soon, Civil War broke out, and Ringgold and Tunnel Hill became the center of many bloody battles. In 1848, Tunnel Hill earned its name when the Western Atlantic Railroad Company built a main supply route for the by digging through Chetoogeta Mountain. This later served as a Confederate supply route. General Sherman marched through Ringgold and Tunnel Hill on his famous March to the Sea, burning up much of Ringgold, leaving behind only a few buildings such and the Whitman Anderson house, said to have housed him and his soldiers, and the Old Stone Church which doubled as a hospital. The Old train depot was also spared, becoming on of the oldest antebellum train depots in existence today.
The dawn of the 20th century brought about a lot of change for Ringgold and Tunnel Hill. The railroad was still in operation, bringing in suupplies and transporting export goods. In 1916, a circus train came through the old tunnel, with one fatality whose ghost is said to still haunt the tunnel to this day. Businesses cropped up in historic downtown through the course of the century such as Ringgold Price Drugs pharmacy, Chow Time, Shop-Rite and many small town service stations. Many an old timer has fond memories of these businesses. In face, my mother’s first job in high school was as a waitress at the Chow Time in the 1960s. Chow Time was a constant hang out for high school students from its contruction in the 1950s to 2011 when the April tornado destroyed this long standing pillar of Ringgold. Price Ringgold Drugs is another still in business and is currently awaiting construction of its new building, after decades of being located in Ringgold’s historic building district. Shop-Rite still serves the resident’s grocery needs although newer super markets have been built. Service stations such as Trundle’s grocery and Cawoods located off of Alabama Highway have gone out of business after years of mainstay status. These families still live in the area and will always be remembered in Ringgold’s history.
Today, downtown Ringgold and Tunnel Hill are a little more modern mixed with the past to create an ideal hometown. Population is growing as the word gets out about the low crime rate and good ole hometown charm. Tunnel Hill, which once was home to predominatly railroad workers has also seen an increase in population because of the breathtaking mountain views and the quiet, farming community. Our proximity to Chattanooga, TN allows a glimpse into city living without leaving the comfort of the country. Many shops in our area are small, privately owned businesses that add to our country charm and friendly atmosphere. Parenting in this area has not conformed to the lax state as in many other areas of the country. For this reason, we do not have a high abuse rate and many of our small town children are well-mannered and often move into adulthood with high expectations and fervor. Many of the people I grew up with have become lawyers, doctors, pilots, military service men and women and writers, like myself. We encourage our children to succeed, we encourage our neighbors children to succeed. We are a tight knit community who take parenting and life seriously while maintaining a fun loving side.
If your ever out this way, stop in for a visit to our small towns of Ringgold and Tunnel Hill. Learn of our rich history, explore our old buildings, hunt for our ghosts or patronize our small businesses and learn what true Southern charm and hospitality is all about.