History of Pilot Knob, Part One

Nell Morisette
NewsTribune Special Columnist

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and is about ready for a Merry Christmas. There were nine family members and a friend at my house for Thanksgiving. One grandson had to work and couldn't be with us.

This was a sad time for us, as this was our first without a husband, daddy, and grandy. I am also having a difficult time coping now. This time last year, I was at the Jackson Hospital, knowing Charles wasn't going to make it. He died on the 16th and was buried on the 17th.

This week I am starting the history of Nathan Bedford Forrest Park, then to when it became a state park.

How Pilot Knob Received Its Name

Pilot Knob, one of this national glories of Benton County, is that "little mountain" overlooking the Tennessee River about nine miles northeast of Camden, Tennessee. When the waters of Tennessee are high, the river comes out to bathe the feet of Pilot Knob.

Pilot Knob looked on while Cypress Creek piled gravel and sand into the river to make Reynoldsburg Island. It also stood by while Indians battled for hunting rights of the river valley. Pilot Knob watched while the Indians gathered on the west bank of the river to hear the gospel preached by Jacob Browning, the first preacher in Benton County.

The name Pilot Knob is reminiscent of days when Indians paddled their canoes on the rivers of the Tennessee and the pioneers floated down its lengths in flatboats.

One day a boat pilot came chugging up the river. As the pilot looked out and saw the mighty hill, he shaped his course by it. Other pilots did likewise, and the hill came to be called Pilot Knob. Pilot Knob's elevation is 665 feet. It is a known fact that in 1814 John Brevard received a franchise to construct a ferry on the Tennessee River at Reynoldsburg.

On November 4, 1864, a hard-looking man rode a big white horse up the west slope of the know. Johnsonville was the scene of great activity at that time. In the hands of Federals, the little man rode up on Pilot Knob and had a look around.

That man was Nathan Bedford Forrest. The untamed spirit of Forrest has hovered over the untamed hill that was Pilot Knob. The wild has been tamed. Pilot Knob became Nathan Bedford Forrest Park on December 14, 1929.

Thought for the week:

The contented person is never poor; the discontented is never rich.


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Brian Nichols

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