Tennessee – Chattanooga: When Travel, History and Collecting Coincide

I collect sterling silver luggage tags and over the years I have learned that these unique little pieces were mostly produced in the U.S., with the exception of only a handful of recent British and German ones.  The earliest dated luggage tag in my collection goes back to 1895 and was presented by Wannamaker & Brown, the preeminent purveyor of fashion in Philadelphia, to members of the “I.L Press Club” when they were meeting in that city. 

Luggage tags were most likely used on personal, hand-carried items like a satchel, valise or briefcase rather than being used to provide personal identification on suitcases.  Some tags are engraved with a single letter or a monogram while others bear more information.

Recently, I acquired a most interesting example that is engraved with “Mrs. Chas. Whiteside” on the front and “13 College St., Chattanooga, Tenn.” on the back. 

When I did an internet search for Charles Whiteside, I was fascinated to learn of his connection to Chattanooga history.  It seems that when his father, James Anderson Whiteside (1803-1861), was thirty-five years old he bought a one-ninth interest in the Hines and Hargrove land acquisition companies, and thereby James “became instrumental in guiding the future of the new town of Chattanooga” (Gaston, “James”).

James Whiteside had been born near Danville, Kentucky, and prior to moving to Chattanooga, he married Mary Jane Massengale in 1829.  They had had five children then she died in 1843.  Soon thereafter, he married Harriet Leonora Straw, who taught piano to one of his children, and Charles Whiteside was one of the nine children from this second union (Gaston, “James”). 

In addition to helping develop the city, James Whiteside also “took the lead in promoting railroad development and in securing the location of the Tennessee terminus of the Western & Atlantic Railroad for Chattanooga” (Gaston, “James”).  While serving in the Tennessee House of Representatives he also helped promote other railroad access to the city. 

His property holdings included a large tract of land on Lookout Mountain, and he had a toll road build up the mountain, followed by the building of a hotel in 1858 that “marked the beginning of Chattanooga’s tourism industry.”  He also promoted religious and cultural life in the city and lured artist James Cameron (1817-1882) to the city with an offer of land.  In appreciation Cameron gave Whiteside a painting titled, “Colonel and Mrs. James A. Whiteside, Son Charles and Servants” (Shades).     

When I saw the painting hanging in the Hunter Museum of American Art a few years ago, I was intrigued by the scene of the city, the curving river, and the railroad in the background.  The plural “Servants” in the title also confused me because I had only seen the nursemaid with the child and hadn’t noticed the manservant to the left of Mrs. Whiteside.  Now, I find it even more interesting that I am researching Charles.  Initially, it seemed strange that he is the only child of the fifteen Whiteside offspring that appears in the painting (ca.1858 or 1859), but since he was born in early 1858, he would have been the current baby in the family at that time.

James Whiteside died of illness in 1861 and left his fortune to his wife, Harriet.  The Whitesides were secessionists and slave owners.  Harriet “barely managed to put her husband’s affairs in order” when Union troops overtook the city.  She boarded a few officers in her home and took the oath of allegiance, but Harriet must have shown her true character and color because “in the spring of 1864 Gen. William T. Sherman deported her and her seven children to Springfield, Ohio (Gaston, “Harriet”).  

After the war she returned to Chattanooga and her home at 100 College Street.  From an article titled, “The Remarkable Harriet Whiteside” by Kay Baker Gaston, I learned that Harriet “enjoyed a reputation as the most successful and possibly the wealthiest woman in Tennessee” (Gaston, “Remarkable,” 333).  In addition to reclaiming what was lost during the war, she also earned a fortune on her own.  She was known to be “exacting and litigious” and “despite her ladylike accomplishments and high station, had a very unladylike taste for business—and big business, at that.”  Harriet died on February 1, 1903, and “some Chattanoogans breathed a sigh of relief because of the controversy she had engendered for the past forty years” (Gaston, “Remarkable,” 333).

 Charles Cook Whiteside was born January 10, 1858, in Nashville while his father was in the state legislature, but he was raised in Chattanooga.  In 1886 he became the Chattanooga Fire Chief.  One source tells of “a conflagration of no great magnitude” In June of 1887.  In the fire, two firemen died, others were injured and Fire Chief Whiteside was “severely burned when trying to rescue the two firemen” (McGuffey, 112). 

The “History of the Chattanooga Fire Department” gives a much more detailed account of his actions, based on The Chattanooga Times reporting of the event.  The fire was in a brick building that “manufactured a device making the use of illuminating gas cheap.”  The building exploded and tons of brick fell on the two firemen inside.  One man “was pulled out by Chief Whiteside and other firemen….  Chief Whiteside burned both hands badly as he frantically threw aside the hot bricks in a desperate effort to reach his trapped men” (Chattanooga Fire Dept.). 

Chief Whiteside was not only courageous, but he was generous as well.  “He personally financed the installation of a Gamewell System of Fire Alarm Telegraph.  He bought the poles and wire needed in the construction and was not reimbursed until two years after the system was in operation” (Chattanooga Fire Dept.).  Chief Whiteside retired from the department in 1900 and died at age forty-six on September 18, 1904.  He is buried in Forest Hills Cemetery in Chattanooga. 

It appears that his widow, Emma Crutchfield Whiteside, was not nearly as active in the community as either her husband or her colorful mother-in-law.  The only social mention I was able to find was her membership in the DAR (National DAR).

Emma was born May 24, 1862 (Stargazr).  Her parents, William and Sarah Crutchfield, opposed Secession.  William fought on the Union side in the Civil War even though his family supported the Confederacy.  After the war he was “elected to Congress as a Republican and owing to his influence in Republican circles he was able to assist his friends who had fought for the South” (Nicklin, 187).  His political leadership and his involvement in the building of the Alabama Great Southern Railway would have brought him into association with the Whitesides.  A union between children of the two families comes as no surprise.  Emma Crutchfield and Charles Whiteside were married on May 17, 1880 (Nicklin, 187).  

She and Charles had two children: Helen and Charles Cook, Jr., who died in infancy.  Helen married three times but had no children.  According to the 1900 census they were living on College Street.   I suspect that Helen may have moved to New York at some point during one of her marriages because the 1905 census shows her mother, Emma, living in New York City.  Quite possibly she had moved there to be closer to her daughter after Charles died.  In any event, Emma died in Manhattan on October 6, 1914, and was buried three days later on October 9 at the Forest Hill Cemetery in Chattanooga (Stargazr).  Her grave is marked with a simple stone that reads: “EMMA / 1862-1914“ on the top and  “MOTHER” on the front face (Find, Emma).

This is an exciting trove of information for me to find about the former owner of my luggage tag, and since we were planning to drive to Chattanooga for a coin show, it seemed like a perfect opportunity to see if we could find 13 College Street.  When I tried to find the address using my GPS I had no luck finding the address.

Sadly, I learned from a Chattanooga research librarian that the interstate highway system had carved its way through this area.  The remaining streets are in the heart of Chattanooga’s business district.  No residential structures have survived and huge brick buildings populate the area.  Charles and Emma’s home at 13 College Street is gone as is the home where James and Harriet lived at 100 College Street.  The families’ homes may be gone…but not the indelible marks they have made on Chattanooga history. 

The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Kay Baker Gaston for her generous encouragement and of Suzette Rainey, Local History and Genealogy Archivist, Chattanooga Public Library for her assistance with research on Emma Clutchfield Whiteside and Chattanooga street changes.


Chattanooga Fire Department.  “History of the Chattanooga Fire Department.”  https://chattanooga.gov/images/citymedia/fire/fire_department_history.pdf

Find A Grave.  Charles Whiteside photo by Bobby J. Chamberlain.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79160586/charles-cook-whiteside

—.  Emma Whiteside grave photo by SFC Kathline Forrester.  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95141513/emma-whiteside

Gaston, Kay Baker.  “Harriet Leonora Straw Whiteside,” Tennessee Encyclopedia.  Tennessee Historical Society, October 8, 2017.  https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/harriet-lenora-straw-whiteside/

—.  “Harriet Whiteside was ahead of her time.”  Chattanooga Times Free Press, March 19, 2017.  https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/opinion/columns/story/2017/mar/19/gaston-ahead-her-time-harriet-whiteside/418032/

—.  “James A. Whiteside, Chattanooga Pioneer” Chattanooga Times Free Press, August 23, 2015.

—.  “The Remarkable Harriet Whiteside,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly Vol. 40, No. 4 (Winter, 1981) pp. 333-347.  https://www.jstor.org/stable/42626231?seq=1

Hunter Museum of American Art.  “Colonel and Mrs. James A. Whiteside, Son Charles and Servants“  http://emuseum.huntermuseum.org/objects/22/colonel-and-mrs-james-a-whiteside-son-charles-and-servant;jsessionid=DA46934B2757EFFEBA401FB83F21783A

McGuffey, Charles D., editor.  Standard History of Chattanooga, TN: With Full Outline of the Early Settlement, Pioneer Life, Indian History and General and Particular History of the City to the Close of the Year 1910.  Chattanooga: Crew & Dorey, 1911.  https://books.google.com/books/about/Standard_History_of_Chattanooga_Tennesse.html?id=_R9EAQAAMAAJ

National Society of the DAR vol. 49 – #48913.  https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/007905197

Nicklin, John Bailey Calvert, Main Author. The Millers of Millersburg and Their Descendants….  Nashville: Brandon Printing Company, 1923.  https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/005731763


Shades of Blue and Grey.  “Colonel and Mrs. James A. Whiteside, Son Charles and Servants” [painting].   Digital Initiatives, James E. Walker Library, Middle Tennessee State University.  http://cdm15838.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/shades/id/0/rec/1

5 thoughts on “Tennessee – Chattanooga: When Travel, History and Collecting Coincide

  1. Iris,

    I really enjoyed this article for many reasons The genealogy aspect, DAR notation, the photos, bibliography and subject matter to name a few.

    Most impressive however, is your research. Referencing your sources gives credibility to your piece. Anyone reading this blog should feel better informed on luggage tags and Chattanooga.

    Congratulations on a job well done…again.


    Sent from my iPhone



  2. Really interestin, Toni the detective! I wonder how the luggage tag you found ended up for sale. Maybe no descendants now. Alice

    Sent from my iPad



  3. Very interesting; I’m learning Alot about my new state reading your TN history. How do you find time for all the
    research?? Mom


  4. Love your articles and everything that goes along with them. You give us all a different look at areas that we may have visited and now have to go back to see all that we missed. Keep up the great tours!


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