Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area was once home to over 2,000 families and several small tight-knit communities. The Tennessee Valley Authority took over the vast 170,000-acre peninsula between Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley in the 1960s. TVA purchased the land from the families and many of them found new homes in nearby communities.
A special thanks to the Lloyd family of Asheville, North Carolina for donating some potentially never-before-seen historical photos of the old L&N Railroad Bridge at Danville, Tennessee. The photos were from a family member who was the engineer for the L&N Railroad bridge during the construction in 1931-1932.
Dexter is an unincorporated community in northern Calloway County. It is a “census-designated place” and has a population of 277 people as of 2010. The town features a few streets on a grid and was once incorporated.
History of Dexter
Similar to the nearby towns of Almo, Hardin and Hazel, Dexter was originally a railroad camp when the Paducah Tennessee and Alabama Railroad was building a line through Calloway County in 1890. Sam M. Jones, the landowner at the future site of Dexter, donated the right of way for the tracks and the site for the station on condition that he name it Dexter. He chose the name after Dexter, Mo, which at that time was a thriving railroad town. Several of Jones’ friends and neighbors were given employment in the Missouri town, so he decided to honor it by naming the station Dexter.
A post office was established on December 19, 1890 with General Buford Williams the first postmaster.
The railroad was abandoned with the tracks pulled in August 2009 (see photo below).
At some point after 1960, Dexter became unincorporated.
This photo shows the Dexter station and railroad from the early 20th century. Thanks to Michael Hale for sharing.
Location of Dexter
The community is located just to the east of US 641, about seven miles north of Murray. This map from 1936 shows Dexter.
Mr. Hale tells us the passenger car photos are from 1986 and 1987, just three years or so after the line was severed from Hardin to Paducah. The other photos are from around 1999-2000.
The yellow locomotive pictured below was brought to Hardin around 1999 for restoration and was to be used as a backup engine for the Hardin Southern Railroad. After the HSRR was sold, and before the tracks were dismantled, the 1941 Davenport was donated to the Walkersville Southern (MD) and was moved sometime around 2007. Today, the old Davenport has been restored and is in service in Maryland.
Thanks to Michael Hale for sharing the photos and providing the information. If you have any you’d like to share, please get in touch with us.
A few weeks ago, Lisa Trimble, a Facebook fan of Four Rivers Explorer, sent me a photo of an old abandoned school bus in Land Between The Lakes.
I asked Lisa regarding the whereabouts of the bus and she gave me some good information on how to find it. The location is a popular hunt for geocachers and actually has a name on geocaching.com – Homer’s Garage.
Finding skeletal remains of civilization in Land Between The Lakes isn’t rare. However, a stripped down school bus is a one-of-a-kind discovery. Despite the fact that the old bus is odd and usual, it’s history is not much of a mystery.
According to geocaching.com, the name Homer’s Garage comes from Homer Ray, a former resident of Land Between The Lakes before it became a national recreation area. Mr. Ray owned Ray’s Garage, a shop located where the remains of the bus is today.
Mr. Ray was one of the last people to leave Land Between The Lakes in 1969. He relocated to Eddyville and operated a garage there until his death in 1981.
Much of the land surrounding the former site of Homer’s Garage was owned by his family. Mr. Ray’s father, Cordie, operated the Kuttawa Ferry across the Cumberland River. Ray and many of his family members are buried in Sardis Cemetery in Land Between The Lakes.
About The Old Bus
I am not an expert at identifying old cars, let alone a bus that is 60 years old. It appears to have belonged to the Lyon County School District; you can see faint lettering on the bus reading “Lyon County”.
It also appeared to seat 32 people, with eight seats on each side of the bus. It’s been striped of virtually everything, leaving only the shell. If you think you know what year, make and model of the bus is, feel free to comment or email me.
Find The Bus
Getting to the bus is not difficult. It is located in northern Land Between The Lakes. From the Trace, take Old Ferry Road and go about 6.5 miles to LBL Road #126. Take that road and travel about a half mile until LBL Road #126 splits into #127. You’re in the general area.
Find a place to park on the side of the road . There is an old driveway with a mound of dirt and gravel near a modern road sign. Take this path and head into the woods about 500 feet or so. You’ll see the bus in front of you. The bus can be spotted from #126 in the winter months.
As always, leave no trace! In the warm months, make sure you watch where you step and check yourself for ticks.
There is a geocache at this site. You can get GPS coordinates for Homer’s Garage at geocaching.com.
Several years ago, right after we had our first child, we were treated with an afternoon off from our little guy and ventured out into the vast woods of Land Between The Lakes.
The destination was Pryor Creek, just south of the KY/TN border near Lake Barkley. We were on the hunt for an old abandoned bridge, and with some luck, we found it. You can read about our adventure back in 2008 here. We went in the summertime and had to fight ticks, mosquitoes and a lot of overgrowth.
Recently I decided to take advantage of a warm winter day to revisit the Pryor Creek bridge ruins and see if I could get better photos. With all the briers and vegetation gone, it would be a lot easier to get to. It was good to get these photos!
This bridge was originally built near the Tennessee River in the 1920s. When Kentucky Lake was created in the early 1940s, the bridge’s location was going to be inundated by the new reservoir, so workers moved the bridge to it’s present location on Pryor Creek.
It isn’t known to me when it was closed, but it might be safe to assume the 1960s, considering the creation of Lake Barkley and Land Between The Lakes.
Pryor Creek Is Beautiful
This creek is spring fed in several locations. One spring is next to the Great Western Iron Furnace. Another spring in the Homeplace 1850s living history farm feeds it.
A gentleman emailed me in 2015 saying there was another spring on down from the bridge that fed the main creek. On the mouth of the spring is a rock formation. His grandfather grew up there and used the spring to keep food cool. A spring house was built on this site, but now is long gone. I didn’t have time to look for it and really didn’t want to get my feet cold and wet from crossing the frigid creek.
Don’t Cross The Bridge!
It’s impossible for a vehicle to cross the bridge with old barricades up and a lot of trees and overgrowth. But I wouldn’t cross it on foot, either. The wood deck is rotten. So if you decide to go visit the old bridge, remember safety first – don’t walk out on it.
Finding Pryor Creek Bridge
There are a couple ways to get there, but the best way is probably taking LBL Road #204 near the Great Western Iron Furnace from the Trace. Follow this gravel road until you reach LBL Road #174. Turn left on this road and go a bit until you reach LBL Road #364 (this road may be unmarked). If you cross Pryor Bay you’ve gone too far. At the time of this writing, any vehicle can access this area.
Travel to the very end of LBL Road #364 and park at the barricade. Walk along the old road a couple hundred yards and you’re there. The bridge is hard to see and get to in the summer, so if you don’t find it, continue walking down the lane to the ford. Get into the creek and you’ll see it crossing the stream about 100 feet down. In the summer, watch for snakes and other critters!