When I first saw this embossed postcard manufactured in Europe (ca. 1907-1915), the tune of “Carolina Morning” popped into my head. Can you sing the first line of the song? Do you know (without resorting to Google) where Tennelina is located? This card was mailed from Tennelina by Sallie to a Miss Chandley in Marshall, NC.
Tennelina is a small, unincorporated community located along the old drovers’ road (now Highway 25/70) between Newport and Asheville in Madison County. It’s just outside of Hot Springs. Tennelina—like Carova Beach, NC, Carotenn, NC , or Virgilina, VA—sits on the edge of or is very near a state line. If you’re curious about other “edge” names, read Edge Effects: The Border Name Places by Robert Temple (2008).
Tennelina is in the Shut-In section of Madison County on Upper Shut-In Road. If you drive to the paved end of Upper Shut-In, you’ll wind up on a narrow, gravel road that marks the start of Cocke County, TN. You can’t drive very far because at gate marks the border of the Cherokee National Forest. Should you drive to the end of Lower Shut-In Road, you could wind up in the French Broad River!
Historical information on Tennelina is rather scarce. There are a few citations about Tennelina in U.S. Geological Surveys. One survey mentions deposits of brown iron ore in the area. In a Google search I found out that the Tennelina Church of God is not very far off of the highway. And they have a Facebook page!
From 1903 until 1934, Tennelina had a post office. Joseph Lawson ran a general store and was also the postmaster. Perhaps the sender of the postcard purchased it at Mr. Lawson’s store. A rock building, probably built in the 1920’s, stands just off the new highway. A short length of worn, marked pavement (the old highway) runs right in front of the building, parallel to today’s highway. It’s not in use as a post office or a store any longer, but relatively modern gas pumps stand tall in front.
What amazed me about discovering the Tennelina post office is that early in the 20th century there were many active post offices in Madison County. Reading a truncated list of the various post offices is nothing short of poetic: Freizeland, Kinzel, Theta, Affluence, Scism (later Paint Rock #2), Tapatamee, Faust…in all close to 50 different post offices. Alas, today there are only three in Madison County: Marshall (once Lapland!), Mars Hill, and Hot Springs.
If you want to start looking for the Cleelum, Democrat, Greenleesville, Volga, or Homerville post offices in Buncombe County, go visit to the North Carolina Collection, just down the stairs in Pack Library. They have a copy of Post Offices and Postmasters of North Carolina by Vernon S. Stroupe, et al. Bon Voyage!
Posted by Terry Taylor, Friends of the North Carolina Room Board Member