Montgomery Bell State Park

Located along U.S. Highway 70 in Dickson County, Montgomery Bell State Park is approximately thirty miles west of Nashville. This 3,782-acre recreational area bears the name of the wealthy industrialist who established the first major iron furnace west of the Allegheny Mountains. The park holds several historical resources, including the remains of Laurel Furnace, one of the state's early manufacturing sites. The ore pits and furnace originally belonged to Colonel Richard Napier, who received the acreage as part of a Revolutionary War land grant. The park is also the site of the early nineteenth-century house of Samuel McAdow. In 1810 the McAdow dwelling became the "birthplace" of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church when dissident Presbyterian ministers met there and held the first Synod of the new church.

Montgomery Bell State Park originated as a project of the National Park Service. After the Park Service announced its intention of creating five parks in the mid-state, Dickson County business leaders successfully sought a park for their area. They persuaded federal representatives that the proposed site met Resettlement Administration criteria of submarginal land, while simultaneously offering a beautiful natural landscape.

Three New Deal agencies assisted the Park Service in the construction of the park: the Public Works Administration (PWA), Works Progress Administration (WPA), and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The National Park Service officially designated the site as a recreational demonstration area, and construction began in 1935. Three CCC companies worked at Montgomery Bell State Park, including Company 4495, a Junior African American group that arrived from Knoxville in December 1935. Company 4495 built Lake Acorn and Lake Woodhaven. By 1938 the park contained a beach, a bathhouse, boating facilities, a picnic and camp area, a mess hall, an administration building, and group cabins, probably constructed by Company 4495. The work of the PWA is less clearly documented, but they probably built a group of cabins for Girl Scout troops that remain relatively unaltered since their construction.

Company 3464 arrived in 1941 from Cumberland Mountain State Park, followed shortly by Company 4497 from Wartburg. These two groups relieved Company 4495 of its duties and completed the park's construction during the early 1940s. The lakes are the only CCC facilities constructed at the park. The last CCC-built building, a tool shed north of the visitor's center, was razed in 1990.

Montgomery Bell State Park remained under National Park Service jurisdiction until 1943, when the original 5,000-acre tract, including the park and its surrounding forest, was deeded to the Tennessee Department of Conservation. One of the state's most heavily visited recreational sites, Montgomery Bell State Park preserves and promotes the area's rich history and sublime landscape. The park serves as the annual reunion site for Tennessee's former Civilian Conservation Corps "boys," who gather each spring to reminisce and enjoy the beauty of their work.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » February 22, 2011