Local author and school counselor Bill Conger spent the last two years up to his eyeballs in vintage images of Mt. Juliet.
His new book, “Images of America; Mount Juliet” just debuted and unearths Mt. Juliet’s history in rarely seen black and white photographs that depict the rich tapestry of Mt. Juliet.
While Conger grew up in Smithville, Tenn., he’s spent the past dozen years living in Mt. Juliet in Willoughby Station subdivision.
“I was intrigued by the cemetery that is preserved smack dab in the subdivision,” he said.
Twine this with an encounter with the author of “Images of America: Delkab County,” Conger “began to wonder if there was anything similar for Mt. Juliet.”
He realized there wasn’t and began to compile more than 200 vintage images that chronicle the city’s history. Mt. Juliet is one of the fastest-growing communities in Tennessee and has undergone significant transformation since its beginning over 200 years ago.
“Unfortunately, for history lovers, few of the early buildings were spared the wrecking ball,” he said. “Many of those treasures are gone forever, except in the hearts of the descendants and in the preserved photographs in this pictorial collection.”
Some locals helped Conger uncover the dusty photographs. Donna Graves Ferrell and Diane Weather with the West Wilson Historical Society were very integral in collecting the photographs. Conger also met with the now deceased town historian and first mayor N.C. Hibbett during the compilation.
“I went to church with N.C.’s wife, Jenny Bess, and she invited me to come to their home and see their huge train set,” said Conger. “It revolved around old Mt. Juliet stops. It was so cool. N.C. was such an integral part of the city while it was forming.”
Conger said it was an intense project, but he enjoyed seeing it to its fruition. Some of the book’s highlights are the inclusion of professional basketball player and Mt. Juliet native Tom Marshall and hundreds of photos and detailed caption of some of the few photo of early Mt. Juliet that are still in existence. The book is broken down into six main chapters entitled The Early Days of Mt. Juliet; Hitting the books and balls; All Aboard; Faith and farming; Simple Living; and Modern-Day Mt. Juliet.
Historians say Mt. Juliet was born on the headwaters of Stoner’s (Lick) Creek, which was named after 18th-Century long hunter Michael Stoner. Two hundred hears ago the city was a small agrarian community and had a handful of families who raised cattle and were dedicated to digging into the rocky soil, planting crops to make ends meet. Today the city boasts nearly 25,000 citizens and is one of the fastest growing cities in Tennessee. Conger said the origin of the city’s name has for years been a subject of friendly debate. However, most say the city’s moniker derived for a manor in County Kilkenny, Ireland.
This is not Conger’s first book. He’s written “Rejoice in the Lord Always; Jeff Tillman story”. He’s currently a school counselor for DeKalb West School. He’s worked in radio and television for 25 years, including stints at WSM and as a feature producer for CMT and Jim Owens and Associates. He lives with wife Alyssa and children Autumn and Gavin.
Conger said he knows these early images of Mt. Juliet are lasting and he feels proud he’s captured them for all in this book.
“Mt. Juliet is a commuter city, and few descendants from the early days of Mt. Juliet remain,” he said. “I hope this book will give people who moved into the city a deeper appreciation for the city. I hope people can look at this book and get some perspective of where the community began and how much it has advanced in such a short time.
“I would also like to see people appreciate the history enough to not allow the razing of any more historic buildings or sites for ‘progress.’”
The book can be found at Books a Million, other bookstores, independent retailers and online retailers such as Amazon.com. It is published by Arcadia. Conger will most likely have books signings locally at places such as the Mt. Juliet Library and Billy Goat Café.