Pittman Center mayor, museum to be recognized by East Tennessee Historical Society

May. 02, 2014 @ 11:02 PM

Pittman Center Mayor Glenn Cardwell and his treasured endeavor, the Pittman Center Heritage Museum, will be honored by the East Tennessee Historical Society at the group's annual meeting May 6.

Cardwell, 83, and the town received word of the honor earlier this week.

"It is my pleasure to inform you that you have been chosen to receive a Community History Award from the Tennessee Historical Society for a lifetime of preserving heritage and history of the people of the Great Smoky Mountains," Cherel Henderson, director of the East Tennessee Historical Society wrote in a letter to Cardwell, who has been Pittman Center's mayor since 1998.

Some time ago, Cardwell, a retired naturalist for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, took up the task of preserving the mountain heritage of his old homeplace, Greenbrier, and the larger Pittman Center community.

"(He) has dedicated his life to sharing this love and appreciation for the wonderful heritage received from the ancestors of the Smoky Mountain communities," Pittman Center Town Administrator Sherry Spicer-Dudley wrote in nominating Cardwell for the society's award. "It is important that the same love will be passed on to others who follow. Those who meet Glenn are highly impacted by the mountain heritage he shares with them."

"We are very fortunate to have such a wealth of knowledge and history," Spicer-Dudley said Thursday. "Not many people get to say they have their own historian as their mayor."

Among the products of Cardwell's work are two books, “A Dream Fulfilled — A Story About Pittman Center,” and “The Greenbrier Cove Story"; and the Pittman Center Heritage Museum, which is housed in the community's new K-8 school.

The museum itself was also tabbed for an East Tennessee Historical Society award, the Community History Award, for "preserving history and heritage of the Pittman Center community."

The museum offers a glimpse into the past of Pittman Center all the way back to its first European settler, Frederic Emert, an American Revolutionary War veteran who settled there in 1784.

"Having a museum inside a school was thinking outside of the box," Cardwell wrote in nominating the museum to the society. "The museum came into being because the town wanted to showcase their local and regional cultural heritage and share it with future generations."

"We felt we were rich in cultural heritage, and we didn't want to lose it," Cardwell said Thursday, while walking the hallways of the school where the museum is located. "We want to pass it on to our future generations."

During the negotiations to build the new school, the community pledged to raise $1 million toward the building, with two stipulations. One was that the school be designed to blend in with the philosophy and ordinances of the town, and secondly, that the the museum be permitted as part of the school. And so it was.

"That was what was amazing," Spicer-Dudley said. "Just to see a few people — we're a little over 500 (population) — come together with all these different events and come up with something that's the only one like it in Tennessee — there's not another heritage museum anywhere in Tennessee in a school. It's something that we love to see the kids get to enjoy everyday, and hopefully it will get to carry on because of (Cardwell) and his vision."

Now the museum draws hundreds of visitors each year to see its collection of resident-donated antiques and historical artifacts, which paint a picture of life as a settler in Pittman Center or during the creation of the national park.

The annual East Tennessee Historical Society membership meeting, when the awards will be presented, is Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the East Tennessee History Center in downtown Knoxville. Dr. Daniel S. Pierce, a professor and chair of the history department at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, will be the night's speaker. His talk will be on the history of moonshining in the Great Smoky Mountains.