Dark fired tobacco has held a great significance to the culture, industry, and politics of Robertson County. One has only to drive through the area in fall and smell the tangy dark fire smoke or step into the Robertson County History Museum and learn about the Black Patch Wars to get a sense of the region's dark fire roots.

To the citizens of Springfield, there was no more colorful a reminder of this legacy than an impressive arch that once stood over Old Greenbrier Hwy, proclaiming confidently with bright, old fashioned bulbs, "World's Finest Dark Fired Tobacco."

The sign was erected in 1928 by local businessmen to commemorate the year's $5 million tobacco harvest, months before the stock market crash of 1929 and the general economic hardships of the Great Depression. This symbol of prosperity erected on the tail end of the gilded age stood for 44 years until 1972.

Now the Robertson County Historical Museum, with help from the community, has memorialized the Springfield icon with an historical marker set on one of the arch's original pedestals.

"I've been wanting to do this for years," explains Yolanda Reed, county historian and archivist.

The sign was made possible by two community volunteers without whom, Reed says, the project would have been impossible. John William Evangelist, a graduate student in historic preservation and architecture and Robertson County native, restored the last remaining pedestal last summer. Faye Porter Tailor, on whose property the arch resided, donated the $2,600 sign, including information and a picture of the original arch.

"None of the historical markers in the past two years have been paid for by the historical society," says Reed. "I thought we were going to have to fundraise, so I was thrilled."

Past restoration efforts have tried and failed to reinstall or repurpose the arch, especially during the Homecoming '86 project, which initially raised funds to put the sign over the fairgrounds entrance. However the original arch is now in private hands, refurbished with different lettering. An historical marker is the next best thing.

"We have to be proud of our agricultural history," explained Jimmy Pitt, a volunteer who helped put up the marker. "It's disappearing, and this is a way to document it."

© 2016 The Robertson County Connection

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