Besides being a center of transportation in its heyday, Port Royal was truly a thriving little town. In the 1870’s, it had a population of 1,200.
There was a roller skating rink after the Civil War. There was also a baseball team, according to Ralph Winters. In fact, the Port Royal Eagles played a team from Clarksville in 1879. Unfortunately, R. Pickering, the Eagles’ best player, was sick and Clarksville won.
Port Royal was also well-known for its broom factory. At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, R.L. Reding won a gold medal for the family’s high quality brooms.
The Redings raised their own “broom corn” on the farm. Supposedly, the “broom corn” was hand-picked, straw by straw.
R.L. Reding delivered the gold medal brooms over the entire area. He was proud of the brooms and of the team of fine horses used for delivery.
In the bustling town, there were also kilns – one for brick and one for lime. There was a silversmith. There was a home factory where furniture and coffins were made.
And of course there were tobacco factories.
One of the most interesting “industries” was the silk mill.
On February 1, 1842, a charter was granted by the State of Tennessee to “Tenn. Mfg. Silk Co. and Agriculture School.”Stock would be sold at $25 per share.
Several “commissioners” were selected to sell the stock. They included T. Fanning, N. Hobson, and A.D. Carden.
Work on the mill began “up river” from Sulphur Fork. Mulberry trees were planted for the silk worms – thousands of acres of mulberry trees.
Amazingly, there is the story of an earlier silk factory operating in Port Royal with machinery brought by Shakers from Southern Kentucky.
There was great excitement over the prospect of the silk mill. A.D. Carden took money from the shares and headed for England to buy machinery.
He was never heard from again.
Many people, of course, felt that he betrayed the town by stealing the money. Others, including historian H.C. Brehm, guessed that Carden may never have even reached the eastern part of Robertson County.
He might have been the victim himself and lie, as Brehm said, “in a shallow, unmarked grave along his route to Europe.”
It was the age of cutthroats and robbers, after all.
The mill at Port Royal was finished, but it became a flour and corn mill instead.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.