For those that don’t know, Maple Grove, the fictional town from my Ancient Words Series, is based on a real town — my hometown: Wartrace, Tennessee.
Wartrace, like so many other quaint towns, have a history all its own that is unique and special to those that call it home.
Borrowed from the Chamber of Commerce page:
Wartrace has been described as the “little town where time stands still”. That’s probably because our small village, nestled in the gently rolling hills of south central Tennessee, hasn’t changed much since our Grandparents were kids. It’s hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the city and suburbs, amid scenic Walking Horse farms, and yet is only an hour’s drive from Nashville, Chattanooga and Huntsville.
Yes, we may be off the beaten path but Wartrace is the home of internationally renowned hand-crafted guitars, a world-class live music venue and destination hotel, a 32-year-old ultra- marathon that attracts runners from around the world, the oldest one-night horse show in Tennessee and the popular Wartrace MusicFest, held the first weekend in June. We’re proud of our collection of stately historic homes and commercial buildings, some built before the civil war. Our entire downtown and most of the residential district is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Since it’s founding in 1853 Wartrace has been host to the oldest railroad line in the state, lived through the skirmishes and encampments of the Tullahoma Campaign, and is still proud to be the birthplace of the world famous Tennessee Walking Horse.
But I want to share some areas of the town that inspired the story that you’re reading. A friend of mine, after reading Where Can I Flee, asked me where Maple Grove was. She wanted to walk down Vine Street. She wanted to experience this special place. For those that have walked through Wartrace and for those that never will, allow me to take you there today. These are the places that I saw in my mind as I wrote key scenes in the town of Maple Grove.
I’ve learned that it’s much easier to pretend to be knowledgeable about a subject if you are, in fact, knowledgeable in it. Early in my writing, I deemed it best to map out the fictional town. Because my feeble brain couldn’t think of how to create a map outside of a grid method, I decided to pull up the real map of Wartrace and sketch out a likeness of it. I cut a few curves or left off a road where I saw fit, but it gave me the groundwork that I needed to envision the fictional town that would carry an entire series. And then I changed the names of all the roads. All except one: Vine Street. I left Vine Street’s name intact to give myself an anchor or a home base, if you will. All the other names are fictional. For those that are curious, I placed the Harper home on Yell Drive East (fictionally named, Woodland Hills). I gave a nod to our town’s history by renaming the road in front of the Walking Horse Hotel to Horseshoe Lane.
I’m not sure who owns this building now, or whether those charming gas pumps actually work, but I have a host of childhood memories here and it’s a vital location in the series. This is the location of the Chandler’s General Store. I altered much of the building to suit mine, or rather the Chandlers’ needs, but I also kept some key characteristics the same. The Chandler’s store is a three-story white-washed building while this one is only one story. But I kept the L-shaped feature in the story. I imagined this portion of the building that is jutting out toward the road to be the storage room. There’s a lower level storage room in this area as well as a winding staircase leading to the apartment.
When I was a child, this was Bob’s Hardware and it was owned by Bob and Anna Keele whose entire family were close friends with mine. My mom worked with Bob and Anna’s three children up the road a bit. After school, my brother and I often road the bus here with Anna’s grandchildren. She ran the store and watched us until our parents got off from work. We often played behind the building in the grass yard and creek. I kept the creek in the novel and named it Lower Creek.
This is where I imagined the hotel in Maple Grove. The hotel isn’t mentioned often, but it’s most recognized in the “Carrot” scene. Claire crosses the street from the blacksmith’s shop to the general store when a group of cavalrymen circle around the hotel on their way back from washing in the creek. I imagine the blacksmith’s shop to be directly across from the general store, where, in fact, a yellow brick building sits with no real blacksmith charms to it at all. 😉 But at least now you know where I positioned it.
Another often mentioned location in the series: Hilltop Lane. Hilltop Ln is described as a steep hill, and while this picture doesn’t do it justice, my imagination did purposely give this real location an even steeper incline. The sign on your left is the same Vine St. sign that I shared with you earlier. The yellow brick to our left is the location of the blacksmith, and the Chandler’s General store sits to the right, although it’s not pictured here. But at the top of this hill, right before you get to that sharp curve is where I positioned the church that their families attend, rightly named Hilltop Baptist Church. The top of this hill is also the location where Claire was almost trampled by a band of cavalrymen riding around the corner there. Most readers will remember this very well. Several scenes mention the families walking or riding from the church to the Chandler’s store for a meal on Sundays.
I hope you enjoyed taking a look at the real town that inspired Maple Grove. You can learn more about the history behind my series in the following blog posts: Humble Beginnings, When God Intervenes, Happy Birthday, Ancient Words Series, and Local Inspiration.