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Namesake: Greenback in Loudon County

1:05 PM, Oct 1, 2010   |    comments
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For the 970 people who live in Greenback, the old drug store diner serves the best lunch downtown.  In fact, it is the only restaurant downtown.

"Everyone in town sees each other down at the diner and also at the market out on Highway 411," said Tom Peeler, mayor of Greenback.  "On Thursday nights you can't get a seat at the diner."

The diner is also the only place in town where you can order a grilled Honey Bun topped with ice cream and chocolate syrup.  Yet, residents said the sweetest thing in town is the company they keep.

"There are a lot of friendly people here.  It is the garden spot of the world, as far as I'm concerned," said Roy Brooks, a resident of Greenback for the last 76 years.  "If one person has a problem in town, we all have a problem and pull together to help each other."

"We are a small town with a big heart.  It is the people that make the city of Greenback go," said Peeler.

Wherever the residents go in life, at some point they are likely to be asked the same question.

"People want to know where Greenback got its name.  They always think it's named after the greenback dollar issued by the Union during the Civil War," said Peeler.

"It isn't exactly named for the greenback dollar.  The city is actually named after a political party," said Brooks.

In the years following the Civil War, the community that formed was originally named Thompson's Stand after the main store in the area.  When the railroads were built in the 1870s, the city moved adjacent to the tracks with a large depot.  Today residents said you can still see the remnants of the original Thompson's Stand building in a nearby wooded area.

When it was announced that the town would get its own post office, the name "Thompson's Store" was submitted to the Post Office Department.  The name was rejected because there was already a Thompson's Station in Tennessee and several other states had cities named Thompson, according to the book A Place Called Greenback.

The Post Office Department rejected other submitted names such as "Pine Grove" and "Baker's Creek" because they were also too similar to other postal locations.

"They tried a bunch of names and they didn't work," said Brooks.  "After they kept getting rejected, they tried to think of something that was unique."

In early 1883, the postmaster submitted the name "Greenback" in recognition of the Greenback Labor Party.  This third independent party held some political clout in the late 1880s as members lobbied for labor reform that benefited farmers and the use of inexpensive paper currency in the south.

The choice of the name Greenback was also made in tribute to a neighborhood resident named Jonathan Tipton.  Tipton was a candidate for the Tennessee General Assembly on the Greenback Ticket in 1882.

"So they sent in the name Greenback and the government accepted it.  As far as we know, it is the only Greenback in the United States," said Brooks.

The Greenback Party did not last, but the city named in its honor does. 

"This is just a wonderful place.  The folks who live here, we do not have a lot of money even though we're named Greenback."  Brooks added, "We're just a very tight-knit community and that's worth more than money."

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Note: Namesake is the renamed title of the series formerly known as 'Why do they call it that?'

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