Defoe and Choate honored at Oktober Heritage Festival
October 13, 2022
June Defoe was honored as Burgermeister during festivities at the Hohenwald Oktober Heritage Festival held last weekend. Former librarian Pat Choate was recognized with the History and Heritage Award.
Pat and her family moved to Lewis County in 1972 and bought a generational family farm on the banks of Little Buffalo River in the Oak Grove Community.
Pat was a stay at home mom but with her five children all entering the Lewis County school system, she very shortly entered the job world in Lewis County and became the Directory/Librarian at Lewis County Public Library.
As Director, Pat oversaw the transition of the local library from handwritten check out cards to the digital/computer age.
As librarian, she hosted children's groups from Lewis County Schools, author visits and book signings, summer reading programs, the installation of the Wineapple genealogy room, preserving the ceiling of that historic Lewis County home in the library, and many years of providing the best books that could be found for her favorite "customers", the citizens of Lewis County.
Pat has always been a proponent of education and continually read and tried to educate herself. As librarian she eagerly enrolled in the Public Library Management Institute of Tennessee and was in their first graduating class.
While being library director and raising five kids, she became enthralled with Lewis County and their little-known hero, Meriwether Lewis. To educate our county residents about his journey and personal history, and how it intertwined with our own Lewis County, became her mission.
She served as the President of the local Historical Society for several years. She was instrumental along with her husband, Ralph, by being a board member and then in helping by creating natural habits and building the structures within the Lewis County Museum which houses the Maddox animal collection and later helped in the creation of Wilhelm Tellplatz Park.
She, along with Marjorie Graves, spearheaded the compilation of the Lewis County genealogy book.
She also hosted meetings with the State Library and Archives at the local public library so the citizens could bring in personal memorabilia and have it photographed and entered into our State of Tennessee Library and Archives.
Pat served on the Lewis County Sesquicentennial committee. She was on the committee for the Lewis County Tennessee Bicentennial 200 committee. She was active in the Lewis County Extension Homemaking programs, the Chamber of Commerce, the Literacy Advisory Council, and the Tennessee Library Association.
She was interviewed by NPR about our local hero ,Meriwether Lewis, which was a treat!
In October 2009 she served as a delegate to the National Meriwether Lewis Trail Heritage Foundation for their 41st annual meeting held in Hohenwald and was the emcee for the event held at the Meriwether Lewis Park.
In 2010, after 30 years at Lewis County Public Library, she retired and is enjoying life on the Little Buffalo.
Pat loves hand quilting and recently donated several quilts to the Davis House here in Lewis County to be used to comfort children during times of trauma. She lost her husband in 2015 and has lost two of her sons, Tillman and Perry. Her remaining children, Cindi Choate Baxter, Anthony Choate, and Melinda Choate Stone, continue to be praised and fussed on by their mother as need be.
Let me tell you that I am very excited to be the Burgermeister for the 2022 Hohenwald October Heritage Festival. I was born and raised in Lewis County by my parents, Gladys Aline Skelton Defoe and Jones Craig 'Ham' Defoe. I did spend ten years in California, Hawaii, North Carolina, and South Carolina; as well as, teaching school in each state. When I returned I was certainly glad to be back in Lewis County with the people I love.
My great grandmother, Elizabeth Voorhees Craig Defoe, lived on a farm inherited from her parents in Riverside. Lizzy, as she was fondly called, raised my grandfather, Herbie Gladstone Defoe, on the Riverside farm in the area that was known as Voorhees and today is known as Texas Bottom. His father, my great grandfather, John Defoe, died before Herbie Defoe was born. John manufactured and repaired the carts to haul the ore into and out of Allen's Creek Mines. John Defoe was in the Northern Army during the Civil War. Since he lived and worked in the South he did not tell that he was a Union soldier. After he died, his sons found the papers showing he was in the Northern Army.
My grandmother, Clarice Myna Craig Defoe's, parents owned and operated the only grocery store in Allens Creek. It is my understanding that Allens Creek and Riverside were well populated and a small 'boom town'.
Later in life, Lizzie Voorhees Defoe sold the Riverside store and moved to town on Park Avenue not very far from the Hohenwald Church of Christ. Her sons, Herbie and Tom Defoe, bought her a new radio. She firmly said she did not want it. My dad, Jones Craig 'Ham' Defoe, told me that the minute she heard footsteps on the porch she turned the radio off. When I was young, I listened to the very same radio in my grandparent's home.
My maternal grandfather, James Harvey Skelton, was born in Wayne County and owned farms in both Lewis and Wayne County. He and his oldest son, Leroy, operated the farms. In addition to farming, he had a sawmill and was a blacksmith. My mother, Gladys Aline Skelton Defoe, was one of ten siblings. She owned and operated Defoe's Jewelry Store for many years. Actually until she was eighty-two years of age. During this same time my father, Ham Defoe, owned and operated Defoe's Auto Parts.
Back to me, I was in the Lewis County School System for thirty years. I served as teacher, principal, and supervisor of instruction k-12. In all, I have forty-five years as an educator. I suppose you could say I started school and never left. I enjoyed every minute. Lewis County has so many wonderful parents and students.