Florence Alabama & Counce Tennessee(Ports #36/37); Oct 20-27

This is a long update folks, a week-long summary.

This week on the Murphree’s Great Loop Adventure we had the treat of a visit from family. My brother Ken Murphree & 1st mate Carla joined us for a week of Looping.
They met us in Rogersville Alabama where we had just completed the AGLCA Rendezvous.
Kenny & Carla arrived late on Friday Oct 20th.
On Friday evening, we basically got them unpacked from the car/packed into the boat, had some drinks on the rear deck of Gettin’ Looped, and then had dinner at the Rogersville Marina Lodge.

Saturday – Oct 21
On Saturday we traveled from Rogersville Alabama to an anchorage near Florence Alabama. We traveled thru 2 locks; the Wheeler Lock & the Wilson Lock. The Wilson Lock is over a 100 ft drop from Wheeler Lake to the Tennessee river. The Wheeler & Wilson Locks were Kenny & Carla’s first experience going thru a lock.

Entering Wilson lock – High Water at Wilson Lake level. The lock is in front of us & the Dam is off to the left side
Exiting Wilson Lock, 100ft lower at Tennessee river level
Look at the dark wet marks on the lock walls, that is how far we dropped, over 100 ft, only the upper 10ft in light gray color is not wet.

The Florence Marina was booked for Saturday night so we had to anchor for one night before gettin’ into Florence Harbor. Our anchorage for Saturday night was on the Tennessee river between an active passenger car bridge & an ole unused railroad bridge. It was also just after the Wilson Lock near the deadhead of the Wilson Dam.  Carla grilled dogs for dinner and we played euchre well into the night on the aft deck (yea, no bugs).

Our anchorage was between the 2 bridges
Our anchorage was between the 2 bridges on the RHS, Florence Marina is in the center of the photo. We anchored Saturday night & went into the marina Sunday morning.
An excellent dusk time photo from our anchorage, compliments of Ken

While anchored Saturday night, we noticed a lot of people walking on the old railroad bridge. Later during the week, we went for a walk on the ole railroad bridge that we had anchored under a few nights before.

Sunday – Oct 22
On Sunday we moved from the anchorage into the Florence Marina, and drove the Florence Marina shuttle van back to Rogersville to get Carla’s car.
Sunday night we had drinks at “On the Rocks” and went to dinner at “Ricatoni’s Italian Grill” both in Florence Alabama.


Monday – Oct 23
On Monday we had a big day, going to 2 of the famous Muscle Shoals Recording Studios & and also visiting the birthplace of Hellen Keller.
The city of Muscle Shoals (just across the Tennessee river from Florence) is famous for being the home of 2 recording studios which have produced many well-known hits; FAME Studio & Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
Prior to going to the studios, we watched a DVD loaned to us by our Looper pals “Pharm Life”.
The DVD was called “Muscle Shoals”, created by film maker Greg Camalier who pays tribute to a city that holds a prominent place in music history.

The DVD gave the history of the “FAME” recording studio created in the late 1950’s by a man named Rick Hall. FAME initially became famous for “when a man loves a woman” by Percy Sledge, and later by recording hits from Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and numerous others.
The studio band at FAME, created by Rick Hall, were 5 white guys named “The Muscle Shoals Sound & Rhythm Section. The 5 piece band consisted of members ; Pete Carr (lead guitar), Jimmy Johnson (guitar), Roger Hawkins (drums), David Hood (bass guitar) and Barry Beckett (keyboards).
These guys essentially created the “Muscle Shoals Sound”, a combination of southern/gospel/blues type sounds, and ultimately became more well know as “The Swampers”.
You may recall the Lynard Skynard song Sweet Home Alabama, which says “Muscle Shoals got the Swampers”. They were paying tribute to the studio band at FAME.
The Swampers helped producer Rick Hall make FAME Studio very famous and established Muscle Shoals Alabama as being a hot bed for creating a distinctive sound.

The Swampers left FAME in 1969 and with the help of a NYC producer Jerry Wexler (Atlantic Records) formed their own studio named the “Muscle Shoals Sound Studio”. The separation from Rick Hall at FAME was evidently due to new contract demands that Rick Hall was attempting to impart on The Swampers.
The Muscle Shoals Sound Studio became equally known as “3614 Jackson Highway”, the address of the studio in Sheffield Alabama. The Swampers, developed many hits for Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Bob Segar, Joe Cocker, the Rolling Stones and others. When Paul Simon arrived at the studio he asked to meet the band and was shocked to learn that the distinctive sound he had previously heard on other hits from The Shoals, was from 5 white guys.

Studio Bill to The Rolloiung Stones for recording Wild Horses



Both FAME Studio and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio are still in operation. While famous for older recordings from Rod Stewart, Aretha Franklin, Bob Segar, Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, & The Allman Brothers, recent hit songs such as “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood and “I Loved Her First” by Heartland continue the city’s musical legacy.

In addition to the music history, Muscle Shoals was also the site of an attempted community development project by Henry Ford in 1922.
The original streets of Muscle Shoals were named after streets in Detroit due to Henry Ford’s influence in the area.
Ford Motor Company operated a plant in the Listerhill community 3 miles east of Muscle Shoals for many years before closing in 1982. Just like Detroit, Woodward Avenue is the main road through the city even today. Henry Ford’s inability to acquire land from the Tennessee Valley Authority foiled his desire to create a 75-mile Industrial Megalopolis from Decatur to the Tri-State border of Pickwick Lake

After touring the Sound Studios we stopped for a quick lunch at a place called “Champy’s”, recommended by the tour guide at FAME. Champy’s specializes in fried chicken & catfish (yum).
Also on Monday, we visited the birthplace of Hellen Keller, known as “Ivy Green”.
Ivy Green is the name for the childhood home of Helen Keller. The house was built-in 1820 and was a very nice home at that time. The actual well water pump where Helen Keller uttered her first word of “water” with teacher Anne Sullivan is located at Ivy Green.
If you are not a Helen Keller expert, she was born in 1880 and died in 1968 (same year the Tigers won the World Series). She became well-known for her perseverance of overcoming her handicaps of hearing, speech, and vision to become a well versed author, lecturer, and crusader for the handicapped.
Born physically normal, Keller lost her sight and hearing at the age of nineteen months to an illness now believed to have been scarlet fever.
Five years later, on the advice of Alexander Graham Bell, her parents applied to the Perkins Institute for the Blind in Boston for a teacher, and from that school hired Anne Mansfield Sullivan. Through Sullivan’s extraordinary instruction, the little girl learned to understand and communicate with the world around her. She went on to acquire an excellent education and to become an important influence on the treatment of the blind and deaf.
The story is well told in the movie “The Miracle Worker” starring Anne Bancroft & Patty Duke. We watched a short video clip of Helen giving a speech late in her life, it was amazing that a deaf/blind person could have become such an eloquent speaker.

Also on Monday (whew) we introduced Kenny/Carla to our pals from vessel Mother Ocean (Dennis & Jan).
Dennis/Jan gave Ken/Carla a tour of the cruise ship Mother Ocean, and after a few Beam/Cokes, the photos show that Kenny/Carla also became good friends with Dennis/Jan.

Also on Monday, we had dinner at a place called “Legends”

Tuesday – Oct 24
On Tuesday, we went to a place called “Tom’s Wall”, in Florence Alabama.
Tom’s Wall is a memorial to his great great grandmother.
In the late 1830’s, a young teenage Yuchi Indian girl was living near the Singing (Tennessee) River. Unfortunately, this was also during a dark time in American history known as the Trail of Tears, when Native Americans were forcibly removed from the Eastern portion of the United States and moved west. This young girl, along with her sister, were discovered by Army personnel and forced to walk to Oklahoma. She listened for singing waters in her new surroundings of Oklahoma and found none. Convinced she would die if she stayed, she escaped and spent five years walking back to Alabama. The journey was extremely difficult with many trials and tribulations along the way, however she returned to her singing Tennessee river.
In the 1980’s, Tom Hendrix, her great great grandson, visited the Yuchi people and had her journals translated and after the trip vowed to honor the great Native American woman. A wall of stones was going to be the memorial and over 30 years later, the monument is truly something to behold. It is the largest un-mortared rock wall in the United States. Each stone represents one step of her journey. Also, the shape, height, and width of the wall changes to represent the various obstacles she encountered. There are stones from over 120 countries that come in every size, shape, texture and unique geologic features you can imagine.
Tom Hendrix gave an interview prior to his death which said ““Over 32 years ago, I had the great honor and privilege of sitting with one of my great grandmother’s people. She changed my life. I told her I wanted to do something for my great grandmother. She said, ‘We shall all pass this Earth, only the stones will remain. We honor our ancestors with stones. That’s what you should do”.
The wall is over a mile long, it contains 8.5 million pounds of stone with no fill and no mortar. Hendrix worked for Ford Motor Company until age 55 when he then began to spent more than 33 years building the wall.
Tom Hendricks passed in Feb 2017, but we were able to meet his grand daughter.
After Tom’s wall, we visited the Spring Park Waterfalls.
A beautiful man-made waterfall within Spring Park, in Tuscumbia Alabama.

While driving to Tom’s Wall we passed several large cotton fields.

Wednesday – Oct 25
On Wednesday we took the ss Gettin’ Looped from the Florence/Muscle Shoals area (Florence Marina) to Counce TN. It was a return for Jonell & I back to Grand Harbor Marina at Pickwick Lake. We had to backtrack after the rendezvous in Rogersville, to get back near the entrance to the Tenn-Tom Waterway, and our upcoming ride down to Mobile Alabama.
On Wednesday night we had dinner at Freddy T’s with Kenny/Carla’s new pals Mother Ocean (Dennis/Jan) and new Looper pals Don’t Think Twice (Andy/Pat).
Pat had a steak & the biggest baked potato I have seen.
Thursday – Oct 26
On Thursday we went to the Shiloh National Military Park, home of the Civil War Battle of Shiloh, also known as the Battle of Pittsburg Landing.
The Battle of Shiloh was a major battle in the American Civil War fought over only 2 days April 6/7, 1862 in southwestern Tennessee.

We hired a Shiloh Civil War historian named Larry.
Larry’s family previously owned some of the land which is now the Shiloh National Park.
He gave us a very in-depth 2 hour tour of Shiloh.

Larry educated us about the battle as we drove around the grounds where many americans lost their lives.

The Story ;
The Battle of Shiloh began on April 6, 1862 and lasted for only two days.
It was fought between the Confederate army which was led by General Albert Sidney Johnston and the Union army which was led by General Ulysses S. Grant.

Before the Battle
Before the battle began, General Grant had set up a camp at Pittsburg Landing where he trained his new soldiers and waited for reinforcements from another Union force led by General Buell coming from the north. Pittsburg Landing (on the Tennessee river) was a critical supply line via boats, and source of fresh water for the men.

The Battle Begins
On April 6, 1862 at around 5 a.m, the Confederates attacked the Union position at Pittsburg Landing, attempting to surprise Grant’s Union forces and gain the victory before union reinforcements from the north could arrive. The initial attack was successful since most of the Confederate army was made up of new/untested soldiers and the more trained Union army was caught somewhat by surprise.

The Hornet’s Nest
The attack by the Confederates broke the Union lines very quickly but some of the Union lines managed to stay intact. There was one area that became known as the Hornet’s Nest because it was a battle held in a sunken road. This was where the Union soldiers who managed to stay in-tact were holding back the Confederates while reinforcements requested by General Grant started to arrive.

End of the First Day
The Confederates had won the first day of the battle because of Johnston’s surprise attack but the battle wasn’t over yet. – General Johnston Is Killed in action !

Despite the Confederates’ victory on the first day of the battle, they had suffered a great loss. General Johnston was shot and killed on the battlefield. When he got shot in the leg, he didn’t realize how serious the injury was because his leg was already numb from a previous hip injury & a full day in the saddle. The shot to his leg behind his knee eventually resulted in too much blood loss hidden by his boot, and he died at the end of the first day of battle.

Second Day of the Battle
On the second day of the battle of Shiloh, General P.G.T Beauregard replaced General Johnston’s position. He didn’t realize that the Union reinforcements (another 25,000 men) had arrived the night before so the Confederates fought a fierce 2nd day battle until General Beauregard saw that they were now highly outnumbered & ordered his Confederate soldiers to retreat, ending their hopes of blocking the Union advance into northern Mississippi.

The result of the battle of Shiloh was that the Union had about 20,000 more soldiers than the Confederates, which earned them a victory on the second day of the battle.
Overall, the battle of Shiloh was one of the most bloodiest battles in the Civil War.
It was eventually followed by the Battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, and soon after the 3-day Battle of Gettysburg, which would prove to be the bloodiest overall battle of the war.
The Civil War began on April 12, 1861 and ended May 9, 1865 and led to over 618,000 casualties (severe injury or death).

The tour that Larry gave us around Shiloh consisted of many sites including ; The Pittsburg Landing, the Hornets Nest, & the Shiloh Church.
The tour also showed us the hour by hour & day to day actual locations of the Union and Confederate forces.

The most interesting thing for me were some of the gravesites;
There was a large cemetery for the Union forces with individual graves & numbered markers (not names).
There was another area with the Confederate forces buried in a mass grave, reportedly 750 men in the mass grave below.
Evidently, the spoils of victory & ramifications of defeat.
But sadly, all men were our americans buried in two different ways.

Union Graves

Confederate Mass Grave (between the rows of cannonballs)

Reportedly 750 men buried in this mass grave between the cannonballs. There were several sites like this.

We also saw some less morbid sites.
There were several areas showing the staging of how the artillery lines were set up, and noting the fact that the Union Army was much better equipped than the Confederate.

The cannon wheels and stand are recreations, but the gun barrel is actual civil war barrels

There were also specific areas dedicated to the battalions of each of the states involved.

Larry also showed us some of his civil war possessions, cannonball shots and bullets.

Cannonball shots, the cannons were loaded with coffee can size containers of this type of shot
Lead bullets, white because they are highly oxidized. Larry gave me & Kenny each one bullet.

We ended the day on Thursday with some drinks on the aft deck of Gettin’ Looped, Ken played with his drone taking some excellent aerial photos of Grand Harbor Marina, and we had dinner at the Aqua Marina Grill.


Friday – Oct 27
The sad day when Kenny & Carla had to return back home to Michigan !
Not sure why they had to leave, if they were missing Michigan weather it is supposed to be a low of 38f and rainy here in southern Tennessee tonight, with a high of 51f tomorrow (YUK, need to get further south quickly).

Next stop Fulton, MS (near Tupelo, MS the birthplace of Elvis).




8 thoughts on “Florence Alabama & Counce Tennessee(Ports #36/37); Oct 20-27

  1. Wow Mike very interesting stories and sight seeings in the different states traveled wow how cool is that and you guys are on a boat pretty awesome. Ok guys happy boating keep safe. Cuz Pam


  2. Wow guys- incredible entry! The Muscle Shoals photos are awesome…loved that documentary…thank you for sharing your journey in such detail! Safe travels guys.


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