Memphians who leave their comfort zone whenever they drive outside the Parkways have probably never thought about the life and times of Dyersburg, the town of some 17,000 in the northwest corner of Tennessee. But that’s a shame, because a 70-mile drive out Highway 51 would take them to a thriving community with a compelling history — home to one of America’s largest training facilities for B-17 bombers and one of this country’s largest cotton mills, among other accomplishments on a national and regional scale.
Historian Bonnie Daws Kourvelas has captured the life and times of what has been called “the classic Southern town” in her book Dyersburg, the latest offering from Arcadia Publishing’s “Images of America” series. Kourvelas is a communications adviser at FedEx, perhaps best-known to Memphians as a local actress, producer of a number of WKNO-TV’s popular Memphis Memoirs segments, and the host of its Southern Routes series. By poring through the archives of the Dyer County Historical Society, Tennessee Historical Society, University of Memphis, personal collections from local families, and other resources, she has essentially compiled a photo album of this community, from its beginnings in the early 1800s to the present-day.
The book showcases the town’s businesses, schools, churches, floods, and other disasters, and devotes an entire chapter to the huge cotton mill that quickly became the entire region’s largest employer. As with any community, Dyersburg has suffered its share of setbacks and architectural losses, and Kourvelas presents then-and-now images that show the passage of time — a set of steps that once led to an elegant mansion, a busy street that began life as a dirt road. And the fate of the sprawling mill? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out how that turned out.
Kourvelas will discuss Dyersburg — the town and the book — at a booksigning at The Booksellers of Laurelwood on Thursday, October 20th, beginning at 6 p.m.