Fomer radio announcer, newspaper reporter does book on local bridges named for people

Published 2:13 pm Wednesday, June 15, 2022

What’s in a name? Buildings, roads, schools, bridges and other public entities are often named for people. Most are named after a famous person, politician, or someone who has left their mark on a community.
Naming a road, bridge or other transport related infrastructure is important—names make it easier for people and emergency services to navigate their way around the community. A name can promote a sense of community identity by recognizing historical, cultural and natural linkages. It is also a great opportunity to honor individuals for their contribution to the community.

In Carter County there are 88 bridges named for people, yet many of these people were not famous. They were just ordinary citizens. One bridge on Stoney Creek – the Blanche Ward Berry Bridge – located over Hinkle Branch near the Bud Roberts Loop close to where Nancy and Jeff Ensor live continually begged an answer to “Who was Blanche Ward Berry?” There were other bridges in the county that were named for people that the Ensors asked: Who were these people? How did they leave their mark in history?
Thus, Nancy a former newspaper reporter and radio announcer began the quest of researching the people for whom bridges in the county were named. The result. A book titled “We’ll Cross That Bridge…” which celebrates the namesake bridges of Carter County, Tenn., and the beloved people they honor.

Ensor noted that during her research she found that many of the bridges are named for Carter Countians who served in the military. Some came home and some did not. Other bridges were named for elected officials, others for people, who lived in the community where the bridges are located. “What I discovered was that all of these people were special to someone and to their community and had wonderful life stories that deserve to be told and remembered,” said Ensor.

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“Some of their stories tugged at my heart strings. One was the Cpl. James David Bowers Bridge, who was killed in Vietnam. Another was the Fred Dugger Bridge in Poga-Elk Mills.”
Dugger, a former Butler resident was killed while helping construct the Elk Mills bridge in 1956. He is the first known “bridge namesake” of Carter County.
Bowers, a 1966 graduate of Happy Valley High School joined the Marines just weeks after his 18th birthday. He had been in Vietnam nine months and two days when he was killed when his company came under intense small arms fire in Quang Tri near the Khe Sanh Airfield in Vietnam War. He was 19 years old.

However, Bower’s story didn’t begin with the Vietnam war. It began much earlier when as a boy of three his mother was killed in a car-train collision in Johnson City. He was raised by his grandparents.

And, about Blanche Ward Berry, Ensor in her research discovered that Berry worked in the health care field. She, through her kindness left an indelible mark on many lives in the Stoney Creek community.

There are countless other stories in the book for whom local bridges were named, who really did make a difference in their community and in the lives of many local citizens.
“I learned so much about these people, many of whom I had never heard about until I began the research for this book. When I look at these people I see the reason behind them getting their honors for they contributed to shaping our communities into what they are today. It was an educational and heartwarming experience,” said Ensor. “I wouldn’t take anything for the experience.”

Ensor started the book soon after the COVID pandemic hit and just recently finished putting it together.
She received much help from the Carter County Highway Dept., the City of Elizabethton, and the state of Tennessee in locating the name-sake bridges. And, so many more helped with the stories behind the names and contributed photographs. Ensor credits her husband, Jeff, for his help in the project. “It’s really his project, too. He drove me on almost every road in the county,” she shared.

The foreword to the book is written by Alex Campbell, Project-Based Learning Coordinator at Elizabethton High School.
The book, which sells for $20 can be purchased at Lingerfelt Pharmacy or by contacting Ensor personally. The book was self-published by Ensor and her husband, Jeff. They initially had 350 books printed, but, no doubt a second printing will be in the works.