Keith Dotson | Catching Shadows


Video: Exploring Abandoned Downtown Adams, Tennessee (Home of the Bell Witch Legend)

Video: Exploring Abandoned Downtown Adams, Tennessee (Home of the Bell Witch Legend)

Adams, Tennessee is a tiny town in NW Tennessee not far from the Kentucky state line. If you’ve ever heard of Adams, it’s probably because of the Bell Witch legend, which is an allegedly true story that occurred in Adams in 1817, 200-years ago at the time of this video.

This video is a quick walk-around the abandoned old downtown area of Adams, which is a few miles from the old Bell family homestead where the bewitching occurred. (I apologize in advance for the poor audio quality. Mic failure!)

I’ve researched its history and photographed downtown Adams several times, and although I don’t know much about these decaying and abandoned buildings, here’s what I have learned:

The old United Methodist Church

This old Methodist church is in a very bad state of disrepair. I once posted a photo of this on my Facebook page, and someone commented they had been married there (I think she said it was in the 1980s). The first time I shot this building, a very upset Mockingbird on top of the building was giving me a very shrill warning to stay away from her property.

The J.E. Winters Co. Dry Goods Building

This is a two-story red brick commercial building completed in October 1897 (See the date on the Masonic stone in the video). The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville featured a news item regarding this business in November, 1899: “A stave factory, conducted by J. M. Wilder, will be in operation at Adams in a few days. J. E. Winters, a leading dry goods merchant of the town, has taken the contract to furnish the white oak timber, a large quantity of which has already been hauled to the lumber yard.”

Robertson and Co. and abandoned storefronts

Addendum: See the helpful comment from Chris in the comments section at bottom regarding the history of these buildings.

I haven’t learned anything about this collection of three buildings, which I would guess were built between 1890s and the 1920s. I did hear from the mother of the young man who tagged the Kerouac quote onto the wide brick side of the Robertson and Co. building. She thanked me for photographing and preserving his work, since he has apparently passed away at a very young age. That white spray paint quote seems to be one of the most photographed parts of downtown Adams, along with the Methodist Church.

Here is the quote attributed to Jack Kerouac: “In Autumn Geronimo Weeps — No Pony with a Blanket.”

Fine black and white photographs of Adams, Tennessee

I have a collection of black and white fine art photographs of these old buildings on my website here. 


  1. Keith – The Robertson & Co. and adjacent buildings were built between the spring of 1913 and 1915 by J .B. Sugg and E. W. Robertson after the buildings previously occupying the site were destroyed in a fire. The building on the left was a hardware store operated by Robertson and Sugg. The middle store was a drugstore called the Sory Drug Company, owned by Dr. Thomas Sory. The building on the right was the post office; Sugg was the also the local postmaster.

    1. Hey Chris – thanks very much for the additional information! That’s fantastic detail.

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