Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Crittenden Press editor authors book

A 1991 article in a western Tennessee newspaper piqued the interest of Henry County, Tenn., native Chris Evans, and started a 16-year odyssey in search of an 81-year-old tale of moonshine and a murder trial that captured wide attention during Prohibition.

Evans, 43, recently announced the release of his book, South of the Mouth of Sandy, a 322-page historical piece published by Author House of Bloomington, Ind. It is available in hardcover and paperback. Evans is editor and publisher of The Crittenden Press newspaper in Marion.

The work focuses on life and death in and around what is still commonly known as the Old 23rd District at the confluence of the Tennessee and Big Sandy rivers. South of the Mouth of Sandy is available at the Crittenden County Public Library, McCracken County Public Library, Paris (Tenn.) Rhea Library, Big Sandy (Tenn.) Public Library and the Benton County (Tenn.) Public Library.

In addition to area libraries, the book can also be purchased online from the publisher at or from various other Internet bookstores such as and Barnes & Noble.

The author grew up in Paris, Tenn., and graduated from Henry County High School in 1982. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Murray State University and has worked in the newspaper business in western Kentucky for the past 25 years.

As a high school student in the early 1980s, Evans worked as a sports reporter for the Paris (Tenn.) Post-Intelligencer. It was an article written by P-I Publisher Emeritus Bryant Williams in 1991 that captured the imagination of the young journalist. Williams had written about a cub reporter named Paul Hurt who was working for the Paris newspaper in 1926 when he went along on his first big scoop. The story was about the arrest of a man accused of killing Tommy Evans, a farmer who lived in the Big Sandy River bottoms. The killing roused suspicions and emotions during that period of Prohibition because it was widely believed that Evans was shot because he was working with Revenue agents to locate and bust up whiskey stills in the Old 23rd District.

Lawmen hunted for a suspect for more than a week and the investigation became one of the biggest news stories in western Tennessee. An account of the events was even published in the New York Times and True Detective magazine.

South of the Mouth of Sandy also traces the early development of Henry County as pioneers crossed over the Tennessee River and first began settling the western shore in what was formerly Chickasaw territory. It provides a historical perspective on Crawford Bradford, one of the earliest property owners in Henry County. Bradford's farm was located in the present-day Paris Landing State Park, where he is also buried.

The book is a must-read for anyone interested in regional history as it draws a figurative picture of early American life on the banks of the Tennessee River.

From the Feb. 28 issue of The Crittenden Press. Used with permission.

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