Did you know that one of the first foreign exchange programs in existence had ties to Smyrna? Interesting, huh? Back in 1950, Allen Dobson (a Nashville banker and philanthropist) started a program called “Hands Across the Sea”. It gave the opportunity to 22 European teenagers to spend some time in the Middle Tennessee area. This experience in American living was intended to promote international understanding and cooperation.
Previously, in June of 1945, Mr. Dobson had founded Youth Incorporated. At the time, camps were held near the current location of the Nashville airport. In 1955, due to airport expansion, the camp was moved to the Dobson’s summer home, Ridley’s Landing. 400 acres of farm land provided an outdoor camping experience for many mid-state area youth over several years.
In the late 1960’s, with the creation of Percy Priest Lake, the camp lost several acres. However, it now became 175 acres of lake-front property. This allowed the camp to have expanded water activities. Each summer, it is still the destination of choice for hundreds of youth.
As for Ridley’s Landing, it’s historic significance is often understated. It was the location of one of the first grist mills in the area (Jones Mill – more on that later). There are legends of visits by Andrew Jackson and Civil War skirmishes. Today, it continues to contribute to history by being a unique camping experience for youth in Middle Tennessee and surrounding areas.