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Friday, November 19, 2010

Tripping Over History





















I consider myself somewhat of a history buff, but I must admit "tripping" over history on a recent trip to Nashville, TN. Ashamed of myself is the best description.

Having to arrive in Nashville, TN on Wednesday evening for an appointment for my knee replacement, we planned to spend the weekend. Now we are well accustomed to weekends in the Music City, however, a Saturday begged us to see something new.

I suggested we visit the Hermitage. During the many visits to this city we had not taken in the Hermitage. We arrived at the visitor center at bit hesitant not knowing what to encounter. Again, I fell in love with history. From the short film story of Andrew Jackson and family to walking the 1,100 acres of the farm, I was back in the 1700's. I am ashamed of my lack knowledge of this period of history. We began our walk along gravel paths to the home of President Andrew Jackson. The huge cedar trees lining the walk were a real surprise. I would expect live oaks. However, the cedars grow rapidly and some are over 75 ft. tall. Many were damaged in high winds a few years ago.

We were greeted at the mansion by two lovely ladies in full period dress. I could not resist sharing my short experience as a docent aboard the Nina, Columbus ship. They seemed quite impressed by my experience and dedication. I do have a new found respect for those volunteering for such guide duties.

We entered the Mansion for the guided viewing. However, a faint ghost, like a shadow, appeared in the wavy window pain in the drawing room. I was pulled into the 1700's. How I would like to ask her about life here. I was greeted by a slight, black woman of many years named Hanna Jackson. She explained she would be our guide for the first floor of the Mansion. She began by telling her story as the House Slave of the President and Rachel Jackson. It seemed she has served the Mansion in this capacity since the construction. She was well favored by the President and Rachael and served for her lifetime. She was so warm and knowledgeable, we did not discuss her age. She did seem quite preserved. She explained that all the furniture, books and artifacts are original to the Mansion and that President Jackson would recognize all upon his return to the Mansion. We continued our tour of the Mansion with Miss Hannah. I seem to connect with these shadows of history.
Upon walking up the stair case to the second floor we were once again greeted by Hannah. There must be another set of stairs for she just walked down the central hall to greet us once again. We were enlightened by Hannah's explanation of the original wall paper hanging in the central hall and its excellent condition. She encouraged us to walk the garden area upon our exit from the Mansion. She turned to greet another couple and was absorbed into the Mansion.

We walked quietly along the garden paths to a gazebo. There we were greeted by another guide, Alfred Jackson. It seems that Mr. Alfred has lived on the farm for a life time. He explained the graves of the President and Rachel and many other family members. His knowledge was over whelming, like he lived it each day. As we thanked Alfred and left the garden we did notice a small grave stone to the side of the President and Rachael's grave. Here lay Alfred Jackson who died at age 98 while serving the Mansion and the President. Hmmmmmmm!
Our walking tour took us to the Sinking Creek, the water supply for the farm. Over 1,000 acres, numerous cabins and the Mansion required a consistent water supply. Along side a mowed field we encounter recent scarecrows along the wood line. Again, thrown back into the 1700's with the starlings, field and scarecrows. I was intrigued by the style of the scarecrows with clothing of the period. It seems that they continue to guard the field and the square plot nearby which was the location of the cotton gin. Alas, I did not know their names but I did feel welcome along side.
We walked for a time around the grounds making our way back to our daily existence. I can only say that Miss Hannah and Mr. Alfred made our day much more enjoyable. Please take the time to visit the Hermitage and while there give our warm regards to Hannah and Alfred.

Happy trails,

Barry & Denise

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