4/23/13 Tuesday at Hohenwald, TN ( Natchez Trace Wilderness Campground-TT)
Yesterday we explored the first half of the Trace North of us, so today we drove up to that point and explored from there to the end.
Gordon House – John Gordon made an agreement with the Chickasaw to operate a ferry and trading post here. Since he was away often on military engagements, his wife oversaw the building of their home (1817-1818). Pretty efficient looking, I’d say. He died shortly after it was finished and she lived here until she died in 1859. There is a trail from here to the ferry spot, but we decided not to take the time.
Panoramic view from Water Valley Overlook (wouldn’t you know, most of today was cloudy, not so nice for photos). I love the Tennessee farms and rolling hills.
At Birdsong Hollow you can see the Double Arch Bridge that you’d have just driven on to get here. It has won prestigious awards for it’s beauty. So sorry I couldn’t get a better image – way too much foliage. We could have driven back over the Trace, then taken Hwy 96 off it to get a view from below, but we’d be on a highway so I’m afraid my shot opportunities wouldn’t have been very good. We met a fun couple from Australia, eating their lunch and had a great time sharing. They are headed to New Orleans, so we gave them some tips on that city. Since they didn’t have a map of the Trace, we gave them our “car” one. We enjoyed our lunch there too, listening to all the birds.
Because we were close to Belle Meade Plantation and it was on the way to Costco, John mentioned that we could stop there for a tour ($16/adult). He joked with the cashier about my not quite being 65 yet, which confused her. We let her know we weren’t ready for the senior break yet. We’d arrived just in time for the 1 pm tour. Yay! Note: the tickets are necessary for a guided tour of the mansion and free wine tasting. The rest of the buildings you can enjoy on your own, as part of your ticket purchase. We saw several groups enjoying picnic lunches on the yards as we arrived.
Belle Meade (Beautiful Meadow in French) Mansion from a distance, then up closer. All of us tour people (except the photo takers) were rocking on the front porch as we waited for our tour to begin. John is on the far right. No picture taking is allowed in the Mansion. I asked why. Our tour guide said he didn’t know, but thought it was so images wouldn’t be spread all over the Internet (hmm..who would do that?), and of course, flashes are bad for the materials. I’m not sure how much of the story to share and he said so much so quickly that a lot flew beyond my mind. The basic gist is that John Harding built the log cabin and lived there while the mansion was built. He had one child, William Giles Harding. At 18 this guy started the breeding of Thoroughbred horses. Their most famous stud horse was “Bonnie Scotland” He only won 2 of the 4 races he was in, but he was a stud for a long time. In fact, he was the progenitor of all 20th Century Kentucky Derby race horses, including War Admiral, Seabiscuit, Secretariat and Seattle Slew. Another favorite of their horses was “Iroquois”, who won the English Darby in England, the first non English horse to win. There are numerous paintings of these horses, though each is different due to artistic license. After “Iroquois” died, they kept his hooves, making them into a pair of ink wells. We saw those. I guess it was common to make practical things with the remains of beloved animals in those days. Of course, they didn’t use them for their practical purpose. The main house had running water and electricity. Even a way to pipe methane gas to various lights.
When the Civil War came to Nashville, William Giles Harding was a firm supporter of the Confederates, giving half a million dollars to the military. A slight skirmish happened in front of their mansion and you can see where the bullets struck in the pillars, if you enlarge the close up image. I forgot to take a photo of the bullet holes. Speaking of images, the last is of the porch ceiling, painted light blue. We learned in Galvaston that people in the South frequently sleep outside, on the porches, and they believe that the light blue keeps mosquitoes away. So “Giles” and his first wife had 5 kids, but only 1 survived. The first wife died in childbirth. His second wife had 9 children, 3 of which survived. One married a General Jackson (none of these are in any way related to famous Hardings or Jacksons) and their family lived in this mansion too, so it’s also known as the Harding-Jackson home. The 2 trees in front of the house are Holly trees, planted by General Jackson. Giles Harding died shortly after the Civil War. General Jackson continued the Thoroughbred stud business, which recuperated much sooner than those Plantations that grew things for their wealth. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson was a spendthrift, spending more than he brought in. Also, gambling was made illegal in Tennessee (along with Prohibition), so his horse business was failing. This is when the thoroughbred raising moved to Kentucky. Then a nephew was embezzling money around then. No one knew about it until General Jackson died. Then the financial debts came out – in the millions. So the family sold most of their 800 acres of land (which later became the town of Belle Meade, a suburb of Nashville) and buildings in 1906. Five families lived in this home after the Harding-Jacksons, until the last sold it to the State. All this time, the winery continued, so that today we got to taste samples. They were all excellent, so I convinced John (you only live once) to buy 2 bottles ($19.50/each, so that’s pretty spendy for us).
The Carriage House – front and back. The back of the building is connected to the stables. Inside the Carriage House. Inside the Stables, where they are also storing carriages now. In the last photo, on the left, you can see where they had hay pushed on the second floor into this storage place that ended in a rack through which the horses could eat the hay. This place had a lot of ingenious inventions. In the Carriage House they had a circular pipe suspended from the breezeway ceiling ringed by tiny holes. With the turn of a knob, water was piped through the device creating a shower to clean dusty carriages.
Dollhouse – for the children to play in. It sure reminds me of Lily’s little house, in the family’s back yard.
Dairy – powered by a steam engine
Greenhouse, gardener’s home
The original Harding cabin. He let Bob Green, a slave he had and then freed, live here with his family. Mr. Green was head trainer and in charge of managing the entire Thoroughbred operation. He was paid the highest salary of all the employees. When he retired, Bob Green, with money he’d saved, bought a house in Nashville.
Costco was our next destination, where we purchased just the right amount to be paid for by our rebate check, that we’d had since February! Then we went to Kroger and Supercuts. John shopped for groceries while I had my hair cut. This time was interesting. When I showed the beautician my little instructions she said they were too complicated, that customers told her what they wanted and she could understand that. So I showed her how high to cut the top hair and that the back and sides were to be shorter. In the end, she cut the top shorter than the sides and back, but it seems to look fine, so far. Strange. I got to our car before I realized I’d left my little instruction sheet there, so I got it back. Whew! Back on the Trace, getting home about 1.5 hours later.
Knowing that the predictions were for a storm coming around midnight, we figured it wouldn’t be so bad that we’d need to pull the slide in. John made some extra precautions, putting some inflatable circular tubes (like tires) under the slide topper awning for our bedroom. I suggested that the wind may blow them away, or they might simply direct the water into a different path into the RV. He felt they were more likely to push the awning enough so the water would flow off and not pool in the awning. I sure hope we get enough sleep.