D.C. Road Trip – Protestors, Pasta and Thomas Jefferson’s DNA

22 Jul

On Wednesday, we packed up the vehicle and started toward the first historic site of the trip, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. The route took us on an interesting stretch through Amherst, Colleen, Covesville and other little towns. It also took us near the Kappa Sigma Museum, which my nephew and his fraternity brothers would probably find fascinating.

Finally, we arrived at our destination. With time to wait before we could enter the house, we were able to watch have lunch, go through a small museum and watch a movie about the third president. It was in that movie that I first heard something that the tour guide would later repeat. According the DNA testing and most historians, Jefferson fathered children with Sally Hemmings, one of his slaves.

That is a rumor that started during his Jefferson’s presidency and is something that I have told my students since I started teaching. However, here is what was surprising about the statement. It said “most historians.” Are there still historians out there who ignore DNA testing, the same testing that we use to convict people of murder, and deny his paternity?

Oh yeah, they also took great pains to let us know that the relationship between Thomas and Sally was long after his wife’s death.

After a while, we made it to the front porch of the house, where a kid warmed my heart. When asked what first comes to mind when we think of Thomas Jefferson, he shouted out the Louisiana Purchase. Now, that is a smart young man. When we walked through the front door, the entry hall was filled with artifacts from the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Apparently, Jefferson thought that land deal was pretty important, too.

Monticello is not a huge house, and the tour did not take long. After, my family tried their hands at writing with quills.image-12

We also walked around the yard to take a few pictures.image-11

On the shuttle back to the visitor’s center, the tram stopped at Jefferson’s grave, and I jumped out to take a quick picture. When I turned around, the shuttle was gone. Apparently, the driver was in a huge and gigantic hurry.

Washington, D.C. and our lodging for the next few days were next on the agenda. However, we saw some neat stuff along the way. There was the nicest gas station we had ever seen. It looked like a bank more than an Exxon. There were horse farms with massive amounts of fencing and large houses. There was also an interesting question from my wife.

With several presidential homes and many Civil War battlefields in the area, how did those homes not get destroyed? It is a great question that leads to the complexity of who those presidents were.

I believe the homes were spared because those men – Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison and James Monroe – represented to the United States government the ideals for which they were fighting. They were among the Founding Fathers who started a nation based on liberty and freedom.

For the Confederacy, those same men represented the plantation economy of slavery and agriculture that was being threatened by northern politicians. They were people who rose up against an oppressive government. In essence, both sides looked upon the owners of these homes as representative of what they were fighting for. As a result, neither side wanted to disrespect them by destroying their properties.

Of course, that could be totally wrong, and the houses could have been in locations that were not strategically important.

After many miles, we hit the interstate going into Washington, D.C., which looked like any other city until I realized that we were passing the Pentagon. My wife tried to explain to my stepdaughter about the building, but she said that she knew what it was. It is where they imprisoned Magneto in X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Then, the Washington Monument suddenly appeared. Now, we knew that we were in a different kind of city.

After navigating through the traffic and the pedestrians, we made it to our downtown hotel, where I promptly parked in the wrong place. Coincidentally, the people we were meeting got there at the exact same time and parked in the exact same wrong place.

We unpacked. We rested. Then, we walked a few blocks to a great restaurant called Siroc, an Italian place that was out of this world. It was a lovely evening eating pasta and duck and all sorts of things on their sidewalk patio.

Once dinner was over, we strolled a few clocks over to the White House and acted like tourists. We took pictures of the house.image-10

We took pictures of the protestors supporting Palestine. We took pictures of the Andrew Jackson statue.image-8

I have now seen the ones in Washington, Nashville and New Orleans. Monty Pope would be proud.

Despite the White House and the statue, I, for some reason, was more interested in seeing the Blair House. Harry Truman lived in it for much of his presidency as the big house was being renovated, and I always thought that made it cool. While gawking at it, my wife discovered that the gardens were donated by Jack Massey, a Nashvillian who put three corporations on the New York Stock Exchange – Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hospital Corporation of America and Volunteer Capital Corporation.image-9

It seems that Andrew Jackson is not the only Tennessee connection sitting in front of the White House.

D.C. Road Trip – Peanuts and Whiskey

21 Jul

Last week, my family left on the grand Washington, D.C. adventure that we had been planning for a long time. I wanted to go on a road trip like the ones my family took when I was a kid. My wife did not want to go too far because she and my stepdaughter had never done anything like that before.

Originally, we were driving to D.C. before going north to Pennsylvania to visit some of their family. As it turned out, they were going to Washington for a conference, and we all decided to meet there. With that change, my wife and I decided to skip Pennsylvania and go to Virginia Beach. That way, we could spend some time in the sun before heading home. Oh yeah, Williamsburg and Jamestown are close by, as well.

During the days leading up to the trip, I was nervous about a couple of things.

First, I did not know much about the area. Driving west, I know the distances, the things to see and, generally, how to plan an efficient and easy trip. While I have been to Virginia, it was not to see something. Basically, I was not sure where we were headed.

Second, I had never spent three days sightseeing in a major city. Most of the road trips in my past avoided major cities and focused on the smaller places in the country. We booked a room downtown because we thought walking to some places would be the best option.

Third, I wanted my family to have a good time. Growing up, I loved these kinds of trips because they felt like an adventure. I knew that they had never done anything like this, and I wanted them to have a good experience.

We left Tuesday morning and hit Interstate 40. Everything was great. My stepdaughter was reading and listening to music. My wife was looking at Facebook. I was cruising down the road. We had packed some snacks to eat along the way. It was fun. We made fun of my wife because she had to stop to pee every few miles. It came a flood in Knoxville, but that was the only downer.

When we got close to the Tennessee/Virginia border, we decided to stop for lunch, and that is when we saw the first cool sight of the trip.image-7

Seriously, how often do you see the Peanut-Mobile. This is one of the reasons I like road trips. If we had flown to D.C., then we would have never seen the big peanut. That may sound dumb, but it represents a lot of stuff. Flying from city to city means that you miss the landscape of the nation. It means that you miss the laughs along the way.

After lunch, we made our way into Virginia and to our destination for the night – Lynchburg. I chose this town for a couple of reasons. First, it set us up for our first stop the next day. Second, it got us off the interstate. The worst thing anyone can do is stay on the interstate the entire time. It is designed to get vehicles from place to place quickly. It is not designed as a sightseeing road. If you want to see real America, then you have to get off the interstates. Every exit looks the same.

We got off the interstate and drove toward Lynchburg. At some point, we had the following conversation.

Me: What is Lynchburg famous for?

My Wife: I know! Whiskey!

Me: That is Lynchburg, Tennessee.

We laughed about that for the rest of the trip. Actually, Lynchburg, Virginia is famous for being home to Jerry Falwell and Liberty University, the school that he created. Believe me, the university dominates the town. I do not know what the people in Lynchburg think of Falwell, but they had better be glad he put the school there.

When we checked into the hotel, we asked about a good place for dinner. My stepdaughter decided to stay in the room, but my wife and I needed to find a good place to eat and relax. We were told to go to a place downtown. It turned out to be a casual place that specialized in burgers. It was a great place for college students to hang out, and, surprisingly for summer, there were a lot of them hanging out.

They struck me as students who are into the arts – both Fine Arts and Liberal Arts. That may sound like profiling, but, after all these years, I am pretty good at determining who majors in what. Anyway, they were eating, talking and drinking. That made me think about Jerry Falwell. He was famous as a televangelist and the leader of the Moral Majority. I wonder what he would think about students at his university sitting around drinking in a bar.

After dinner, we drove through downtown and found a cool little city. They had done a great job with historic preservation, and there were shops and restaurants scattered out. There was also a children’s playhouse and other cool stuff. That is one of the other good things about going on a road trip. You get to discover towns like Lynchburg – both this one and the one that makes whiskey.

On Twitter, I asked a Lynchburg trivia question that no one answered. What movie moved our nation’s capital from Washington, D.C. to Lynchburg, Virginia? Does anyone know?

My iPod Has Issues – The Griswold’s Go to D.C.

14 Jul

Tomorrow, my wife, my stepdaughter and I are traveling to Washington, D.C. to explore the halls of power and see a lot of cool stuff. We are doing it the old-fashioned way – by driving. Well, that is not as old-fashioned as the way Andrew Jackson went to Washington after his election, but it is old-fashioned in the terms that we are not flying.

I grew up going on road trips across the country. My wife grew up going to one place and hanging out for a while. This trip is a compromise. I get to drive, and she gets to stay in one spot for most of the time. We are also mixing in historic stuff with a foray to a beach after the D.C. adventures are finished.Griswold

Later, we will start packing the vehicle, and my mind will start focusing on getting us from here to there. For the next week, I will check-in and read blogs, but I will not be writing any. Upon our return, I am certain that there will be some good stories to share.

In the meantime, I leave you with a selection of songs from the old iPod.

“Young Americans” by David Bowie

“You Must Be Evil” by Chris Rea

“Honky Tonk Women” by The Rolling Stones

“Radar Love” by Golden Earring

“Wasted Time” by The Eagles

“Main Street” by Bob Seger

“Lay Lady Lay” by Bob Dylan

“That’s the Way of the World” by Earth, Wind and Fire

“Sandman” by America

“Let the Four Winds Blow” by Fats Domino

“Sittin’ Here Drinking” by Christine Kittrell

“Yesterday’s Wine” by Willie Nelson

“Boom Boom” by The Animals

“Wild Thing” by Jimi Hendrix

“Missing You” by John Waite

“Deadwood Mountain” by Big and Rich

“Just Pretend” by Elvis Presley

“The Lonely Man” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

“Rites” by Jan Garbarek

“The Searchers” by Sons of the Pioneers

I will catch you on the flip side.

Morning with the Mennonites

12 Jul

This morning, my parents, my nephew and I journeyed across the state line into Kentucky and visited a Mennonite community. My parents have been going for years to buy fresh produce and have been on me about going with them. Being a historian, they thought I should see people living in a historical way.

The Mennonites that we visited are much like the Amish of Pennsylvania. Their religious beliefs lead them to live a simple life without modern conveniences. In fact, they speak Pennsylvania Dutch and, as one lady told us, speak German during church services.

We went to several stands owned by different families, and there was a crowd of people as each one. The fact that the Mennonites do not use many modern technologies does not prevent them from doing business with those who do. You just have to watch what you wear.image-4

This includes stores like Walmart. We passed a couple of facilities designed to load long haul trucks. Oh yeah, I say that they do not use many modern technologies because a few guys had cellphones. I did not see women with cellphones. I wonder if that is allowed.

My nephew has taken a couple of years of German in school and was interested to see if he could talk to them. My dad made sure he did it at every place we stopped. That is how we learned that they mostly speak Pennsylvania Dutch. One man spoke great German but most used a mixture of different things. In one place, there was a teenage girl working who my dad thought my nephew should talk to. She was wearing a long dress and a small bonnet. I think my nephew likes them a little more scantily clad.

I realize that they want to live a simple life and stay away from modern technology, but that brought up a question in my mind. How do they decide what technology is modern? We saw the cellphones, which they probably need for business purposes, but that is not what I am talking about. As we drove around, we saw horse-drawn buggies; equipment pulled by mules and other things from the 1800s. At one time, those were modern technologies.image-5

When did they decide that a certain state of technological advancement was far enough? Did Mennonites look back at the 1600s and say we need to live like that? Since it is a Christian faith, would they not go back to the simple times of Jesus and live like that? What made 1800s technology acceptable as simple?

I did not take pictures of the people. I did not seem right. Although everyone was giving them money for their stuff, I also got the feeling that people were also looking at them like they were museum pieces. I could be wrong, but I was still not going to take their pictures. Everywhere we went, the young people looked at we outsiders in a different way. My mom talked about how one girl kept looking at my nephew like she thought he was cute.

No disrespect for my nephew, but I am not sure that was it. Again, I may be reaching, but it was like they were wishing that they could put on shorts and a t-shirt and spend a Saturday in a car. They were born into this world, but they constantly interact with people in another world. For generations, people have been living the farm to get a new life. I wonder if that will happen to the Mennonites. Will their interactions with us eventually lead to an end to their mantra of a simple life?

Despite all of that deep thinking, it was a great trip and a great way to spend the day with my family. The farms that we passed were beautiful, and I can understand why people would want to preserve that way of life.image-6

I also know that I would not want to live it. As we left the Mennonite territory, my nephew was falling asleep. I punched him awake when I saw a red Ferrari pulling out of a gas station. I am pretty sure that is the lifestyle he and I would prefer and want to preserve.

A Small Post While Preparing for an Upcoming Large Post

11 Jul

There is a huge post rambling around in my brain, but I am not prepared to write it. I am hoping that it will create discussion and want it to come out right. It is one of those posts that may offend, but it may also make people think. That is enough about what I am not going to write. Let us get on with what you are about to read, which is not much.

Yesterday, I wrote about Little Cedar Lick. Today, I found out that it may not have been where I thought it was. It could have been a community that is now known as Leeville. If that is the case, then John Coffee “Jack” Hays was just up the road.

A long time ago, I wrote about my search for a singer named Bobby Doyle and how I could not find much information on him. In recent weeks, I have been in contact with his family and friends, and they sent an article that has just been published about him. It is an interesting article about an interesting man. You need to read it.

John Seigenthaler passed away. For those who do not live in Nashville, that name may not mean much to you. In these parts, he was a journalistic pioneer. My Twitter feed has been filled up with remembrances of him.

Earlier, I tweeted that there are three songs that always make me smile. That does not mean they are happy songs. There is just something about them that I like. They are:

Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest

Badge” by Cream

A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum

Without a doubt, Foghorn Leghorn is the greatest cartoon character of all time. A lot of people are in agreement with this. Dave, who I used to work with, loved the big rooster, and his son gifted a Foghorn Leghorn DVD collection to him for Christmas. Unfortunately for Dave, all of the DVD’s were in Japanese. Apparently, Foghorn is big in Tokyo, too.Foghorn Leghorn

I got tickets to see Drive-By Trickers at the Ryman Auditorium. I have been wanting to see them, and the concert being at the Mother Church is an added bonus.

That is all. Now, my mind is empty.

 

 

The Man From Little Cedar Lick

10 Jul

I have been reading Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History by S.C. Gwynne. As you can tell by its title, historians like long titles, and it is about the Comanche.

It is a great book filled with information that I already knew and a lot of information that I had never read before. There are names of interesting people on both sides of the struggle between the Comanche and those encroaching on their territory. These are people who fought for what they thought was right and may have been well-known in their day. However, many of them have faded from history.

I am far from finished with the book, but one name has already stood out. John Coffee Hays is described as the greatest of all Texas Rangers. In fact, he is the one who taught the rest how to do their jobs. His exploits provide great reading, but a tidbit about his early life is what intrigued me.John Coffee Hays

Hays was born in Little Cedar Lick, Tennessee. When I read about his birthplace, a small memory crept to the front of my mind. Several years ago, I was speaking at Rotary about Tennesseans who became famous in the American West. I mentioned the obvious ones like Sam Houston and David Crockett. However, I also talked about John Chisum, Clay Allison and Peter Burnett.

When the presentation ended, a man in the back asked if I knew anything about the guy from Wilson County who became a Texas Ranger. At the time, I did not know anything about him, but this book may have made the introduction.

Like all great investigators, I did a Google search and discovered that John Coffee Hays was born in Wilson County. I also discovered that all of the sites that have information about Hays must have been copied from the same source. Almost all of them were word for word duplicates. The only differences were about his relationship with Andrew Jackson.

I read that his grandfather sold Jackson the land that would become the Hermitage. There was also the story of Jackson being John’s uncle. Also, his father fought with Jackson during the War of 1812. Oh yeah, another said that John spent many days at the Hermitage.

All of that may be true, but, around here, everyone wants to be connected to Jackson. If your ancestors lived in this area while Jackson was alive, then they were best friends. If your name is Jackson, then you are descended from him, which would be difficult since he did not have children.

I will have to ask my colleague, who has a great blog called Jacksonian America and who is one of the leading experts on Andrew Jackson.

Then, I remembered that I know someone named Hays. I sent a text to Nick Hays, who is running for County Trustee, and asked if he was related to John Coffee Hays. He replied that he was, but the family did not have much information on him. He learned most about him from Monty Pope. On the first day he walked into Monty’s class, he asked Nick if he knew about the Hays who became a Texas Ranger.

By the way, if you live in Wilson County be sure to vote for Nick.

As I read about Hays, I began to wonder about the place where he was born. I have lived here all of my life and have heard many stories about its history, but I have never heard of Little Cedar Lick. I thought about asking the folks at the Wilson County Archives, but I do not have much faith in them these days.

Instead, I went to good old Google. Man, that thing is as handy as a pocket on a shirt. All I found was Little Cedar Lick Church. With nothing else to go on, I drove to the location. It was on a road that I had never been on, and I had no idea what to expect. The picture in my mind was of a little country church.

Instead, I found this.image-3

I have no idea if this is the same area where John Coffee Hays was born. I only know that he was born in Wilson County and made his name as a Texas Ranger. Then, he moved to California and became the sheriff of San Francisco before being one of the founders of Oakland.

Throughout all of that, Hays may have looked back and remembered Little Cedar Lick, but I am afraid that place may have disappeared through the ages.

 

Madam Millie and Me

8 Jul

This post is inspired by a recent post at Serendipity. Stop by there for a visit and stay awhile. You will be entertained and educated.

Before I started graduate school, I knew that I wanted my studies to focus on the American West. As I got further involved, the realization hit that the American West is a broad subject that needed to be whittled down. With a background in business, I became interested in the economic aspects of the West. I had grown up watching movies where cowboys rode alone across the Plains. It turns out that they were really working for huge corporations, and I found that totally fascinating.

With that in mind, I walked into my professors office and said that I wanted to research the cattle industry.

Nope. That had been done by many historians. I needed to pick something else.

The next choice was the mining industry.

Nope. That one has been covered.

What about the lumber industry?

That one was not going to work, either.

After several more rejections, I asked if he had something in mind. He did.

He suggested that I research the prostitution industry in the West.

It sounded good to me, and I agreed. After all, I had run out of ideas.

I researched, wrote and did all of the other things that aspiring historians are told to do. Fast forward a few years, and our story begins.

I got a call from George Harding, a local man who was quite the character. He loved being involved in politics and was most comfortable in the proverbial smoke-filled room. Most people do not realize the effect George had on our community because he mostly operated out of the public eye. He is the kind of man who would say anything and not care who heard him. A lot of people liked George, but a lot of other people did not.

I always liked him because he was full of good stories about people around town. One day, I got a call from him saying that he wanted to see me.

George had family in New Mexico, and they sent a book for him to read. That is one other reason I liked George. He loved to read about history. This book was called Madam Millie: Bordellos from Silver City to Ketchikan.Madam Millie

When he brought out the book and talked about reading it, I thought he was going to ask me what I knew about Millie. That is one of the problems with teaching history. People tend to think that if you are a historian, then you know everything. A wise man once told me that going far in graduate school means that you know more and more about less and less. I think that is an excellent description.

However, George was not there to ask questions. He said that he was reading through the book when he recognized a name. Opening to the page, he pointed to the spot where I was used as a source. Holy crap, I was deemed by someone to be such an expert in prostitution that they used me as a source in their book.

That was the first time I had ever seen my name in print and was pretty fired up about it. Immediately, I ordered the book, and, when it arrived, I took it to my parents.

I guess they were excited, but you could not tell it by the response.

“You have spent all of these years in school, and you are in a book with a picture of a naked woman on the cover.”

Yep, I had made it. I was an official historian of prostitution in the American West.

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