‘Nashville’ Category


#17. Johnson, Andrew

 Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808 – July 31, 1875) was the 17th president of the United States, from 1865 to 1869. If Abraham Lincoln was handed a can of worms on his first day as president, Andrew Johnson was gifted with a bucket of snakes on his. Angry, viperous snakes. Andrew had to step in for a president who had just been shot in the back of the head; a horrible, bloody death. Andrew was hastily sworn in as leader of a country that was plagued with the roaring disease of hate, as hundreds of thousands lay dead due to civil war. But Andrew accepted the job. Here was a man who was born to illiterate parents, had no formal education, and had been hiding out for days after making a public fool of himself as a blubbering drunk. He doesn’t get credit for much as a president, but I doubt the Angel Gabriel himself could have done any better. I want you to remember three words about Andrew – Greeneville, tailor, and alcohol. First I’m going to tell you some things about Tennessee, my home state for over twenty years. It’s a skinny horizontal piece of land, with the Mississippi delta to the west, a plateau in the middle where Nashville sits, and Appalachian Mountains to the east. Often called the “three states of Tennessee” it is a good example of the differences in our country at the beginning of the Civil War – the plantation lands that depended on slave labor to function; the hardscrabble mountains where folks tackled life in a vastly different way, and the middle ground, where politicians gathered to govern the whole batch of it.


Greeneville is tucked into the mountains of northeast Tennessee, an area that once was the State of Franklin – almost. It is important to the Andrew Johnson story because he moved there when he was 18, met and married Eliza McCardle (1810-1876) there, and is buried there today. If you understand Greeneville, it may help you understand Andrew Johnson. Back in 1784, folks in these isolated mountains decided they didn’t have much in common with the rest of North Carolina, so they’d just be their own state. A petition for statehood was drawn but rejected by Congress. They tried again; the first state legislature met in December in a crude log courthouse in Greeneville and prepared a constitution. However, the Franklin movement began to collapse and North Carolina remained in control until 1790, when it ceded the land to the federal government. In 1796, when Tennessee became a state, that little area just south of Virginia and just north of North Carolina wound up becoming part of Tennessee. But still remote, and still feeling independent.


Andrew Johnson fell in love with Greeneville the first time he saw it. He loved it so much that later in life, when he had money enough to buy land, he bought the land he first camped on, and planted a tree right on the spot. I can understand that! Andrew was, literally, a “run-away slave.” In his birthplace town of Raleigh, North Carolina, his mother  apprenticed him to a tailor when he was 10; he was legally bound to serve until he was 21. He did benefit in the five years before he ran away – he learned the art of tailoring, and he developed a lifelong love of learning. People coming into the tailor shop read aloud to the tailors as they worked and Andrew loved to listen. He ran away after five years though, and a reward was posted for his return. Andrew feared being captured; he lived in South Carolina for a while, fell in love, and along with a proposal, made a quilt for his intended. A quilt! His proposal was rejected, so Andrew moved west, trudging through the Blue Ridge Mountains to Greeneville, Tennessee.

On the day in September 1826 when Andrew arrived in Greeneville, he was spotted by Eliza McCardle, who was outdoors chatting with classmates from Rhea Academy. They instantly took a liking to each other, and were married the following May at her mother’s home – he was 18, she was 16. (Mordecai Lincoln, a distant relative of Abraham Lincoln, performed the ceremony. A portent?)

Eliza was better educated than Andrew; she tutored him patiently while he worked in the tailor shop he’d opened in the front part of their home. “My work never ripped or gave way” was the way Andrew promoted his business; the business was successful, and so was their marriage. Eliza supported his endeavors and together they had five children – Martha, 1828; Charles, 1830; Mary, 1832; Robert, 1834; and Andrew Jr 1852.

And Andrew got interested in politics, progressing over the next 45 years in this way:

Government Positions

  • Served as Alderman of Greeneville, Tennessee, 1830-33
  • Elected Mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee, 1834
  • Member of Tennessee State Legislature, 1835-43
  • Member of US House of Representatives, 1843-53
  • Governor of Tennessee, 1853-57
  • United States Senator, 1857-62
  • Military Governor of Tennessee, 1862-65
  • Vice President, 1865 (under Lincoln)
  • 17th US President, 1865-1869
  • United States Senator, 1875


Yes, Andrew was a stumbling, bumbling drunk during his inauguration as vice president on March 4, 1865. He rambled on for ten minutes past his allotted speaking time, forgot names, and didn’t sit down till somebody tugged on his coat. He claimed later that he had typhoid fever and the doctor had prescribed the medication. President Lincoln commented, in response to criticism of his new vice president’s behavior, “I have known Andy Johnson for many years; he made a bad slip the other day, but you need not be scared; Andy ain’t a drunkard.” Nevertheless, after briefly presiding over the Senate, Andrew hid from public ridicule at a friend’s home in Maryland.

Alcohol may have embarrassed Andrew that day, but it saved him the very next month. You see, the plot to kill Abraham Lincoln included killing Andrew Johnson at the same time. George Atzerodt, a Prussian immigrant who owned a carriage repair shop in Maryland, met John Wilkes Booth in January 1865. And George agreed to kill Andrew Johnson on the night of April 14. That morning he booked a room at Kirkwood House, where Andrew was staying. But then he got cold feet, and spent the day at the hotel bar drinking. While Booth was taking care of business at the Ford Theater, George spent the night walking the streets of Washington in a drunken stupor, instead of killing Andrew Johnson. He admitted this in his trial which began May 1; he was hanged for his part in the conspiracy.

Three Little Words

So let’s say alcohol saved Andrew’s life for things he was destined to do. Let’s consider that his tailoring skills taught him how to piece scattered unmatched bits together into a useful whole (the quilt!) and to construct things that “never rip or give way.” Let’s add to that the strength that comes from growing up in a place where the very air he breathed was independent air. Maybe Andrew Johnson was the most qualified fellow to step in that day and try to pull the country back together. He gave it a shot. What would you have done? Would you invite this man to your party? I would.

Going Out

Andrew worked at it nonstop, but Andrew didn’t get invited back. Under his reign, the last battle was fought, all but three states were back in the Union — Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas – and reconstruction was well underway; Ulysses S Grant would shoulder that burden next. On Christmas Day 1868, Andrew issued a final amnesty, covering everyone, including Jefferson Davis; he also issued pardons for crimes. On his 60th birthday that December, Andrew threw a party for several hundred children – not including those of President-elect Grant, who said he would not allow his to go. On March 3, his last final day in office, Andrew hosted a large public reception at the White House. Grant had made it known he would not ride in the same carriage as the outgoing president, so Andrew refused to go to the inauguration at all. He headed for home.

During his time away, both Union and Confederate armies often used his Greeneville home as a place to stay and rest during their travel. Confederate soldiers left graffiti on the walls expressing their displeasure; Andrew had to renovate his home after returning from Washington.

Eliza suffered from tuberculosis and had not been an active First Lady; those duties were handled by daughter Martha. Martha and her husband maintained a farm near Greeneville; she lived until 1901. Son Charles became a doctor; he remained loyal to the Union. He joined the Middle Tennessee Union Infantry as an assistant surgeon but was thrown from his horse and killed at age 33. Daughter Mary’s husband served as colonel of the Fourth Tennessee Union Infantry during the war; they also maintained a farm in Tennessee. Son Robert became a lawyer and politician; he was a Colonel in the First Tennessee Union Cavalry, and private secretary to his father during his tenure as president. He committed suicide at age 35. Andrew Jr founded the Greeneville Intelligencer, but died at age 26.

Andrew was elected to the Senate in 1875, making him the only former president to serve in the Senate. He died five months into his term, on July 31, 1875, at the age of 66. Eliza died the following January.

The Andrew Johnson National Historic Site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Properties include Johnson’s tailor shop at the corner of Depot Street and College Street. The site also maintains Johnson’s house on Main Street and the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery atop Monument Hill to the south. 



#11. Polk, James Knox

Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas –James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795 – June 15, 1849) was the 11th president of the United States (1845 to 1849). Two things pop to the top of James’ resume when I read about his life. For one, he actually WAS born in a Log Cabin. Not on a James River plantation, or the make-believe log cabin used for W H Harrison’s campaign. James Polk really was born in a log cabin in North Carolina, the first of ten kids. I’ll get back to that in a minute, but you can visit a reconstruction of it today, should you doubt. The second notable thing that stands out about James is his Bucket List. Yes, James had one when he got to the White House, and he just sat there and ticked off items one by one till they were done. Imagine that! So – remember these four words for the quiz at the end – Log-Cabin-Bucket-List. I’ve been to James’ grave on the capitol grounds in Nashville; folks are pretty proud of him there, although the state’s electoral votes didn’t go to him in the 1844 election; neither did North Carolina’s, his birth state. But enough state electorals did – it was close, but Democrat Polk received 170 to Whig Clay’s 105. That was the 1844 ticket, after the poker game in the back room where Martin Van Buren and John Tyler and Andrew Jackson and all the others who were arguing over Texas and slavery and Manifest Destiny ended, and the campaign moved forward. James went to the White House with the promise to them all: I’m just staying four years, and I’m outta here. James did exactly what he said he would, tick, tick, tick. And it wore the man to a frazzle. But I’m getting ahead of the story. Question: Would you invite this man to your party? I definitely would, I mean, maybe I could learn a few organizational skills from this guy, my Bucket List seems to be slow going.

Two Words – Log Cabin

When James was born in that log cabin in Pineville, North Carolina in 1795, his parents had a disagreement right away. Father Samuel refused to declare his belief in Christianity at James’ baptism. Samuel’s own father was a deist who rejected dogmatic Presbyterianism; so Samuel stood firm that day, and the minister would not baptize James. Jane Knox Polk, James’ mother, nevertheless stamped her beliefs on her son – instilling in him the traits of hard work, self-discipline, and individualism. And nine more children were born to Samuel and Jane. They moved to Maury County Tennessee in 1806 when James was eleven; James’ health was frail; he wound up having an operation for urinary stones when he was sixteen. His health improved, though it is believed the operation made him sterile; he fathered no children in his 53 years.

James learned “politics” around the dinner table; the Polk clan dominated politics there and folks like Andrew Jackson were frequent guests. Father Samuel was a county judge, among other things; he offered to bring James into one of his businesses but James wanted an education first. Bradley Academy in Murfreesboro; then on to University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. James joined the Dialectic Society and took part in debates; he graduated with honors in 1818, age 23. Back to Nashville to study law; he served as clerk of the Tennessee State Senate, and was admitted to the Tennessee Bar in 1820. First case: he defended his father against a public fighting charge! He secured Samuel’s release for a $1 fine. James built a successful law practice, and (maybe a Bucket List item) he got married.

Sarah Childress (1803-1891) was well educated; in fact, she and James first crossed paths at school in Murfreesboro. She went on to attend the exclusive Salem Academy in North Carolina, one of the few institutions of higher learning available to women at the time. James and Sarah were formally introduced when he was involved with the State Legislature; they married on January 1, 1824 – he was 28, she was 20. It is said that Andrew Jackson encouraged the marriage, calling Sarah “pretty, ambitious, and intelligent.” During James’ political career Sarah assisted him with his speeches, gave him advice on policy matters, and played an active role in his campaigns.

Government Positions

  • Member of Tennessee House of Representatives, 1823-25
  • Member of US House of Representatives, 1825-39
  • Speaker of the House, 1835-39
  • Governor of Tennessee, 1839-41
  • Eleventh President of the United States, 1845-49

Two Words – Bucket List

On March 4, 1845, James Knox Polk was inaugurated as the 11th US President, and Sarah became a First Lady. James’ Bucket List had four items:

  • Reestablish the Independent Treasury System – the Whigs had abolished the one created under Van Buren.
  • Reduce tariffs.
  • Acquire some or all of the Oregon Country.
  • Acquire California and its harbors from Mexico.

James and Sarah with White House Guests

Sarah had an agenda as well. One was to keep James healthy and to caution him against overwork. Another was to oversee a quieter White House than Julia Tyler left behind. She banned dancing, card games, and hard liquor at official receptions; her dinners were sedate and sober affairs. So James got to work.

Historians today praise James Polk for meeting every goal he set. He was presiding over a country whose population had doubled every twenty years since the American Revolution, so now had demographic parity with Great Britain. He reached a settlement with Great Britain over the disputed Oregon Country. He achieved a sweeping victory in the Mexican-American War, resulting in the cession by Mexico of nearly all the American Southwest. He secured a substantial reduction of tariff rates in 1846; and in that same year, re-established the Independent Treasury system. James accomplished all of this “hands-on” – for example, he directed the Mexican-American War from “grand strategy to the procurement of mules.” And as I said in the beginning, it wore him to a frazzle.

After All Is Said and Done

True to his campaign promise and Bucket List completed, James departed after one term, leaving behind a country that stretched to the Pacific Coast and was poised to be a world power. After attending the inauguration of Zachary Taylor on March 5, 1849, James and Sarah headed for Nashville. They traveled down the Atlantic coast; then westward through the deep south, enthusiastically received and banqueted along the way. By the time they reached Alabama, James was suffering from a cold and they were hearing reports of cholera. It was rumored to be common in New Orleans, but it was too late for them to change plans. Several passengers on the Mississippi riverboat died of the disease; James was so ill he went ashore for a few days but was assured he did not have cholera, so they made the final leg, arriving in Nashville April 2 to a huge reception. James and Sarah spent a few weeks visiting family in Murfreesboro and Columbia before settling down in Polk Place, their new home. In early June, James fell ill again. Attended by doctors, he asked to be baptized into the Methodist church, which he had long admired (his infant baptism didn’t happen, as you may recall). He lingered for several days, but on the afternoon of June 15, he died, after uttering these words to Sarah: “I love you Sarah, for all eternity, I love you.”

James Knox Polk was the youngest president, taking office at 49; he died at 53 after the shortest retirement of any president – three months. Sarah lived at Polk Place for 42 years until her death in 1891 at the age of 87; the longest widowhood of any First Lady. She always wore black, as a true Victorian widow.

An interesting note about James’ three burials – he was first buried in what is now Nashville City Cemetery due to a legal requirement related to his infectious disease death identified as cholera. In 1850 he was moved to a tomb on the grounds of Polk Place as specified in his will. In 1893, the bodies of James and Sarah Polk were relocated to the current resting place on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol.

What are the four words you’ll remember about James Polk?

A Very Personal Note

My third-great-grandfather, William Irwin, and nine others in a party of sixteen, died of cholera in that 1849 epidemic that killed James Polk. They were emigrating from Alabama to the new state of Texas, which was admitted to the Union on December 25, 1845, during James Polk’s term. They died along the trail in Clark County, Arkansas, near where I live today. I am in possession of William Irwin’s Journal, describing life during Polk’s term, and their fateful journey on the way to Texas. Publishing that journal, and establishing historical markers for the cemetery in which the ten are buried, are two major items on my Bucket List.


Women, And Politics

August 19, 2020, Linda Lou Burton posting from Little Rock, Arkansas – Iceland, a parliamentary representative democracy at the northern end of the globe, was the first country to have a female president, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, elected in 1980. It also has the world’s first female and openly gay head of government, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, who was elected prime minister in 2009. Iceland has had a woman as either president or prime minister for 20 of the last 36 years. In the 2016 parliamentary election covering 63 seats, 30 women were elected.

New Zealand, a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government at the southern end of the globe, was the first country in the world in which all the highest offices were occupied by women, between March 2005 and August 2006: the Sovereign Queen Elizabeth II, Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, Prime Minister Helen Clark, Speaker of the House Margaret Wilson, and Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias. Currently Queen Elizabeth II continues as Head of State, Governor-General is Dame Patsy Reddy, Prime Minister is Jacinda Arden and Chief Justice is Dame Helen Winkelmann.

There has never been a female President or Vice-President in the United States, a federal democratic republic. There has been one female major party presidential nominee in US history: Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016. She was the first woman nominated for president by a major party, the first woman to participate in a presidential debate, and the first to carry a state in a general election. She won the popular vote in 2016, receiving nearly 66 million votes to Donald Trump’s 63 million.

There have been three female major party vice presidential nominees: Democrat Geraldine Ferraro in 1984, on the ticket with Walter Mondale; Republican Sarah Palin in 2008, on the ticket with John McCain; and Democrat Kamala Harris in 2020, on the ticket with Joe Biden.


Both Iceland and New Zealand rank in the World List of Voter Participation Top 10 , each averaging about 76% turnout. Others in the TOP 10 are Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, South Korea, Netherlands, Israel, and Finland. The United States ranks in the World List of Voter Participation Bottom 10, with 56% in the 2016 presidential election. Others in the BOTTOM 10 are Estonia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Chile, Japan, Latvia, Poland, Mexico, and Switzerland.

August 26, 2020, marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of The Nineteenth Amendment, giving women the right to vote in the United States after 72 years of the largest civil rights movement in the history of the world.

THE WOMAN SUFFRAGE TIMELINE as complied in the LIZ LIBRARY is available for your review; read of the events that have transpired since 1776, when Abigail Adams first spoke up for “the ladies.” http://www.thelizlibrary.org/suffrage/

I offer only a few highlights regarding women’s efforts to be ALLOWED to vote.


  • 1776 Abigail Adams writes to her husband, John Adams, asking him to “remember the ladies” in the new code of laws. Adams replies the men will fight the “despotism of the petticoat.”
  • 1787 U.S. Constitutional Convention places voting qualifications in the hands of the states. Women in all states except New Jersey lose the right to vote.


  • 1848 First Women’s Rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York. Equal suffrage proposed by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. After debate of so radical a notion, it is adopted.
  • 1867 Fourteenth Amendment passes Congress, defining citizens as “male;” this is the first use of the word male in the Constitution. Kansas campaign for black and woman suffrage: both lose. Susan B. Anthony forms Equal Rights Association, working for universal suffrage. Suffrage Movement Divides Over Black v. Woman Suffrage.
  • 1868 Fourteenth amendment ratified. Fifteenth Amendment passes Congress, giving the vote to black men. Women petition to be included but are turned down. Formation of New England Woman Suffrage Association. In New Jersey, 172 women attempt to vote; their ballots are ignored.
  • 1870 Fifteenth Amendment ratified. The Grimke sisters and 42 other women attempt to vote in Massachusetts, their ballots are cast but ignored. Utah territory grants woman suffrage.
  • 1878 Woman suffrage amendment first introduced in U.S. Congress.
  • 1894 Despite 600,000 signatures, a petition for woman suffrage is ignored in New York.


  • 1910 Washington (state) grants woman suffrage.
  • 1911 California grants woman suffrage. In New York City, 3,000 march for suffrage.
  • 1912 Teddy Roosevelt’s Progressive Party includes woman suffrage in their platform. Oregon, Arizona, and Kansas grant woman suffrage.
  • 1913 Women’s Suffrage parade on the eve of Wilson’s inauguration is attacked by a mob. Alaskan Territory grants suffrage. Illinois grants municipal and presidential but not state suffrage to women.
  • 1917 Beginning in January, NWP posts silent “Sentinels of Liberty” at the White House. In June, the arrests begin. Nearly 500 women are arrested, 168 women serve jail time, some are brutalized by their jailers. North Dakota, Indiana, Nebraska, and Michigan grant presidential suffrage; Arkansas grants primary suffrage. New York, South Dakota, and Oklahoma state constitutions grant suffrage.
  • 1918 The jailed suffragists released from prison. Appellate court rules all the arrests were illegal. President Wilson declares support for suffrage. Suffrage Amendment passes U.S. House with exactly a two-thirds vote but loses by two votes in the Senate.
  • 1919 In January, the NWP lights and guards a “Watchfire for Freedom.” It is maintained until the Suffrage Amendment passes U.S. Senate on June 4. The battle for ratification by at least 36 states begins.

And that battle ENDED in Tennessee on August 18, 1920, 100 years and 1 day ago. The story told by the guide when I toured the Nashville capitol was that young Harry T Burn from Niota gets credit for what happened that fateful day. At least, his mother does. The resolution had passed the Tennessee State Senate, but the vote in the House was close, in fact, on first vote it did not pass. Harry’s mother, Febb Ensminger Burn, a prominent businesswoman, sent her son a note. After lunch, he changed his vote, then HID from the angry crowds, but that one vote was all it took. Tennessee was the 36th and final state needed for ratification and the 19th Amendment became law August 26, 1920.

Women, and Politics. Interesting.


An Invite From DAR

1 DAR Presentation ArkadelphiaLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – I was invited by Charlotte Jeffers, Regent of the Arkadelphia Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, to speak at their April 14 meeting. “Do you want me to talk about the history of the capital cities, or my travel experiences?” I asked. “What will everyone be most interested in?” “We are interested in everything,” was the reply, so I decided to focus on our likeminded objectives, which sent me to the DAR national website.

I learned that DAR was founded October 11, 1890 and incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress. Objectives are listed as Historical, Educational, and Patriotic, so I honed in on the “educational” factor, since that is a primary objective of Capital Cities USA. For DAR, “to promote…institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge, thus developing an enlightened public opinion.” For Capital Cities USA, “to build community, character and citizenship through humanities education.” From Objectives to Methodology explains the Journey Across America: Item 1 – to assess civic, community and historic resources in the 50 capital cities of the United States and their capitol buildings by gathering data through on-site visits to each capitol and capital city. In a nutshell!

I began my talk with bottom-line statistics – departed February 28, 2012 and concluded December 18, 2013 for a total of 659 days. Traveled 31,710 miles and spent time in 50 state capitols and the national capitol in DC. Shared neighborhoods with 12,947,450 people as I lived two weeks in each capital city. (With my two cats, no less.) I shared a map showing the 75 overnight stops I made before settling down in Arkadelphia, and then moved into story telling.

“What learning opportunities did I find in the capitols?” I focused on five that were exceptional:
• Austin, Texas – Most Extensive Visitor Services
• Boise, Idaho – Most Inspiring Kids Tour
• Atlanta, Georgia – Tie With Springfield, Illinois as Most Welcoming
• Springfield, Illinois – Tie with Atlanta, Georgia as Most Welcoming
• Montpelier, Vermont – Most Intimate & Inviting, Best Volunteer Program, Most Meticulous Restoration

» read more


Ghosts On The Hill

23 hill to capitolLinda Burton posting from Nashville, Tennessee – The couple behind was panting even more than me. There was a steep hillclimb to get to the capitol entry point and the closest parking was blocks away in an expensive high-rise garage. I passed THP scrutiny and received my entry pass but needed to catch my breath; I watched as the Tennessee Highway Patrol guard at the tunnel door went through his routine again. He opened the woman’s bag and searched it; he photocopied their photo ID and entered their names into his database. Finally issued passes, 23 capitol markerthey were allowed to walk through Xray, and given directions to the elevator. “That’s not very welcoming,” I commented to the officer, noting his name on his badge and adding “Mike,” to my sentence, aiming for a friendly tone. “Why do you require photo ID before allowing people to visit their state capitol? I haven’t seen that anywhere before.” Mike shook his head in a kind of apology. “We’ve had so many threats,” he answered. “We check names against our database of people who are considered dangerous and not allowed in.” We chatted a while, discussing the fine line between “openness” and “safety” with regard to public buildings in this day and age. The Tennessee State Capitol is a treasure, to be sure, 23 capitol hillfilled with historic moments and memories; it even serves as the final resting place of its architect William Strickland, who is buried in the northeast corner. Though sitting high atop a hill, the building is dwarfed today by the city that has grown up around it; skyscrapers and congested streets almost edge out the feel of history. But I’d come to see; I said goodbye to Mike and headed down the hall, my photo-pass stuck to my shirt. » read more


Leave As Friends

21 monells outsideLinda Burton posting from Nashville, Tennessee – “Enter as strangers, leave as friends.” That’s what happens when you gather round the dining table and start passing the peas. And the mashed potatoes, and meatloaf, and all the other goodies that grace the table. I was sitting in Monell’s, a family style restaurant in a historic 1880’s house in Germantown, a north Nashville neighborhood. Baskets of corn muffins, pitchers of sweet tea; pass to the left, please; you can’t help it, you start to chat. “My husband died in February,” said Sandra, on my left. “My son brought me out for 21 monells platelunch today.” Terrance nodded, “We’re walking in the park after lunch,” he said, “I’ve lost almost a hundred pounds in the last year.” He pulled out his cellphone to show a picture of his former self; his mother and I lavished him with praise. On my right sat Allison and Matt; Matt directs a local TV show and gave me the scoop on the Nashville scene; in turn they wanted to know absolutely everything about the Journey. A month’s worth of friendliness, over chicken and dumplings; where can you find that, except when sharing a meal? No fast food hurry up, just take your time and talk. Family dining, the old-fashioned way. Monell’s was my Saturday treat; today I headed far out in the country to the 21 Loveless signfamed Loveless Café for Sunday brunch. Willard Scott claimed the Loveless has the “world’s greatest scratch biscuits” and Martha Stewart said it was “the best breakfast I ever had.” But the reality of the Loveless popularity really hit when I wound up in the unpaved parking lot on the far end of the property. Hundreds of biscuit-hungry folks were already waiting to be fed. » read more


Visit Vanderbilt

19Linda Burton posting from Nashville, Tennessee – “Your trip to Nashville is not complete until you visit Vanderbilt.” That’s what it says in their brochure. No kidding, the loveliest bit of tourist info I have in my stack of “things to do in Nashville” is from Vanderbilt University. You expect bastions of learning to focus on enticements to attract new students, or new donors, and research institutions to tout their contributions to the world and their ranking in the research dollars they pull in every year. You expect institutions with high-profile sports programs – especially money-makers football and basketball – to brag and strut. But I’ve never yet come across an institution of learning that invites you to come to its campus simply because it offers so much for a visitor to experience. “Vanderbilt is more than a world-class university. It is a playground for the senses, open to anyone with a curious heart and mind and an appreciation for beauty and vibrancy.” That’s downright poetic! The visitor brochure I have in hand unfolds to a 9 x 24-inch display; a matte finish pleasing to the eye; photos show students in various settings: walking beneath sunlit golden trees, studying beside a peaceful fountain; 19 vanderbilt logocheering a ball game, shopping at the bookstore, playing violin. There are pictures of a historic building, a classroom, a reception hall, the dining room. But even more critical to an actual visit is the information panel –the address and a map; the website and a phone number. It advises where to park, and which building to visit first. Go to Kirkland Hall; the university receptionist can answer questions and talk to you about touring the campus. Vanderbilt wants me to visit, I’m convinced. » read more


Untangling Nashville

17 Dendy and MapLinda Burton posting from Nashville, Tennessee – “The thing I love about Nashville is that it’s a big city that feels like a small town.” I heard that statement three times in a row today, from people of different ages in different settings. The same exact words! “A big city that feels like a small town.” I asked each one to explain what they meant. “People are friendly,” was one answer. “Everybody takes care of each other.” “It’s just a bunch of good neighborhoods.” “People here have no pretenses.” Dendy, who’s in the music business, talked about the rich and famous who call Nashville home. “They like to spend time here because they can walk around and rub elbows with everybody else with no hassle.” Martha, who travels the south in her marketing job, talked about the friendliness here. “I’d choose Nashville over any other city,” she said. “It’s pretty, and there are a million things to do. We’ve got good music and we’ve got good churches and we’ve got really good food. I always feel good when I get close to Nashville.” I interrupted Martha at that point. “I felt terror,” I threw in. “The traffic!” “Well, 17 skylineyes, there is a lot of traffic,” she conceded, “and the streets can be confusing until you learn your way around.” I’ll say! Street names change at almost every turn; this road goes there and that road turns this way. There are freeways and parkways and boulevards and pikes. A lot of pikes, for a lot of cars, for a lot of people. Nashville’s population is 601,222 (US 2010 Census) and it’s the 6th largest capital city – just a tad smaller than Boston and a tad larger than Denver. My challenge is to untangle the mystery: why does big-city Nashville feel so small-town sweet? » read more


Stockton’s Valley

15 Williams Journal Page 1Linda Burton posting from Nashville, Tennessee I was born October 5 1816 in Cumberland County Stockton’s Valley Kentucky. That is the beginning line in the Journal of William Irwin Jr, my 3rd-great-grandfather. My path today, as I headed south from Frankfort to Nashville, would lead me through Stockton’s Valley. For weeks I’ve been following the trail of Daniel Boone and the pioneers who moved westward into Kentucky; now this is my day to get personal with history. William is my relative and my pioneer; and best of all William kept a Journal; he left behind a written picture of his life and times. My brother discovered William’s Journal just a few years back; the original is in possession of a distant cousin in Oregon, who kindly sent us copies. William died of cholera in 1849 as he and his family headed for the new state of Texas; he is buried by the trail in Arkansas, alongside his father William, and three of his children, a heartwrenching story as are so many stories of this 15 Williams leather pouchcountry’s settlement. The Journal was preserved in a handsome leather pouch; an amazing tale for us to read today. The first page continues: The name of Irwin was imported from Ireland in the person of William Irwin who emigrated to the United States and settled in Cumberland County Pa on Antedum Creek. He had three sons, James, Robert & John. The latter of whom was my grandfather who married a woman of Welsh descent by the name of Elizabeth Cunningham.…grandfather… was a soldier in the revolutionary war….Grandfather had three sons…my father William, Francis, and John. Francis married but had no heirs and died in Cotton Gin Miss. John settled in Cumberland Cty Ky and had a large family of children.

It is John’s grave I’m looking for today; the target is Albany Cemetery. » read more