Picketing the White House

By Kira Duke, Educational Specialist, Center for Historic Preservation

Almost every day, we see images in the media of individuals and groups protesting in front of the White House. Most of us think little about the significance of our fellow Americans exercising their rights of assembly and free speech. Yet, have you ever stopped to wonder which group was the first to stand at the gates of our President’s home and protest?

Penn[sylvania] on the picket line-- 1917. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Penn[sylvania] on the picket line–1917. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Several years ago on my first project at my first full-time job, I stumbled upon the story of the women who pushed that envelope and became the first group to protest in front of the White House. This bold group was the National Woman’s Party (NWP), and they were fighting for women’s suffrage. As I learned more about Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and the numerous other women who dedicated themselves to securing a national amendment to extend voting rights for women, I was struck by their courage, dedication, and political savvy. I was also amazed that I had never learned about these women in any of my history classes.

When I started working with the Teaching with Primary Sources program and familiarizing myself with the wonderful online collections available from the Library of Congress Web site, I was thrilled to find the Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman’s Party collection. Using this collection and newspapers from the Chronicling America project, I have since developed a multi-day lesson plan, “Civil Disobedience and the National Woman’s Party,” geared to fifth grade and high school Social Studies and English/Language Arts classes. The lesson plan asks students to think about how the NWP used civil disobedience as a tactic to gain the right to vote for women. The lesson plan then prompts students to consider how effective they think the NWP’s strategy was.

Since most students will be unfamiliar with this history, the first day seeks to introduce the concept of civil disobedience, the NWP women, their actions, and the reaction to their protests. This is done by analyzing a series of photographs showing the women protesting and having students pay particular attention to the banners that the suffragists carried. Background readings from the Library of Congress are included to give students a bit more context for understanding the images they will analyze. Students also view a short clip from the HBO film Iron Jawed Angels that depicts the pickets. For homework, fifth grade students answer two questions centered on one banner that reads, “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” Students also create their own suffrage banner slogans. High schools students take a closer look at this banner and answer questions that place it in the context of America’s involvement in World War I.

NWP Picketing Image

The day after the police announce that future pickets would be given limit of 6 mos. in prison, Alice Paul led picket line with banner reading “The time has come to conquer or submit for there is but one choice – we have made it.” She is followed by Mrs. Lawrence Lewis [Dora Lewis]. This group received 6 mos. in prison. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

For day two, the lesson focuses on how the women responded to being jailed for the protests, including their appeal for political prisoner status and their decision to go on hunger strikes. Background readings provide the context for students to understand how events unfolded. Students also analyze this photograph and Lucy Burns’s account of her time in jail that was published in the New York Tribune. At the conclusion of the lesson, students are challenged with explaining why the women waged hunger strikes and how effective these were to persuading others to support their cause. Finally, students are asked to reflect on how civil disobedience was used by these women and to make a case for its effectiveness.

The story of the National Woman’s Party is one that will interest many students and is a great opportunity to help students draw connections to various other social and political movements, both past and present. This story is also a great way to talk about civic engagement and how important voting is to a healthy democracy.

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Gee’s Bend

By Katie Randall, CHP Fieldwork Coordinator

In January, graduate research assistant Savannah Grandey and I traversed the state of Alabama as part of a reconnaissance survey of Alabama’s historic agricultural resources. Future blog posts will feature more about our research and survey work for this project, but here I want to share one of the highlights from our most recent trip.

As a graduate assistant myself in 2010, I worked on the Heritage Development Plan and Multiple Property Submission of Skyline Farms to the National Register of Historic Places. Skyline Farms is a New Deal resettlement community in Jackson County, in the northeastern corner of Alabama. It was established in 1934 by the federal government to provide jobs and social welfare to unemployed and homeless farmers in the region through a cooperative-based agricultural program. Forty-three such projects were attempted across the United States, and Skyline Farms is recognized as one of the largest and most successful.

On this most recent visit to Alabama, Savannah and I spent a good bit of time in Gee’s Bend, another New Deal resettlement community. Gee’s Bend is located in Wilcox County, which is in Alabama’s western Black Belt region. Because Jim Crow often pervaded New Deal efforts in the South, resettlement communities were segregated, and Gee’s Bend was specifically designated for African Americans.

Today, the Gee’s Bend community is recognized internationally for its quilters and their contributions to folk art. Reviewing what is left of the resettlement community’s built environment reveals layers of twentieth-century social reform, alterations by successive generations, and racial discrimination embedded within the landscape.

In 1937, the federal government purchased a large tract of land previously held by white landowners. The government subdivided the land and sold parcels to local African American families, most of whom had previously been tenants on the land, for subsistence farming. As with Skyline Farms, the federal government also provided funds and most likely plans for the construction of housing and public buildings.

A house and outbuildings in the Gee’s Bend community.

The extant houses at Gee’s Bend are similar in style to those at Skyline Farms. Much of the surrounding farm landscape, however, was lost in 1962 when a dam was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Alabama River, flooding thousands of acres of fertile farmland in Gee’s Bend.

That same year, county officials terminated the ferry crossing at Gee’s Bend. This change isolated residents further and made travel to Camden, the county seat, extremely difficult. What was once a 7-mile journey across the river to the courthouse became nearly 50 miles by car. This was one of many attempts to prevent African Americans in Wilcox County from voting. It was not until 2006 that officials reopened the ferry with federal funding.

The 1930s ferry and today's ferry.  Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The 1930s ferry, and its operator, and today’s ferry. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The extant school at Gee’s Bend is made up of three rectangular concrete block structures and is currently vacant. Studying historic images of Gee’s Bend from the Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs Division reveals that this structure replaced a larger, Colonial Revival frame structure sometime in the mid-twentieth century.

The original school at Gee's Bend and the school as it looks today.

The New Deal school at Gee’s Bend and the mid-20th-century school as it looks today. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A post office was added to the community in 1949, the same year that the federal government changed the name of the community to Boykin against many of the residents’ wishes.

Gee's Bend Post Office.

Gee’s Bend Post Office.

Over the years, there have been many changes to the landscape at Gee’s Bend. The present landscape reflects a New Deal resettlement community scarred by racial prejudice during and following the Civil Rights era. It is because of this that Gee’s Bend is an important part of Alabama’s agricultural story. It represents how race played a role in the state’s changing agricultural scene and is therefore important to our survey as we attempt to better understand the history and evolution of agriculture throughout the state.

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Luxury Historic Hotels

By Ginna Foster Cannon, Graduate Research Assistant

At the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Graduate History Conference recently, I was asked about how I got the idea to work on luxury historic hotels, the subject of my conference paper (“Sharing Power: The Benefits of Reshaping the Narrative for Luxury Historic Hotels”) and future dissertation. I responded, “You see, there was this statue of a dog.” We laughed. But, as ludicrous as it sounds, it was completely true.

Statue of J. Graham Brown in front of the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY. Courtesy of Jeffrey Scott Holland.

Statue of J. Graham Brown in front of the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY. Courtesy of Jeffrey Scott Holland.

In January 2012, I found myself standing next to Raymond Graf’s statue of J. Graham Brown and his beloved dog, Woozem, in front of the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. What caught my attention was the poodle. Curious, I circled the statue, noting that Brown was the founder of the hotel. At the entrance of the hotel, there was also a large brass plaque listing it as a member of the Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. My marketing training at Columbia Business School suggested that the statue and plaque must be part of a larger strategy. I asked myself, “How do historic hotel properties use history to market themselves?” The question remains foundational to the work I do on luxury historic hotels.

In the essay “Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen, but Does Anybody Want to Hear About Them When They’re on Vacation?” historian Ted Ownby posited, “Tourism professionals and historians are generally at odds, with the former looking for a past that sells, and the latter seeking a past that is true.” At first blush, this paradigm appears to hold true today for luxury historic hotels in the United States. A wide gap exists between the histories hotels tell about themselves in their marketing material and the history of luxury historic hotels presented in recent scholarship. To explore the gap, I have focused on luxury historic hotels categorized as “Grand Dames” by Historic Hotels of America. My research suggests that in addition to selling rooms, these hotels are deeply committed to promoting a “past that is true.”

For the most part, hotel histories presented in marketing materials are quite formulaic. They typically include the name of the person who funded the hotel, the name of the architect, the architectural style, noteworthy people who have stayed at the hotel (presidents, movie stars, gangsters, and socialites), some fun fact about the hotel, the cost and scope of renovations made over the last decade, and the fact that the tradition of luxury is still strong today. In addition, hotel employees are typically not mentioned unless they directly support the hotel’s brand. Often, the hotels are presented as rarefied places bathed in a patina of Old World charm. This presentation is in stark contrast with recent scholarship in which hotels are presented as conflicted spaces in terms of race, class, and gender. When the hotels were built in the 1910s and 1920s, they were heralded as “cities within cities” and modern marvels because of the level of managerial and technical skill required to provide guests with a luxurious experience.

Postcard of the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY. Courtesy of Old Louisville Guide.

Postcard of the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY, circa 1930-1940. Courtesy of Old Louisville Guide.

How do we account for the dichotomy in narratives? My research suggests that hotels construct formulaic narratives because that is what people have come to expect, and such histories are easy to digest. Furthermore, it appears that a large number of the historical facts and figures used by marketing professionals are taken directly from the hotels’ National Register nominations written in the mid-to-late 1970s. At that time, nominations were relatively short and focused on architecture and great men. As such, the documentation is both limited and dated. It also does not reflect the New Social History (understood as bottom-up history or history that gives voice to marginalized groups). A possible solution would be to update and expand the National Register nominations for each of the hotel properties. Of course, discussing difficult subjects is hard, especially for institutions such as hotels that are focused on generating revenue. With that said, current scholarship on tourism posits that a historic site’s most valuable asset is its authenticity.

Why does the gap between narratives matter? It is a missed opportunity to exchange ideas and materials. Broadening the stories told, which Ownby dubbed the “variety trope,” will potentially attract more people to luxury historic hotels by making them easier to relate to and therefore more appealing. Expanding hotel narratives to include class history, labor history, women’s history, and African American history will potentially allow more people to see reflections of themselves in the hotels’ marketing materials. This broadening of stories is also in keeping with current trends in the tourism industry.

Can both sides benefit from sharing perspectives? On a short-term basis, both hotel marketers and historians would benefit from starting a dialog and sharing documents. Academics would gain access to new sources of primary documents to supplement the rich hotel trade magazine archives that exist and the small but growing body of scholarship on hotels. Hotels would benefit from understanding the larger historical, social, and political contexts in which their hotels fit. Luxury historic hotels could play an important role in making this vision a reality. They have both the platform to disseminate historical information and a willing and receptive audience. With the cooperation of historic preservationists and public historians, luxury historic hotels could become vehicles of civic engagement by exploring how they were more than just pleasure palaces but also conflicted spaces.

Close up of statue of J. Graham Brown with his beloved dog, Woozem. Courtesy of Flickr.

Close-up of statue of J. Graham Brown with his beloved dog, Woozem. Courtesy of Flickr.

In June, I will explore the civic engagement angle in a presentation at the 2014 American Democracy Project and The Democracy Commitment National Meeting in Louisville. (For more information on the conference, please see http://www.aascu.org/meetings/adptdc14/.) Who knows? Perhaps Woozem will inspire the next phase of my research as well. Regardless, I am thankful to the statue for launching my journey into the world of luxury historic hotels, past and present.

See Also:

Molly W. Berger, Hotel Dreams: Luxury, Technology, and Urban Ambition in America, 1829-1929 (2011).

Ted Ownby, “Nobody Knows the Troubles I’ve Seen, but Does Anybody Want to Hear About Them When They’re on Vacation,” in Southern Journeys: Tourism, History, & Culture in the Modern South, ed. Richard D. Starnes (2003).

Andrew K. Sandoval-Strausz, Hotel: An American History (2008).

John F. Sears, Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century (1999).

Marguerite S. Shaffer, See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940 (2001).

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NCPH 2014: A Brief Reflection

By Abigail Gautreau, Graduate Research Assistant

I almost always enjoy attending conferences. They are a pleasant break in the monotony of academic life; an opportunity to meet new people and learn about new ideas in new places. This year’s National Council on Public History (NCPH) Annual Meeting was no exception. The theme was “sustainability,” and the location was gorgeous Monterey, California.

Ginna Foster Cannon, Rachel Boyle, Kim Connolly Hicks, Kristen Baldwin Deathridge, Eileen McMahon, Abigail Gautreau, and Ted Karamanski at our roundtable.

Ginna Foster Cannon, Rachel Boyle, Kim Connolly Hicks, Kristen Baldwin Deathridge, Eileen McMahon, Abigail Gautreau, and Ted Karamanski at our roundtable.

I was part of a roundtable with current and former Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) folks (fellow graduate assistant Ginna Foster Cannon and Kristen Baldwin Deathridge, now an assistant professor at Appalachian State University) and a group from Chicago (Ted Karamanski, Kim Connolly Hicks, and Rachel Boyle of Loyola University Chicago and Eileen McMahon of Lewis University). Our session, “Sustaining Historic Preservation through Community Engagement,” was held at 8:30 a.m. on Friday morning, and we ended up with a rather impressive (standing-room-only) crowd. We opened with a quick 30-minute introduction of our own case studies and then opened the floor for an hour of discussion with the audience, which will eventually become a post for History@Work.

I’m sure our director, Dr. Carroll Van West, would agree with me that the CHP has been doing sustainability since before it was cool. I remember sitting in his “Essentials of Historic Preservation” class and hearing about the Center’s partnership with the local Main Street downtown revitalization organization and the City of Murfreesboro to operate the Heritage Center in a vacant building just off the Square. I’ve experienced firsthand the power of community-driven preservation. In Selma, the Civil Rights Multiple Property Submission has evolved so far into a driving tour and a series of individual nominations, and it has spurred me to develop an oral history project.

These projects work because they are what the community wants. This was something I had always accepted, and frankly had done rather uncritically, until the Call for Proposals for this year’s NCPH came out, and Kristen started talking about doing a panel. Kristen’s own work on the adaptive reuse of religious buildings looked closely at the idea of cultural sustainability, and the process of developing the panel helped me to think more analytically about this type of work and why it matters, and more importantly for me, how it connects to my own research.

Sailboats in Monterey Bay.

Sailboats in Monterey Bay.

This conversation took place well before I boarded my flight to California, and it has extended well beyond it. While in Monterey, I heard about cultural sustainability from many other people in a lot of different contexts. I learned about a partnership between preservationists, surfers, environmental conservationists, and others to preserve and raise awareness about a formerly segregated beach. I heard from a civil rights attorney about a “green justice” initiative to preserve the “Cornfield,” a historic park in Los Angeles, and provide green space for the local community. I got up to speed on the advantages and pitfalls of apps and digital history outreach. I learned about efforts to increase intersectionality in historic sites. These presentations and the conversations I had with my fellow public historians (both former CHP students and those from elsewhere) have given me new insight and energy to explore this important aspect of the work I do (and we do) at the CHP. At the same time, I was able to offer my own experience doing community outreach to those who were just starting their own projects, or perhaps struggling to build a rapport.

This is the core of what conferences can offer us as preservationists and historians: the chance to connect with our colleagues across the country (and the world) to learn more about each other’s work, as well as our own.

If you’d like to know more about what went on, search #ncph2014 on Twitter. Next year’s NCPH will be in Nashville—I’ll see you there!

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Is That a Women’s History Site?

By Antoinette G. van Zelm, Programs Manager, Center for Historic Preservation

Women’s History Month provides a great opportunity to think about the contributions of women to local communities in Tennessee and beyond. Throughout the United States, the public historic sites that have been preserved and the commemorative monuments that have been erected tend to reflect very little about the lives and labors of women. Still, within the built environment in most communities, there are both obvious examples of women’s activities and less visible representations of women’s influence.

The women’s club movement that flourished from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century left its mark on the landscape. Some Tennessee communities are fortunate to have historic structures that house these still-active women’s organizations. In Montgomery County, Tennessee, the Country Woman’s Club, located in the St. Bethlehem community, still meets in its 1927 Craftsman-style clubhouse.

The Country Woman's Club continues to meet in this 1927 building.

Members of the Country Woman’s Club held numerous fundraisers in the 1920s to accomplish their goal of building a place of their own to meet.

Originally founded in 1922 to provide a social outlet for rural women, the club eventually took on various educational and benevolent projects, including sponsoring poor girls to attend high school and selling war bonds during World War II. Over the years, the group has also published yearbooks chronicling its activities and three cookbooks of favorite recipes. You can learn more about the club and its building on the Southern Places Web site. Dr. Leslie Sharp, a former Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) staff member and graduate research assistant, successfully nominated the club’s building to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.

The Ladies Rest Room in Lewisburg, TN. Courtesy of Dr. Katie O'Bryan.

The Ladies Rest Room in Lewisburg, TN. Courtesy of Dr. Katherine O’Bryan.

An even rarer type of early twentieth-century building related to women is the ladies public rest room. During the Progressive Era, such rest rooms and lounges were opened in county seats and small towns to provide places where rural women could relax and freshen up when they traveled into town to conduct business or to accompany their husbands. Although these rooms were usually located within civic buildings, such as courthouses, or private businesses, such as dry-goods stores, ladies rest rooms occasionally occupied freestanding structures. Former CHP graduate research assistant Dr. Katherine O’Bryan surveyed ladies public rest rooms for her dissertation, “Gender, Politics, and Power: The Development of the Ladies Rest Room and Lounge in Rural America, 1900-1945,” and located examples in Pulaski and Lewisburg, Tennessee.

A local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed this plaque at the Rutherford County Courthouse in Murfreesboro, TN.

A local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution placed this plaque at the Rutherford County Courthouse in Murfreesboro, TN.

Looking at traditional sites from a new perspective is another key to unlocking women’s stories within local communities. Think about the southern county courthouse, for instance. Viewed historically as a bastion of male authority and activity, the courthouse can also be looked at from another angle. As the most important civic building in a community, the courthouse was at the center of public commemorations, community parades, and civil rights protests—events in which women often played a role as organizers and participants. Also, take a look at the plaques and monuments in and around your local courthouse. While many of them may well commemorate leading male citizens, they were likely planned and funded by women’s patriotic organizations.

HIlltop-Rosenwald Park contains a replica of a historic Rosenwald school and pays tribute to local African American leaders.

HIlltop-Rosenwald Park contains a replica of a historic Rosenwald school and pays tribute to local African American leaders.

A few years ago, we put together a self-guided tour brochure of Rutherford County, Tennessee, that highlights historic sites and landmarks from the perspective of women’s history. In the brochure, we called attention to places obviously associated with women, such as the Mary Kate Patterson House in La Vergne, and to sites normally linked to famous men, such as the county courthouse in Murfreesboro and the Historic Sam Davis Home and Plantation in Smyrna. With the latter sites, we emphasized the role of women in grassroots historic preservation. The Hilltop-Rosenwald Park, also in Smyrna, was one of the newest sites included in the brochure and contains walking trails, streets, and a picnic area named after female leaders from the Hilltop community.

If you would like assistance with putting together a women’s history-focused guide to your community, please feel free to contact me.

See Also:

The National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites Web site.

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Community Engagement Through Oral History

By Rachel L. Martin, Assistant Director, Center for Historic Preservation

Anyone who has used oral histories knows about those interviews: the ones that are critical to the project, capturing the voices of individuals who have since died, and yet include hardly any useful information. Perhaps the interviewer talked too much, eager to show off the information he or she had collected already. Perhaps he or she only allowed the interviewee to talk about subjects related to one topic. Perhaps he or she simply failed to ask important follow-up questions.

It can be challenging to conduct an interview that is relevant to both the interviewer’s project and yet includes information that will help future researchers. It can be intimidating to know how to use technology. It can also be hard to know how to preserve and present interviews once they have been gathered.

These problems drive many historians to say (often only in private) that oral history should move increasingly under the purview of professionals trained to do it. But I believe there is a middle ground. Almost anyone can do oral history, but training in the methodology and technology associated with it produces stronger, more accessible, and more useable collections.

An oral history workshop will be held this summer at the Bruce High School and Recreation Center in Dyersburg, TN.

An oral history workshop will be held this summer at the Bruce High School and Recreation Center in Dyersburg, TN.

As part of our mission to “join with communities to interpret and promote their heritage assets,” the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) will offer assistance with community oral history initiatives. We can head short-term oral history projects for you, but we can also train your team so that you can create your own oral history archive.

If you would like for us to conduct your oral history project, please e-mail me with the details about the initiative. I specifically need to know about the topic and whose voices you would like to include. It also helps me to know something about your community and why you have decided to undertake an oral history project at this time.

If you would like to create your own oral history team, then I recommend that we schedule a training seminar (as with all of our community-based activities, we will negotiate the cost depending upon local resources and available grants). These are usually weekend workshops that begin on Friday night and continue all day Saturday. The curriculum is an informal, shortened version of what I offer in oral history classes at the university level. Participants learn interview techniques, practice ways of handling common problems experienced in the field, grow comfortable using their recording technologies, and discuss some of the potential challenges and concerns of oral history.

Oral histories would help tell the story of historic Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, TN.

Oral histories would help tell the story of historic Engel Stadium in Chattanooga, TN.

After that weekend, I will schedule a handful of debriefings with your team as your interviewers gain field experience so that I can address the specific situations they have encountered. Depending on the size of the project, some of our graduate students will also participate in both the training, the collection, and the archival process.

The result will be a collection that buttresses your local museum, library, or archive, and it will also be a collection that allows future researchers to recapture your story.

See Also:

For more information on oral history best practices, visit the Oral History Association’s Web site:


For discussions on oral history in the digital age, visit the Institute of Museum and Library Services site:


For sample interviews and an example of what a digital oral history archive can do, visit the Oral Histories of the American South site:


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175 Years Later: Documenting the Historic Buildings of the Trail of Tears

By Amy Kostine, Trail of Tears Project Historian, Center for Historic Preservation

1.This segment of the Bell Route of the Trail of Tears, located in Village Creek State Park in Arkansas, was once part of the old Memphis to Little Rock Road.

This segment of the Bell Route of the Trail of Tears, located in Village Creek State Park in Arkansas, was once part of the old Memphis to Little Rock Road.

It has been 175 years since more than 15,000 Cherokee were forced from their homes to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) on the Trail of Tears. Have you ever thought about the roads the Cherokee took or the buildings they passed by and asked yourself how much of this historic landscape still exists? With the hope of answering that question, the Center for Historic Preservation (CHP) is partnering with the National Trails Intermountain Region of the National Park Service to conduct a nine-state survey to identify and document historic buildings associated with the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Over the last year, we have been out on the road driving the Trail’s routes and documenting its incredible sites.

2.Cherokee traveling on the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears crossed the Cumberland River in Nashville by way of a covered toll bridge. This ca. 1819-1822 abutment is all that remains of the bridge today. Photo courtesy of Native History Association.

Cherokee traveling on the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears crossed the Cumberland River in Nashville by way of a covered toll bridge. This ca. 1819-1822 abutment is all that remains of the bridge today. Photo courtesy of the Native History Association.

Despite modern development and improvements, the historic landscape of the Trail of Tears remains rich in material culture. From roadbeds to buildings to even a rare bridge abutment, physical reminders of that bygone era still dot the landscape and offer a tangible connection to the past. Sometimes these important resources are difficult to identify from the many changes they have undergone over the years, but if you look hard enough and start peeling back the layers of time, then you will see clues that point to the age of these resources. Dig a little deeper into the historic records and you might even uncover a little-known story that offers an eyewitness account of the Trail of Tears.

Take the Brown-Cathey-Grimmitt House in Maury County, Tennessee, for example. The western section of the house pre-dates the Trail of Tears and was built by Thomas D. Cathey. His nephew, Alexander Blair Cathey, built an addition to the east of the original house many years later. The house continued to change over the years, obscuring its original design.

3.The portion of the Brown-Cathey-Grimmitt House that Thomas D. Cathey built as it appears today.

The portion of the Brown-Cathey-Grimmitt House that Thomas D. Cathey built as it appears today.

Alexander Blair Cathey was just 12 years old when a detachment of approximately 1100 Cherokee, 60 wagons, and 600 horses led by John Benge passed by the family home on the Trail of Tears. Seventy years later, Alexander penned his memory: “On Saturday night [the Cherokee] camped at Chappell’s ford and on Sunday they moved to Love’s branch where they stayed all day. A great many people went to see them, some of the Indian half-breeds were quite wealthy, owned slaves and rode in fine carriages.” You can almost imagine the Cathey family standing on their property in 1838, looking north to the Cherokee encamped approximately one mile away on Love’s Branch.

This map depicts the location of the Benge Route, Love’s Branch, and the Brown-Cathey-Grimmitt House (TRTE-TN-MU-01).

This map depicts the location of the Benge Route, Love’s Branch, and the Brown-Cathey-Grimmitt House (TRTE-TN-MU-01).

The Brown-Cathey-Grimmitt House is just one of many buildings with storied connections to the Trail of Tears. To date, we have completed documenting buildings in Illinois and Kentucky and are nearly finished in Tennessee. In the coming months, we will be wrapping up survey work in Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and North Carolina, followed by Georgia later in the year. The final report of our findings will be completed in early 2015. So far we have identified approximately 170 buildings with known or possible connections to the Trail. Many are simply “witness buildings,” meaning that they were standing at the time when detachments passed by and therefore “witnessed” the removal. Others are homes of Cherokee or places where they camped or purchased food or supplies. The reality, though, is that many buildings have already been lost, even before their association to the Trail was rediscovered, providing us with an urgent reminder of the necessity and importance of this survey work.

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Special thanks to Bill Bostick, Bob Duncan, Cindy Grimmitt, and the Native History Association. Stay tuned for more blog entries on the Trail of Tears. In the meantime, explore the Trail in Tennessee and download the Tennessee Trail of Tears brochure or request a printed copy by contacting Amy Kostine at Amy.Kostine@mtsu.edu.

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