I drove 300 miles south on I-65 this weekend, crossing back into late summer around Bowling Green, Kentucky. Nashville, Tennessee is still overwhelmed with butterflies and barely any trees have turned. My zinnias are done and only the drabbest moths and millers hang around my garden. Looking for something outside to do, I walked around The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s plantation where the oldest trees dropped leaves on paths from the mansion to the overseer’s cabin. No paths connected the mansion to field slave quarters. No paths ran from Mrs. Jackson’s flower garden to the cotton fields.
The place is beautiful and haunted, like all truthfully told history I suppose. The Ladies Hermitage Association keeps the place with profound sensitivity to the tension; the opulence and gentility of family life in the mansion was predicated on forced labor in the fields. Apparently Mr. Jackson wasn’t a particularly hard slave owner because he believed happier slaves made better workers and better workers made better business.
Early in the 20th century, Tennessee wanted to move the house, raze the ground and build the airport there. The Ladies Hermitage Association fought them, insisting the whole story had to be remembered. Truth telling is risky business in every season. I appreciate those ladies and their dedication to it. Still, if we could hear them, I wonder what those old cedar trees would tell. ~ peace & prayers, pastor annette