Friday, November 22, 2013

The Andrew Johnson Homes, Greeneville, TN

Any historic trail through north-eastern Tennessee should include Greeneville.  This could easily be an all day adventure with the first stop being the Museum and Visitor's Center for the National Historic Site memorializing our seventeenth President of the United States, Andrew Johnson.

The Visitor's Center was built around the Johnson Tailor Shop (below) which was the focal point for local politics in it's day.

After touring the museum, visit this accurate reproduction of the house in which the man who served as Military Governor of Occupied Tennessee was born.

Note the bounty on their table.  Greene County's rolling hills provide some of the best farmland in the area.

Just across College Street from the Visitor's Center is Johnson's early home, purchased in the 1830's.

Three blocks away, on Main Street is "The Homestead", where he and his family moved in 1851 while he served as U.S. Representative of Tennessee's First Congressional District.  This home is open for tours on the half-hour, so some advanced planning is advised.  I arrived shortly after the 2:30 tour was to start only to be greeted by the departing Park Ranger.  He apparently does not hang around if there is no one waiting at the appointed time.

I did, however, enjoy a stroll around the property and caught this lovely East Tennessee fall scene from his back porch, looking across Main Street.

To get a glimpse into the interior of this stately homestead and plan your own visit, go to  Don't let your stay in historic downtown Greeneville end here!  I had to return the following day for my personal favorite,  the Dickson-Williams Mansion, but there are a few more stops between here and there, so you'll have to be patient.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fort Dickerson, Knoxville, TN

After finally seizing Knoxville, the Federal Army under General Ambrose Burnside began building a number of defensive positions on the hills across the river to the southeast of the city, the Confederate Army having concentrated on Chattanooga.  Burnside was thus guarding the back door of Knoxville from attack.  His plan worked and the Confederates failed in their attempt led by General Longstreet to recapture the city in mid-November of 1863.

Little more than an earthen fortification for gun emplacements, Fort Dickerson alone among these embattlements survives to this day, providing a great overlook towards the city and the University of Tennessee campus.  It's a great place to stop and appreciate our history.  Plan your picnic for two or group outing at

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Sam Houston Schoolhouse, Maryville, TN

When travelling through or near Maryville, Tennessee, I recommend a brief detour off Tenn.33 or U.S.411 to visit this historic location.  Just a few miles off the beaten track is this small but impressive tribute to the only President Texas ever had, Sam Houston.

As a young man, Sam found himself encumbered to the sum of nearly $100.00 and, having no desire to work on his family's farm just south of town nor clerk in their store in downtown Maryville, he opened this one room schoolhouse in May of 1812.  Tuition for the term was $8.00 payable as 1/3 cash, 1/3 corn (at 33.3 cents/bushel) and 1/3 in calico.  His school was filled, the term commencing just after the corn was planted.

As is the case with most of these smaller historic sites, the true treasure is to be found in spending some time with the local historians and caretakers.  A brief tour through their collection of artifacts can take as long as an hour or more and at that, you'll only scratch the surface of the folklore surrounding this fascinating American (and Texan).

I also recommend saving a few minutes to watch the horses at play in the neighboring pasture.  They were especially energetic and not at all shy on the day I stopped by for a visit.

Immediately upon pulling in to the driveway, you are met with the a presentation of the colors for The United States, Texas and Tennessee.  Mr. Houston served as the seventh governor of both states as well as representing each in Congress.  He also served the Republic of Texas as General of the Army and President.

His Masonic brothers have erected this monument to his honor.

At least his schoolhouse had a warm fireplace.

To discover these and many other interesting facts about this great early pioneer , please visit 
Historic Sam Houston Schoolhouse to plan your trip, or just drop by and say hello during their scheduled hours, like I did.  Bob and Mary Lynne, the Resident Managers will be happy to teach you about Sam Houston.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Falcon Rest Gardens, McMinnville, TN

Regrettably, no photographs were allowed inside the mansion during the tour.  You'll just have to take my word for it, the furnishings and personal history provided by the guide were well worth the expenditure of time and money.  To get a glimpse of the interior and plan your visit, see their website at

Once outside the tour continued through the gardens and adjacent buildings where special events are held.  I will let these pictures speak for themselves.

Falcon Rest Mansion, McMinnville, TN

If living history is your cup of tea, you should plan a visit to McMinnville, Tennessee.  The current owners of Falcon Rest Mansion and Gardens enthusiastically encourage your participation through their numerous special events, group tours and bed and breakfast accommodations.  On-site entertainment ranges from variety shows to murder mystery weekends and, of course, the obligatory Ghost Tour.  This would also be a fantastic place to stay when visiting the nearby Cumberland Caverns, possibly catching a live recording of the hit PBS television series Bluegrass Underground.

The home, itself, was built in the 1890's by Clay Faulkner who owned the nearby mill where his very popular "Gorilla Pants" were made.  After the home was completed, he built a health spa and lake across the road, selling the curative powers of his natural mineral spring water.

Enjoy these views of the elevation.. Do you see a ghost in the upstairs window?

Perhaps he was somewhere else in the mansion.

He may have been sitting on the veranda.

One of the chairs seamed to be gently rocking, but I attributed that to the cool breeze filtering through the trees.

This mansion is open seven days a week year round for historic home tours, variety shows, catered dinners, weddings and other events.  To schedule your visit, contact via email ( or voice communications (931-668-4444).