My Reminiscences of events, old and new, and travels, far and near
Monday, October 5, 2015
Rippavilla Plantation in Tennessee
It was raining most of the time last week while we were in Tennessee. We drove to our daughter Jessica's house in Brentwood, near Nashville, on September 26, 2015, to celebrate her birthday. We did celebrate it on Sunday evening, eating barbecue in the backyard, the only time the weather was mild and dry. The barbecue came from "Corky's Ribs and Barbecue." Our other daughter, Celine, had taken us to the oiriginal Corky's restaurant in Memphis, TN, when we visited her there several years ago while she lived in Memphis. (Memphis restaurant shown below.)
As we were finishing our meal I observed the stunning sunset behind the trees. This was the only sunset we saw while we were in Tennessee as it rained daily.
While we were in Tennessee my son-in-law made an appointment for me to see one of his friends, a knee doctor. We drove to this doctor in Columbia, TN. After the x-rays were taken, the doctor said that all the cartilage in my knees is gone and I need knee replacement. He said that walking must be very painful - it is. The doctor recommended that I see another specialist for my left foot which is also painful. That doctor recommended surgery for my foot. I have not been sick often but I have had several injuries at work in my knees and foot and arthritis has set in the joins. Anyhow, while driving through the town of Spring Hill, TN, we saw an old mansion. Since we were early for the doctor's appointment we stopped. The name of the house was "Rippavilla Plantation." (Click on collage to enlarge.)
There was a large open field with an historic marker. It indicated that this was the site of a Civil War battle, the Battle of Spring Hill which took place on November 29, 1864.
Last year the Battle of Spring Hill sesquicentennial (150th anniversary) was commemorated with hundreds of re-enactors, cannons and gunfire. (Photos courtesy Rippavilla.)
The Rippavilla Plantation leaflet indicates that "..during the Civil War, troops of both armies camped and fought battles on and near the plantation. Both Union and Confederate generals used Rippavilla as their headquarters. In the dining room on November 30, 1864, Confederate General John Bell Hood outlined plans for the Battle of Franklin." Thousands of Union and Confederate troops lost their lives in the Rippavilla fields but now the fields look peaceful and quiet. However, paranormal investigations are hosted periodically at Rippavilla. People have heard footsteps in the basement, banging doors, seen shadows, heard voices in some empty rooms and witnessed a doll and craddle moving on its own in the nursery ... The investigations are called "Whispers from the Past."
I think the old building below must have been a slave cabin, but it was sprinkling, the grass was wet and not easy for me to walk on, so I did not get close to read the sign. I understand that before the Civil War 75 slaves resided at the plantation.
We drove close to the museum gift shop housed in the old carriage house, parked the car and went in. There we read information about the plantation. It has been restored to its 1860s appearance and contains many original period family antique pieces, family heirlooms and genuine Civil War artifacts. However we were pressed for time, so we will visit the house interior in the future. Rippavilla Plantation does not receive local, state or federal money for its expenses or upkeep, so I bought several souvenirs including postcards, a hand-made box containing a calligraphy pen (pictured on top and bottom of this post) and a small disk of wood. A 400 years old oak tree fell during a heavy storm and small disks from it are offered for sale to benefit the plantation. Here is my disk below (the initials SH mean Spring Hill.) It must have been cut from a fallen branch. Pictures of the tree courtesy Rippavilla Plantation.
The rain had stopped so we walked through the back patio to view the front of the house.
After passing through a wrought iron gate we saw another fountain and workers trimming a tree.
There certainly were some large old trees around the house.
Then we saw the front of the mansion. This house was built in the 1850s by Nathaniel Cheairs for his family - his wife Susan McKissack Cheairs and their children. Nathaniel was a Major in the Confederate Army. He had voted against Secession during the Tennessee Referendum of 1861 but went ahead and joined his neighbors going to war (he was made prisoner twice) while his wife and children stayed home. Below is a portrait of Nathaniel Cheairs and one of Susan and her daughter Sara.
The house was not destroyed during the war as it was used as a headquarters building. Nathaniel Cheairs died in 1893 and his wife Susan in 1914, but the mansion stayed in the family until 1920. This Greek revival plantation home still sits on its original 1,100 acres (445.15 ha.)
I wish we could have visited the interior of the house but we had an appointment to keep. We walked around the house and I took several pictures - but it started sprinkling again, so we returned to our car in the back.
The plantation brochure states that their mission is to preserve, restore and interpret the buildings and grounds of the Cheairs' family in order to create a site to be used as an education institution. During the year Rippavilla Plantation entertains several festivals, re-enactments, car shows, and can also be rented for weddings and special events. (The following photos courtesy the plantation - remember to click twice on the collage to see better.)
Rippavilla Plantation is decorated at Christmas time.
It must be very pretty under the snow.
Below are some of the postcards I purchased and additional interior photos from the plantation as well as a photo of one of the docents who conduct tours.
Here is an interesting note that I found out - In the 1850s, William McKissack, a brickyard owner in Spring Hill, offered free bricks and free slave labor to build Rippavilla Plantation as a wedding gift to his son-in-law Nathaniel Cheairs. Brothers Moses and Calvin McKissack, descendants of a former McKissack slave who had been a trained builder, formed one of Nashville's earliest architectural and engineering partnerships, McKissack and McKissack. The firm was based in Nashville, TN, and is now based in New York City and Washington, DC. It was the first African-American owned architectural firm in the US and is the oldest minority-owned architecture and engineering firm in the country. Below is Moses McKissack, a photo of Sam Bond among children - a former slave then the plantation overseer after he gained his freedom, and an old photo in front of the house.
We did not stay long at this historic plantation, but we enjoyed learning about its past and were glad we had stopped.