On our way to Hannibal, Missouri for Thanksgiving, we stopped at The Hermitage, in Nashville, and discovered an unexpected connection to my parents home, Robards Mansion Bed and Breakfast!
This was the home of President Andrew Jackson and his beloved wife Rachel. He was the first president with a nickname: "Old Hickory," courtesy of the troops he marched with in the War of 1812. Jackson's military hero status and enormous popularity with those he called "the humble members of society" carried him to two terms as president.
Jackson eloped with Rachel Donelson Robards, wife of Lewis Robards, in 1791 - two years before her divorce (the first in Kentucky history) would become final. Their illegal marriage set the stage for scandal that haunted them all their days. The builder of my parent's home was John Lewis Robards whose grandfather was brother to Rachel's first husband!
I really wish I could show you pictures of the inside of this beautiful home but no photography was allowed! It began as a Federal style home in 1821 and was expanded in 1831.
After a devastating fire in 1834, a Greek Revival facade was added and a separate kitchen, connected by a breezeway, was built to avoid future fires. This is the back of the house. The kitchen is on the right in the picture.
The Hermitage began as a 425-acre frontier farm and evolved into a 1,000-acre cotton plantation.
By the 1840's there were more than 150 African-American slaves living and working on the plantation. This cabin belonged to a slave named Alfred Jackson who had been born into slavery at The Hermitage around 1812.
Following Emancipation, Alfred stayed on as caretaker and tour guide after the Ladies' Hermitage Association took over administration of the property in 1889.
The Springhouse is located about 300 yards from the mansion and was the main source of fresh water for the plantation. Slaves had to carry water to the house. It wasn't until after the Civil War that a well was dug closer to the mansion.
This was where the Jackson's lived until the first brick version of the mansion was completed. The farmhouse was originally two stories high, but changed for use by slave families.
The Hermitage pastures are now home to some unusual looking cattle.
The black and white cattle were out in the fields but this fellow came up to the fence to have his picture taken.
Our last stop was Rachel's formal garden.
The Jackson's are still side by side in the Greek inspired garden tomb Andrew built for Rachel in 1831, joining her in 1845. She died suddenly just days before Jackson's first presidential inauguration. Even though they never had children of their own, they adopted a nephew of Rachel's. Many other family members lived with them throughout their lives. Some of them are buried in the garden too, including slave/caretaker Alfred.