Monday, August 29, 2011

Teddy & Ulysses

Here was my plan: land at LaGuardia at 10:20, get my luggage, take the shuttle to Budget Car Rental, get my car, drive the forty-five minutes out the Long Island Expressway to Teddy Roosevelt's Sagamore Hill, visit the house, visit the museum, visit the grave, drive back to LaGuardia, return the rental car, get a cab to the Crown Plaze Time Square, check-in, drop off my luggage in the room, jump the subway to Grant's Tomb and visit was the kicker though I had to do it all before 5pm. So as you can imagine this left very little time for error or delay and the rain certainly never came into my planning.

So, of course, when I land it is absolutely pouring down. I'm talking monsoon like rains. Roads closed, trains not running, subway systems delayed. Determined as I was though I made my way to the car rental place got my car and headed out onto the Long Island Expressway, which was completely gridlocked....turning my quick forty-five minute drive into almost an hour and half.

Sagamore Hill
This delay effectively cut out the tour of the Museum but luckily being there alone they were able to squeeze me into a larger group so I did get to tour the house. Now, I've spoken many times about my love for James K. Polk, but TR is easily one of my favorites, so visiting his house was a truly amazing experience. After a quick stop off at the gift shop to purchase a bust (I now have about fifteen historical busts, which I will have to post at some point) and to get Major a TR Teddy Bear I was off to the grave.  TR's grave is very understated and sits at the top of a hill in Young's Cemetery. The rain was still beating down making the visit especially moving. Of all of the President's graves I have visited, I would have to say that this was my favorite (so far...).

Having seen both the house and grave, I decide that I bad better head back if I want to have any chance of seeing Grant's National Memorial (aka Tomb). By this time it was 2:15, so I hit the highway and of course it takes another hour and a half to get back to LaGuardia and about twenty minutes to get a taxi to the city. During the ride I become convinced that there is no way I am going to make it to Grant's and that I will have to try and  visit it the next time I visit the city...but...

Grant's Tomb
Amazingly, with the help of two crazy New York cabbies and a quick check-in at the hotel I make it with twenty-minutes to spare. Now, as I mentioned, this whole grave visit thing started becuase I was trying to see Civil War sites/graves, so visiting Grant's Tomb is a sort of completion for me...having seen President Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on the Confederate side and President Abraham Lincoln and William T. Sherman on the Union side Grant was the last HUGE player in the War that  I needed to see. I have to say that his tomb, of the Civil War Graves, was easily the most impressive. Standing tall enough to hold the Statue of Liberty inside of it you truly appreciate just how loved U.S. Grant was at the time of his death. So, to answer the famous question, just who IS buried at Grant's Tomb? The answer is no-one--Both Grant and his wife, Julia, are entombed in sarcophagi, which sit at the center of the mausoleum (which is the largest in North America). 

The rain having stopped and with a complete and total feeling of accomplishment, I proceeded to get completely turned around on my trip back to my hotel. You gotta love New York!

Monday, August 22, 2011

#7 & #10- William Carroll

We'd driven past the sign for Black Jack Cove Restaurant and Marina at least a hundred times, but on this particular Saturday, and with no set plans for the day, we decided to take a right off of Old Hickory Blvd and check it out. The sign on the main road is really well marked, but once you get back into the neighborhood in which it is located, things become a little less obvious and require a bit of driving around. As we were driving, we noticed an historic landmark sign and, as I tend to do, slowed down to read it. The sign stated that this was the location of the final resting place of Thomas Overton, an early settler of Tennessee and close friend of Andrew Jackson. Naturally, I pulled over, lept out of the car and ran over to take some pictures. After returning home from our day out I did a little more research on Thomas Overton and found out that he was Andrew Jackson's 'second' in his infamous 1806 duel with Charles Dickinson.

Now for those of you who don't know, Andrew Jackson was notorious for his temper and on many occasions would be involved in dueling. What sets this duel apart from Jackon's other duels is that after being shot by Dickinson in the ribs and a misfire by Jackson's gun he would take the time to reload and carefully aim and shoot Dickinson dead. Being a bit (under-statement) of a gravehunter (obviously), I immediately started researching the final resting place of Charles Dickinson, which was an interesting story in and of itself. After his death Dickinson was laid to rest in front of his Nashville Residence, over time the area would grow up around this house and, after his funeral box (which was used instead of a tombstone) disappeared, his final resting place was thought to be lost to the ages. Until a few years ago, when an historian would locate the burial spot and ask the permission of the current owners of the land to escavate their front yard, an amazingly they locatedwhat little was left of the late Mr. Dickinson.  These remains were removed and reinterred at the Nashville City Cemetery.  I immediately decided that I must visit his grave and anyone else that was related to this duel (if anyone of you can figure out who Charles Dickinson's second in this duel was please let me know) and then visit the location where the duel took place.
Charles Dickinson
So the next Sunday after lunch I force Amber and Major to visit the Nashville City Cemetery with me. Upon entering the cemetery you drive past the grave of William Carroll, War of 1812 hero, friend of Andrew Jackson and former Tennesseee Governor, so, of course, I stop the car and take a few pictures and pay my respects. Finally, after spending an hour driving around the cemetery looking for Charle Dickinson's grave we locate it, based on Amber's brilliant powers of deduction.

As soon as I can find out who Dickinson's second was and the location of the Duel I will be doing a post on that as well as a review of Black Jacks if we ever actually make it there.

#7 & #10
Name: William Carroll
Birth: 3 March 1788
Death: 22 March 1844
Age at Death: 56 Years, 0 Months, 19 Days
Interment: Nashville City Cemetery, Nashville, TN
Term in Office: October 1, 1821–October 1, 1827 & October 1, 1829 – October 12, 1835
Pollitical Party: Democrat

William Carroll was born on March 3, 1788 in Pittsburgh, PA.  By 1810, William had moved to Nashville and was running a successfull mercantile business.  When the War of 1812 broke out he enlisted in the Tennessee Militia, which had been organized by future U.S. President, Andrew Jackson. He would fight in the Battles of Horseshoe Bend and New Orleans. Returning to Nashville following the war he would successfully run for Governor in 1821 and would serve three two-year terms. During his administration he would establish a penal code and a state prison. He was unable to run for a fourth term because of the term limit laws of the day. However, in 1829 when Sam Houston stepped down as Governor, William was able to run again and was reelected, a feat only acheived by one other Tennessee Governor. He would serve another six-years and remains to this day the longest seated Governor with his two terms tallying twelve-years and twelve days. William Carroll died on March 22, 1844.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#14, #15, #27, #32, #42

50, that's the number of deceased Tennessee Governors, the number of graves that I will be visiting.  Seems rather overwhelming, but on the bright side most of the graves are located safely within the borders of the State. Of course, Tennessee isn't a small state---we might be short but we're quite long and it would take you 8 hours and 54 minutes to drive from Memphis (Southwest border of the State) to Elizabethton (Northeast border of the State) so as you can see I potentially have my work cut out for me. But the only way to do this is one grave at time, so I decided to start close to home...much to my delight I learned that five Governors are buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville, located just five miles from my house.

So, this past Sunday afternoon, while Amber worked to finish up a few work related items Major and I packed up and headed out to the cemetery. Upon arriving we decided that the best plan of attack was visiting the office to see if they could give us any friendly pointers on where we needed to head since the cemetery itself is quite expansive. Of course, it being Sunday the office was closed. Undeterred, Major and I headed into the cemetery to find them ourselves. After about 20 minutes of driving around aimlessly Major was over it and decided to get some shut eye and  I decided to call my mom, who had a tour book of the cemetery and might be able to walk me to the ones that were listed on the tour. This went off without a hitch and I visited the three that were listed in the tour guide in no time flat...that left two I did what any good grave hunter would do and called the office of the cemetery first thing Monday morning, who were more than happy to oblige me with a map and general directions on how to get to the graves. I made the second trip to photograph the remaining graves on my way to work on Tuesday morning.

 Name: Aaron Venable Brown
Birth: 15 August 1795
Death: 8 March 1859
Age at Death: 63 years, 6 months, 21 days
Interment: Mt Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, TN 
Term in Office: 14 October 1845 – 17 October 1847
Political Party: Democrat

Aaron Venable Brown was born in Brunswick County, VA, the son of Rev. Aaron Brown and Elizabeth Melton. Aaron was a graduate of North Carolina University, where he was Valedictorian of the class of 1814. After graduation, he moved to the Nashville area and opened a law office with future Tennessee Governor and United States President, James K. Polk. Aaron was elected first to serve in the Tennessee State Senate, then the Tennessee State Legislature and finally to the U.S. Congress.  In 1845, he was elected as the Governor of Tennessee, where he served for only one term. While in office, answering a call from his former law partner, James K. Polk, for 2600 volunteers from Tennessee to fight in the Mexican-American War, Aaron was able to muster 32,000 men, thereby earning Tennessee its nickname the 'Volunteer State'. After his stint as Governor he would go on to serve as Postmaster General under President James Buchanan from 1857 until his death on March 8, 1859


 Name: Neill Smith Brown
Birth: 18 April 1810
Death: 30 January 1886
Age at Death: 75 years, 9 months, 12 days
Interment: Mt Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, TN 
Term in Office: 17 October 1847 – 16 October 1849
Political Party: Whig

Neill S. Brown was born to Duncan and Margaret Smith on April 18, 1810.  He used his wages as a teacher to pay his way through college and was admitted to the bar and began his legal practice in Pulaski, TN. In 1837 he was elected to the Tennessee State Legislature and then again from 1841 until 1847, at which time he won the Governorship of Tennessee defeating Democrat, Aaron V. Brown (no relation). Under his Governorship he fought for the establishment of Public Schools in Tennessee. In 1849, he was defeated in his bid for re-election and would go on to be the United States Minister to Russia.  When Nashville was capture by Union forces during the Civil War, Brown was imprisoned for a short time by the Military Governor of Tennnessee, Andrew Johnson. Aaron Brown died in Nashville on January 30, 1886.

Name: Benton McMillin
Birth:  11 September 1845
Death: 8 January 1933
Age at Death: 87 years, 3 months, 28 days
Interment: Mt Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, TN 
Term in Office: 16 January 1899 – 19 January 1903
Political Party: Democrat

 Benton McMillin was born in Monroe County, KY to John and Elizabeth McMillin. He would be educacted at the Kentucky Agricultural and Mechanical College, which would become the University of Kentucky. In 1869, he would marry his first wife Birdie Brown, who would die a few years after their marriage. Two years later he was admitted into the Tennessee Bar and would open a law office first in Celina and later in Carthage, TN. He would first serve in the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1874 until 1877, at which point he would be elected to the U.S. House of Represantatives where he would serve from 1878 until 1899. It was during this time period that Benton would marry his second wife, Lucille Foster, with whom he would have a daughter. The year 1903 saw Benton make an unsuccessful bid to serve in the U.S. Senate which would prompt him to resign from congress to focus on running for Governor, a position he would win and hold for two terms. His governorship focused on improvement to the Tennessee economy, public education and reforming child labor. After his second two year term he never held elected office again but was appointed as the Minister to Peru and Guatemala by President Woodrow Wilson. He died on January 8, 1933 in Nashville.

Name: William Brimage Bate
Birth: 27 October 1826
Death: 9 March 1905
Age at Death:78 years, 5 months, 2 days
Interment: Mt Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, TN 
Term in Office: 15 January 1883 – 17 January 1887
Political Party: Democrat

William Brimage Bate was born on October 7, 1826, to James H. Bate and Elizabeth Brimage. He would start his career as a clerk on a steamboat that traveled between Nashville and New Orleans. While in New Orleans on one of these journeys, William would learn of the outbreak of the Mexican War and immediately enlist in a company of troops. He would rise from Private to Lieutenant by the end of the War. After the war he would be elected to the State Legislature at the age of twenty-three. He would next attend Cumberland University and graduate in 1854 opening a law office in Gallatin. In 1856, he would marry Julia Peete, they would have four girls and be married for a total of forty-nine years. When Tennessee seceded from the Union, William enlisted as a private in a company that was formed in Gallatin. He would see action at Shiloh, where a bullet would shatter his leg, nearly killing him and leaving him with a limp for the rest of his life. Refusing a civil position in the Army and instead choosing to remain with his company, he would be wounded twice more even having three horses shot out from underneath him at Chickamauga. By the end of the War, because of his valor, he had been raised to the position of Brigadier-General. Following the war, he would return to his law practice, opening an office in Nashville. In 1883, he was elected Governor and would serve two terms focusing primarily on debt problems caused by the Civil War. Following his terms as Governor, he would serve as U.S. Senator from 1887 until his death in 1905. In 1905, while attending the second inauguration of Theodore Roosevelt, William would contract pneumonia and die on March 9, 1905.

Name: Hill McAlister
Birth: 15 July 1875
Death: 30 October 1959
Age at Death: 84 years, 3 months, 15 days
Interment: Mt Olivet Cemetery, Nashville, TN 
Term in Office:

17 January 1933 – 15 January 1937
Political Party: Democrat
Hill McAlister was born in Nashville in 1875. He could count three former Tennessee Governors as relatives (Willie Blount, William Blount and Aaron V. Brown).  Educated at Vanderbilt he worked as an attorney in Nashville until he was elected to the State Senate. After his stint as a State senator he would serve eight-years as State treasurer.  Losing two bids for Governor, he was elected in 1932. Serving as Governor during the Great Depression, Hill supported most of the intiatives passed down by President Franklin Roosevelt, particularly the TVA. Additionally, he was labor friendly and a strong supporter of unemployment compensation.  After two terms he would not seek a third and leave office in 1936. He would die in 1959

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Cast

I figured since most of my trips will be made with other people I would start out by introducing the main players to you. So when I say, "Major, Tom and I went to see_____ grave", you'll know that I am not making a David Bowie reference.
Amber Love
Amber is my wife. She's not a big fan of history or graveyards (she's a weirdo, I know), but she is a big fan of me, so she will sometimes be my (un)willing accomplice and has proved herself quite good at locating graves based on pictures online--"Oh look this fence has what looks like spears on the top instead of  spikes"--she loves music (especially The Decemberists) and is great about letting me run off on my little history filled trips. She's completely amazing and I would be lost without her.

Major Knox
My little man is only 8 months old, but has already visited one President and six Governors with me. Truth be told he fell asleep before the actual grave visits but he made it to the graveyard and was with me so I'm still counting them. (In case you're wondering, yes, his middle name is from James K(nox) Polk, who is easily one of my favorite Presidents.) He enjoys terrorizing our cats, screaming at the top of his lungs for no apparent reason and jumping. He is the light of our world.

Tom (aka Dad) and Barbara (aka Mom)
My dad is interested in history and we've visited all of the Presidents from Tennnessee together so I am sure I will be able to convince him to check out some Governors with me.  He enjoys college football, westerns and spending time with his family. My mom will likely be playing a supporting role in this undertaking but has already helped out by steering me to graves over the phone. She's a fan of Facebook and of her four grandchildren. They're both fantastic parents/grandparents.

William (aka EWG)

William is probably the biggest history fan of all of my friends and he and I have set ourselves to the task of visiting all of the semi-major Civil War Battlefields in Tennessee (there are a lot more than you'd think) so anytime we make one of these trips I am making him visit the graves with me, which I have no doubt he'll enjoy. William is a music aficionado, talented writer and runs a great music blog called Guess What I'm Listening To? William is my brother (not literally but he might as well be).

Effrin Lucian (aka E)
As previously mentioned, Effrin is my main travel partner for the Presidential Grave visits and has seen all but two of them with me (Both of the Johnsons). He doesn't know it yet but I'm going to be enlisting him from time to time on the Governor trips as well. I'm sure he'll be down though.  Effrin has seen Phish 80 times and is an absolute marketing genius. Effrin is an amazing guy, a great 'uncle' to Major and one of our closest friends.

Well, there you have it, my main accomplices, the people that will keep me motivated, help me to pursue my dreams and hopefully one day accomplish them...they'll probably help me see some Governor's graves as well.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Begin the Begin

I've never really even considered having a blog, but after a gentle push by my wife, Amber, I decided to start one for my latest endeavor. But I guess the best place to begin is at the beginning, so without further ado. 

Phish, Hampton, 2009

Many years ago I made a deal with my friend, Effrin, that I would go and see the band Phish with him. Now I've never been a fan, but Effrin had already seen them well over 70 times and had been telling me for several years that, if the band (who at the time was on a hiatus) ever got back together, I would be going to see them on his dime.  So in October of 2008, when we heard that Phish was doing a residency at the Hampton Coliseum in Hampton, VA, we immediately started planning our trip. Effrin set himself about at securing tickets, booking a hotel and planning the trip to see the band and I immediately started looking for graves along our route.

Everyone we know got one of these from our Virginia trip because they're available for free at all rest stops!!

Now I know that this might come off as a little morbid to some, but I've personally never felt that graves were a morbid or sad fact quite the opposite. I have many a many fond memory from my childhood visiting both my maternal and paternal grandfather's graves with my Nanny and Mawmaw.  Both my grandfathers had died before I was born so the only way that I ever knew them was through these visits and the stories that I was told every time we went the graveyards. I've always seen grave visits as a way to show your respect and admiration for the deceased and the only way to be 'physically' close to those who have passed. So you tie this in with my love of history and grave visits have always been an interest of mine.

Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson chilling out at Stone Mountain, GA.

In routing out our trip, I located the graves of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson in Lexington, VA, and the graves of Jefferson Davis, George Pickett and J.E.B. Stuart in Richmond, VA, which, based on my love of Civil War history, I was quite excited to see. I also figured while I was in Richmond, as almost an after thought, I would visit the graves of former Presidents, John Tyler and James Monroe.  Little did I know that the visit to Tyler and Monroe's graves would be one of the catalyst to my latest history related obsession...visiting the grave's of all of the Presidents. 

The other catalyst was a random Christmas Holiday trip to see the former residence of TN Governor and U.S. President, James K. Polk, where I picked up a copy of the Brian Lamb book, Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb? A Tour of Presidential Gravesites, which for anyone interested in history and/or graves is a must read. For you trivia nerds out there, U.S Grant and his wife Julia are buried in Grant's Tomb.

Over the past few years, I, along with Effrin, who has picked up my obsession and is my official travel buddy on (almost) all of my Presidential trips, have visited the following Presidents: James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, William Taft, Harry S. Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
Harry & Bess Truman lie side by side at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo. 

So, back to where we started, I have recently decided that, in addition to the Presidential graves, I am going to try and visit all of the past Governors of Tennessee, two of which share the honor of having held both positions (James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson). I have yet to hear of anyone else who has completed this journey and there certainly aren't any books about it, so I figured I would keep a running journal of sorts about my trips and interesting things I encounter along the way.  I will also probably mention my Presidential trips as they happen so be on the look out for those as well. As a side note, Phish was every bit as good live as Effrin said they were. Enjoy!
The Standard of the Governor of TN apparently has a Christmas Theme.