A day in Greenville, Tennessee

After a hectic 3 days in Washington DC we flew to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Interestingly we were asked why we would think of going to Buffalo, NY but we were never asked “Why go to Tennessee?” Well, I’ll tell you that we went to visit my AFS brother and his family for a couple of nights before travelling to Port Byron, Illinois on the banks of the Mississippi River where my AFS sister lives.

We arrived at Knoxville Airport at 15:00 and Mike & Anne had arranged to us there. That turned out a bit more difficult than we could have ever imagined. It is a small airport but we could not find each other immediately as I was an assisted passenger and the airport official took me to a door which was not the regular exit door where they were waiting. Then to complicate things a bit further Mike had left his phone at home. After about a half hour we met up with one another. From Knoxville we had a 2 hour drive to Greenville where their home was. Although we had not seen each other for about 24 years we felt most welcome and had lots to talk about. We discovered that Anne is an excellent cook and she served us some delicious Southern food.

Our day in Greenville turned out to be very interesting. We never expected to visit the tailor shop of the 17th President of the USA, a car museum and the home of Davy Crockett but we did all of that in one day. Then, again Greenville is not a very big town so we didn’t have to go far to visit any of these.

Our first trip was into town where we saw the town spring which was, sadly, rather dirty as there had not been the expected rains to move the stream down town. Next to the spring was a wooden cottage which was a replica of that which was once the Capitol of the State of Franklin from 1785 – 1788. Franklin was an autonomous and unrecognised piece of land in Eastern Tennessee. It had been part of N. Carolina but was ceded to the Federal Government for war debts in 1784. It later became a part of the State of Tennessee.

Greenville Council Meeting HouseThe Capitol of the State of Franklin

Sign at Council roomSign outside the Capitol of Franklin 

We continued into town to see the restored home of Andrew Johnson who was born in N. Carolina but came to Greenville to train as a Tailor and later opened his own tailoring business. He was Mayor of Greenville, Governor of Tennessee and a member of both the Congress and Senate before he became 17th President of the USA in 1865. For someone who never went to school he achieved many great things in life. He served only 1 term as President because he was strongly opposed to federal rights granted to African-Americans. He was later voted back into the Senate becoming the only past President to do so.

Plaque at Andrew Johnson Tailor ShopSign outside the Johnson home. The front of the home can be seen behind the sign

He and his family had a large home in Greenville in front of which he established his very successful tailoring business. He, his wife to whom he was married for almost 50 years, and their 5 children and future generations lived in the home for many years before bequeathing the home to the state. We had an excellent tour guide for the house and learnt so much about life in this home and in the town itself from her.

He was a strong supporter of the Constitution and requested that when he died he buried high on a hill with the Constitution beneath him. His grave is at the highest point of the Greenville Cemetery and as a result many of the other graves have to be on the slopes which makes burial quite difficult for some.

Andrew Johnson grave 2Andrew Johnson's grave 

Before the tour of the Johnson home which could only take place at 13:00, we visited a great Car Museum in the centre of the town. Entry was free and the Caretaker was so pleased to have us visit, mainly because we were from South Africa, the first he had ever met. The cars were really interesting to look at as they started with a horse-drawn vehicle and the latest one was a Humvee, or Hummer as it is called, which had actually been used by the FBI so it had darkened windows and a facility to re-inflate a tyre from the inside of the vehicle. Another vehicle which was really different was one called the Evil Twin and had been created into what can only be described as a boudoir, including a chandelier. It was for sale for US$65 000.

Car Museum Evil Twin 2Front of the Evil Twin

Car Museum Evil Twin ChandelierChandelier inside the Evil Twin

Car Museum HummerThe Humvee 

Later we visited the 1786 birthplace of David “Davy” Crockett. Over the past couple of years what had been presented as the Davy Crockett Open Air Museum was not accurately displayed. A lot of research was done and replicas of the small wooden home in which he was born and lived and the woodshed had been made. There were even animals such as sheep and pigs and a type of fowl that he would have had in this new area. Surrounding his grave is a small wall with the names of all the states engraved into it. We all think of Crockett as a hunter and rough fellow but he was, actually, also a politician and great storyteller.

 Davy Crockett cottage entRecreated cottage of Davy Crockett's home

Davy Crockett graveVicky & Anne at Crockett's grave

Davy Crockett hensHens at Crockett's 'farm'. Note the head feathers of the 2 on the right and 1 behind the black hen on the left

  It turned out to be a really wonderful day which was finished off with a drive around the Greenville College Campus which both Mike and Anne had attended. The little town of Greenville, Tennessee has a most interesting history and we were really glad that we had stopped there to see family.

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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