Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Franklin Hotel Hides Sordid Crime

With all the talk about the new downtown Franklin hotel in the works, I thought this would be a good time to review the various hotels, motels, inns and boarding houses from Franklin’s history.

All towns of any size had lodging for visitors. When you consider a trip from Nashville to Franklin by horseback took the better part of a day, you had to find overnight accommodations.

Franklin’s first inn was built in 1803 by Benjamin White on Bridge Street. The two-story frame building stood until it was torn down in 1905. By then it was no longer an inn.
Another inn stood on the square at the location of the current Fifth Third Bank. By 1888 the building was in such disrepair that it was demolished.

During the process, a gruesome discovery in the basement caused the police and citizens to scratch their collective head in puzzlement. 

After the tear down work was finished, the workers then needed to assure the foundation was sufficiently sturdy to build the two-story brick building that stands there today. As they were walking around the basement floor, someone noticed a spongy spot. They wondered if it was a well, or something else they couldn’t imagine, but whatever, they dug down into the soft spot.

First they uncovered a couple feet’s worth of trash and debris. Then came a layer of lime. Hmmm….lime, and not the kind that comes with your Corona. This was quicklime, a chemical compound that, among other things, is used to mask unpleasant odors. Sooooo….that raised suspicions. Keep digging, fellas!
Under the layer of lime, they found something shocking. Bones, the remains of a man. From the looks of it, he’d been down there a long, long time. Obviously, as they say, foul play was indicated.

That basement was never used as a cemetery.

The police had no idea who it might be. So they asked for the assistance of the community, asking townspeople to think back and see if they could remember anything that might shed some light on the body in the basement.
Finally, one of the oldest men in town came forward. He remembered something from the distant past he thought might relate to the dead man. We’ll call him Abner (because we don’t know his name).

Abner thought it was about 1825 that a peculiar stranger came to town and stayed at the inn. He remembered that the man stayed aloof and standoffish from the town. Franklin was tiny then and as a resident, you’d naturally want to know who was visiting, but this stranger told them nothing about himself. The stranger stayed at the inn for two weeks. One morning, he wasn’t around. When asked, the innkeeper said the stranger had disappeared in the night, and furthermore, stiffed him on his bill. Everybody commiserated with the innkeeper, 
and the man never came back.

About a year later an old man came to town looking for his daughter and the man she’d eloped with. It also came out that they’d stolen some money. The father had tracked the man to Franklin (Abner didn’t know anything about a woman; the thief must have already ditched her). Back then, if someone disappeared or ran off, and you wanted to find them, you had to go looking, following the trail.

When he described the man, everyone in town said he looked like that man from the year before. That is, everybody but the innkeeper, who gave a totally different description. Abner said folks thought that was odd, because they all said they clearly remembered what he looked like, and also, the timing was right on the man being here. Nevertheless, the trail ended. The old man went sadly away, the search for his daughter (and his money, although not necessarily in that order) having ended in Franklin. Where he went next, we do not know.

A year later, the innkeeper sold the inn. To everyone’s surprise, he bought and moved to a big plantation in Mississippi. Abner said no one could believe that he’d made the kind of money it took to buy that property. Six months later the town got the sad news that he’d hanged himself from the rafters of his barn. What?! They couldn’t believe it. It seemed as if he’d done so well for himself. Why would he kill himself?
No one thought about it again until 60 years later with the discovery of the body in the basement.

The pieces of the puzzle finally fit.  

The innkeeper killed the stranger for his money and buried his body in the basement. He waited, knowing if anyone was missing that man, they might come looking for him. Sure enough, a year later, someone showed up just for that reason. The innkeeper denied ever having seen the man (although everyone else in town said they remembered him) and threw the searcher off the trail.

The innkeeper continued to wait it out, just to be safe. A year later he took the money he stole and bought the land in Mississippi. Then…well, we suspect his conscience got to him and that’s why he killed himself. Although I am reminded of Poe’s classic The Tell-tale HeartDa-dum, da-dum. Three years of that might just have driven him mad (I hope that’s what happened anyway). I suppose he thought the torture of a guilty conscience would end when he moved away. And I suppose it didn’t.  

And the only reason we know the truth of what happened is because they found the body in the basement 60 years later. Which makes me wonder, how many others bodies are buried in some of the basements around here? How many murders have gone undetected because a person just “disappeared.”  Hmmm…makes you think, doesn’t it?

Think about that the next time you check into a hotel.

 This article first appeared in May's YOUR Williamson.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Bike tours of the world unite!

You have nothing to lose but your chains!

Oh, wait! We don't want to lose our chains!

I've was in Atlanta last weekend, at a conference with a group of bike tour operators from around the country.

Back in the day, I had to attend conferences, meetings, continuing legal education and seminars. I remember feeling like I'd been chained to my chair ( there's that word again...).

This conference wasn't like that. Conceived by the owner of Bike Tours of Atlanta, Robyn and Doug put together a weekend full of great topics of interest.

Folks came from Denver, Philly, New Orleans, Nashville, Knoxville and Atlanta. Oh yes, and Franklin.

Robyn, the consummate hostess, welcomed us to her cool loft in an old candy factory for the meetings and provided home-cooked breakfast, lunch and snacks.

After the morning's agenda, it was time for a pick-me-up--a bike tour of Atlanta. There were 23 of us--including 4 of her guides. What a great tour! Oakland Cemetery, eternal home of Margaret Mitchell,among others, Cabbagetown, Little Five Points.

Dinner first night at Atkins Park, Atlanta's oldest restaurant. Second night, Agave, great Mexican.

I'd never really explored Atlanta before. I have a new appreciation for Atlanta's unique neighborhoods.

Fun weekend! And learned a lot too.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lizzie's War: Inspired by writings from the past

I haven't blogged in awhile because I've been busy writing my new book, Lizzie's War.  When the book opens, Lizzie is an 11-year-old Franklin,Tennessee girl, and as you'll quickly learn, is a member of a family divided by the war. It was often said that the war pitted father against son and brother against brother. In this case it was mother against son, and brother against sister.

After the first chapter, which is set on November 30, 1864, the day of the Battle of Franklin, we return to 1860 and Lincoln's election. From there we see how the war unfolds, from Lizzie's perspective.

I am constantly reading and learning about the nation's greatest conflict. A lot of information is available about the war. In fact, more books are written about the Civil War than any other subject. Locally, in Franklin, we've had many accounts written over the years. One description--and it may well be the first one aside from a few newspaper stories--came from 19-year-old Fannie Courtney, Lizzie's sister. Fannie, like her mother, supported the Union. In April, 1865, she was asked to write a report about the condition of the hospitals in Franklin for the U.S. Sanitary Commission. We know the basic story of the battle, but it's writings like Fannie's that fleshes it out.

"About half past three I was sitting at the dinner table, when I heard the roar of artillery...I ran into the yard to listen...The bullets were falling so thick it was unsafe to remain any longer...I hastened to the cellar with the rest of my family...."
You get a real mental picture from passages like that.

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful illustrator for the book, Sam Whitson. He was able to capture the essence of my writing. Amazing, as I think you'll agree. He also did the cover art.

Here's the passage that goes with this illustration:

Lizzie walked toward Main Street where the streets swarmed with soldiers, horses, supply wagons and big guns such as cannons. A stranger, a boy about 12 years old, sat on the ground, leaning back against the low stone wall around the Presbyterian Church.
“You must be a drummer boy,” Lizzie told him, noticing a snare drum on the ground next to him.
“Yes,” he said listlessly. “I’m trying to sleep. We marched all night and the day before to get here.”
     “Would you like something to eat? My mother will feed you breakfast.”
     “I’m mighty hungry,” the boy said, suddenly wide awake. “But my brother told me not to leave this spot.”
"I’ll bring you food. Wait right here,” Lizzie offered.
The boy sat up straight as Lizzie ran home. She returned a few minutes later with two ham biscuits.
“Here. Take this. If you need more, my house is right there.” Lizzie pointed behind her. “My mother will give you whatever you want. I’m going to visit a friend.”
The boy grabbed the food and wolfed it down. The last time Lizzie looked, he was running towards her house.
Lizzie's War is suitable for children grades 3 and up. Adults have told me they liked it too--that it wasn't too juvenile for them. Here's what Rob Cross, from the Battle of Franklin Trust, wrote:
"At last, a literary masterpiece has been written on Franklin, Tennessee's Civil War story, from the necessary perspective of a child. Margie's work interweaves fact-based stories from the children who lived in Franklin, from the time the Civil War begins, all the way through that 'day of days' November 30th, 1864. Lizzie's War gives readers of all ages (especially children) a remarkable, tangible story that arrests the imagination and never lets go." 
Lizzie's War is available in Franklin at Carnton Plantation, Carter House, Lotz House and Landmark Booksellers, and on Amazon. 


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Belgium: Better Than The Waffles

Belgium--like many countries--is a beautiful place with its own unique quirks. My observations (through a lens) on a few of them:

Belgium's weather: cloudy, sunny, about to rain, raining, just stopped raining, cloudy, sunny, etc. Each phase lasts about 10 minutes. 

These pictures were on top of a man-made memorial hill at Waterloo. 

I took Mark's picture, handed him the camera and he took mine. From the clouds, it looks like a completely different day.

Random shots: a girl and mom at an outdoor cafe.

Big hoo-ha in the town square the afternoon of the game. I didn't get a good shot of it, but they enlisted two elderly English ladies to bang the drum. Unfortunately, Cypress lost.

Cypress (fans in yellow) soccer team playing Belgium. 

This nun may appear to be praying at the altar, but she was actually arranging flowers. 

Not that she doesn't do a lot of praying.

English scouts in Belgium on a one-week camping trip.

Mike Wolfe and Bill Powell would love this shop.

A better picture of the Atomium. 

The Belgian flag is flying at the top. We went up in it, but don't bother if you ever happen to visit.

Oh, yeah, how could I forget? The Mannekin Pis--Belgium's most famous landmark. It's a nekkid little boy taking a leak into a fountain. 

Below is a replica dressed as Elvis. But you knew that, didn't you?

Belgium's now checked off the list. Where next? Depends where we get that great deal. Happy travels!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Belgium: Not Just Brussels Sprouts

Mark and I just spent a week in Belgium. See that thing in the background? It's the Atomium, a scale model of an atom that was created for the 1958 Belgian Exposition. We learned about it watching The Amazing Race, a pretty educational program.

Why Belgium, you say? And I say, why not?

We'd never been there before--that's a good enough reason for us. And scoring a pretty good deal on airfare and hotel sealed the deal. 

We spent seven nights in Brussels--and didn't see a single sprout. Moules--mussels--yes. Sprouts, no. Moules and frites--fries, and don't call then French fries--seems to be the national dish. Brussels Mussels-- that's it! 

Lots of seafood and we love love seafood. We just really enjoyed the street life and al fresco dining. 

Europe has lots of cathedrals. I'm thinking they might get more attendees if they had comfortable chairs. These double as kneelers, turned around. Try leaning back in one. 

Our pews and kneelers are waaaay more comfy at St. Philip.

Spent a couple days on the road to Ghent and Bruges, the latter of which is entirely charming. I took a bike tour there. Based on guide Jos, I may have to add a little standup to my own tour. 

Here Jos is emoting.

Ghent was nice too--here's the view from the Belfry. Just occured to me why some towers are called belfries. There are bells in them.

Ypres is not to be missed. We wished we had spent more time there. Now spelled Ieper, it's the famous "Ypres salient" from WWI. Four major battles fought between 1914 and 1918. The whole town was destroyed--completely leveled--and then rebuilt after the war. The "In Flanders Fields" museum just reopened two months ago and is amazing.

The museum is named for this famous poem about WWI by John McCrae:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
They mark our place, and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below
We are the Dead, Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
     In Flanders Fields

... and that's why poppies are a symbol of Veteran's Day. 

Below is the Menin Gate leading into Ypres. It's inscribed with the names of 55,000 missing British Commonwealth soldiers, bodies never found. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands in marked graves.  

The next day, Waterloo. This is where Napolean got his comeuppance. More great loss of life, 100 years earlier than Ypres.

Well, that's it for your history lesson today! Over the weekend we'll post more fascinating--but random--aspects of Belgium. Stay tuned for more! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Cannon Census, or it's easier than you think to lose a cannon.

For no reason except that one day about a month ago I noticed we have a lot of cannons in Franklin, I started counting them. I got up to 11. Seriously, I had no idea. 11.  I forgot about it until today when I thought about it again and decided to take pictures of all of them.
Here's where I am on the cannon count.

Everybody knows there are four cannons on the square. These are on loan to Franklin which the mayor discovered in 2004 when contacted by the Department of the Army inquiring as to the whereabouts of the cannons loaned in 1906. Fortunately, he was able to provide exact documentation of the cannons' location: 

Cannons 1-4

Heading west, I spotted this one. It's at Veterans Park at Five Points. Historic markers there relate the visit of President Andrew Jackson meeting the Chickasaw Tribe under the Indian Removal Act of 1830 but I don't believe this cannon had anything to do with that.

  Cannon 5

I parked at the archives to take close up pictures and discovered this one sitting undercover near the entrance to the archives. Fortunately it's not loaded or those folks would be in trouble.

Cannon 6

Walking around to shoot (ha! no pun intended) the second one from the top, I spied this guy. I guess it's a cannon--I don't claim to be any kind of an authority on heavy artillery so I'm not sure. But it's close enough.

Cannon 7
Heading south on Columbia Avenue, is the Lotz House cannon accompanied by a pyramid of cannonballs. (Next hunt: cannonballs). They brought this here in 2008 when the museum opened.

Cannon 8

Carter House also has a cannon but I didn't get a picture of it. That would be Cannon 9

 This is the cannon at Winstead Hill, Cannon 10.

Which leads me to, where's Cannon 11? Did I miscount before? And I'm actually missing 2 cannons since I didn't see Cannon 7 the first time I counted.
Hmmm...where are those two pesky cannons?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Franklin on Foot is now Franklin on Food!

We had our first food tour today in downtown Franklin and it was a success, if I do say so myself. Four visitors from Michigan (and one local) sure thought so. But don't take my word for it. How 'bout I let the pictures tell the story!
First stop: Chapman's II for Southern Hospitality Salad with grilled shrimp, edamame, watermelon, mandarin oranges and a hoisin vinaigrette dressing. Corncake madeleine. Gwen added a fruit cup with poppy seed dressing as a surprise.

Next stop Papa Boudreaux's for gumbo. Yumbo is all I can say! Guy, the chef, told us about the super secret recipe he developed. Kristie, who was born in New Orleans and just moved to Franklin, said it's better than anything she's had there. That's high praise!

 Next to Franklin Mercantile with host Graeme--like Guy a Louisiana native. Those Louisiana boys know how to cook! The Merc serves soup, salad and sandwiches so sampled Southern specialties pimiento cheese and chicken salad with fruit tea.

55 South is next on the menu with chargrilled oysters and garlic bread. Sam is our main man there and is always entertaining.

Puckett's! Of course. Our not-to-be-missed restaurant on 4th Avenue (and Nashville, and soon in Columbia, and another one on Main Street).  Pork barbecue slider with cole slaw and fried green tomatoes. Does it get any more Southern than that?
Actually it turns out fried green tomatoes aren't originally Southern at all. But since the famous book by the same name, they've been adopted by Southern restaurants. Max makes sure everything comes out just right--and it always does! 

Dessert! Chess pie from Merridee's. The best! Our happy visitors went home with full bellies and happy memories of our wonderful Franklin restaurants!