Our August Road trip included a morning tour of Belle Meade Plantation and an afternoon visit to The Hermitage.
Founded in 1807 by John Harding, “Belle Meade” translates to mean beautiful meadow in old English and French. The property began with just a single log cabin and 250 acres. The estate quickly grew to become a 5,400-acre thoroughbred horse farm complete with a Greek Revival Mansion, deer park, train station and rock quarry which supported five generations of owners, their servants, and enslaved workers.
The most famous thoroughbred at Belle Meade was Bonnie Scotland. Foaled in Great Britain in 1853, Bonnie Scotland came to Belle Meade Mansion in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1872, at the age of 19. Here is a short listing of some of the pedigreed horses from his line: Bramble, 1875, earned $32,660; Man-O-War, 1917, earned $249,465; Prince Rose, 1928, earned $59,267; Sea Biscuit, 1933, earned $437,730; War Admiral 1934, earned $273,240; Secretariat, 1970, earned $1,316,808; Seattle Slew, 1974, earned $1,208,726; and Affirmed, 1975, earned $2,393,818.
From 1972 to 1996, winners of the Kentucky Derby, and most of the Triple Crown winners were in the pedigree of Bonnie Scotland, including Sea Biscuit, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, and Secretariat. Now we can add another name to that list, because of California Chrome, who so far has earned $2,552,650, is also in the pedigree of this great horse, Bonnie Scotland, of Belle Meade.
I added a Bonnie Scotland dish towel to my growing collection.
While leaving Belle Meade, we asked a local where to go for lunch. We would never have found the darling spot she suggested.
Following lunch, we pushed on to The Hermitage. The plantation was owned by Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, from 1804 until his death at the Hermitage in 1845. Jackson only lived at the property occasionally until he retired from public life in 1837. Enslaved men and women, numbering nine at the plantation’s purchase in 1804 and 110 at Jackson’s death worked at the Hermitage, principally involved in growing cotton.
In 1806 Jackson killed Charles Dickenson. Contemporaries described Jackson, who had already served in Tennessee’s Senate and was practicing law at the time of the duel, as argumentative, physically violent and fond of dueling to solve conflicts.
Jackson and Dickinson were rival horse breeders and southern plantation owners with a long-standing hatred of each other. Dickinson accused Jackson of reneging on a horse bet, calling Jackson a coward and an equivocator. Dickinson also called Rachel Jackson a bigamist. (Rachel had married Jackson not knowing her first husband had failed to finalize their divorce.) After the insult to Rachel and a statement published in the National Review in which Dickinson called Jackson a worthless scoundrel and, again, a coward, Jackson challenged Dickinson to a duel.
On May 30, 1806, Jackson and Dickinson met at Harrison’s Mills on the Red River in Logan, Kentucky. At the first signal from their seconds, Dickinson fired. Jackson received Dickinson’s first bullet in the chest next to his heart. Jackson put his hand over the wound to staunch the flow of blood and stayed standing long enough to fire his gun. Dickinson’s seconds claimed Jackson’s first shot misfired, which would have meant the duel was over, but, in a breach of etiquette, Jackson re-cocked the gun and shot again, this time killing his opponent. Although Jackson recovered, he suffered chronic pain from the wound for the remainder of his life.
Jackson was not prosecuted for murder, and the duel had little effect on his successful campaign for the presidency in 1829. Many American men in the early 1800s, particularly in the South, viewed dueling as a time-honored tradition. In 1804, Thomas Jefferson’s vice president Aaron Burr had also avoided murder charges after killing former Treasury secretary and founding father Alexander Hamilton in a duel. In fact, Rachel’s divorce raised more of a scandal in the press and parlors than the killing of Dickinson.
Following our Hermitage tour, we went for (oink) more food!
Bronson was exhausted when we finally dug into our little hotel room.