Guess who wasn’t born on a mountain top in Tennessee? You’re right, Davy Crockett. That means that good ol’ Walt got it all wrong; well, maybe not exactly all wrong. But, he did embellish the truth just a little, something that you’d never catch me doing; unless, of course, the truth, in and of itself, wasn’t quite good enough.
Anyhow, Davy Crockett was born in Limestone, Tennessee along the banks of the Nolichucky River which is actually a fairly flat area in a valley with the mountains being approximately 12 miles (as the crow flies) due east from his birthplace.
The Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park is home to a museum dedicated to Crockett, a replica of the cabin that the Crockett family lived in, and a monument to Davy Crockett that contains stones donated by each state. The cabin sits only a few feet from where the original cabin stood with one of the actual cornerstones still remaining on the site. The inscription on the monument reads: “Davy Crockett, Pioneer, Patriot, Soldier, Trapper, Explorer, State Legislator, Congressman, Martyred at the Alamo, 1786---1836”.
The highlight of the day was our visit to the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site located in Greeneville, Tennessee. The tour includes a replica of Johnson’s birthplace, his tailor shop which has been preserved, the Johnson’s “Early Home”, and the Johnson Homestead. We began with a short movie at the visitor’s center that introduced us to President Andrew Johnson.
After the movie we began our tour which began at a replica of the house where Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. Having seen pictures in the Visitor’s Center we can tell you that the original house wasn’t anywhere near as attractive. Next on our tour was the “Early Home” of the Johnson’s which is actually right across the street from the Tailor Shop. The Tailor Shop still stands on it’s original site, however, it has been enclosed inside the Visitor’s Center/Museum.
Ranger Sarah Bell was our guide for the tour of the Johnson Family Homestead which is located two and a half blocks from the Visitor’s Center.
The tour of the Homestead began with President Johnson’s Bedroom which is the first room on the right coming in the front door.
The Parlor was the first room on the left as you entered through the front door. The Dining Room is located in the el on the back of the house and the Kitchen is in the basement under the Dining Room.
Most of the rooms in the house were bedrooms as several of the Johnson children and their families lived there as well.
We were very fortunate to be able to sit with President Johnson himself in the garden and listen to him tell his story from the time of his birth up until entering local politics in Greeneville, Tennessee. Here are the highlights of that visit as well as some additional details about his political career.
Andrew Johnson was born to a poor family in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1808. His father died when he was only four and at the age of 10 his mother apprenticed him and his brother as tailors. At the age of 15 he ran away traveling throughout the Carolinas and Tennessee and eventually settled in Greeneville, Tennessee. There he met and married Eliza McCardle who was the daughter of a local shoemaker.
Johnson is noted as the only president that never received a formal education. He taught himself to read and learned math skills from his apprenticeship as a tailor. His wife, Eliza, taught him writing skills and he joined debating clubs in Greeneville area. It was his love for words and a recognition of their power that helped him succeed. His passion for debating lead him into local politics.
From his first election as an Alderman in Greeneville, he “debated” his way into state politics and then onto the national political scene eventually becoming President Lincoln’s vice president in 1864. When President Lincoln was assassinated six months into his second term Johnson became the 17th President of the United States.
His presidency certainly was not an easy one being that he was a President from the south on the heals of the Civil War. Congress, which was dominated by the “Radical Republican Movement”, moved to impeach him on March 2nd of 1868. He was brought to trial in the Senate where he was eventually acquitted on May 16th.
He continued to serve out the rest of his term which ended in 1869 at which time returned to the Johnson Homestead in Greeneville, Tennessee. He did, however, return to politics and returned to the U. S. Senate where he served until his death in 1875.
President and Mrs. Johnson, who died six months after her husband, were laid to rest at the family cemetery which has since become the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery in Greeneville, Tennessee. The memorial over his grave reads: “His Faith In The People Never Waivered”.
President Johnson ranks as one of my favorite Presidents in that he was a Constitutionalist. He deeply believed in the Constitution of the United States and diligently worked to preserve it throughout his career.
We stopped at Applebee’s for a late lunch before leaving Greeneville. On our way home we did a drive through of Jonesborough, Tennessee which is the birthplace of the the National Storytelling Festival and the International Storytelling Center. We had originally planned on taking in a storytelling session but, we spent too much time visiting with President Andrew Johnson in order to get there on time – maybe on our return trip to the area.