If there is an archetypal image for an Irishman in the rural south before the Civil War, it would have to be Gerald O’Hara. He is a fictional character, of course, depicted as a colorful, hard-drinking owner of a Georgia plantation worked by slaves, married to an American wife, and father of three American-born daughters. His eldest daughter is much more famous than he: Scarlett, the fiery protagonist of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.
The Tenery family has its own Gerald and Scarlett. John Hockshaw and his wife Catherine emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the years prior to 1827 when their two eldest daughters – Isabella Jane and Mary Margaret – were born in South Carolina. John and Catherine had two more daughters born in 1830 and 1832; sometime between the two births the family moved to Giles County, Tennessee. Continue reading →
Overlooking the James River not far from Williamsburg stands a beautiful mansion called Carter’s Grove, built between 1751 and 1753. Carter Burwell, the grandson of one of colonial Virginia’s wealthiest and most influential businessmen Robert “King” Carter, paid for its construction on property purchased by his grandfather. It is a structure routinely included in books on architecture in early Virginia, and happens to be one of the few mansions of that era still standing.
Famous legends inhabit the walls. There are sword cuts on the wooden railing of the great stair allegedly made by Banastre Tarleton during British occupation of the house, when he rode his horse to the second floor as a dramatic method of wakening his sleeping soldiers who were quartered there. Both Thomas Jefferson and George Washington Continue reading →
By the time Charles Paysinger married Lola Belle Tenery on Christmas Eve, 1899, their families had been in the adjacent Lincoln and Giles Counties, Tennessee, for four generations. While many aunts, uncles, and cousins pursued their fortunes westward to Arkansas, Texas, or elsewhere, the portions of the family that remained had set deep roots along the Tennessee and Alabama border, having been there virtually since the beginning of European-American settlement. But the world was changing at the turn of the century and Charles and Lola Belle would pull up those roots and become members of the 20th century economy – following job and career opportunities – rather than engaging in the 19th century’s relentless westward pursuit of new agricultural land. Continue reading →
Farming. It was the occupation of most of the family in Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama until the 20th century. The quest for farmland drove much of U.S. western expansion and settlement, and thus brought much of this family to Tennessee from states on the eastern seaboard. So what did one of these farms look like? Continue reading →