Saturday, July 21, 2012

Calera, Alabama

A 2013 model of Winnebago Aspect needed to be delivered to Calera, AL.  Gas powered, mid-sized compact motor home on a Ford chassis with a cozy cab. Traveler friendly with lots of cup holders and holes to store stuff in console in the cab!

A 6 AM start on a clear, sunny July day in Iowa, which has been suffering from lack of rain and 100+ heat index for most of the last 2 months.  We can see crops burnt, burning, curling leaves and some nice green fields as the miles pass. Rainbow colors of the yellow coneflowers, blue chickory, white Queen Anne's Lace, and yellow birdsfoot treefoil line the highway in contrast to the dry brown grass.

With its limestone rock bluffs and trees bypass I-270 is a pretty drive around St. Louis, Missouri.  We chose to take a four lane state highway south and east instead of the interstate east through Illinois.  Driving through a heavy rain and hoping that it continues north to our Iowa prairie!

The Flying J RV parking lot looked like a RV dealership by morning with at least seven new campers being transported to dealers!  An early morning start after breakfast at Denny's ( we've never had a bad meal at their restaurant.)  Some ground fog, clear blue sky with a large red sun rising in the East.  Irrigated fields of corn, soybeans & cotton growing behind tree/shrub lined ditches.  Past New Madrid. Site of an earthquake that changed the area.  Need to write a blog about that visit!

Over the Mississippi River, into Tennessee.  Driving through forested area with large trees covering the rolling hills leading to the mountains.  Kudzu vine is covering acres of trees and roadside. Cypress trees growing in the swampy area around rivers.  Crape myrtle trees blooming are a bright spot as we pass through the small communities, past small country churches, small businesses, logging mills and large homes with ponds and landscaping. 

Into the state of Mississippi.  Unbelievable, but gas is $2.99/gal!  Driving in and out of rain. Grass is actually green! Passed the entrance to Natchez Trace Parkway.  A great drive we did years ago.  It follows the trail of early settlers & traders who floated their wares down the Mississippi River from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi then walked back on the trail.

Corn fields are dry with large ears ready to harvest.  Fruit & Vegetable stands & BBque stands line the highway.  Into Alabama, nearing Birmingham, climbing and winding through forests of tall pines and hardwood trees with the tree covered mountains all around us. 

A good, fast check-in at the dealership and on the road heading north in the rain to Hendersonville, TN.

Rock Castle

We were expecting to see a building with turrets and a moat,  but found a limestone two story Federal Style home set on the banks of a lake with a large grassy lawn.  A doe and four fawns crossed the grassy area while we were sitting on the porch waiting for our tour to begin.

Construction was started in 1784 and it is the oldest house in Middle Tennessee listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   Daniel Smith moved to the Tennessee frontier with his wife, Sarah, and two young children in 1783.  They lived in a log cabin  while building the house.  They had the basement kitchen  and a room above finished when a band of  Indians moving through the area burned their log cabin.  The family moved into the rock house using the kitchen and the room above as a bedroom.  Because the house was built from rock they did not have to have the kitchen separate from the rest of the house.  Interesting to find a box of sand beside the fireplace--their fire extinguisher!  Also a long narrow wooden board with a handle on top and notches cut all the way to the bottom.  That was their washboard! 

Daniel was a licensed surveyor.   This was a new country and he was often away on business leaving Sarah to manage their home alone.  He received a land grant of 640 acres from the State of North Carolina in payment for surveying land boundaries in Middle Tennessee and another grant of 2500 acres for being a Captain during the Revolutionary War. The country did not have a lot of money, but did have land! (Today most of that land is covered with a lake.)

Daniel added to his house with a basement area beside the kitchen and a dining room/living room on first floor with an attic above making a total of 3,000 sq ft.  The tour guide told of Daniel's daughter's marriage to Andrew Jackson's brother-in-law in defiance of her father!  Her father wanted Polly to go to a school in the east for an education, but she was in love!  Andrew Jackson lived as neighbor to the Smiths and helped Polly elope.  They were good friends, but this marriage caused a rife in their friendship until a grandson was born!  The house was passed down through five generations before it was sold to the state. It is over 220 years old.  Some of the window panes date back to the time period of George Washington.

Some interesting items in the home:
  • A floor cloth--cotton canvass stretched on floor, a design painted with linseed paint & sealed with a varnish.  A forerunner of our linoleum or what we call vinyl today.
  • Tea came in large squares from China, stamped with Chinese symbols, to Great Britain who then sold it to the colonists!  Each 12" X 12" square was divided into smaller 3"X3" squares for sale.  Having the larger square symbolized wealth.
  • A locked sugar chest to hold sugar cones which was imported from the Caribbean and very expensive. The  bottom 4 inches of the legs of the chest were very dark.  They were set in cans of oil to keep the ants from getting into the sugar in the chest!
  • A house was taxed on the number of rooms.  A closet was considered a room.  Many  homes did not have closets, but pegs on the walls for clothes.  This home had huge closets in each of the rooms indicating wealth. 
  •  Pine wood panels faux painted to look like burled oak.
  • A mourning picture.  The custom was to embroidery/needlepoint a picture depicting the life of a loved one while they were still alive.  Often some of the person's hair was used.  This way you could show the person by how ornate the picture was how much you loved them and that the picture would always be a reminder to you of them after their death.
History comes alive when you walk through this house and hear the stories the tour guide tells about the families who lived here.  Letters and diaries make the people real.

Back to the Interstate, north to Kentucky, over the Ohio River on a beautiful new bridge and into Indiana.   North to Vincennes past fields of watermelon. Fruit & vegetable stands selling wholesale and retail.  East across Illinois and back to our Iowa prairie thanking the Lord for safe travels on this adventure!

Thanks for traveling with us!

Prairie Schooners

1 comment:

Melinda said...

What a fun love story! And a locked sugar chest may not be a bad idea!