History is not just about the battles- it is about the people, as their stories give voice to the story of the past.
Where many of the important stories of Franklin’s past intersected, the Historic Masonic Lodge in downtown Franklin, was honored with a Civil War Trails marker unveiling on Friday morning.
Franklin Mayor Ken Moore and Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson spoke, along with Heritage Foundation historian Rick Warwick and research historian Rachael Finch. The keynote speaker was Lee Curtis, legislative liaison for the TN Department of Tourist Development, who has helped spearhead the Civil War Trails markers project.
“I have said many times, every time I come here, that this is probably the most important public building in our town,” Warwick said. “These walls have seen a lot of our history and this room right here is a very important gathering place. Probably every church in town at one time had to be here, either building it or preparing it. It is amazing how this building has been a part of so much of our public life in Williamson County. I cannot say enough about it; let’s hope these walls stand for another 150 years.”
The lodge, built in 1823, was the first three-story building in the state and still the only place in Franklin where a sitting president- Andrew Jackson- visited. Jackson, helped by his Secretary of War and Franklin resident John Henry Eaton, signed a relocation treaty with the Chickasaw in the hall in 1830- an early metaphorical step in what would become the Trail of Tears.
It is for the building’s Civil War significance that Finch and Curtis led the effort to put a marker there for the Civil War Trail.
The hall served as a home to occupying Federal troops prior to the Battle of Franklin in 1863- and graffiti left by those soldiers still covers a wall upstairs. During and after the battle the hall served as a field hospital; before the Federal occupation prominent local women- and their slaves- turned it into a textile shop, sewing Confederate uniforms.
For a more in-depth history, see our story from earlier this week.
Along with the Philadelphia Masonic Hall and, as of last year, the George Washington Masonic Hall in Alexandria, Virginia, the Franklin Hall is one of three Masonic Lodges in the National Historic Register- and the oldest.
“And it happens to sit right here in Franklin,” Rachel Finch, who recently received the Scott Hartwig Public History Fellowship from the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College 2016 and is president of the Maury County historical society, said. “I think we just have a gem here, and have been completely blinded to what has been sitting here waiting for us to discover all along.”
The marker at the lodge is one of nearly 400 in the state, and one of what will be 40-50 in Franklin and Williamson County.
“It is one of the lesser known sites but it is so important for how it changed and affected peoples lives,” Curtis, who grew the Civil War Trails program and is integral with the state tourism department, said.
The first marker was put in Franklin, and when the project is finished the last will also be set in Franklin, she said.
“I have seen how our town, our county and community, has changed- particularly in my lifetime- the last 40, 50 years,” said Anderson. “For a long period of time we have concentrated on the future. That is a good thing, as we have concentrated on jobs and public education to drive this community. But, by the efforts of many of you sitting here in the audience, we are trying preserve what we have got, trying to keep it a lasting community, trying to leave the mark for the next generation of people, whether it is this building or another down the road. This is a blending, a balancing, that is very difficult in a fast growing community but it has to be done. This marker is just another mark checked off in the quality of life we all enjoy – we are saying what we have is important, so let us try to preserve it.”
[scroller style=”sc1″ title=”More History” display=”cats” cats=”52″ number_of_posts=”4″ speed=”300″]