Sometimes you just get an itch you have to scratch and this weekend my itch was the western part of Robertson County. I drove all down Catholic Church Road, though I did not find a Catholic Church. I did find the Scott graveyard, because they have a hand-painted sign that points you to it. And it’s tobacco time, so I found smoking barns and men out harvesting and, well, you’ll see.
This morning I was on the south side of Nashville doing a park, so I convinced the Butcher to take me to the grave of Granny White. She’s one of my ghosts this year. It’s cool to consider how she had her inn/tavern. If you’re coming up from the south, there’s like a wall of hills and just these little ways of snaking through and even now, it’s kind of freaky to be winding around them. And then, bam, just as you’re like, I can’t possibly do this any more, there would have been her house. And I think there’s pretty much a house right there on the spot where her house would have been. I hope they excavated the land before they built the house.
Anyway, my purpose for being up in Robertson County was to try to find the Glen Raven plantation. I have been trying to get a feel for how the Washingtons had their homes arranged. I know Washington Hall burnt down at some point, and Wessington is still there. But I didn’t know if Glen Raven still was. So, I didn’t find it yesterday, in part because I turned on 49 instead of on Maxey Road. So, I came home to look at Google Maps to see what I’d done wrong and I notice that there’s a Batts Cemetery in Cedar Hill.
This blew my mind, because, as you may remember, in early iterations of the Bell Witch legend, it was said that the Bell Witch was “Kate Batts,” an old lady unhappy with how a slave deal had gone down with Mr. Bell and so cursed him. Well, fuck me, Martha, as the saying goes. I had to go check this out, right?
So, I drive over there and I still turn too soon and miss motherfucking Maxey Road but by now, I know where I am when I’m lost, so I get to Batts Cemetery no problem. I look at all the graves. They are all Battses and all of the right era. But none are named “Kate.” But I do notice something interesting. The next road north is “Harding.” And one of the Batts girls married a Harding who is in that cemetery. Now, it’s clear from the shape the Batts cemetery is in that the Battses weren’t hurting for money. But throw a Harding in… Well, if he’s one of our Hardings (of the Belle Meade Mansion), that’s a lot of money and power that the Battses were married into.
Now, the Bell Witch incident supposedly started around 1820, but the first written account was almost seventy years later. It’d be interesting to know what might have been going on with the Bells and the Battses in the 1880s, you know?
Anyhow, I’m not convinced that Kate Batts existed, but there were for sure Battses in the area.
So, I drive down from there, down Old Washington Road and I do find the front gates to Washington Hall (just off Old Washington, south of Cedar Hill, on Log Cabin Road), and down the road, Wessyngton. So, now, I’m thinking, the third house has to be a reasonable distance to travel by carriage. It’s got to be around here someplace. So, I go past Wessyngton and it’s up on a hill, When you get to the bottom of the hill, you can either turn left onto Flewellyn or keep going around the bottom of the property. I crossed a creek and then there was a tiny road (Carr Road) that went steep up to the right.
I went up it. It was the kind of awesomely spooky road you beg Tennessee to shoot you every once in a while–narrow with trees canopied in great arches over it and nothing, for a long time, but you and fields of cows, cows, who, I might mention, had figured out that the barbed wire fence was not that tight. So, when we came upon them, they were all out in the road, but then they just pushed their way through the fence and got back in the field. They didn’t even mind the dog barking at them. It was awesome.
And where should Carr Road end but Glen Raven road? And what is there, right on the other side of the creek but what I can only assume is Glen Raven. I couldn’t see the house from the road, but the land is huge and it looked to even have a farm store and there were two houses that had these kind of octagonal silver roofs, I guess for… I don’t know. They looked too nice to be for sharecroppers.
Anyway, it was awesome. Those Washingtons have got to have a hell of a cemetery some place. I looked for one, but I didn’t find it.