So I played hookey this afternoon and went down to the Tennessee State Library and Archives. I finally got a chance to look at the Jack Macon petitions, of which there were two. In the 1830s, right as Tennessee was passing a law forbidding slaves from practicing medicine, Doctor Jack’s patients wrote in and asked for an exception to be made for him. In the letters, a little of Macon’s practice emerges. He did a lot of healing with roots and he healed a lot of people, men and women, who were in pain. There was one account of him helping with some kind of white boil on the back of a kid’s leg, but by and large, he was helping with pain.
But, obviously, these petitions fell on deaf ears, because they wrote again in the 40s, asking the same thing and, interestingly enough, asking that any fines William Macon–Jack’s owner–incurred be forgiven. So, apparently, when the petitioners failed in the 30, William just broke the law instead.
I don’t know how it was resolved, though I think it’s obvious that Jack continued to practice medicine.
But then I looked up Dickinson’s remarks on the Baxters, just to see if there was anything good in it and a.) Dickinson’s a racist jerk; b.) he’s all pissed at Jere Baxter for claiming that Tennessee property is worth less in 1890 than it was in 1860 (adjusting for the loss of slaves) and that Tennesseans are hugely illiterate. Dickinson’s counter is that it’s unseemly to air dirty laundry about the state in public, that Baxter’s numbers are wrong, and that everyone in the South is hugely illiterate, so what’s the big deal? Also, white people are responsible for educating two races, not just one, so their burden is double; c.) But he held Jere’s brother Edmund in high esteem. Believe me, Jere comes out looking better in the exchange at this point in history.
So that was awesome. And they had the Ed Baxter book, so I got to look at it there. It’s, self-evidently, a lot of Civil War crap, but basically, here’s the history of Baxter’s second brigade–walk somewhere, get sick, either get better or die, shoot at some people. Walk somewhere else, get sick, either get better or die or possibly captured, shoot at some people. Walk to yet another place, get sick, etc. Finally the War ends. Get shipped home in a boxcar. The end. Granted, I was skimming, but I didn’t see that many people from Baxter’s unit getting killed in the War. It was all getting sick and dying.
Plus, the TSLA is having this great display all about Tennessee cemeteries which is amazing. I could have looked at it all day. They even have two examples of I think they’re called feather crowns–these balls of feathers that, after you died, your family would cut open your pillow looking for. If they found one, it was evidence that you’d gone straight to Heaven.
How awesome is that? But then they closed at 4:30! I was not done!
Anyway, because I love you guys, I took this picture right outside the doorway of the TSLA. I love how you can really see just how rocky our town is and I love the clouds reflected in the windows.