The Professor and I went out to Bethesda to see what we could see of the landscape that shaped Mom Murrell’s life. We had pretty good directions to the old homestead. One of John Murrell’s men described going back to visit the place and said it was on the north side of the Rutherford creek, a mile east of the Presbyterian church on the Franklin-Lewisburg Highway. To make a long story short, this means they lived on the Bethesda-Duplex road.
Bethesda was interesting, if overwhelming. I need to make a checklist–see something cool, stop, take a picture of it, contemplate picture at leisure. Instead I just gawk and stare. Bethesda is tiny, but the mind-blowing feature is that there are three or four antebellum homes with the outbuildings still standing. You just so rarely see this.
Anyway, I was telling Bridgett that I had my doubts about the inn at Bethesda detail because Lewisburg didn’t exist until after John Murrell was in prison, so where would a steady stream of customers for them to rob have been coming from.
But this is one reason looking at the landscape, both in person and on terrain view can suggest an explanation. They were not going from Franklin to Lewisburg. They were traveling from the Trace to Murfreesboro. And this would have moved them in the direction of Bethesda. It’s pretty obvious when you’re there–that the old roads are all designed to come into towns on a general east-west axis and that, even now, finding routes to go straight north and south are limited to main roads. If you get off on a side road to wander, you are only going east or west. There are no side roads that will take you very far north or south.
So, now, I’m back on board with an inn in Bethesda. I still reject that Mrs. Murrell was the sole bad apple in that family, though, the corrupting force that ruined the whole family. Though I admit, I take a certain amount of pleasure in imagining her ordering her brothers and husband to go bail her sons out of jail, while she ran a whore house and a den of thieves.
I just have a hard time believing that one woman at that that time could have made her whole family go along with her against their will. Now, if the whole family were a bit rotten… That I could buy.