If your family enjoys history, learn a bit about Shelby County's early days with a visit to Davies Plantation in Bartlett.
This two-story log home, the oldest in Shelby County, is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is also on the Civil War Trails. (These markers are located at sites across Tennessee that have historical significance to the Civil War.) The property actually sits in the middle of a residential neighborhood and is easy to miss if you're not paying attention. But the moment you enter the tree-lined drive, you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time.
As we approach the plantation house, my children notice a deer standing in the woods leading up to the house. That exciting discovery helps set the tone for our visit. Davies Plantation has the distinction of being certified as an official Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation, which means the property" provides the four elements wildlife need to thrive: food, water, cover and a places to raise young." Situated on several acres, there's the original house and outbuildings that include a sharecropper's cabin, outhouse, grist mill, even a garden.
Since admission is cash only, make sure to have money on-hand. It cost $16 for our family of 4 for a X hour visit. We enjoyed our docent, she was knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and made the tour engaging for my 5- and 8-year-old.
The history of the property is fascinating. Thomas Henderson received a land grant for his service in the Revolutionary War. The property passed through several hands before being aquired by the Davies family in 1830s. One of the most compelling stories occurred during the Civil War. As our docent shared how Francis Davies defended her property against a Union Soldier (with a butcher knife, no less), my children were literally sitting on the edge of their seats. You could have heard a pin drop.
My children find the clothes, toys, and furniture of interest. I, too, enjoy learning something new. During the 1800s, people filled their mattresses with any soft material they could find, so small bugs were often present in the bedding. Pioneers also used ropes tied across the frame of a bed to support their mattress. Since these needed tightening each night, the two combined gave rise to the saying: “Sleep tight — don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
When you leave the house, make sure to explore the grounds. Notice the sharecropper’s house with a bottle tree in front of it. Literature from Davies Plantation states that bottle trees “have long been important symbols in African-American and Southern culture. They have protective and healing associations.” Also, consider packing a lunch, so that you can enjoy the picnic area. You might just spot a deer, a dragonfly, or a dog on the property. One thing's certain, you'll have a lovely setting to learn about history, and enjoy nature.
Davies Plantation • 386-0715
3570 Davieshire Dr., Bartlett, TN 38133
Open April-December, Tuesdays through Saturdays, from noon to 4 p.m.
Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors and $3/children (cash only)
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Stories and photos by Kimberly Baker