Jean Durrett and Catherine Holman were Robertson County educators who were passionate about history. Several years ago, they realized that county history was not being preserved as far as textbooks were concerned.
They decided to do something about it.
Eighteen teachers and administrators worked together to research and share the stories that enrich the county’s heritage. The result was “Historic Robertson County: Places and Personalities.”
The book itself is small, but it is packed with information.
Crockett’s Station is discussed, as is Red River Baptist Church. Information about Neophogen College is presented.
The little book also has the story of Cheek’s Stand, the mysterious place that has also been the focus of this column. Authors Durrett and Holman do give additional information. They tell of European travelers who visited there.
Alexander Wilson was one of these. A well-known ornithologist, he was on a “walking tour “of Kentucky and Tennessee when he stopped at Cheek’s Stand.
Wilson, born in Paisley, Scotland, was a weaver when he wrote an “inflammatory poem.” He lost his job and came to America in 1794.
Interested in ornithology, he decided to publish a collection of information and illustrations of all the birds in North America. He eventually produced a nine-volume work, “American Ornithology.”
Obviously, John James Audubon was influenced by Wilson.
Wilson had heard the stories of Cheek’s Stand and stopped there. He asked about the murders that had supposedly taken place and was given a tour of the cave. He did not stay.
Andre Michaux was a Frenchman who studied North American plant life. In 1785 he had been sent by King Louis XVI to make an organized investigation of plants that could be used by the French in medicine, agriculture, carpentry, and so on.
Between 1785 and 1791, he shipped 90 cases of plants and seeds back to France. In return, he introduced the crepe myrtle to America.
In 1802, Michaux visited Cheek’s Stand. He formed a “bad opinion” of Cheek, however, and left. He did write about Cheek in his book, as well as a description of the crops and soil that he saw.
Catherine Holman and Jean Durrett mention that the Marquis de Lafayette came through Robertson County.
So did the sons of the Duke of Orleans. One of them later would become Louis Philippe, the Citizen King of France. They did not stay overnight at Cheek’s Stand but at the house where Michaux had stayed, three miles away.
Louis Philippe had traveled extensively while in exile from 1793 to 1815.He went to Scandinavia, to Bavaria, to Hungary and to Spain.
His brothers Antoine and Louis Charles were in exile in Philadelphia, so he came to the United States.
They visited New York, Boston, and eventually Nashville, where they stayed at the Nashville Inn, later Winn’s Inn. Records show their visiting Tellico Blockhouse for a view of Cherokee life and staying at Dixona in Dixon Springs in Smith County.
Certainly they traveled to New Orleans before sailing to England in 1799. They were there for 15 years before returning to France.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.