Annual Event Supports Restoration Of Forrest’s Boyhood Home
By Gregory L Wade
(August 2010 Civil War News)
CHAPEL HILL, Tenn. — The recent Eighth Annual Forrest Homecoming raised more than $4,000 in donations for Sons of Confederate Veterans’ (SCV) efforts to restore Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest’s boyhood home.
The June 19 event on the old Forrest home grounds featured historian discussions about Forrest, reenactors and a cavalry demonstration.
In 1830 William Forrest moved his family to the log and frame cabin that was built in 1825 in a remote area of south-central Tennessee, It was a few miles from young Nathan’s birthplace in nearby Chapel Hill. The Forrest family lived at farm for three years before moving to Mississippi when Nathan was 12.
The cabin is the only surviving home place of the cavalry leader. It was occupied as a farm dwelling until the 1960s. The large limestone slabs that serve as steps into the cabin show wear from decades of use.
Gene Andrews, a member of the N.B. Forrest Boyhood Home Committee and an expert on the dwelling’s history, said there was still no running water or electricity when the SCV was deeded the property in 1997.
“We have found newspapers used as insulation with dates as far back as 1929,” he said. Many of the architectural details dating to the construction of the cabin remain intact, including the fireplace mantles, stairways, doors and windows.
The state purchased the 49-acre site in the 1980s with plans to incorporate the cabin and adjoining land as a unit of Henry Horton State Park, which is a few miles away.
According to Andrews, this effort was killed by those who did not wish to see state funds going to support such a “controversial” figure. In 1997 members of the state legislature, led by historians interested in Forrest, were instrumental in having the property deeded over to the national SCV which has its headquarters in Columbia, Tenn.
Once the SCV acquired the cabin and acreage, since increased to 56 acres, efforts were made to stabilize the structure and four outbuildings from further decay. The six-room cabin, which includes a one-story section added by William Forrest, has been protected from the weather with a new cedar roof.
Progress is being made on the barn and other outbuildings, including a log corn crib and a smokehouse.
“We have cleared out fence lines, trees, scrap farm metal and artifacts from the cabin grounds,” said Andrews. China, glass and other recovered artifacts are being preserved for future display.
Several SCV camps have assisted in the work to “bring the structures to their present good state of repair” said Andrews. Additional work is planned to restore the cabin interior to its Forrest family condition.
Visitors must walk a 2,000-foot gravel driveway to the cabin in an area little changed from the days the Forrest family lived there. It is a widely held tradition that Forrest came to the home place during the war and hosted recruiting barbeques.
Some suggest there remain faint traces of the cooking pits on ground adjoining the current SCV holdings. The cave and spring used by the family are favorite sites for those following the footsteps of the future general. A granite obelisk erected beside the highway that runs through the village commemorates the future general’s 1821 birth.
Andrews said the SCV will continue its mission of “maintenance, restoration and interpretation” of the historic site, which includes plans for a possible visitor center and museum.
Deductible donations may be made to: Boyhood Home Fund, c/o Sons of Confederate Veterans, P.O. Box 59, Columbia, TN 38402.