For a president with aggressive and destructive policies and a past as a famous military general, Andrew Jackson had a surprisingly peaceful home life. His plantation, the Hermitage, is a truly unique reflection of his life and his relationship with his wife, Rachel. Together, they lived in a log cabin on the grounds, while additional structures housed the plantation's many enslaved people.
Built in 1819, Jackson's Hermitage sits on about 1,100 acres of still-working farmland, just outside the city center of Nashville, TN. He named his property the Hermitage because he wanted to create a retreat for himself and his family.
At first, the Hermitage may just look like another example of regal Southern architecture, but it holds plenty of secrets, stories, and - given Jackson's legacy and the reality of plantations - ghosts.
Many people think of the Trail of Tears when they remember what they learned about Andrew Jackson in history class. In addition to the forced removal of Native Americans, he also led troops in conflicts that ravaged and devastated entire villages.
It was during one such raid in Alabama that Lyncoya was discovered. The infant Creek boy was found in the arms of his fallen mother and brought to Jackson. Jackson took pity on the child; some speculate it was because he himself was orphaned as a young man. Whatever the reason, Jackson brought the little boy back to the Hermitage with him.
Lyncoya lived there with the Jackson family until passing from tuberculosis around the age of 17. He was apprenticing as a saddle maker at the time since West Point had denied him entry on account of his race.
At any given time, there were usually about 140 enslaved people living on the grounds of the Hermitage. A few of the cabins they were housed in have been preserved and are still open to visitors, and many small artifacts have been recovered by archaeologists in the years since the property became a historical site.
One thing has yet to be discovered though: the graveyard for the enslaved people. With more than 500 enslaved individuals linked to the property over its active years, it's hard to believe the cemetery's location is still a mystery.
Research teams have used historical records, cadaver dogs, and probing rods to try to locate the graves, all with inconclusive results.
Alfred Jackson lived at the Hermitage longer than any other person. He was in charge of the horses and wagons of the plantation. Alfred was even a tour guide when the Hermitage opened as a museum; he had stayed on after emancipation as a tenant farmer. His home, known to visitors as "Alfred's Cabin," sits very close to the main house.
He passed in 1901 and was buried in the mansion's garden near where Andrew and Rachel Jackson and the rest of their family lie.
Some of the enslaved people at the Hermitage saw the chaos of the Civil War as their chance at freedom, escaping to downtown Nashville a few miles away. Others stayed until the Emancipation Proclamation was issued, choosing new last names for themselves before picking up and leaving to start a new life.
But some chose to stay and were offered positions as tenant farmers; Alfred was one of those. Several other families chose to stay, although records from the time do not include a full list of the inhabitants of the Hermitage.