Moving to Booneville
We moved to Tennessee, to Booneville, at the end of 2011, right before 11-11-2011. I remember it well. Family matters had called us to the mainland from Hawaii. Hugh’s Mother, Rebecca, and his Father, Jack, lived in Princeton, NJ in a huge old mansion. The costs of maintaining it were skyrocketing and they needed to sell and move. We arrived to help them do this. Hugh estimated it might take a year and that we would then move on to whatever was next.
We moved into one of the Family houses, Rooster House, that was part of a 150+ acre ancestral property that was passed down through his Mother’s lineage. She inherited it from her Aunt Ellen, who was a beloved local school teacher and librarian whose father, Dr. J. T. Graham, was Booneville’s local Medical Doctor. In fact, there were two doctors lived in that house.
Many Interesting Buildings
There are many very interesting buildings here. The Main Graham House is the elder of the houses and the most interesting. Painted white, with black shutters, to show off its Victorian style. Along the front runs a magnificent wall made with a local quarried stone, built by Dr. Graham “to keep out the pigs when the branch comes down”. You can see some iron rings set into the stone on either side where visitors used to tie up their horses when they came to visit. Large rectangular stones lay flat on the ground in just the right position to aid them back up onto their horse when it was time to leave. The gate is ornate and hosts his name and date, 1900.
3 huge 100 year old Maples lined the Stone wall, hanging over the road to join the big old Tree on the other side, forming a sort of Tree Tunnel. Another Stone wall runs along the pasture on the other side of the road. At the end of the Stone wall, overhanging Bailey Branch, is a where the huge old mossy, Fern and Vine covered Tree lives. I call it The Guardian. Its branches spread out in a tangled mass and its roots spread out on the ground mirroring its branches. Rebecca remembers playing in its huge roots, which were her playhouse. She also remembers swinging on one of the vines, like Tarzan, and it breaking. Ouch!
Back at the Boone House, an old decorative iron gate opens to leads the way along a mossy brick walkway to the huge front porch, equipped with a white porch swing and big white benches on each side of the door. The second story has a front porch surrounded with decorative railings. Rebecca remembers the muggy hot southern nights were more bearable when they would all sleep out there. Hugh remembers visiting Aunt Ellen on holidays and playing in the yard.
There are several out buildings, lots of very tall old Trees and a big Fruit Orchard surrounding the east side of the house. It is full of Apple, Pear, Peach and Plum Trees. There is one new Magnolia Tree next to the Sunny Eating porch. There used to be a giant Magnolia Tree there planted by Rebecca’s Uncle Joe, who didn’t pay attention to the local tale that Magnolias wouldn’t live in Booneville. Jack planted the new one two years ago and it has already bloomed.
Dr. Graham’s tiny little Doctor’s Office stands near the Main Boone House. There are plans to turn it into a museum someday. A large workshop garage, several small storage buildings, including a cellar under one and all painted white. Then way back along the back fence line there is BIG OLD barn, called Mollie’s Barn. Mollie was Dr. Graham’s horse that pulled his buggy when he would go on house calls.
The first old house Rebecca bought here was the Hummingbird house across the street. She named it this because she remembers the old woman who lived there always fed the Hummingbirds on the little front porch. They had it renovated, painted white and later Hugh’s brother, Jim, moved in. He had planned to stay a year or so to recover and run his Peruvian Import business when the economy turned down. That was over 5 years ago. He is still here. He has 2 Cats, Maya and Cristina. They are part of my Booneville family. They also had the Hummingbird Garage built. This is the building that is featured in my story BEE POWER–AN AMAZING BEE-ING TALE .
The second house she bought was the one we live in now, named Rooster House because Rebecca remembers the man that used to live her raised fighting Roosters. They had it renovated beautifully, building a huge light filled Sun Room on the back that is now my Studio/Office. Once of the unique features of this house is the double stair case with a railing running up the middle. The man who owned it previous to her had it divided down the center into a duplex. It has two front doors going out onto the front porch. Our side door opens toward Hummingbird Garage and is now facing the 2 story white Carriage House most recently built to house Jack’s Office, Russian Library and his many creative hobbies and interests.
Did I mention that Jack Matlock is a career diplomat who served on the front lines of American diplomacy during the Cold War and was U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union when the Cold War ended. Since retiring from the Foreign Service, he has focused on understanding how the Cold War ended and how the lessons from that experience might be applied to public policy today. For more biographical details, see the Wikipedia page: Jack F. Matlock, Jr.
Did I mention what a diverse and talented woman Rebecca Matlock is? She is an amazing storyteller, too.
When we moved into the Rooster House, it was filled with all the furniture that Hugh had brought from his house in Virginia. We met in Hawaii in 2005 and decided to do life together, so he went back to Virginia and began the process of selling his house and moving to Hawaii. Later when it sold, he moved all his furniture to Booneville, leaving his old life behind and moving to Hawaii for a fresh start. In 2006, we visited here and set up the house, returning to the Big Island for 6 more years in Paradise.
Now the name of this house has changed to Penguin-Rooster House. Hugh is an avid fan of Penguins with the biggest collection of Penguin things I have ever seen. Thus the name in his honor.
Last year the family purchase a house and property with 5 acres adjoining the family land. This house is now called the Library House. It is destined to become a library of diverse family books, memorabilia, and such. It is in process now. Things take on their timing in Booneville where time slows down and almost disappears. The crew that does the construction work here is run by a local Boonevillian and family friend, Wilbur, (he is featured in my BEE POWER story) who knew Aunt Ellen. I think she was his school teacher in Mulberry. They work on our projects when they don’t have any other work, so it takes time to get things done. Eventually they do finish a project.
In the yard of the Library House stands several old interesting buildings. A Shed, a Chicken Coop, an Outhouse and a Barn where a little white miniature pony lived before they bought the property. Many big old Trees and one HUGE MULBERRY TREE that had so many big juicy red-purple Mulberries on it this last year (2015) I almost turned permanently red-violet! I ate so many I was SATISFIED! It is a wonderful Tree with the most amazing leaves!
Back in the fields behind the Library House is the Pollinator Habitat/Butterfly Sanctuary that Hugh is helping his twin sister, Nell, develop. This is Nell’s Dream coming true. Read more: Pollinator Habitat
Long ago Booneville was a tiny country town once called Goat Slick, started by one of Hugh’s ancestors, a cousin of Daniel Boone. They built the original Boone House eventually and several generations lived out their lives here. There are several colorful Civil War characters from his family line buried in the Booneville Cemetery.
One day my brother Randy, who “is just the Gardener” at Laulima, was visiting. We walked across the street to show him the Boone House. He stood in the road and cocked his head to the side, with a far off look on his face. Then he laughed and said something like, “I can hear the sounds of horses coming down the hill on this road. It feels like they are Civil War Calvary men on horses.” Later, after he had more time to experience Booneville he said, “Booneville is one the most beautiful areas I have seen in this part of Tennessee. It is a land that time forgot.”
Over the years Booneville grew and had its own bustling community, along with a Black Smith Shop and a Store that was built across the Dry Branch, with storage containers that sat in the water “to keep the milk cool”. There might have been another store at one point, that sat in the far end of our Orchard. They had a School, 2 Churches, a community center and cemetery. Aunt Ellen donated the family land to the community of Booneville for their cemetery. Before that, she would sell a plot for $25 to anyone who wanted to be buried there. It was so peaceful and such a deal that too many people who had never lived here bought their resting place. Eventually they changed that to only allow those who had lived in Booneville or had family who lived here to make it their body’s final resting place.
I heard a story that the oldest part of the cemetery down by the river was for black folks only. This was in times when there was segregation. They even had a rope across that part separating it from the “white folks” part. There were stores and churches that had several doors, one for the “white men”, one for the “white women” and one for the “blacks”. I never understood any of that.
Today Booneville is a tiny scattered community of very friendly folks with busy lives and fairly large farms to take care of. The school and stores are gone, one may have washed away during a flood, and there are remnants of the Black Smith shop in the rocks scattered down the branch bed. There are 2 Churches and a Community Center where they meet every first Sat. for potluck with some folks bringing home country cooking and amazing locals play Bluegrass Music. I hear that some of the best Nashville musicians slip into town and have fun playing together on stage for several hours that night.
So don’t get me wrong, Booneville is a lovely place. I mean no disrespect to any of my family or neighbors who like well kempt green lawns and consider the native plants to be weeds. I only intend to share my story of the beginning of GardenSong2 Booneville.