Author Archive

Emancipation Proclamation – Tennessee State Museum

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Few events in history can still stir up controversy like the American Civil War. A devastating, bloody time in our nation’s past, the scars can still be found – on our landscape, in our memory. But the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, which is a fancy way of saying the 150th anniversary, has become a platform to encourage healing and diversity. This is especially true in Tennessee, where the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission and partner organizations across the state are working together to offer inclusive, accurate, and fascinating commemorations of the Civil War to the public.

Soon after the Civil War ended, veterans groups held reunions in both the North and South in an effort to bridge the bitter divide that had separated our nation. But the era of Jim Crow and the Lost Cause soon followed. The Civil War Centennial coincided with the passionate fight for civil rights, and few would remember it as a time of inclusion or, let’s face it, an honest evaluation of the war. But fifty years later, so much has changed. In Tennessee, an attitude of inclusiveness and a celebration of diversity highlight many events commemorating the Civil War, including a stellar one this month in Nashville.

One hundred and fifty years ago this January, a determined, courageous President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. In doing so, he laid a foundation for citizenship and equality that has shaped the country ever since. What an incredible document it was, and still is. And this month, there is an unprecedented opportunity to see this national treasure at the Tennessee State Museum.

The Emancipation Proclamation makes it way to Tennessee (the only state to host it in the Southeast) due to the amazing efforts of the museum staff, which worked tirelessly with many partners to bring the document here. The Emancipation Proclamation will be on view in conjunction with the Discovering the Civil War exhibit from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Fragile and delicate, the document will be on display for just 72 hours from February 12 through February 18. (After that date, a facsimile will be in the exhibit, which will remain at the museum through September).

Although there is no charge to see the Proclamation, reservations are recommended due to the incredible level of interest in viewing it. Visitors may obtain a reservation at the windows; going online to; or by calling (615) 782-4040. There will be a handling charge of $1.00 paid to TPAC Ticketing for each reservation. Walk-ins will be given a walk-in timed pass.

The document itself is delicate, but what it stands for is enduring and eternal. Freedom, equality, and the limitless possibilities of a nation that survived the very worst tragedy possible, and emerged better and stronger for the struggle. Don’t miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see a piece of history that changed our country forever.

Interested in learning more or making reservations? Visit the Tennessee State Museum website.


– Laura Stewart Holder

Shop Amish in Ethridge for Christmas

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I love shopping during the holidays. Every season, I look forward to the store window decorations, Christmas music piping through speakers, and the rush of finding a great bargain. But with each passing year, there seems to be a greater desire for one-of-a-kind, quality items, and opportunities to support local craftspeople, stores, and entrepreneurs. And one of the best places to find those in Middle Tennessee is in the small town of Ethridge, located south of Nashville in lovely and historic Giles County.


WSMV’s map of Giles County – easy to get there from here!

Ethridge, a picturesque hamlet in a gorgeous rural part of the state, is home to a talented Amish community of farmers, furniture makers, basket weavers, leather workers and quilters, the largest in the South. For anyone willing to take the extra time to visit the community and (sometimes) patiently wait for the final product, the rewards can be wonderful.


A great place to start is the Welcome Center in Ethridge, located at 4001 Highway 43 North. There are a number of fantastic, authentic items to choose from here, including finely woven baskets of all shapes and sizes, colorful quilts, and mouth-watering homemade treats. If you want to venture out to meet with the Amish craftspeople directly, the Welcome Center offers a map guide that directs visitors to the various farms and specialties in the area. The map guide is invaluable, as often advertising is limited to a hand-lettered sign along a back road. (Please remember to be respectful of the Amish lifestyle, taking into account their quiet yet friendly reserve).


My own personal experience with the Amish came a few years ago. My husband’s pharmacy sales territory made him a frequent visitor to the area, and we were both intrigued by the idea of having furniture made specifically for our family.



Several local furniture makers specialize in different items, including armoires, desks, tables, chairs, and bedroom suites. Typically, there are a variety of woods to choose from, as well as an assortment of wood stain choices if you are inclined. (It’s best to bring photographs and a general idea of what you want made, although you may change your mind once you see examples of their work). Because each piece is individually handcrafted, be prepared to wait a few weeks before the finished product is ready to be picked up. These items might require a bit more time and effort, but their quality and value definitely make it worthwhile.


There are so many things to love about these handmade pieces. Each is truly unique – as in, you really won’t find on in anyone else’s home – rather than a cookie-cutter copy without much soul. Generations of skill, passed from father to son and mother to daughter, go into each one. The craftsmanship is superb, with each individual part fitting together like a puzzle to form a seamless, perfect picture. The attention to detail, from the carvings to the finish, is fantastic. I look forward to passing my own pieces on someday, knowing they will only appreciate in both monetary and sentimental value.


But what I love best of all is that each piece – every basket, bed, and belt – has a story attached to it, stories to treasure as much as the items themselves. My favorite one happened during our first Christmastime visit. Once we located the farm of one of the furniture makers, we spent quite a bit of time discussing our furniture design. It didn’t take long before our rambunctious toddler began to explore, and soon several young children spilled out of the lovely two-story farmhouse. Some of the Amish families still speak a German dialect, but children seem to have a universal understanding that transcends words. Shy at first, it only took a few minutes before they were giggling and running with our young son, at the time an only child who reveled in all the attention.


As we were wrapping up, the family invited us inside to view examples of some of their work. The children brought out a large container of homemade popcorn, eagerly offering some to our son. They clearly wanted to share what they had with him, and sent him home happily clutching a bag of his own. It was a thoughtful, generous gesture from a family of children that clearly didn’t set a high value on possessions, yet willingly and happily offered what they could. We left with the best gift of all – a sweet reminder of what Christmas giving is really all about. And that, as much as the quality and craftsmanship, will keep us coming back.

Visit for hours and directions.

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