Travelers Rest launches database to tell slave stories

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – There are June 19 celebrations all over Middle Tennessee this weekend. But Saturday morning there was a unique opportunity at the Historic Travelers Rest Home and Museum for some Nashville natives to trace a piece of their own history.

“The original part was built in 1799; it’s the oldest house in Nashville still open to the public,” said Chad Burgess, one of Travelers Rest’s tour guides.

For those who love history, it’s hard to pass up the opportunity to travel back in time.

“You can come in,” said Amy Grubbs, another tour guide. “These are the original floors.”

For generations, the staff of Travelers Rest have shared insight into the lives of the Overton family. But maybe not the full picture.

“Telling a complete story is really essential,” said Katie O’Bryan, executive director of Travelers Rest.

Just down from the lavish Plantation House is a much smaller building called the Weaving House. On the walls are the names, but not the faces, of the other Overtons.

“When the judge died, he left in his death inventory a list of the 53 people who were allegedly enslaved here during his time, and we have their names, their ages – which is really, really rare for a site history to have access,” O’Bryan said.

Although it might be hard to believe, the little snippets they have on each person took a lot of work to uncover.

“Bills of sale, fugitive listings, even personal correspondence that the judge and his son had with others, like Andrew Jackson,” she said.

This work has now inspired a new mission. They just took a list of names and ages and turned it into an online database.

“A person’s age, a little snippet of their story, and then the source,” O’Bryan said.

Their hope is that families who hope to trace their own history will find it and use it.

“Someone could be sitting in their living room halfway around the world or halfway across our country and coming up with something,” she said.

In turn, maybe – just maybe – they will have a clearer picture of who these people were.

“We hope they will check out our website and that this database will inspire people who might have information or even think they might have something that might be relevant to contact us so we can work to keep adding information about this resource tool,” O’Bryan said.

When people step back in time, the staff at Travelers Rest think they deserve the whole story.

“I hope, frankly, that this will only spur continued efforts to tell these stories. I hope everyone realizes that these are stories that need to be told every day,” she said. .

There is a Google Document of the database available for viewing online.