Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thirteen Additional, um, Things about The Thing, Nashville's Most Terrifying Historic Entity

Posted By on Wed, Nov 2, 2011 at 7:33 AM

My story about The Thing is in the current issue of the Scene ! Now, when I have to explain to people how I fell in the collapsing grave of Benjamin Brantley, I can now show them that I was indeed doing research on his grandson. It's not going to completely mitigate my reputation as the family weirdo, but it will help.

And check out that picture of the credit union! I don't know who the photographer is, but I have to give credit for finding a way to make that very pleasant-looking building appear a tiny bit menacing.

In working on this piece, I came across a lot of interesting information that just didn't fit, but that the nerdy among you might enjoy.

1. Yes, this Ben Allen is the same Ben Allen the road is named after. Ben was a huge Mason and that road is by the old Masonic orphans' home.

2. Margaret Lindsley Warden says that Sue Allen (née Perkins) was married to a Hayes during the war. I was unable to confirm this with census records or other sources, but there were two prominent Hayes families in Nashville then (or two branches of the same family). One was from North Carolina and the other was Adelicia Acklen (née Hayes) and her family (which is also the family of Rutherford B. Hayes).

3. Sue's father was Powhatan Perkins and his mother was an Edmiston. The Edmistons and the Edmondsons of Edmondson Pike fame were the same family (Edmiston Place, the family home, was just south of Traveller's Rest and their property extended past where the Pike is now). I was able to find some allusion to a huge family fight that resulted in part of the family changing their names to keep from having to be associated with the other part, but I couldn't track down what the fight was about.

4. Sue's sister Eliza married the railroad lawyer Edmund Baxter and her sister Sarah (called Bettie) married Edmund's brother Jones. When Jones and Eliza died, Edmund and Sarah married each other. I suppose this kept family holidays simpler since both people kept the same in-laws.

5. Edmund and Sarah's house is still standing at the top of the hill just south of downtown. They bought the old Rutledge place and added the Victorian front part. It's a law office now, at the corner of Lea and, well, Rutledge.

6. Edmund had another brother, Jere Baxter, for whom a school in East Nashville is still named.

7. The Baxter family involvement with both the railroad and Sue Allen's family raises the enticing possibility that the lawyer Judge Dickinson spoke of was one of the Baxters, possibly Sue's brother-in-law. After all, Dickinson was a railroad lawyer in town before he was a judge and before he went off to Washington. He and the Baxters were colleagues.

8. Speaking of houses still standing, though the house the Allens shared is long gone, the house Sue Allen moved into after Ben's death is still around. In fact, I'd venture that most Nashvillians have been by it a million times. It's now the funeral home that appears to be almost in Centennial Park.

9. Lord almighty, Hamlin Garland was good looking. Like, seriously, do-not-click-that-link-if-you-don't-want-to-drool levels of good looking. (The Hamlin Garland society has more pictures.)

10. Margaret Lindsley Warden's writing is so good that I'm almost ashamed that you're reading me instead of her. Almost. But if you can get your hands on her article, I highly, highly recommend it. Great reading.

11. You will be unsurprised to learn that the Nashville Church of Christ was less than excited about Rev. Ferguson's ideas about talking to dead people. He was run out of the church and became a Unitarian (also, probably not surprising).

12. Ben and Sue Allen aren't buried together, for whatever reason. If you're driving up in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, and you get to the big white tent-looking mausoleum for the Carter family, if you stand in the road looking at the Carter mausoleum, Ben's grave and the graves of his parents, grandparents, sister, and various Baxter nieces and nephews lies ahead, roughly the distance of a football field. Sue is in with the Ewins (or Ewings — her stepdad and half-siblings) and the Perkinses (and some Baxters) somewhat behind you and to your left.

13. Aside from occultism, hypnotism, Freemasonry, and entity-conjuration, Ben Allen was a noted outdoorsman. I found reference to a couple of fishing lures he designed — the "Miss Sue" and the "Miss Martha." I was unable to figure out who Miss Martha might be.

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