Miss Marion’s House at Creekside

The following is a narrative based on my summer living at Creekside, the antebellum ancestral home passed down through the McEwen family for many generations. Creekside was the home of Sarah Florence McEwen Adkerson (1846-1867), one of the daughters of John B. McEwen who was mayor of Franklin during the Civil War. Located on the corner of Franklin Road and Mack Hatcher Parkway in Franklin, Tennessee, the home was used during Federal occupation in 1863 and witnessed troop movements following the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. After the War, Sarah married Rev. W.L. Rosser in 1866 and died a year later in childbirth at age 20, after giving birth to her only child Florence Rosser Adkerson (1867-1951) who lived on the property her entire life. This personal account tells my memories of her daughter Ella Marion Adkerson. –Kimberly Clutsam

Creekside, Franklin, Tenn. | Lovely Franklin
Creekside, Franklin, Tenn.

The familiar feeling of butterflies in my stomach began as the time of my appointment drew closer. As I took the final turn onto Franklin Road, going towards Nashville, I spotted my destination.

This day was the first time I’d ever noticed the home I know today as Creekside. In those days, more than thirty years ago, I had no idea the home had a name and a history, as I would only refer to it as “Miss Marion’s house.”

Sarah “Sallie” Florence McEwen Rosser received Creekside as a gift from her father, Mayor John B. McEwen, shortly after her marriage to Reverend W.L. Rosser in 1866. She died while giving birth to her daughter, Sarah Florence Rosser Adkerson in 1867.

Sarah “Sallie” Florence McEwen Rosser

Sallie’s Creekside

As I made the final approach to the home, I realized that the owner that I’d spoken to about renting a portion of her home for the summer wasn’t kidding. Upon my inquiry about her rental, the voice on the other end of the phone had stated, almost as a warning, that her home was historic. I might’ve only been 21, but I knew then that I loved old homes. I guess many people would look upon small bathrooms, outdated appliances and creaking floorboards as an inconvenience. But anyone can have “new,” and this home had lived many lives. At this time, I was very young and hadn’t completely found myself. Years afterward I would look back and recall this first meeting and all that resulted from it with many emotions.

Sarah Sallie Florence McEwen Rosser 1846 1867 Creekside
Sarah “Sallie” Florence McEwen Rosser

As I pulled in to the drive that led to Creekside, I was taken aback by the beauty of the aging home. It seemed to loom above the highway in front of it like some wise old lion, holding secrets of its past close. It was everything I’d ever thought an old house was supposed to be.

Reverend William Ledyard Rosser
Reverend William Ledyard Rosser

Spending time with my grandparents had taught me a little about architecture, so I knew this was a Greek Revival style home. Four square columns framed the porch of the two story home, which had a balcony on the second story and a portico on the first. Everything was symmetrical, and this house was reminiscent of a Greek temple. Who lived here? Who built it? Was this house haunted? How was the woman I was about to meet related to this home? I had a thousand questions. But, first, I had to meet my soon-to-be landlady.

Creekside | Lovely Franklin
Creekside, Franklin, Tenn.

I emerged from my car and began the walk up to the slightly ajar side door. It was a late March afternoon which had drizzled rain all day, and there was a bit of a nip in the air. The fragrance of newly-emerged daffodils and grass fresh from the rain made an unforgettable impression upon me. Somehow those everyday smells seemed more than that on this land. I couldn’t help but think that maybe the lack of concrete, modern buildings, and chemicals used by us all everyday had made this virtually untouched land feel and even smell different.

I heard the click, click of my kitten heels on the brick sidewalk as I rejoiced in the fact
that I’d worn my favorite Laura Ashley nautical dress for this occasion and had taken time with my appearance. I felt confident as I approached the door, although the butterflies in my stomach were fluttering madly. As I got closer, I saw the face of a tiny little old lady peep out from behind the door. She didn’t really smile so much as take note of me, probably making certain she actually wanted to invite me inside. Later it occurred to me that this lady was probably a seasoned professional. She might’ve had potential tenants show up for an interview in the past who seemed unsafe or had made a bad first impression.

Miss Marion Adkerson was her name

Miss Marion Adkerson | Lovely Franklin
Miss Marion Adkerson

One could never blame her for being prepared to not move forward with an interview. If she had been a landlady long and had dealt with her fair share of tenants, she had probably experienced a lot. But it was apparent that as I offered my right hand and introduced myself, I’d met with her approval and she was more than happy to invite me inside. She wore her white hair in tight curls, and although advanced in age, she moved like a much younger person. Though never very good at guessing age, I soon silently guessed that she was at least eighty years old. I felt that I had passed her first test and was honored to walk past the threshold of her beautiful old home.

Miss Marion Adkerson was her name, I discovered. As we made our introductions, she simultaneously closed the door we’d just gone through. The door seemed heavier than it was as Miss Marion struggled to push it shut. The soft creak and then slam of the old-timey swinging door, on the outside of the main door, reminded me of being at my grandparents’ house as a child.

She may have seemed small, but Miss Marion intellectually was a powerhouse. She wasted no time in reciting her rules, which seemed as if she were reading them from an invisible script. No men, no pets; both must be cleared by her. No exceptions. Miss Marion went on to tell me that she liked for her renters to tell her if they were home or not, and in the foyer where we were standing she gestured toward a roll-top desk with a system of labeled wooden keys set up that indicated who was home. There were also several slots in the desk, and she preferred that you enclose all rental money into an envelope and place it within these slots, as she preferred to avoid discussing money.

Miss Marion’s attitude and her freedom in declaring that she preferred not to discuss money was one that I admired, and put to use in later years in my own life. At that time she stopped the conversation to ask me if the negotiated price for rent was all right, because she always tries to help anyone out that she is able. I smiled and said thank you, but the price we had talked about earlier in the day over the phone was quite a bargain.

Her concern for the welfare of a complete stranger, and her willingness to help out someone in need was something I’ve thought about often in my own life. I was touched by her offer to help and wondered how many she had assisted in the past who may have been fleeing from bad situations. Miss Marion paused only for a moment and then stated that she also required her renters to be in by 11, as she preferred to lock her doors at that time. If you weren’t coming home, she appreciated her tenants letting her know. She expected good behavior, quiet, and respect. This was her home and she wanted to get all of that straight before we went any further. Strict rules, but I was only needing a place for the summer and I would be working hard.

I was anticipating a summer with little time for much aside from long hours and hard work. I would be spending my days outside, operating my parents’ tropical plant business. My dad was a brilliant businessman. He was known as the “Fan Man” by locals and his employees because he refurbished and sold ceiling fans. He was loved by all who met him, but particularly his employees and customers. He had a natural charisma and charm that was infectious.

My dad could deal with a frustrated customer better than I ever thought possible. Sometimes I would see someone walk into his storefront, fan motor in one hand, blades gathered under the other arm and sweat pouring off their brow, madder than a hornet. Heck, even their glasses were crooked. I would tell myself there was no way daddy would be able to calm this guy down. But I would watch, and before the customer left, he and my dad would be best friends. Workers employed by my Father would do just about anything for him, because they knew he looked out for their best interests. I have to admit, on a few occasions I was a little envious seeing my dad helping an employee out of a difficult situation when I was expected to be strong and independent. I just needed to grow up a little and have children of my own to understand him.

Despite being a charmer, Daddy was very successful in any business venture he attempted. But, that success was due to long hours and lots of back-breaking work. A few summers prior, my dad came up with the brilliant idea to start a summer-only tropical plant business. He hired a tent company to place circus sized tents on lots he’d rented in urban areas for the summer. He had his employees construct wooden boardwalks that were elevated to ensure that when plants were watered, which occurred throughout the day, shoppers feet were kept from wading through muck.

Starting on the Friday before Mothers Day and until Labor Day every year, at least one 18 wheeler per week would back up to our tent and restock us with a huge variety of tropical plants. It was an amazing business that made wonderful memories for our family. My Dad was determined to make the business a success, even employing tropical plant experts to teach us to care for each plant and check on our success throughout each week. Daddy started out with one tent, with the business eventually expanding to eight all over middle Tennessee. There was a huge demand for these plants in our area and really all over the nation. If the summer prior was any indicator of their current popularity, we would sell out very quickly. Many days crowds would be awaiting my arrival so that they could buy one plant or many. Some work days extended later in the evening as customers just never seemed to lose interest. July and August working outdoors in Middle Tennessee was not for the faint of heart.

The physical nature of my job would leave me exhausted at the close of each day. I knew that making an arrangement such as the one at Miss Marion’s house would be crucial for my success that summer. I needed simplicity, a place close by to lay my head. I had an apartment at nearby Middle Tennessee State University. But, I knew the drive was more than I could do after a long, overheated and exhausted day. My parents lived only miles away, but had downsized. I didn’t want to put them out and enjoyed my independence so much. I felt so blessed to find Miss Marion’s house, as it made working hard easier.

I was more than happy to comply with Miss Marion’s demands, as I soon realized this arrangement was perfect. I made it clear to her that I would protect her home and respect it as if it were my own. Awestruck at the beauty of the home, it was difficult for me to retain much of the first moments of her tour. It was like going back in time, since the house had been so meticulously maintained. I found myself in a large foyer with a beautiful staircase, flanked by a living room on the right and a closed door on the left.

Miss Marion led me to the closed door on the left, and unlocked the door with an antique skeleton key she pulled from her pocket. I couldn’t help but think that what I was experiencing was just like a movie. We went inside and as she explained to me this was the area she was renting, I was again moved by another lovely smell. Unlike the scent of daffodils and freshly rained on grass, this time I was reminded of the smell of cedar and gardenias, a touch of coffee and fresh linens.

Old Homes and Old Portraits

Many years later, I realized that all old homes have their own similarly comforting aroma. It’s indescribable. How many cakes had been made in this home? How many young women went on their first date? How many individuals had been born, gotten married or made big decisions inside of these walls? I couldn’t help but wonder these things and felt sure the smells all round me were connected somehow to past events. The room we had just entered was a huge bedroom with a gorgeous antique queen-sized bed and an almost wall-to-wall, Aubusson-style rug covering the floor. The room felt warm and happy and pink. It was very feminine, with frilly curtains and floral bedding. Antiques sat around the room, many appearing to be French, and much older than the house.

Children of John and Carrie McGavock, Mary Martha and John Randal, who died in infancy.

A fireplace sat on the right side of the room with two floor-to-ceiling windows on either side of the bed. Above the fireplace was a portrait of two little children looking angelic, reminding me of the portrait of the McGavock children at Carnton. I couldn’t help but wonder if the children in the portrait were related to Miss Marion. She saw me glancing about and Miss Marion nervously explained to me that the room did not have a closet, because the home did not have them when it was built many years ago. She apologized, then walked a few feet and opened the door to a huge armoire with drawers and a place for hanging a few items.

Next, she made her way over to another door, while simultaneously explaining to me that she realized I probably had more clothing than the armoire could accommodate. She opened this door, stepping into a second foyer that also had another exquisite old staircase. In this second foyer, there under the stairs, she showed me a door that led back to the original porch where we shook hands only moments prior. Within this foyer, the front, grand entrance under the portico seen from the street was also located. Another room, to the right of the front door, Miss Marion described as the original parlor. She stated emphatically that the parlor would remain locked, yet never offered more of an explanation. Pointing to a rolling rack that was positioned behind me, she said, “This is where you can hang extra clothing, if you don’t mind using the hallway as your closet,” she stated. For a moment I thought I might’ve heard a little giggle coming from Miss Marion, but then I convinced myself otherwise.

She led me back into the room we had left only moments before, seated herself on a beautiful antique chair, and pushed a clipboard with a pen and papers attached towards me. It was pretty clear Miss Marion had developed a routine for her interviews. I sat in the accompanying identical antique chair across from hers as she said, “Please, have a seat and complete all of your information. Would you like a cup of tea?” I was agreeable of course, and made quick work of references and filling out her application. I was happy to sit and talk with Miss Marion that afternoon, as she was a delight. We became friends.

I wanted to ask her so many questions that day about her life, the history of her family and her home, but I held back out of respect. Miss Marion did seem to be somewhat guarded. As we continued to talk, I found out she held some apprehension answering me when I inquired as to whether or not her home was used for any purpose during the Battle of Franklin or occupation of Franklin during the civil war. She sort of looked at me funny and mumbled that the home wasn’t that old, and she didn’t know much about any activity during the war around it. Recalling that moment later on, and the sad look on her face, I felt regret for asking a question that caused her pain.

Looking back now, I believe Miss Marion probably actually didn’t know much about the subject at hand. She was born after the civil war, and so were her parents. Suffering through the Great Depression years most likely caused everyone around her to put the past aside and look towards new things and a bright and shiny future. Maybe she knew the basics, or what she had been taught in school. But, Miss Marion had been taught to avoid any discussion about what happened in her hometown, and especially her home. What happened in Franklin was looked upon by the townspeople as such a heinous event, it was better left in the past. This was complicated by mothers and fathers who had lost one or more sons, farmers and their children who were left with nothing, and a town wrecked beyond recognition. Years later, I was able to put the pieces together about why she’d wanted to warn me her home was “historic.” Every nuance, gesture and phrase stayed fresh in my mind from that day. It all made sense for me as time passed.

Creekside and the Battle of Franklin

All of Franklin was affected greatly by the Battle of Franklin, which occurred on November 30, 1864. What happened during the battle was a literal nightmare. Five hours of fighting just as the sun was going down, with a blood red sunset as a background. An Indian summer autumn day turned into a cold night as a gun battle turned into hand to hand combat. Soldiers used whatever they could find, even breaking into barns and garden sheds nearby to use whatever
they were able to for weapons. Thousands of soldiers on both sides lost their lives, and the injured who lived often lingered on for days and weeks in agony. What happened to the remaining townspeople after the battle was nothing less than a giant cover up, a glossing over, a rewriting, a grand lie. The townspeople were too heartbroken to remember, so they pretended to forget until the reality of the situation faded.

Battle of Franklin

The Battle of Franklin occurred so quickly, Federal campfires cooking that night’s supper still burned, while the men who had awaited their dinner engaged in battle with confederate troops. The confederate army seemed to come out of nowhere. There wasn’t even time for some to put on their overcoat before they became engaged in combat.

Many townspeople ran for cover once they realized a battle was eminent. Those who didn’t have a cellar of their own, huddled alongside their terrified children in a neighbor’s cellar. The cellar as a safe refuge was repeated all over Franklin. Terrified farmers quickly stuffed rope in cellar windows, attempting to prevent bullets from striking one of their family members. Attempts could be made to shield those taking refuge in the basement, but no amount of prevention could stop a stray cannonball striking or the house from catching fire.

Horrific sounds went on for hours and seemed unrelenting, when all at once there was silence. The fighting would seem to stop, only to resume with a thunderous, deafening booming. Not only was fighting outside, but now above, in the very home from which they had just fled. Often families would hear scuffling and cursing that would accompany men fighting for their lives on the floor above them, or some poor soul who’d crawled inside to seek refuge as the light dimmed from his eyes.

As they huddled in the darkness, the townspeople could smell the familiar smell of iron, possibly from gunfire, and the smell from pools of blood on the floors above. There was no escape as every sense was assaulted and the intrusion would permanently scar the townspeople forevermore. Minutes felt like hours as they listened to orders frantically shouted, while cannonballs continued to explode overhead.

The Carter House – Franklin, Tenn.

Crying infants in the cellars went unheard, muffled by the sounds of battle, as children grasped for comfort from their mothers. At times, the smoke from gunfire was so strong, the townspeople feared they may have to flee their safe confinements, or risk suffocation. Just as the smoke thinned, so did the sounds of munitions. Predominant now were the cries of wounded men who were without refuge or aid. Soldiers lay clinging to life on the battlefield only a few bricks away, only to be trampled by their comrades charging time after time, attempting to gain ground against the enemy. Horse upon horse lay injured and dying beside the very men they’d fearlessly carried without fear into gunfire. Their distinct equine shrieking and groaning remained a mystery to the individuals in their underground hiding places, until later when the townspeople emerged from the darkened cellars all around town.

Theodrick Carter Battle of Franklin Grave Franklin TN
Theodrick “Tod” Carter’s grave

Nineteen horses were dead just in the Carter House yard. It’s difficult to ascertain how many met their fate that day. Close to 10,000 human casualties occurred after four hours of brutal fighting during the Battle of Franklin. The townspeople did not expect a battle that day, and certainly were not prepared to experience more death and dying than they ever imagined possible. Once the townspeople escaped from their underground hiding places, more than one witness to the carnage following the Battle of Franklin stated that the battlefield was so full of dead and dying men, there was no place to put your foot without stepping on one of them. Every home in town was utilized as a hospital afterwards, 44 in total. Franklin, a town of 2,500 residents, was suddenly overtaken by sick and dying men. The carnage was beyond imagination.

When recalling the battle they had participated in, documenting it in diaries and letters, officers on both the Union and Confederate sides predicted that there was no way a town could experience such a horrific event and be able to go on, and that surely Franklin would end up a ghost town. It’s understandable that residents of Franklin tried to put the impact of the battle behind them.

The Battle of Franklin was not spoken of, and because of this, much was forgotten. The events that transpired were just too much. Most likely, Miss Marion’s family was no different in the goal of intentionally forgetting about the Battle of Franklin. Miss Marion continued our tour by leading me into the back portion of her home. Upon entering this second portion, I saw a side wall again with two symmetrical floor-to-ceiling windows. Two of the walls had gorgeous built-in bookcases, filled with old books. Many gorgeous antiques sat also within this room, but Miss Marion took me straight past them and to the fireplace on the remaining wall.

Mayor John Brown McEwen

Above this fireplace hung an oil painting of her great grandfather, Mayor John Brown McEwen. Mayor McEwen served as the Mayor of Franklin during the civil war, federal occupation and the Battle of Franklin. She proudly explained that Mayor McEwen had bought her home after the civil war for her grandmother, Sarah Florence McEwen Adkerson, who sadly died after giving birth to Marion’s mother.

Mayor John Brown McEwen | Lovely Franklin
This portrait of Mayor John Brown McEwen hung over the fireplace at Miss Marion’s house. (Rick Warwick)

Mayor McEwen had purchased homes for all three of his daughters after the Civil War. Miss Marion beamed with pride as she told me about her close connection to Franklin, this home, and her very important McEwen ancestor. I was enthralled. As guarded as she seemed, I was surprised Miss Marion shared this information with me. But, perhaps since I’d already inquired about the home’s history, she felt safe.

The remainder of our interview consisted of Miss Marion showing me her kitchen and a bathroom, to which I had unlimited access. I let Miss Marion know that my needs were minimal for the upcoming summer, and I would be working from 8AM to 8PM most days. I wouldn’t be home much and wouldn’t be bringing much more than my summer wardrobe. I needed a soft place to lay my head and access to a bathroom, and I wouldn’t be doing much cooking. I also wouldn’t be much trouble and could pay ahead for my summer stay. Miss Marion was thrilled.

One Small Problem

I couldn’t help but wonder what Miss Marion would think if she had known that I did have one little problem, a five-pound Yorkshire Terrier named Shoobie who I’d adopted the summer before. I feared telling her would ruin the entire arrangement. At this point I couldn’t help but selfishly make living in this dream of a house a priority. I loved my little Shoobie and would make sure during the few months I lived in Miss Marion’s house that neither one of us caused any problems.

Shoobie

Although Shoobie looked like a puppy, she was a very old mama dog who had been rescued from a puppy mill. Poor little five-pound Shoobie even had a tattoo on her belly to prove it. She was sent to the local pound once her usefulness ran out and if she had not been rescued by one of their volunteers, she would’ve met her death sooner than later. The volunteer that saved her came into my work one day with Shoobie, breaking into tears when I commented on her cute little dog.

Shoobie’s owner had fallen on hard times and was looking for a home for her little dog. I went out to her car, which was sadly loaded with most of her possessions. I gave her fifty bucks and Shoobie’s mom dug through her overloaded vehicle and handed me a dog bed, a leash and collar, a bag of dog food, and her pet’s paperwork. She cried as she pulled away, but I knew instantly that Shoobie and I were meant to be together. From that day forward, my little Yorkie and I were inseparable. I loved her and she loved me. She went to work with me everyday and sat on a little cushion in one of our chairs. I never even took a leash, as she was always tight on my heels no matter what occurred. When I bought a new purse, my main criteria was whether Shoobie would fit into it. So, my plan was to explain to Shoobie she had to be quiet and put her in my purse, and Miss Marion would be none the wiser.

I didn’t bring much upon moving into Miss Marion’s home. Two suitcases, my TV and VCR, a few movies, and of course, my little Shoobie. I wasn’t home much as opening up one of the locations of my parents’ seasonal business took lots of time. I moved into Miss Marion’s in about five minutes.

In the beginning, I wondered if maybe I’d bitten off a little too much in the adventure of moving into this old home. Miss Marion came from a different generation and she wasn’t a fan of using many lights. I, on the other hand, I have always turned on every lamp for the ambience. Having lots of lights on also helped me to feel less creeped out. I tried not to think of ghosts. As beautiful as the house was, it was scary. It did look like it was haunted, if you let your mind wander. The first time I came home from work, it was around nine o’clock at night. Every light in the home was out and you couldn’t even see it from the road.

The only light was at the end of the driveway. Leaving my car, I quickly placed Shoobie into my purse, reminding her of the rules. I have to admit that although my little Shoobie only weighed five pounds, her companionship got me through many scary nights and moments at Miss Marion’s house. On this night, the house looked so dark and scary, I contemplated getting back
into my car and sleeping elsewhere. I knew if I couldn’t walk from my car to the porch and get inside because I was scared this first night, it would only get harder. As I made this first nighttime trek, I saw movement behind a rose trellis about halfway across the yard. I decided to push on, but as I continued I heard a voice say, “I hope I haven’t scared you,” followed by a
flashlight being switched on that illuminated Miss Marion’s face. It makes me laugh now to think of it, but at the time the only thing scarier would’ve been an actual ghost. Maybe I was paranoid, but I did see Marion glancing at my purse a few times after switching on her flashlight.

As time went by I never knew what to expect upon arrival after dark at my new home. Many nights I would arrive home to a completely darkened house, as everyone that lived at Creekside at that time went to bed very early. In addition to coming home to complete darkness, more than once I came home to hear very loud preaching coming from the kitchen area of the house. I soon realized what I was hearing was a radio. Combined with the total darkness, this was also little scary.

I wondered if maybe she was outside waiting in the darkness to make certain I wasn’t sneaking a pet or, God forbid, a man into her house. Miss Marion never offered an explanation, but in hindsight I don’t believe she thought that her hiding behind a rose trellis in the darkness would
scare me.

One night, as I walked up the dark brick walk, Miss Marion popped out of nowhere, and greeted me. I always wondered how she knew I’d arrived home, but she knew. Another evening, after tucking Shoobie carefully into her hiding place in my large purse, Miss Marion greeted me. We shared pleasantries and then began to chat a bit when Shoobie decided to make her debut. Her cute little Yorkshire terrier head, complete with pink bow, popped up.

Miss Marion jumped a foot at the sight of my little dog. I expected her to order me to pack my things—how dare I bring an animal into her home. Instead she asked me, “what is that in your purse, a cat?” Because Miss Marion was so tiny, she and Shoobie were face to face as she asked, “She’s a cute thing, could you take her out of your bag?” As I removed Shoobie from her hiding place, Miss Marion made haste in taking her from me and holding her like they had known one another for years. Next, Miss Marion surprised me with her next statement, “Awwwww, she’s a little darling, she is potty trained?” I was so taken aback at her response, I could only bring myself to nod. After a few moments I was able to muster up a few words and began to speak when Miss Marion interrupted me to say, “All right now, you know this breaks my rule, but she can stay. I like this one. Just don’t let her ruin my carpet or chew up my furniture.”

From that point on if I entered Miss Marion’s home without Shoobie, she wanted to know where she was and why wasn’t she with me. I couldn’t have been more surprised. Neighbors told me later that they and Miss Marion had heard my Shoobie bark once when I was outside, so she suspected I had a little dog. It was wonderful to see Miss Marion love my little dog as much as I did. I knew then that I wasn’t very good at being sneaky, but I have a feeling not much got past Miss Marion.

Tea Time with Miss Marion

One evening, exhausted after a long day at work. I rushed inside of Miss Marion’s, ready for bed. Moments after closing my door, I heard a timid little knock. Miss Marion invited me to the kitchen to have a cup of nighttime tea before bed. I was honored to be invited. During this meeting, we sat at her table while she made the tea and continued to busy herself in the kitchen.

Miss Marion Adkerson appears second from the right, along with her four siblings. From left: Florence, Owen, Nell, Marian, and Burr Anderson. The Adkerson children grew up at Creekside.

She even showed me her college yearbook, and I couldn’t have been more surprised to see a photo of her smiling back at me looking like a real life 1920’s-era flapper. She was a gorgeous young woman. Miss Marion went on to get her Masters degree in Biology from Columbia University and had a wonderful career as a researcher, with her work being published several times. Never marrying, she lived in New York many years, working as a biologist and for the city of New York as an advisory.

Up until then, I’d only thought of miss Marion as a frail, little old lady. She was in her 80’s and I was in my twenties and she most likely had some preconceived notions about who I was as well. I found out during our tea time that night that Miss Marion had gone to college in the late twenties and obtained a degree in biology from the University of Tennessee.

Miss Marion was always close with her mother, sisters and brothers, and it was apparent she loved each one immensely. She only returned home to live when her mother Florence became ill, to help care for her. Miss Marion had a long career working as a biologist in Nashville, well into her retirement years. The most striking thing that I took away from our talk that evening was that Miss Marion, despite being an accomplished scientist, was one of the most faithful individuals I’ve ever known. It was extremely important to her that night that if I didn’t know God, she would do all she could to introduce me to Him.

This evening was very eye opening for me and changed the way I viewed Miss Marion. She was a brave young woman to pursue an education and career in the days before women were actually a vital part of our American work force. Despite being a scientist, she was also devout and went about her work of saving souls with a zeal seldom seen from someone so science oriented. What I learned that night was that I really liked Miss Marion and despite the years between us, looked forward to us becoming friends.

Miss Marion’s Porch

I only spent three months living at Creekside. But I can vividly recall so many wonderful memories despite my time there being so brief. Only weeks after my moving in to the home, Miss Marion became ill. I was working so hard, weeks went by before I realized that Miss Marion had gone to stay at her sister’s home to recuperate. My day-to-day routine remained steadfastand there wasn’t much time to do anything outside of work aside from rest.

One day while leaving for work, a young woman carrying a toddler appeared in the downstairs foyer. Although she seemed to be in as big of a hurry as I was to get somewhere, we were still quickly drawn into conversation, becoming fast friends. Cathy introduced herself and then her baby, Emma, who was about eighteen months old. Cathy was about ten years my senior and she explained that she and her husband John had been living at Creekside a few years, as they were attempting to build a home slowly, while remaining debt free. They were originally from nearby Brentwood. Their apartment was half of Miss Marion’s upstairs, having two bedrooms and its own entrance. After meeting that first day, I became good friends with Cathy and her husband.

Although a bit older than me, my neighbors laughed and cut up as though they were my age. I have wonderful memories of the time I spent at Creekside, with their little family as a part of those memories. Cathy and I would sometimes put on our swimsuits and sit on a big blanket on the soft grass outside, sunning ourselves and chatting. She would run some water in a little pool and we would watch Emma toddle around and splash to her hearts content. A few times we grilled out and had dinner outside, as the scenery was so beautiful. Getting to know my new neighbors was such a blessing and we would just sit and talk and talk.

I brought over my family and some friends and they also were taken aback by the beauty of the property and my good fortune in having found such a perfect place as my temporary home. My teenage sister came over and we let our imaginations run wild as to what had occurred within the old house, and how many ghosts still remained. My sister Kristen loved being at Miss Marion’s house, and even babysat for my new neighbors a few times.

At the rear of Miss Marion’s home was a big upstairs balcony that was more of a porch with a table and chairs for eating. It even had an old fashioned porch swing. Crystal showed me how to access that porch and one night when we went out there swinging, the timing was just perfect to see a train off in the distance which seemed to be heading straight for the house. I hadn’t realized there were train tracks on the property until that moment.

When we heard the sound of the whistle and the train’s approach, I’ll never forget Cathy and John both paused our conversation and Cathy held up a hand that indicated she wanted everyone to listen. They both stood up, close to the balcony railing and just uttered, “watch.” I couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw a train approaching the property from the rear, appearing as if it was coming right towards the very porch we sat on, only making a turn a few hundred feet from the home. This happened a few times a week, around eleven o’clock at night. Up until then I had never even heard or noticed the sound of the train or seen it’s tracks. Striking was the contrast of the train far off and getting closer and finally overtaking the cadence of the crickets and frogs that were the usual sounds of the landscape.

Miss Marion’s porch was fascinating to us all, and Cathy being able to share what had been a private and little-known wonder for her and John, was clearly a joy for her. On another night, Cathy, my sister and I brought mattresses outside on the big upstairs porch. The plan for us a s to attempt to sleep under the big full moon that we had noticed earlier. I’ve never seen a moon look so close; it was breathtaking. The view from the back porch of Miss Marion’s house was incomparable, as the property had been almost untouched. Within view of the rear of the house were two giant knobs, like tiny mountain formations. They rose up from the ground behind the property, known by the names Roper’s and Shute’s Knobs.

A hearty creek wove throughout the property and could be heard babbling away while on this upstairs porch. The original barns and an ancient spring house were all within view. Viewing the landscape of Miss Marion’s house from up above gave me an entirely new perspective of the property. I thought the property was so lovely because of the home built upon it, but after seeing the landscape from the elevation of the porch, I realized in those moments why the builder chose this property. It was exquisite. It felt like heaven.

My neighbors and I sat and talked there on Miss Marion’s porch until late in the evening, only coming in because porch sleeping didn’t seem like such a keen idea once we realized that the mosquitos had already emerged. Although my time at Miss Marion’s was more than thirty years ago, these memories all still seem as fresh as if they occurred yesterday.

The Great Lion Called Creekside

Spring turned in to summer and before I knew it, it was fall. It was time for me to leave Miss Marion’s house, as my job was done and my return to University life was to resume. I was sad that last day packing up my things to go home. I wished I could’ve stayed longer. I wish I could’ve learned more. If I had the experience of living there to do all over again, the only change I would’ve made would be to ask more questions and take more time to savor every aspect of the experience.

To this day I treasure my summer of living in that great old lion called Creekside, although I will always affectionately think of it as Miss Marion’s house. I will never forget all of my wonderful experiences there. I loved meeting Miss Marion, getting to know her house and all of the characters that made up my summer. I especially loved her upstairs porch with the best swing I’ve ever experienced, where the view was incomparable. I never saw Miss Marion again, but I’ve thought of her every time I drive past her home to go to CoolSprings Galleria. Despite how much time passed, I could still feel those same butterflies and my steering wheel pulling me towards her driveway.

I went back to college, went on with my life, and before I realized it, ten and then twenty years had passed since my time with Miss Marion. Years later, as I read our local paper, I saw an obituary that caught my eye. Miss Marion Adkerson passed away on November 18, 2003 at the age of 97. I’ll always remember her fondly and wish I could thank her for the wonderful memories.

I found my love for history and genealogy, particularly that of Williamson County, Tennessee, after the birth of my third child. It was like a light switch flipped and I began reading and researching. As a result, I have more to tell about Creekside. Its story has only just begun.

Sharing the forgotten stories of the women of historic Franklin,

Kimberly Clutsam

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7 Comments

  1. What a lovely read, Kimberly! Thank you!
    I will be sharing it with my family.
    Your neighbor, April Blandin

  2. What a wonderful article! I have driven past Creekside regularly from my home on Gray Fox Lane since 1978 and never knew anything about it – but I have always loved the property and the home, especially the small pasture just to the right of the house. Back in the day when we used to have the Candlelight Tours in December, I also wondered why Creekside was never on the tour and have always wished to see inside. I have so many wonderful memories of the homes I have been blessed to be able to tour. Again, thank you! This makes me feel like I have some connection to this wonderful home too now. We are so lucky to have such an amazing history here in Franklin.

  3. Thank you Lynn! I’ve been researching lots and have more posts to come! I share your love for old homes and it was a dream come true for me to live at Creekside, even being that young. I wish I had taken photos. I also loved the home tours and was very sad when the stopped having them a few years ago! Let’s pray they

  4. I absolutely adored this article! I devoured it over my 4am cup of coffee.

    We moved to Franklin 3 years ago but my surroundings feel familiar and I feel like I’ve returned home. Any chance I get to explore more than just Main Street is time well spent. I am eager to read the historical markers decorating the streets. Like hot embers waiting for a new log to build the flames again, my imagination is consumed with trying to comprehend what this city once was and who the individuals were that occupied the charming homes and neighborhoods.

    I can relate to your interest in uncovering Franklin history and genealogy. I look forward to your book and reading more of your work.

    Warmest Blessings,

    Ashley Green

  5. Thank you for this lovely tribute to a very special woman. For our family, Marion Adkerson was Aunt Mimi. I am glad you had an opportunity to know her if only for a short time. It was wonderful to see the lovely family photos included in this description, including those of Aunt Mimi, other family members, and the farmhouse that has been in our family for more than a hundred years. We have treasured and protected these family photos for many years and will continue to do so. Again, thank you!

    1. Josetta,
      I am so thrilled that you were able to read your “Aunt Mimi’s” story, and I hope you will share it with other family members! It was an absolute honor and pleasure recalling the experience of meeting your Aunt. I was absolutely charmed by both her and your family home! I have already written a part two, to be released soon here on Lovely Franklin!

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