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Log cabins are finally giving way to wood-framed buildings and, for the rich, brick.For the past seven years, it has been the state capitol, but it still has the feel of a frontier village.Yet the people in Franklin’s coffle are also sick and afraid. C., and they’ll keep walking all the way to Natchez, Mississippi. They all know about the women he keeps trapped on his farm outside of town.From historical accounts of such marches, notably George William Featherstonhaugh’s “Excursion Through the Slave States” and Edward Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism,” the picture comes into focus. The haunted-looking women try to keep the spirits of the children up, but every night brings new horror. Franklin and the three other white men traveling with him take women off into the brush. And they all know that, when Franklin’s captives get to Natchez, whatever hell they’ve faced on the road — the beatings, the rapes, the forced marches — will seem like the good old days.Though it’s among the oldest in the county, there’s no historical marker.A long time ago, someone planted a wall of trees — a row of evergreens, a row of hedges, a row of deciduous trees, and another row of evergreens — along the edge of the property, making the house virtually impossible to see from the road.A hundred women and children follow behind in wagons, destined for sale.A man with a fiddle walks alongside the chained men, playing to keep them moving at the same speed. Nashville is a village of 5,500 people living near the crumbling remains of Fort Nashborough.
Isaac, his four brothers, and five sisters were born in that house.In portraits from the period, his black hair is fine and perpetually messy.He frowns instead of smiles and his eyes are dark with some secret disappointment.Franklin’s victims pass briefly among the villagers and then disappear down the Natchez Trace. Nashville cherishes the stories of complicated men like Judge John Overton and Andrew Jackson, and protects them the same as it does the Victorian Ryman Auditorium or the mid-century modern Cordell Hull Building — now, anyway.
By contrast, Isaac Franklin’s story, inconvenient for boosters and thus better forgotten, is buried.
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