Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne Australia and The Not Captain Cook’s Cottage

[Updated – forgot to add some stuff before] Melbourne refers to itself as the garden city of Australia, and Fitzroy Garden is one of the city’s many landscaped gardens that earns it that title. The most famous attraction located within the garden is Cook’s cottage, which some sites advertise as having belonged to the famous Captain Cook, the explorer who ‘discovered Australia’; historical buff that I am, this made me excited to see it, but that claim — if you come across it, is wrong. It was never his, it was one of his parent’s homes, and he never lived there. That said Fitzroy Garden where the house is located, is free to explore, but the Cook’s Cottage itself — which has been one of the major tourist draws in Melbourne since it was first moved here in 1934… is NOT, free that is…

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Me, standing as close as you can get to the house without paying a fee

Fitzroy Gardens, in the suburb of East Melbourne. To be technical about it… It’s not actually IN Melbourne, which is one of these TINY dot on the map cities that has never annexed adjacent suburbs so that it could ‘grow’, like Chicago or New York City did, and has ‘neighborhoods’ that are legally separate entities; as such you really have to think of it as the greater Melbourne area when visiting, because Aussies seem to get very irritated when we call East Melbourne, just plain old Melbourne… because it’s not.

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“Technically” considered to be the Oldest building in all of the greater Melbourne area, as it has been dated to at least 1755 [Melbourne was founded in 1835], the cottage had belonged (at one time) to the father of James Cook (1728 –1779), the famous British explorer, navigator, cartographer, and captain in the Royal Navy, who was also the first “recorded” European to “discover” Australia…. That said, the man who “discovered” Australia MAY have (we don’t know for sure that he ever did), at best, slept there… when/if he visited his folks in his home town (one has to assume he may have at some point)…. so yes, the connection is a bit tenuous …

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Originally located in the village of Great Ayton in North Yorkshire, where Captain Cook was born, the building was brought to Melbourne in in 1934 by the Chemist and Philanthropist Russell Grimwade, who gifted it to the State of Victoria in honor of the celebration of the upcoming 100 year anniversary of the settlement of Melbourne (1835). The owner had put it up for bid, on condition that it be moved to someplace else “in England”, but (according to Wikipedia) when the highest local bid had been £300 versus Grimwade’s bid of £800, she was ‘convinced’ to change that requirement to “in the British Empire.”

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Originally sold as the home of Captain Cook’s early days, the cottage is now only called “Cook’s Cottage” because later historians, rightly, called foul. While the initials J.C. and the year of 1755 had been engraved into a lintel above one of the doors… the JC did not denote James Cook the son and Captain, but rather James his father, a farm laborer who was originally from Scotland.

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The engraved lintel (covered in plexiglass, I assume for its protection from vandals)

What is not known for sure, however, is was the house built in 1755, or possibly rebuilt… or just purchased by Cook’s father. Also, since James Cook, the Jr., was born in 1728, and had moved away from home at 16 — which was normal at the time, he would have been 27 by 1755, the year engraved probably with his own home; this, in fact, was was the same year he had joined the Royal Navy in hopes of greater advancement, after having already served in the British Merchant Navy where he had been promoted about as far as he could in that profession, i.e., already an adult man with a career and his own private life…. Therefore, it is HIGHLY unlikely that he had actually ever LIVED in the house, at best he may have visited, it was therefore a misleading to continue to call it “Captain Cook’s Cottage”…

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The laminated 3-ring notebook you can reference if you want to know more about the house

The Cottage itself is open every day from 9 to 5, but you have to buy a ticket. These can be found across the walkway at the information building/Visitor Center and Conservatory, which also has a cafe, where you can have a meal, pamphlets about other things to see and do in the area

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And of course a gift shop…. with some very cute items for sale that I had not seen elsewhere, so worth checking out if you’re shopping for souvenirs

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I think these were hand-made Xmas tree ornaments, but they’re cute enough that even I’d buy them … the seemed to be made of pine prickles shoved into a form, sculpted and painted, or something of the like

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Although a bit steep for a rubber ducky at $14.95 AUD, I was seriously tempted to buy one of these …. afterwards I found a few other museums with sections devoted to Captain Cook that also sell them… for the same price. I might give in and buy one next time see it.

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Once you have purchased your ticket you cross over to the cottage and enter through a gate that scans your ticket (like at the airport). Inside were two docents dressed in period garb whose job it was to help orient you, or have their pictures taken with you (which I didn’t opt to do), or help you into the garb if you wanted to dress up yourself… but for the most part it’s all self guided.

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There were two 3 ringed notebooks of laminated pages devoted to the spot if you bother to take the time to notice them (almost no one did) located just in the doorway of the home (where folks would remove their coats and muddy shoes, I assume). The house consisted of a kitchen/living room/dining room with a running voice narrative that sounds like it’s supposed to be Captain Cook’s mother, talking about what it was like to live and work in the house

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Upstairs there was a narrow flight of stairs that were a lot steeper than we’re used to (most definitely NOT disability friendly), and required that visitors make way for each other going up or down

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You find a master bedroom, with more written explanation (and no voice narrative)

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and two small bedrooms, one upstairs and one down

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And in the back of the house is an herb garden

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Around the back/side of the house is the stable, which has been converted into a sort of museum/movie theater

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I am pretty sure I watched four different movies that were on display there, one about Captain cook discovering Australia, one about the sale and transport of the house, one about the history of the house, and one about his parent’s lives. One of the cool things was there were three screens, one of which was showing the same movie at the same time, on a smaller screen, with Chinese subtitles. Every time Chinese visitors stepped in I would point them towards that, because they tended to walk in, see the main screen, hear the English, and looked a little sad… only to have me point out the Chinese screen and have their faces light up… I’m thinking one of the docents should have been in there doing that.

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…. and the River God Fountain, both of which are perfectly nice

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…these looked pretty much like any old fashioned/classic fountain and garden you’d find in any park …anywhere (especially in France or the UK). What’s cool/different about the garden is that it tends towards things that are a bit more fanciful and fun, such as it’s children’s playground, which has a dragon slide and a giraffe like swing set

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And a model Kentish Tudor village. The story on this is kind of cute in that all the homes were built by an elderly pensioner, Mr. Edgar Wilson who lived in the UK and liked to build these things out of concrete, just for fun, as his hobby. He gifted them in 1948 to Melbourne in appreciation of the food that Australia sent to England during WWII

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The town included a scale model of the house owned by Shakespeare’s wife (the one he quickly abandoned) the widow Anne Hathaway. I will admit that when I read the garden had a Tudor Village, I was expecting something radically different from what I found. In my minds eye I expected to find some full or at least half sized Tudor homes that you could walk through … maybe with some staff, sort of like what I had found at Cook’s cottage…. at least tall enough for small children to enter… but nope

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Instead I found a collection of homes that at best might come to my knee, and the homes are all completely fenced off, so little kids can’t really enjoy them much either… and adjacent to the Tudor village I found the the Fairies Tree

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which I was sad to see was ALSO surrounded by a fence, so that you can’t get up close and personal with it. BUT after I got home and studied it I understood why — did NOT find any description of this at the spot. This tree isn’t some modern thing made for kids to play on … The Fairies tree was carved back in the 1930’s by a local artist and author by the name of Ola Cohn, into the stump of a 300+ year old River Red Gum tree which had been original to the garden. Ms Cohn (who was of Danish extraction) was a well known (her portrait hangs in a museum in Canberra, and the link includes an image of her carving the tree) and respected local artist, who went on to be appointed a Member of The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an order of chivalry — a sort of knighthood, for her work in the service of art. Because she’d carved it into what was then already a dead tree, there’s been issues with degradation and rot over time, so that in 1977, in order to stop the rot, they had to pull the whole thing out of the ground, removed wood that had already rotted — they found a perfectly preserved mummified Brushtail possum at that point (!!!), and then treated the remaining tree with chemicals to stop any further rot… remounted the tree into a concrete base and returned it to the garden.

So I get the history of the things, and why they might want to preserve them… but I have to think little kids don’t really enjoy either of them much as a result. So Nice but kind of meh…

I think my favorite fountain was the Dolphin Fountain, which seemed to be much more modern in construction….

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in fact it turned out to have been built in 1982, and for some reason the park’s website said that it was “controversial” but didn’t explain why…

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After some research I found this website explaining, some of the argument was regarding WHERE in the garden this $30,000 gift payed for by Dinah and Henry Krongold and created by a sculptress by the name of June Arnold should go… or if it was suited to the Fitzroy gardens at all because it wasn’t in keeping with the garden’s naturalism (???)

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Not surprisingly, little kid (according to what I’ve read) LOVE this fountain as it’s the only one they’re actually allowed to interact with… I saw parents lifting their small children up on to the rocks, etc.

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Who owns Oklahoma? The Monument to the Land Run Of 1889 on Route 66, in Luther, Oklahoma… and Native American Sovereignty

In October, while driving Route 66, I came across this marker/monument in Oklahoma. It denotes the eastern boundary of the Oklahoma Land run of 1889. For those who are unfamiliar with this event, it is yet another one of the many moments in American history where white men feel proud of themselves (there’s a HUGE monument to the event in downtown Oklahoma City), for essentially screwing over the indigenous red man who was there first (please note there is NO reference to them on this monument). HOWEVER, it also has something to do with the Case of Carpenter v. Murphy which is currently before the Supreme Court of the United States!

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In fact the Run of ’89 was the first of a series of land rushes organized by the Federal Government. These were “organized (HAH!)” events where vast numbers of WHITE settlers, 50,000 of them in this case… lined up with a flags in their hands, and at the sound of a gun were supposed to surge across the UNASSIGNED countryside on horseback or in wagons, racing to outpace the other contestants, find a nice piece of desirable FREE land, drive their flags into said piece and thereby “stake their claim to it.” In reality, the gullible honest people did that… often to find cheaters (usually rich people who had illegally surveyed the land ahead of time) already there (along with all their employees) trying to make it look like they’d actually done the run along with the others… when they had not… and had somehow managed to grab all the best bits of land first. So this was not only White people screwing over Red people, it was also rich white dishonest people screwing honest hardworking poor white people.

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Of course, all of this screwing was only possible after the government had “legally” screwed the folks who were already there…. the Native Americans…. Initially this was done via the Indian [land] Appropriation Acts where the government gave itself the right to yet again round up the local Native American population, this time to force them into reservations. When I say yet again, you need to keep in mind that the State name, Oklahoma, is derived from what it had been called at that time… i.e., the Oklahoma territory… and that the word Oklahoma is actually a composite of the Choctaw words “okla” and “humma,” which translates quite literally to “red people” … i.e., Red man’s territory.

This was an area that had at first been occupied by the Choctaw Nation (a multi-tribal people that spread from Oklahoma to Florida, and were united by a single language, Choctaw), who were then joined by the Cherokee… who were only there because they had already been moved once. Some came begrudgingly, as a result treaties they had signed, such as that of New Echota — the one made with the leaders of the former capitol of the Cherokee people( which I had visited twice, located about 1.5 hours from my friend home in Dalton, Georgia) with the Federal government; and if individual Cherokee refused to go by choice, they were FORCED to do so, on what later became known as The Trail of Tears. Ultimately, all of the Native Americans living within “Indian Territory” had been members of what the American colonists had referred to as the “Five Civilized Tribes“….Native Americans groups from along the southeast sections of America who had tried to get along with the invaders by going along; groups who had converted to Christianity, adopted centralized forms of government (see my posts about New Echota), were literate (see my post about Sequoyah), participated not just in trade but in the market economies of their areas, AND, to top it all off… OWNED SLAVES (see my post about Chief Vann, who maintained a plantation just north of Echota). All of these tactics of compromise ultimate failed, and now… having already been relocated to Indian Territory — which was supposed to be JUST for them… they were removed yet again, forced into reservations, and what had been their land, was now deemed “unassigned,” was given away to white people… who grabbed it in the mad rush described above.0pX+45bmRsucW8VKKr8e9w_thumb_ae3f.jpg

And the bleeding of the tribal lands in Oklahoma has in fact continued to this day so that only 2% of what had been Cherokee Nation land is still under their own control. Now here’s the good news… AFTER I had already driven past this area, on November 27, 2018 the Supreme court heard a case called Carpenter v. Murphy that calls into question whether the tribes of the Five Civilized Nations STILL have sovereignty over its own people on lands that had sort of bled out of their control within the Indian Territory lands in last 100 years.

See…

Washington Post: Half the land in Oklahoma could be returned to Native Americans. It should be.

New York Times: Is Half of Oklahoma an Indian Reservation? The Supreme Court Sifts the Merits

The Atlantic: Who Owns Oklahoma? The Supreme Court must decide the fate of a murderer—and whether roughly half of Oklahoma is rightfully reservation land.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2018/11/28/half-land-oklahoma-could-be-returned-native-americans-it-should-be/?utm_term=.d17222df80b3

 

Congregation Emanu-El, Victoria B.C.

More than 150 years old, Congregation Emanu-El is located in Victoria, British Columbia, right off of the TransCanada Highway, and is both the oldest continuously operating Jewish congregation in all of Canada (1859) and the oldest continuously used synagogue (built in 1863) along the west coast of the North American Continent.

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Historically, the development of Victoria was similar to that of San Francisco, which had grown from a Spanish garrison on the Presidio (and it’s requisite* nearby lazy mission town in 1774) with only about 500+ non Native American inhabitants, to having achieved ‘vibrant city’ status almost overnight. As we all remember from our history classes, this occurred because of the 1848-1855 California gold rush, when tens of thousands of prospectors flooded into the area. In both cases, this sudden influx of miners drew along with them a smaller flood of entrepreneurial businessmen who were less interested in something as exciting as mining, than in setting up the far more dependably profitable, albeit dull, secondary businesses necessary to support the minors’ endeavors. In fact the business people as a whole, were the ones who made financial killings, while most of the minors went home penniless. Among these shop keepers, far more so than among the miners, were a relatively large number of Jews (because, lets face it, we’re Jews), so that by 1870, San Francisco had the largest population of Jews outside of New York, comprising a full 10% of the city’s population.

*Tangent alert! I say “requisite” because the Catholic Spanish  justified their heavy handed, military, colonialist, expansionism as being the spreading of G-d’s word via his ‘true church’ (i.e., Catholic); and, keeping in mind Spain had (till 1492) been a part of the Muslim empire, they initially did it with a jihadist zeal (I will make you love G-d’s word, and if that means killing one hundred of you in order to get just one true believer, that’s good math). Granted, this Islamic influence had tempered out over time, but even in the late 1700’s, ‘ideologically‘ what ‘mattered’ for the Spanish was the church, thereby allowing them to kid themselves that the military was just their to ensure the church got the job done; and, of course, it was all for the benefit of the native peoples being converted rather than any greed on their own part (imagine me faking a sneeze while saying *bullshit!*). This is not to say that Protestant governments did not do the former (military expansionism) … granted, they did, but arguably with a bit less of a concern for the latter (spreading the word). As I studied history I often got the feeling that the military men of protestant countries (of that period) sort of suffered their missionaries as a necessary evil and encumbrance, rather than viewing them as their raison d’être; as in protecting the missionaries who insisted on being out among the ‘savages’ rather than staying close to or better yet, behind, protected walls, just made their jobs harder… rather than being their jobs.

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Back to Victoria: Originally founded in 1843, as Fort Victoria — a military and Hudson Bay Company fur trading post (along side a naturally protected harbor), the explosive growth to city status was, again, a direct result of the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush (1857), which brought in that same influx of minors, and supporting businessmen — who were again dis-proportionally Jewish (compared to the population of most Canadian Towns); and by ‘same minors’ I mean that most of them had traveled north along the coast from the overworked gold mines of the United States, to this new opportunity in Vancouver Island. In fact, gold had been mined in the Vancouver Island for a while before that, but news of the fact hadn’t reached San Francisco until the then Governor of Victoria (population again, about 500+) had sent a shipment to SF for minting into coins; and he probably had genuinely mixed feelings when what he got back a month later were his coins AND the unexpected and unprepared for influx of 30,000 men (“a record for mass movement of mining populations on the North American frontier, even though more men in total were involved in the California and Colorado“). How he felt about a large percentage of said men being Jewish businessmen, I can’t imagine, although I’m guessing they were the least of his problems, as “The influx of prospectors included numerous European Americans and African Americans, Britons, Germans, English Canadians, Maritimers, French Canadians, Scandinavians, Italians, Belgians and French, and other European ethnicities, Hawaiians, Chinese, Mexicans, West Indians, and others” (same Wikipedia source as above).

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According to the woman who showed me around the temple, the first thing the congregation (formed in 1859) did, was to arrange for the purchase of land for a consecrated  Jewish cemetery, which they did in 1860, rather than for the Shul (the building wasn’t built till 1863) — as the former was by far the more pressing need at the time. It was ultimately established on a 1.5 acre parcel, that was purchased by one of the members, a gentleman with the unenviable name of Lewis Lewis, who bought it with his own money and donated it to the congregation. And, according to the woman, the parcel purchased was so large and the community of the Shul (which for a long time was the only one in Victoria) has remained so small… that over 150 years later it still isn’t full.

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To a Jew, the fact that they were more concerned with a cemetery than a synagogue makes total sense, but let me explain why: unlike Catholics, Jews don’t actually require priests/rabbis or ‘churches/temples’ in order to pray, just a knowledge of the prayer or a copy of the book (hence the religion of the book) — and in fact the 16th century Protestant Reformation returned this attribute to some sects of Christianity. For Jews, most praying can be done alone… although there are a large number of specific prayers — for instance the prayer for the dead, or Kaddish — that require a minyan (a quorum if you will) of 10 Jews who have all had their Bar’Mitzvah ceremony (or bat — if you’re not orthodox). In fact, if you arrive at a synagogue early enough for morning prayers, it’s not the rabbi that you will find the group waiting for, but rather the quorum of 10… with, if necessary, you see individuals running out into the hallways (or the street, if it’s a Jewish neighborhood) to drag people in so they can get started. As such, prioritizing the creation of the graveyard over the building of a synagogue (or shul), makes perfect sense from our perspective…

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I first learned about this Shul during the Canada Day festivities when my friend Gina was visiting. As we were walking around looking at the local ‘group’ displays we came across one for the local JCC (Jewish Community Center) and the woman there told us about this historic shul just a few blocks away, and invited us to attend services, if we wanted to. Apparently they only have about 200 families in their entire membership, most of whom only show up for the high holidays. And they don’t do anywhere close to the normal amount of services (technically there should be three a day), but only manage to pull together a regular minyan for Sabbath prayers, and only once a week (Most shuls in major cities do two, Friday night and Saturday morning), and they only manage to do the 2nd Sabbath prayer once a month. She also said that if I came by the office during business hours, they’d be happy to show me around, even if there were no services that day — which is what I ultimately did.

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Even though this is a conservative shul, the construction of the temple implies that it started out as orthodox, where men prayed on the fist floor and women sat above, looking down on their husbands and sons. (This is highly likely, since the Conservative Jewish movement, which among other changes allows men and women to sit together, was created about the same time as the shul was built.)

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The boards with the names (Yahrzeit Memorial Plaques) are traditional, and visible in most shuls around the world. They show the name of all former members and memorialize the date of their death in both the Jewish and Christian Calendars (they are different), with the lit lights reminding friends and family to remember that this week they need to say the prayer for their loved ones (“The Mourner’s Kaddish”).
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You have got to love the town where the parishioners feel it’s completely safe for the regulars (those who attend services regularly) to leave their Tallis bags just sitting out in the open like this. At our shul in Chicago there’s a locked closet. These bags will contain the things men need to pray, a Kippa — assuming they don’t wear them all day (orthdox will), their Tallis (or prayer shawl), and Tefillin (the little boxes attached to leather cords that are wrapped around the head and arm during prayers — “…and ye shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.” — Deuteronomy 11:18).

Apparently one of the walking tour-companies (the ones I seen where the leader has a mic and all the followers have Bluetooth earphones) offers a Jewish Victoria tour once a week that walks around looking at the various historic buildings, pointing out the ones that were originally Jewish stores… am thinking about it.

Sequoyah Birthplace Museum & Fort Loudon Historical Park

Worth a good two hours, possibly more, both attractions are on a man-made island. In the valleys near this location sat both a Colonial era British Fort, and an Indian village that was the birthplace of a Famous Native American; the original valley locations for both the fort and village were submerged in 1979, in order to create the Tellico reservoir, and  island.

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I came here wanting to see Sequoyah’s birthplace, having been told about this it by the folks at New Echota in Georgia, where there is a whole display describing his achievements. Sequoyah was so famous in his day that the trees of the same name were named after him; he achieved this notoriety because, after recognizing the importance of the written language in empowering the invading whites, he sat down and all by himself invented a phonic alphabet for the Cherokee language so that his people too could be literate. And the village in which he was born was called Tuskegee

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Below a plaque in memory of the Cherokee people who had lived in the valley that had been flooded in 1979, and the 191 burial sites that had to be moved to this new burial mound in order to create the Tellico reservoir

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I am putting this on the list of places that I didn’t schedule in near enough time for. I honestly was expecting it to be less than it was. By the time I was getting there, it was due to close in about 10 minutes. I had the phone number and called, and the lady working the desk said she would stick around for an extra 15 for me, and another Family that happened to show up can see the place at the same time I arrived (they had not called).

As I said before, this is not actually the original location, the Tennessee Valley Authority had flooded the whole area to create a electric damn and this is where they move to the his home, and created the visitor’s center which explains all about the history of the tribes, and the import of Sequoyah’s achievements.

Once this place closed, I moved across the street to the rebuilt British fort built there. By the time I arrived the visitor’s center had already close, so I can’t speak to it.

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Behind the visitor’s center however is the fort, which only closes at sundown… and it is kind of seriously cool. It’s a living history museum which includes everything, down to sheets on the soldiers bunks