Photo by Tiffany Brady / MTSU Sidelines Archive
Story by Max Leach / Contributing Writer
The city of Murfreesboro is a place of constant development. It seems that on every other street corner there’s a strip mall being constructed or some type of roadwork being done. The demographics of young adults are constantly growing, as it’s certainly a college-oriented city; but, it hasn’t always been this way. Take a detour just off of North Highland Avenue, and things begin to look as they once did many moons ago. You’ll pass Evergreen Cemetery, a beautiful cemetery full of magnolias and oak trees with headstones that date back to 1778. Just around the corner from Evergreen Cemetery sits a beautiful house from the antebellum era called Oaklands Mansion.
Built by Dr. James Maney and his wife Sally somewhere between 1815 and 1820 (the actual date of construction is unknown), Oaklands Mansion was home to the wealthy Maney family through the end of the Civil War. Over those years, the house hosted plenty of guests, mostly of higher status. While the house, like most southern home museums, has a Jefferson Davis room, there is no confirmation that Confederate General actually stayed the night.
The common area for the guests was designed to boast the Maney’s wealth, as they provided comfortable accommodations to their visitors. This lodging area of the house overlooks some of the 274 acres of land that originally came with the home, upon which a Civil War battle was actually fought. The Maney children gazed from the windows as the conflict ensued. However, the truce for that battle was actually signed in the house.
The home is furnished with many of the Maney family’s personal items – including Maney’s medical instruments and some furniture. The property itself has an admittedly grim energy to it, and some of its items on display are no different. There are some other features of the home that many will find slightly disturbing. Keep in mind, the Maney’s were a wealthy family of the antebellum period, so the plantation also housed enslaved families. Creepy porcelain dolls that were once used as toys rest on one of the children’s beds. On one wall hangs a post-mortem portrait of Lavinia Maney, who passed away as an infant, and on another wall, you will find a hair wreath; post-mortem and hair-wreaths were common traditions following the death of a loved one throughout the 19th century.
October is spooky season, and, therefore, Oaklands Mansion celebrated by hosting after-dark “Flashlight Tours” of the home in addition to their normal house tours. These flashlight tours offer an even creepier perspective of the property that is chock full of skeletons and other Halloween decorations that will leave you with chills. The property also spends the month in “mourning,” a stage in which the home’s mirrors were draped with black veils to recognize the dead. It was believed that if one looked into a mirror quickly after the loss of a loved one, they were next. There is no confirmation as to whether or not the house is actually haunted. Although, when it was abandoned in the 1950s, young teenagers of Murfreesboro certainly treated it as such.
Today, Oaklands Museum is a simple glimpse into the past, one that recollects the ways of life that were once deemed “normal.” It’s a great place to learn, telling the story of a wealthy southern family who greatly contributed to what Murfreesboro is today. While we may not completely agree with the lifestyles of the time or what they believed in, it’s important for younger generations to recognize them and to realize that Oaklands (or Murfreesboro) is not a place that preserves Confederate heritage whatsoever. Rather, Oaklands Mansion is an reminder that despite how conflicted a country may be or how trapped in the times, a generation may find themselves. The only direction is forward and there will always lie, especially in this country, a certainty of progress.
To contact Lifestyles Editor Sydney Wagner, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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