Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Long-awaited Unveiling of Birthplace Civil War Trail Marker Draws Enthusiastic Crowd

The unveiling of Admiral Farragut's Birthplace Civil War Trail Marker on April 28, 2012, made history in more ways than one: all three mayors of Knox County, Tennessee attended! City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Town of Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill, and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett spoke on behalf of their constituencies. In addition, the headline speakers were Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker and Dr. Carroll Van West, director of the Tennessee Civil War National Heritage Area.
Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero told attendees that her ancestors came from Minorca, an island off the coast of Spain where Admiral Farragut's father was also born.

An estimated 100 people attended
Helping celebrate the unveiling of the Civil War Trail Marker in Admiral Farragut Park on April 28, were Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Tennessee Daughters of the American Revolution State Treasurer Julia Springer, and Eleanor Meisenheimer with the Andrew Bogle DAR.
(left to right) Tennessee Tourism Commissioner Susan Whitaker, City of Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero, Tennessee Sesquicentennial co-chair Carroll Van West, Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, Town of Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill, HoLa Hora Latina president Angela Masini, Farragut Folklife Museum board member Mul Wyman and board chair Louis LaMarche (who dressed as Admiral Farragut), Knox County Executive Director of Parks and Recreation Doug Bataille, and event organizer Margot Kline

The story below by Sherri Gardner-Howell appeared in the local Knox County Shopper News neighborhood weekly publication (

The good Admiral can still draw a crowd. Three mayors, a state senator, numerous representatives from city and county councils and board of aldermen, historians, Civil War buffs, Daughters of the American Revolution and community leaders made up a large crowd on April 28 for the unveiling of the official Civil War Trail Marker honoring Adm. David Glasgow Farragut at Admiral Farragut Park [just west of Northshore Town Center].The setting was chosen for more than aesthetic beauty. The marker sits on the bank of the cove, across from the place where David Glasgow Farragut was born in 1801.

Margot Kline, one of the community leaders who helped spearhead getting the Trail marker, served as master of ceremonies, welcoming co-sponsors Hola Hora Latina. Admiral Farragut’s roots as the son of a merchant captain from Minorca, Spain, provided the tie to Hola. Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero quipped that she might be a distant cousin of Farragut, as Rogero’s family also came from the Spanish port city of Ciutadella, Minorca.

Farragut Mayor Ralph McGill and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett also spoke about Farragut, with McGill expressing the town of Farragut’s pride in Adm. Farragut’s significant role in the nation’s history. 

Commissioner of Tourist Development Susan Whitaker reminded those gathered of the importance of cultural and historic sites as draws for tourists. 

“Visitors to Tennessee are two times more likely to visit a cultural and historic site. With the trail marker program, we have taken the time to do it right,” said Whitaker. “We now have 234 markers in 77 counties in the state.”

Lou LaMarche, chair of the Farragut Folklife Museum board, came dressed as Admiral Farragut. He told the crowd of the hardships of Farragut’s family and the humility of Adm. Farragut.

"Admiral Farragut never posed as a hero,” said LaMarche. “He was a military man.”

Dr. Carroll Van West, co-chair of the Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial, thanked those who had worked to secure the right place for the Civil War Trail marker. 

“We wanted a place that would tell his story,” said West. “This spot is not only a beautiful view, but a historical view. The river helped define the history of Tennessee, including why the Farragut family settled here.” 

West added that Farragut was not only a hero to Tennesseans, but to the nation. 

“He served in countless wars and has a pivotal place in American history. David Farragut brought the U.S. Navy into its modern era.”

Helping make the special event moving were the presentation of the colors by members of the Farragut High School Junior ROTC and the inspiring vocals of Kelle Jolly singing the national anthem and the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She was accompanied on the snare drum by Martin Hodge.

more photos from the morning:

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

On 4-28-12 Tennessee Tourism Commissioner and other state and local officials will dedicate Civil War Trail Marker

The public is cordially invited to attend the unveiling of a Civil War Trail Marker at Admiral Farragut's Birthplace. The dedication of the Trail Marker will begin at 10:00 AM on Saturday, April 28, 2012. Entertainment and light refreshments will be provided between 9:00 and 10:00 AM.

Monday, December 26, 2011

2011 in Review

2011 has been a busy year for preservation in Knox County, Tennessee, with efforts to recognize Farragut's Birthplace making front-page news twice and even being covered by the Associated Press.

Below is a recap of 2011 events that relate to Farragut's Birthplace:

January 20, 2011: Knox County MPC's Historic Zoning Commission votes unanimously to update an ongoing grant request to the state historic preservation office and to continue working to get the birthplace put on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Register of Historic Places. Director Ann Bennett agrees to seek grants and other sources of public funding for archaeology studies and improvements on the public land.

January 25, 2011: Sue Stuhl, Town of Farragut director of parks and leisure services, tells the Farragut Folklife Museum board that she and Doug Bataille (Knox County director of parks and recreation) will work together to put a Civil War Trail Marker on the handicap-accessible side of the birthplace. She suggests placing a bench next to the trail marker, close to the water’s edge below the parking area where there is a good view across the cove to the birthplace.

February 2011: This blogger meets with Tennessee Civil War Sesquicentennial co-chair Dr. Van West and gets state-level endorsement for the Civil War Trail Marker, then forwards paperwork to Doug Bataille.

March 28, 2011: Doug Bataille introduces a resolution to the Knox County Commission requesting approval for the installation of the Civil War Trail Marker. The commission votes unanimously to approve this resolution. Knox County and the Town of Farragut agree to each pay $550 for the installation, and HoLa Hora Latina, a nonprofit, agrees to pay the $200-a-year maintenance fee.

May 2011: Design of the Farragut Birthplace Civil War Trail Marker is approved:

May 2011: Farragut Folklife Museum releases fliers promoting the museum and the new Farragut statue at Farragut Town Hall in the Town of Farragut as well as the birthplace of Farragut 4 miles away in the Bluegrass area of southwest Knox County. This flier gives directions to the birthplace and notes the upcoming installation of the Civil War Trail Marker.

June 2011: State officials visit the site to consult on handicap parking requirements.

August 2011: ADA-compliant parking improvements begin at Admiral Farragut Park in preparation for the Civil War Trail Marker.

August 2011: A local boater discovers that the 111-year-old birthmarker has disappeared.

September 22, 2011: Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the historic marker may have been given to a collector in Texas. The article indicates that the private property owner who lives next to the public park removed the monument because "trespassers and vandals" were coming close to her property to view it. The article did not accurately show that the area next to her land is not private property. The shoreline and land that is 50-300 feet inland is already part of Admiral Farragut Park, and a recreational-use restriction on this land is permanent and binding. TVA owned the land in the 1940s, then deeded the area along the waterfront to Knox County in 1951 with a stipulation that this land must be used as a public park. Knox County had a new survey done in the summer of 2010 to confirm this, and TVA verified that because of recent law suits this shoreline can never be sold, traded, or used for any purpose other than a public park.

November 30, 2011: Owner of Stoney Point private land tells the Knoxville News-Sentinel that she is willing to negotiate the return of the birthplace marker.

November 30, 2011: Area preservationists comment to the press. Dr. Charlie Faulkner releases an  archaeology report indicating artifacts found at the birthplace show habitation by American colonial  settlers in the late 1700s/early 1800s. Court documents show that George Farragut was the first settler who owned and lived on this land and that he started a ferry there in 1797. He did not own any land in Campbell Station and there is no record of him owning a home or living anywhere other than Stoney Point between 1796 and 1806. Admiral Farragut was born in 1801.

December 2011: Plans continue for the installation of the Admiral Farragut Birthplace Civil War Trail Marker in the more accessible section of Admiral Farragut Park, across the cove from the birthplace.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Farragut's Birthplace is on the Knox Heritage List of Most Endangered Places

From a Knox Heritage Press Release: 
The birthplace of Civil War hero and America's first Navy Admiral David Farragut is visible today because of a historical marker dedicated there in 1900 by Admiral George Dewey. Admiral Dewey was a hero of the Spanish America War who served with Farragut during the Battle of Mobile Bay and admired him greatly. The marker was donated by the Daughters of the American Revolution.

The home where Farragut was born disappeared long ago and only archeological evidence is believed to remain, but the site is likely one of Knox County's most nationally significant places. The marker and the site of the birthplace are on land owned by Farragut's father in the 1790s when he operated a ferry at Stoney Point, later known as Lowe's Ferry. Despite Farragut's national prominence and the enthusiasm displayed for his birthplace at the turn of the last century, the site had all but slipped into obscurity until a proposed residential development threatened to destroy it. Although public access is guaranteed to the former ferry landing along the waterfront property owned by Knox County, the site of Farragut's birth is on land slated for residential development that could block access to the site and destroy archaeological evidence of Farragut's birth and youth.

Knox Heritage seeks to work with the current property owner and Knox County government to enhance public access to this highly significant historic site while providing a positive impact for the residential development. By combining the resources of preservationists, Knox County, TVA and the property owner, the Farragut birthplace can achieve the level of prominence it deserves in this community.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

David Farragut's Early Childhood

Farragut lived in Knoxville during only his earliest years, but he had few other distinct memories of childhood. Perhaps for that reason he claimed Tennessee as his home state throughout life. The Farragut family moved from East Tennessee to New Orleans in late 1807, and in the summer of 1808 David's mother died of yellow fever. With his father obligated to military duty, Farragut and his four siblings were scattered to the homes of friends and relatives. He was 7 years old at that time.

Farragut lived briefly with Commodore David Porter and his wife in Washington, D.C. in a traditional home environment and attended school. But this life on land lasted less than a year. He enlisted in the Navy on December 17, 1810, six months before he reached his 10th birthday, and served for the next few years aboard his foster father’s ship, The Essex.

Although he received little formal education, he studied when and where he could. He kept a journal from a very young age--this was required by his foster father as part of his shipboard education. Whenever he had the opportunity he also attended lectures at such places as Yale University and the Smithsonian. As an adult, he was reported to be able to speak at least five languages; he had a quick wit, was very confident and not afraid to speak his mind, and yet was described as very humble.

He experienced more at a young age than most people do in a lifetime. At age 11 he sailed around Cape Horn in a storm so bad it made seasoned sailors get on their knees and pray for survival. He saw battle firsthand at the age of 12 as a midshipman onboard The Essex. Out of the 255-man crew, 58 were killed, 66 were wounded, and 31 were missing at the end of one particularly bloody battle.

Although he had a long military career, he didn't achieve widespread recognition until quite late in life--He was 65 when Congress established the rank of full admiral in order to honor him. He was 63 when he climbed into the rigging at the Battle of Mobile Bay and had one of his crew tie him to the mast. He later said this was not because he was particularly brave. He said that he just wanted to have a better view from above the smoke, so that he could shout commands to the crew on deck below him. This was also the famous battle where he said, "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"

He was given the name of James Glasgow Farragut at birth, but was known as "Glasgow" to family and friends throughout his life. He took the honorary first name of David as a tribute to Commodore Porter

One of  Porter's relatives wrote about what Farragut was like when he was a young boy: “He was the life of the midshipman's mess, full of fun and as agile as a cat. He liked nothing better than to climb to the top of the mainmast and sit curl-legged, gazing out to sea.” ‘Where's Glasgow?' the commodore would ask, missing him. ‘Up on the mainmast, sir, looking for fresh air,' the quartermaster would reply."

Farragut spent most of his life with a ship as his home. The painting above shows "Glasgow" Farragut at age 10, climbing in the ropes. This painting is one of many by military artist Carlton T. Chapman depicting Farragut as a child sailor and is part of the Navy Art Collection in Washington, D.C.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why preserve this birthsite as a memorial to Admiral Farragut?

It makes sense to preserve this site for many reasons.
  • David Glasgow Farragut was the first full admiral of the United States Navy. He is recognized around the world as one of the great Naval leaders of all time. There are 13 Naval museums in the country, but none are located in Tennessee--the state of his birth.
  • Admiral Farragut was also proud to proclaim his Hispanic ancestry. His father, Jorge Farragut, was a Spanish merchant captain from Minorca and the son of Antoni Farragut and Joana Mesquida. Admiral Farragut’s father joined the American Revolutionary cause after arriving in America in 1776. He then married Elizabeth Shine (b.1765 - d.1808) from North Carolina and moved west to Tennessee.
  • Tourism benefits would enhance the local economy. Tourism is one of Tennessee's largest industries, providing a $13.3 billion direct economic impact and generating over $1 billion annually in state and local sales tax revenue for the past four years. In 2010, Knox County was the fourth-largest tourism revenue county in the state and received $812 million from U.S. travelers. This county benefited from more than $280 million in payroll and 9,400 jobs.
  • The land where Farragut was born has been farmed for more than 200 years but otherwise has not been extensively developed.The waterfront is owned by the county and is part of the public park system.
  • The area also is likely to contain Native American artifacts because it was heavily populated by Cherokee and Creek Indians at the time of Admiral Farragut's birth. Farragut wrote, "I remember that on one occasion, during my father's absence, a party of Indians came to our house, which was somewhat isolated, and that my mother, who was a brave and energetic woman, barred the door in a most effectual manner, and sent all of us trembling little ones up into the loft, while she guarded the entrance with an axe." (Loyall Farragut, Life of David Glasgow Farragut.) In fact, the Tennessee Valley Authority, which controls the waterfront border at the Farragut birthplace, has determined that the location has a “high potential” for historic and prehistoric archaeological resources.
  • A large collection of Farragut’s letters and papers are held by the University of Tennessee Special Collections Library, just 10 miles east of the birthsite.
  • The town of Farragut, which was named after the Admiral and incorporated only 30 years ago, is located 5 miles northwest of the birthsite. The Farragut Town Hall contains a small museum, and the grounds contain a larger-than-lifesize bronze statue of Admiral Farragut that was dedicated in May 2010. Many original documents signed by Admiral Farragut's father, as well as personal items that belonged to the Admiral, are on display in the museum.
  • The site is .7 miles from a major interstate exit in one of the most rapidly growing parts of Knox County. 
  • The Admiral's birthplace is located within a few miles of several of the state's top K-12 schools, and the population of young families is expanding so rapidly that a new elementary school is scheduled to be built less than 1/2 mile away from the Farragut birthplace in a planned live/work community called Northshore Town Center.