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Historic invitations and jail records

County archivist talks to DAR

By ZOË HAGGARD - zhaggard@t-g.com
Posted 5/14/22

A little lesson in local history was given by Bedford County Archivist Carol Roberts at April’s Daughters of the American Revolution meeting.  

Bedford resident Betty Stacy brought in …

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Historic invitations and jail records

County archivist talks to DAR

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A little lesson in local history was given by Bedford County Archivist Carol Roberts at April’s Daughters of the American Revolution meeting.  

Bedford resident Betty Stacy brought in an 1825 invitation to General Marquis de Lafayette’s Ball in Nashville.  

She said her son found the crumbling piece of paper in a home nearby he was remodeling around 12 years ago; she could not remember which house.  

“In Mrs. Stacy’s example, I got to do a real fun project,” said Roberts, stating this is the kind of projects she worked on while serving as a state conservator for 33 years. 

 Working with a lot of manuscripts that people brought in, she would have to identify a document’s authenticity as well as its monetary and historical worth.  

This particular ball, for the history of Tennessee, was “the event of the century,” according to Roberts. All of Nashville society got to go, so these invitations pop up often.  

“The neat thing about that ball was that it was in honor of Marquis de Lafayette’s visit as he wanted to come back after the American Revolutionary War and see what changes had been made in that time when he came back as a tourist so to speak,” Roberts explained.  

Lafayette was a French aristocrat who fought in with the Continental Army against the British during the American Revolution. Later, he was as a leading advocate for constitutional monarchy and became a powerful influence in France during the French Revolution.  

“You can [see] how much we respect him . . . many different things are named after him.” Andrew and Rachel Jackson hosted him at the Hermitage, but the highlight was this ball.  

“The fascinating thing about this document is that it has been folded...and the name of the address is on the back.” The name is Mrs. Pillow, which may possibly be a connection to Gideon Pillow’s family in Columbia.  

Another interesting thing about the document is there is a heading from 1828 on the backside, showing the owner may have “recycled” the paper to use as a letter.  

“Historic documents like these have a wonderful story in themselves, just like the Courthouse itself has wonderful stories and just like all the different pieces of the puzzle that make the County’s history,” Roberts said.  

Plenty of counties across Tennessee threw records away. Roberts said Bedford is not one of those counties―thankfully―but the difficult part is locating those records, which are tucked and stored away everywhere –like the old high school gym, basements and attics, and the old 1870 rock jail in the center of Shelbyville.  

“Today, my new job here as County archivist is to help the county get the records together, number one, and two, preserve the permanent records that are a responsibility by law (hospital and jail records),” said Roberts.  

She added, “And I’m still pulling treasure out of the courthouse attic.” She said the renovations of the courthouse have been going well―that nothing yet has been lost―while making the 1930s courthouse authentic and accessible.  

Roberts said she has helped other DAR chapters with cemetery markers such as one at Mount Moriah for a man named Moses Yale. GIS mapping with John Carney will be most beneficial, she said.  

“I’m really looking forward to that because there are a lot of cemeteries today that are not well identified on any maps and I hope we can continue to do that more and more,” said Roberts.  

Outside of family research, many veterans also need records for forms and applications. Roberts retold a story of how she helped a 95-year-old World War II veteran locate his marriage license so he could finally apply for his service pensions. Roberts recalls him saying jokingly, “Who knew? We didn’t think we’d live this long!”  

“So, it’s that kind of help we’re giving in addition to genealogy and that’s what I try to remind people: that we try to be full service,” Roberts said. 

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