Kiddos in Clarksville have just over three weeks before school starts! These two top-rated historic attractions will keep the summer fun rolling, but will also ignite (or reignite) an interest in local history...and maybe all things educational. OK, that's probably a stretch, but kids of all ages are sure to experience something fascinating at these two local historic treasures!
Historic Collinsville: A Living History Museum
You’ll see what it really meant to live in rural Tennessee during the antebellum and Civil War eras,1830-1870, just miles away from the Cumberland River, a once-vital transportation and shipping waterway.
Set on 40 acres, the living history museum includes 18 restored log homes and other structures dating all the way back to 1830. See real period artifacts and furnishings as you explore the setup and learn all about how the earliest settlers lived and worked.
This is the land where the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Iroquois and Shawnee Indians traveled. It is where the soldiers of the North and South met. Cotton and sheep were raised by the early settlers and then transported by land and down the Cumberland River which lies just two miles away. Now, on the same river, the Delta Queen Riverboat slowly slips its way south to Nashville and passes fields of corn, wheat, soybeans and cattle.
Experience candle making and foot-stomping music in the barn. Enjoy the rolling hills of Tennessee, quiet walks or a picnic under the trees while exploring one of the authentic log homes. Each building has been painstakingly recreated to be as authentic as possible, making the experience both highly educational and very entertaining. The settlement takes visitors from the earliest "first home" to the expansive big house on the hill with separate kitchen, living and sleeping areas. Each home and outbuilding has been painstakingly restored to its original condition and furnished authentically.
JoAnn Weakley and her husband Glenn developed Historic Collinsville. In 1974 they began the work on their dream of rebuilding the settlement of Collinsville and opened to the public in 1997. The Weakley's wanted to establish an area where people of all ages could come and see how our ancestors lived in the 1800s and how these pioneers passed on to us many lessons and values to be treasured. Historic Collinsville is open May 15-Oct 15, Thurs-Sunday, 1 pm -5 pm. Admission - $7.00. Free for children 5 and younger. Learn more at historiccollinsville.com.
Fort Defiance – A Confederate Cornerstone
Where the Red and Cumberland rivers converge, Fort Defiance was built as the cornerstone of the Confederate defense during the Civil War to control access to the City of Clarksville. It was mounted with three guns, and today visitors are able to see this earthen fort and understand why the location was chosen for the fort.
The sweeping vistas of the City of Clarksville demonstrate the strategic location as you observe downtown Clarksville. Located on a bluff 200 feet above the rivers, the site has been a hub of activity for more than two centuries. Originally inhabited by Native Americans, white settlers began arriving in the late 18th Century. The area became a trading center and settlement. During the Civil War. The hilltop was chosen by Confederate troops as a site to construct a fort to defend the river approach to Clarksville.
In February 1862, the fort was captured by Union forces, renamed and occupied for the remainder of the war. The site was a magnet for runaway and freed slaves, and many were employed in and around the fort. A visitor today will find Fort Defiance remarkably well preserved; the outer earthworks, powder magazine and gun platforms are still discernible.
In 1982, Judge and Mrs. Sam Boaz donated the property to the City of Clarksville. In 2008, the City secured a $2.2 million federal grant that was combined with local funding to begin the construction of the Interpretive Center and nearly a mile of walking trails. The more than 1,500-square-foot Interpretive Center features exhibits about the surrounding area and the fort during the Civil War era. A gift shop, restrooms, picnic tables, exhibits and trails are available.
Then there's the view. With good weather, it will be the pièce de résistance of your visit!
Field trips and groups also have the opportunity to experience guided tours of the grounds, explore Civil War-era earthwork fortifications, and hear about the equipment and day-to-day life of a Civil War soldier, as well as about the colonial history of the area surrounding Fort Defiance, including Native Americans and Valentine Sevier. Lunch may also be carried in and eaten on the grounds. Depending on the size of your group, expect to spend at least one hour at the center. Book your tour by calling 931-472-3351.
Reenactments and other events at Fort Defiance provide opportunities for exploring the historic site in a whole different way. See upcoming events and learn more at fortdefianceclarksville.com.
Photos by Terry Minton, Rafael Zavala and Visit Clarksville staff.