I’ve always been intrigued by Rachel Jackson – and excited about visiting The Heritage.
I have read many of Irving Stone’s books, including The President’s Lady, his book about Rachel.
Rachel, the daughter of a prominent family (her father was a member of The House of Burgesses) married Colonel Lewis Robards – a man with a fierce temper and fits of jealousy. His treatment of her was so cruel, she went home to live with her parents. But when Lewis came to the house and promised he had changed, she listened and went back to Kentucky with her husband.
But he hadn’t changed and once again the abuse was unbearable. Andrew Jackson (a boarder at her parents’ home) went to rescue her.
Finally, Robards told Rachel he had filed for divorce and that the divorce was final. Rachel married Andrew Jackson – only to learn that her first husband had not legally divorced her. The proper paperwork was finalized and Rachel and Andrew married again – but the situation haunted them for the rest of their lives. Andrew Jackson fought 13 duels for his wife’s honor – even killing one man.
The Jackson’s couldn’t have children but adopted one of Rachel’s nephews and raised him as their own. He became Andrew Jackson’s private secretary. Jackson won a close election and once again Rachel’s sordid past was the topic of gossip. The attacks were above cruel. Andrew tried to keep them from Rachel, but of course, she knew.
Two weeks after her husband won the presidential election, but before his actual inauguration, she died. No one is exactly sure why – but many scholars think it was because of a broken heart, a result of being the center of so much nasty gossip.
Ken and I visited The Hermitage in 1998. A tornado had gone through the property in April, destroying many of the trees that Andrew had planted – and also hitting the nephew’s nearby home, Tulip Grove, to such an extent that you couldn’t go near it.
I went back to The Hermitage in 2008 with my friend, Sue – that’s when I took these pictures. The day was thunderstorm rainy.
When I was there with Ken, they gave us headphones. You need to punch in a number and a recording would tell you what you were seeing. They did that this time, too, but not for the house itself. This time they had tour guides in the house so you could actually ask questions and get more information.
Alas, I don’t think I’m supposed to see Tulip Grove. This time, we could drive to the house, but it was only open on weekdays (we were there on a Sunday). That’s Tulip Grove below. There is also a church by Tulip Grove. Andrew built it for Rachel and the community, but would not join. He told her that, as a politician, he shouldn’t belong to a church and promised her he would join when he got out of office. Which he did.