The March-April 2016 Flipbook

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Angel Doodlings

By Andrea Hagan

I was recently at Dr. Norma Jean Fischer’s office, waiting for my chiropractic appointment.  All her patient rooms are filled with angels – figurines, paintings, even a drawing of an angel from a young patient.  This little child’s doodle got me to thinking about my mom.  A little over a year ago, she passed away suddenly of a brain aneurysm.  My mother collected angels, although she didn’t have as big a collection as Dr. Fischer’s.

Last March, I got a call from my dad that mom was in the hospital on life support (he didn’t want to tell me over the phone that mom was dead).  Like everyone else, I was in complete shock.  My mom was the healthiest, most active 68 year old that I knew.  I had just seen my mom the weekend before, nothing out of the ordinary.   My husband drove us to the Cookeville hospital, and I prayed the entire way that she would be fine, but I knew deep down that she was already gone.

That evening at the hospital was a blur.  A bad ice storm was coming and so my husband and I decided to head home around ten that evening.  I walked back numbly to my car and climbed in the passenger seat.   My car was filthy, a combo of slush and brine from the salt trucks’ work on I-40.  I glanced out my window as my husband started the car.  It looked like a child had been doodling on my foggy, dirty window.  From my inverted vantage point, the drawing looked like an angel flying, and underneath the letter “R”.  My mom’s name was Rowena.

I went into the garage the next morning to get a better look at mom’s angel and R, but both were gone.   I was 34 weeks pregnant and I think my mom was trying to tell me that everything was going to be just fine.  And she was right, my pregnancy and birth went smoothly, and baby Ensley is perfect.

As I write this, I’m looking at some of my mom’s angels that now sit on my desk.  A part of me wishes that I would have taken a picture of mom’s angel and R, but maybe the point of angel doodling is that you just believe, no “proof” necessary.

Please share your own “angel doodle” experiences.  Until next month, in which I promise to return to snarky commentary on motherhood!

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Survival of the fittest… techie

By Angel Kane

Like many of you, my husband and I pay for the lights to turn on in the house. we pay for the food in the fridge, the water that comes out of the tap and when the heat turns on, that’s us too.

So, it would make sense then that when I need a phone charger, one of my children would hand me theirs.

The problem started when our eldest went off to college in August. She took at least three chargers that I know of: one for her phone, one for her iPad and an extra one for her car. Probably a little overkill, but at the time, so were the multiple bottles of pepper spray I stashed in her book bag, in her car, and under her bed.

Little did I know, the balance of power would shift right at that point.

And now there are not enough chargers to go around.

You really see the worst in human nature when resources are scarce. They say mankind will do almost anything to survive: be it for food, water or shelter.

Whoever THEY are, might want to study the human reaction when anyone in the Kane household reaches 4% on any electronic device, because Neanderthals would have nothing on us!

My husband now keeps “his” charger in his car. He claims he knows which of the white power cords are “his” by the little black mark smudged along the cord. I literally have to find my keys, go into the garage, unlock his car, find his cord, start the car and charge my phone in order to read my emails.

Our 16 year old, likewise, has “her” charger.

“I bought this one with my own money!,” she states emphatically when I try to remove it from her room. Mind you, my 16 year old has never held a job, isn’t on government aid,  and hasn’t come into any inheritance that I’m aware of.

That leaves my 13 year old son. My baby. My joy. My heart.

That little sneaky one, never charges his phone in the same place twice!

Now a sane person would just go buy a new charger, right?

Which I did. Multiple, multiple times.

But the ones you buy in the check out aisles never seem to work. You need the coveted white ones that are only sold at Verizon and who has time for that?

So instead I steal, pillage and plunder each and every night, trying to find one stinking charger that works in order to keep my phone charged.

I literally can feel my blood pressure rising as I try to text or read my favorite blog while the phone quickly goes from 4%…to 3%…to….2%…can you feel yours rising too?!

And then…. it goes dark.

At that point, my friends, only the fittest survive.

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Raised in a Barn

The romance of a rustic wedding in the stables of soon-to-be unveiled Tucker’s Gap Event Center

Photos by Jana Pastors, Kindred Moments Photography

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Photographer: Jana Pastors

Venue: Tucker’s Gap Event Center

Models: Kenzie Gaines, Libby Nave, Noah Baker, and La-Tanya Greene

Hair: Locks and Lashes

Makeup: Beauty Boutique

Wardrobe & Accessories: The White Room

Cake/Tablescape: Oh Crumbs Bakery

Flowers: Gardens on Main


About Our Venue

For this shoot, we were fortunate to partner with Tucker’s Gap Event Center at 2900 Callis Road in Lebanon. Although the shoot was in and around their equestrian barn on the property, a large event center is currently under construction scheduled for completion this summer. The brand new event center will mirror the rustic charm of the cedar, stone and ironwork style of the barn in this shoot. Tuckers Gap Event Center will be a 5000-square-foot climate-controlled venue, featuring indoor and outdoor spaces, formal gardens, suites for the bride and groom, a separate bar area, and catering kitchen. For booking, contact Event Center Coordinator Nancy Baker: (770) 906-0489.

About our Tablescape

Kitty Waters, owner of Oh Crumbs Bakery, created a four-tiered wedding cake with custom sugar roses and baby’s breath. The side desserts for the table were elegant sugar cookies decorated with royal icing, strawberry cupcakes, dainty pink raspberry macarons, and lemon cake pops. They all were decorated in white and tones of pink and burgundy, each easy for guests to pick up and nibble upon.

About Our Models

Kenzie Gaines is a dental hygienist from Mt. Juliet, TN. She is a real-life bride-to-be, and will be married to her sweetheart Wacey Russell in June at Tomlinson Family Farm. She met her fiancé at church in Lebanon , Tn. She thought he was really handsome and knew he came from a great family, so she introduced herself one day and they have been inseparable since. Together they like to go to church, exercise, and hang out with their friends.

Libby Nave is a junior at Friendship Christian School. She plays volleyball, tennis, and is involved with Youth Leadership Wilson.  She is considering sports medicine when she finishes high school. This was her first time modeling for a magazine spread, but nobody could have guessed: she was such a pro. In her free time, Libby likes to go to concerts, hang out with her friends, and participate in travel sports.

La-Tanya Greene is a student at MTSU studying Childhood Education. She has been modeling regularly in the Nashville area for the last few years.  She is originally from San Fernando, Trinidad. She likes shopping and eating everything she can get her hands on!

Noah Baker is Junior at Friendship Christian. He is an avid tennis player and a member of USTA (US Tennis Association) since he was 10. He loves to snowboard, wakeboard, and play and watch sports of call kinds; he also loves sports trivia and is a great cook (specialty is dessert – makes a mean molten lava cake). He attends Providence United Methodist Church and is involved in Service Club at FCS.

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The Bull and Thistle

For Michelin-quality Celtic dining, look no further than… Gainesboro?

By Tilly Dillehay

Photos by Caitlin Steva Photography


The plate comes to your table. There is a cake on it, of sorts. The cake is hot, and its first ingredient is, startlingly, cabbage. It is topped with onion straws and shrimp, and rests in a little puddle of sauce that appears to be made of garlic and magic. As you fork into the cake, you can discern traces of onion, of bacon, of garlic, of potato. You undertake the blessed job of dismantling the baffling creation, one bite at a time.

The menu says that this thing is called ‘Bubble and Squeak’. You don’t ask any questions.

Obviously any reader in the Upper Cumberland area knows what I’m talking about. One city center comes to mind, if you’re looking for a four-star meal by an internationally renowned chef who utilizes locally sourced, seasonal ingredients for his field-to-fork menu.

IMG_2811smallClearly, we’re talking about Gainesboro. Yes, I said Gainesboro, TN. Check your map—it’s the county seat of Jackson, just southeast of Smith.

The Bull and Thistle, a Celtic restaurant overseen by Chef Barry O’Connor, draws 80% of its weekend customer base from out of county. Many of the folks you find there waiting for a table on a Saturday night have driven 1-2 hours for the privilege.

The idea originated with Diana Mandli and Loui Silvestri, business owners from Florida who landed in Tennessee almost on a whim in 2005. Loving the area, they purchased a small farm for relaxation and “getaway” purposes, never dreaming of starting another business here. But by 2009, they had purchased half a block of beautiful but neglected historic buildings on the square. Soon they had begun brainstorming to come up with a business that would be enough of a draw to start the process of reviving the town square. From many past trips to Ireland and the UK for both business and fun, they were well acquainted with the charm and comfort of a pub as a community social center.  Learning about the area they had fallen in love with, they were delighted to discover the extent of Celtic roots across Appalachia, and in the Scottish and Irish names and faces of so many living in Jackson County.  Suddenly, it all clicked.

Loui Silvestri, co-owner of The Bull and Thistle with Diana Mandli

This is how The Bull and Thistle was born.

Mandli and Silvestri had just finished renovating their old farmhouse in the Free State community and still had their hands in all kinds of entrepreneurial endeavors when they started researching a business that was totally foreign to them: restaurants. With the dream of the Bull and Thistle already in their heads, they spent months in the learning stage. Mandli bought textbooks used in Cornell’s Restaurant Management courses. Silvestri would find her lying on her back in the empty gut of the historic square building, “looking at it from a different angle” and making plans to transform the place into a little piece of Ireland.

They began researching beer and alcohol laws to find out whether Jackson County, which had been dry for many decades, could ever become wet. They presented renderings and sales projections to the county government, making the best case they could for bringing beer by the glass into the area. A few months of elbow-grease later, with essential guidance from Town Alderman John Cassetty, they were delighted to learn that all they needed was a vote from the three city commissioners. This vote passed. They put twenty beers, ales, and ciders on tap. (“Why not?” explained Silvestri.)

Then they began the process that was so very crucial to the vision of the restaurant. “We knew we needed a chef from Ireland or England,” says Mandli. “The authenticity of the building was such that our food absolutely had to rise to that same standard.”

Chef Barry O’Connor works the grill line.

They advertised in the culinary circles of the UK and Europe at large, looking for experience, determination, accolades, and—of course—a willingness to move. To Gainesboro.

This is where Chef Barry O’Connor found them.

Chef O’Connor has 25 years of experience in English, French, and Italian cuisine. He has extensive formal culinary training (including an additional, advanced degree in charcuterie; this means, if you were curious, that he’s an expert in butchering and curing meats). Both he and Chef Gordon Ramsey apprenticed in one of the finest restaurants in London (“I recall Gordon as quite a mild and mannerly young fellow,” say Chef). Chef Barry went on to found and run five award-winning restaurants in Ireland, one of which, the Victoria Cross Crow’s Nest, was named Ireland’s Pub of the Year in 1999.

But the crash of 2008 in Ireland “made ours look mild,” said Silvestri, and Chef O’Connor lost his restaurants in one fell swoop. He began working for other entities, as a chef and consultant. That was until Mandli and Silvestri contacted him.

IMG_2953smallAs a test, he came to Gainesboro and cooked two community meals, each a group of 14 people.  The lucky diners were friends of Mandli and Silvestri, community leaders, and local business owners.  The group sat around a billiards table converted to a dining table, and sampled every dish on the menu developed by Chef Barry and Mandli – all cooked by the Chef, working by himself in a home kitchen because at the time, there was no Pub.  (All this was early in the construction phase, and the interior of the Pub was mostly rubble.)  The food was a clear hit, although when he came out to bow and accept their praise after the meal, his colorful Irish language shocked a few of them. (“That’s just how we speak in Ireland; we punctuate everything that way,” concluded O’Connor when telling his side of the story.)  Then he had to come back to Gainesboro and do yet another meal, “for the 14 friends who didn’t get invited the first time,” laughed Silvestri.

But the Chef had always wanted to come to the U.S. and work. He described the first morning he woke up in Jackson County, and watched a next door neighbor walk by in nothing but overalls. Used to European cities and the fast pace of feeding hundreds or thousands in a day, the pace here was “something different,” he said archly. “All I’ve ever done is work in Michelin restaurants.”

So what kept him from boarding the next plane home? Well, he didn’t have a car to get him back to the airport, he quipped. Then he answered seriously: “Truly? I think the people [here] are fantastic.” He had originally agreed to come for six months and get things started, then hire a replacement. He’s now been here for three years as presiding chef.

IMG_2970smallOnce the Chef was selected, Mandli and Silvestri were full steam ahead to finish the construction. Almost all of the work at the Pub, inside and out, was done by local contractors, artisans, craftsmen, and tradesmen. The entirety of the bar and most of the tables in the restaurant came from a single tree dating back to George Washington’s time, at the end of its life and discovered locally. Quite a bit of the décor in the restaurant came from O’Connor’s own stash of things he salvaged from his restaurants, loaded into a single shipper and brought over. O’Connor mostly approved of what had been done in the restaurant, although when he first saw the kitchen layout, as the story goes, he let out a string of expletives and said ‘no, no, no’… then proceeded to set it all straight.

The result is that the kitchen is divided neatly into four quarters—a main cook line/grill area, an appetizer/prep area, a baking/dessert area, and a dishwashing area.  Everything is state-of-the-art, and Silvestri proudly showed off the neatness and precision with which cleanliness and food prep codes are observed by O’Connor’s staff.

IMG_2983smallAfter the restaurant served its first plate—in March of 2013—they worked to get liquor and wine by the glass into the county, knowing that they couldn’t compete with city restaurants if they weren’t a one-stop-shop. They also started hiring bands for the weekends, many of them playing Irish music or Bluegrass. They most recently knocked a wall down between the Pub and its next-door neighbor, a boutique and bakery called The Vault – which was opened by Mandli and Silvestri in 2012 – so that people can shop while waiting for tables.

Passionate about the local economy, they’ve been regularly in talks with local leaders to see about bringing a larger vision to local development. Silvestri listed five major things he sees as vital to further growth: overnight accommodations such as B&Bs and boutique hotels, other quality restaurants, other entertainment (movie theaters, bowling alleys, venues, etc.), public or private transportation from major cities, and community beautification.

Chef O’Connor pours all his past experience into the menu, which changes from season to season to incorporate local ingredients at their peak times. Although most of the offerings come out of the United Kingdom, there are some Italian and French elements, and seafood features heavily (Chef recommends that seafood be served rare for full flavor). At the same table, you can get Bangers and Mash (homemade sausage glazed with onion and Guinness gravy served on a bed of colcannon), baked Maine Oysters (stuffed with bacon, crab, shrimp and garlic butter gratin and served on a wood platter), or Cashel Leeks and Walnut Pasta (Italian strozzapreti pasta with leeks, spinach, asparagus and wild mushrooms cooked in a light walnut and Cashel blue cheese sabayon).

Chef O’Connor sees to it that bread and other goods are made fresh baked on the premises, and these can be purchased in the mornings at The Vault next to the restaurant. He is also developing a line of cured meat to be sold at The Vault (presumably so that the rest of us can get a taste of what charcuterie means).

IMG_2788smallThe restaurant is now three years young. I asked myself, while politely groaning over a plate of Pork Tenderloin Le Luibheanna—will this place be in business next year? Three years from now?

In answer to this question, Silvestri directed my attention to the weekends—come on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night, he said, and you’d better have a reservation. Wait times can get over an hour. He also mentioned that the restaurant is currently self-sustaining—on schedule with their original business plan.

“People still call us crazy when they hear about us for the first time,” he said. “But we’re business people. We know what this takes. We know what we’re doing.”

The next move, though, is to deliver a lunch menu that draws local people from places immediately surrounding the restaurant. People are willing to drive an hour to spend the evening with them on a weekend, he said, but now it’s time to focus on their daytime traffic of people from Smith, Trousdale, Wilson, Putnam… and yes, Jackson County.

“This is our town,” he said, looking at Mandli, who nodded. “We care about what happens to it.”

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Wedding Cocktails

Because your wedding deserves its own drink

By Brooke Porter, Market Basket Wine and Liquors

Shot at Capitol Theatre


It’s an easy gig: 1. Take five cocktail recipes created by the pros over at Market Basket Wine & Liquors. 2. Head over to Capitol Theatre in Lebanon to surround yourself with the art deco moods. 3. Mix the drinks, photograph the drinks, and taste the drinks.

Is your wedding upscale, even Gatsby? Blushing Bride might be your drink. Is it southern and sassy? Try the Country Girl Cosmo. Is it full of handmade, shabby chic detail? This Cucumber Elderflower Martini will make you wonder why you haven’t been muddling cucumbers in everything you imbibe.

No matter what your personality, there’s a drink here for you.

 Sunset on the Lake 




What You Need

  • 2 oz. black cherry juice
  • 1 1/2 oz. Picker’s Blood Orange Vodka
  • 1 oz. Barsmith simple syrup
  • 3/4 oz. lemon juice
  • Filthy Black Cherry, for garnish

How to Make It

  • Shake all ingredients with ice.
  • Strain into a chilled martini glass.
  • Garnish with a black cherry







Cucumber Elderflower Martini



What You Need

  • 2 slices of cucumber (1 for muddling and 1 for garnish)
  • 1/2 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. Barsmith simple syrup
  • 1 oz. Square One organic cucumber vodka
  • 3/4 oz. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • Splash of sparkling wine
  • Cucumber slice, for garnish

How to Make It

  • In a mixing glass, muddle cucumber in lemon juice and simple syrup.
  • Add ice, vodka, and liqueur.
  • Strain into a chilled martini glass.
  • Top with a splash of sparkling wine.
  • Garnish with cucumber slice.





Honey Ginger Sidecar 




What You Need

  • 1 oz. Presidente brandy
  • 1/2 oz. fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. Barsmith Honey- ginger syrup
  • 1/2 oz. triple sec
  • Lemon twist, for garnish

How to Make It

  • Shake all ingredients except lemon twist in a shaker with ice.
  • Strain into a chilled, sugar-rimmed martini glass.
  • Garnish with lemon twist.






Country Girl Cosmo

(Southern take on the White Cosmopolitan)


What You Need

  • 2 oz. Sugarlands Silver Cloud Moonshine
  • 1 oz. Germain Elderflower liqueur
  • 3/4 oz. white cranberry peach juice cocktail
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice

How to Make It

  • Shake all ingredients with ice
  • Strain into chilled martini glass
  • Choose dainty orchid to use as a garnish







Blushing Bride 




What You Need

  • 4 oz. sparkling wine
  • 1/2 oz. Germain Elderflower liqueur
  • dash of Barsmith Grenadine

How to Make It

  • Pour ingredients into a chilled fluted glass and stir









Market Basket Wine and Liquors is located at 1505 W. Main Street Lebanon, TN. They pride themselves on stocking the kind of wine they want to drink themselves, and helping a customer to new finds based on his or her individual tastes. Owner Brooke Porter contributes to a wine blog at Learn more at: (615) 449-7115 or


The Capitol Theatre is a premier event venue in Lebanon, renovated in vintage art deco style. In addition to being a prime wedding location, Capitol is also host to live music shows, fundraiser events, and regularly plays old movies. They are located at 110 W. Main Street Lebanon, TN. Learn more at (615) 784-4014 or

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March-April 2016 Wedding Issue out now!

…in this issue



4 Notes from the Editor

8 Sabrina Out on the Town

46 One Last Thing



15 The Bull and Thistle

22 Lebanon Endoscopy Center

28 Bachelors No More

40 Five Degrees from Michelle Obama



10 Wedding Cocktails

20 Get Ready, Get Set: Bridal Beauty Guide

30 Five Steps to be Guest Room Ready

32 Raised in a Barn: Bridal Fashion at Tucker’s Gap Event Center

44 Fifty Years Later: Pat and Carter Baxter’s Good Life

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Five Steps to be Guest Room Ready

WilsonLiving-10182015-071By Elizabeth Scruggs, Superior Construction and Design

Photos by Chesley Summar, Chesley Summar Photography

It’s wedding season!  And with that come at least some out of town guests.  Make sure they feel welcomed with these few easy steps to get your guest room guest ready!


  1.  This may sound simple, but wash the bed linens.  Even if already clean, nothing smells or feels better than freshly laundered sheets on the bed.  Take inventory of your pillows, and replace any lumpy or mismatched sets.  Place extra towels, linens, and blankets at the foot of the bed.



2. Place some bottled water and mints by the bedside.  When guests are in your home, no matter how much you offer, usually they won’t “help themselves.” Providing refreshments in the room allows them to relax and refresh before the next wedding outing.



3. Fresh flowers or foliage add warmth and life to the space.  A simple bouquet from the grocery for under $10 cut and arranged in a crystal vase adds a bit of grace and elegance.  If your guest are visiting for a more casual wedding, place them in a Mason jar or antique pitcher.  Add books or magazines about your region or town if they have not visited before.



4. Have plenty of toiletries on hand by picking up some trial sizes at the store of often forgotten necessities.  Add a candle or two for a relaxing evening.



5. Stack current best selling novels on the nightstand for late night reading.



As with anything, it’s the attention to details that count.  A few simple and inexpensive steps will let your guests know that you care and are happy to have them in your home.

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Five Degrees from Michelle Obama

Smith County’s Stewart family shares same great-great-great grandmother as the First Lady



As they witnessed the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama, Doreen Stewart and her three siblings had no clue about their kinship to the new First Family.

Five years later, in October of 2014, Doreen, her sister Anne Waggoner and their father Tom Stewart attended a funeral in Kingston, Ga.

“After the funeral of an uncle, our Aunt Jeannie Lovingood told us that we ought to take a look at the memorial in the same graveyard,” recalled Doreen, who lives in the Smith County community of Lancaster.

Engraved on a tall black granite tombstone they read the following words about the great-great-great grandmother they never knew.



1844 – 1938












Doreen and her sister were astonished to find they shared the same great-great-great grandmother as the First Lady of the United States.

Tom Stewart, 85 (center), who was wed to the late Jennie Elliott Stewart for 59 years, poses with his four children, (from left) Anne Waggoner, Dennis Stewart, Debra Smith and Doreen Stewart, who share the same great-great-great grandmother, Melvinia “Mattie” Shields McGruder, as First Lady Michelle Obama. They discovered the fact in the fall of 2014.

“When I read she was born a slave, that was a moment so defined for me. She had no idea her great-great-great granddaughter was going to be First Lady of the nation,” said Doreen. “Knowing my ancestors’ stories allows me to see how far God has brought my family. For me, God had a hand in it, from a slave to the White House.”

The bloodline from Doreen and her siblings goes through their late mother Jennie Elliott to grandfather Robert Elliott to great grandmother Alice Shields to great-great grandfather Talley Shields (a brother to Michelle Obama’s great-great-great grandfather Dolphus) to Melvinia, who died in 1938 at age 94.

“We just found out about a year ago that they were related. We’re just stragglers. We didn’t have a clue,” smiled Doreen.

Sister Debra Smith laughs, “We went to both of President Obama’s inaugurations, and we didn’t know it. We could have gotten closer.”

“My immediate reaction,” said Anne of the news about their ancestor, “is that I was impressed with her life history. It had no association with the new president. She had a legacy she never knew. I don’t know how she would have reacted. I like to think she would not have taken on airs. This was a personal connection for me to a woman who had been a slave and survived to live a long life.”

“I wish my mother had been alive to know this,” said Doreen of her mom, who died in 2011.

Tom and Jennie Stewart. Jennie’s was the direct blood line to the former slave from whom Michelle Obama also descended.

Born into a family of 10 children, Jennie Elliott moved to Smith County when she was 9 years old. She met Tom Stewart, her husband to be, when they were students at Turner Junior High School in Carthage.

The two married in 1952 as Tom pursued a 23-year career in the U.S. Air Force and served in the Korean War and Vietnam War. Their first three children were born in Austin, Texas, while Doreen took her first breath in Columbus, Ohio.

Anne, a retired Los Angeles school district administrative assistant, and sister Debra, share a home in Stewart Hollow. Debra was the first black cafeteria manager in the Smith County school systems and then became the first female black letter carrier in the county and had a 19-year career with the U.S. Postal Service in Hickman and Lebanon.

Dennis lives in Nashville and works for the state of Tennessee, while Doreen, who has compiled four cookbooks and won blue ribbons for her fried pies, is a health assistant and lives in Lancaster.

Tom lives in Stewart Hollow near his two oldest daughters on the same piece of land his father Will Stewart bought in 1945 in Elmwood. After retiring from the Air Force, Tom worked for 10 years at Smith County Memorial Hospital as a materials manager and then became the first black letter carrier in the county, a job he held for 15 years.

The military veteran also knows his way around the kitchen, garden and grill. At last summer’s Smith County Fair he captured blue ribbons for his jams, jellies and canned green beans and earned best of show for his smoked meats and first place for his ham and bacon.

About 20 relatives from Georgia came to Carthage for his 85th birthday celebration in November, and the Stewart-King family plans another reunion in Smith County on Memorial Day weekend.

Shields Monument VerticalAs for their famous ancestor, Melvinia Shields was born a slave in 1844 in South Carolina, and sent to work on a farm owned by Henry Shields in Rex, Ga., when she was 8. She gave birth at the age of 15 to her first child, Dolphus, in 1859 or 1860, with the father being Shields’ oldest son Charles.

The house slave labored as washwoman and maid. She bore four children, all of whom she gave the last name of Shields, and she lived on the Shields farm into the mid-1870s.

A second monument was dedicated to Melvinia in Rex, 21 miles southeast of Atlanta, on June 26, 2014, to honor the five-generation journey of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ancestry from slavery to the White House.

During the last 60 years of her life, Melvinia lived in Kingston (Bartow County), 55 miles northwest of Atlanta, where she changed her name to Mattie McGruder and worked as a midwife and seamstress and helped raise her grandchildren and other children in the community. She was once described as “a loving, spiritual woman seen often with her Bible and singing hymns.”

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. More than 5,000 men and women in uniform are providing military ceremonial support to the presidential inauguration, a tradition dating back to George Washington's 1789 inauguration. (DoD photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo, U.S. Air Force/Released)
With Michelle by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009. The Stewart Family was among the thousands of people who gathered to watch that day. Photo public domain.

Bartow County historian and writer Sheri Henshaw is in the midst of composing Shoutin’ Down the Silences—A Folk-Life Play Based On and Around the Life of Melvinia Shields and the War-Torn Community of Kingston and Surrounding Northwest Georgia, circa 1844-1920. It will feature songs from the post-Civil War era that span Melvinia’s journey from slavery to freedom, using her story as the central theme.

Henshaw says, “Melvinia Shields was born a slave and became a free woman after the Civil War and lived much of her free life in Kingston, Ga. She left an amazing legacy—a family of accomplished, educated, and illustrious descendants, including her great-great-great granddaughter Michele Obama, First Lady of the United States. This incredible and complex woman has been silent for too long. Now she speaks.

“I hope to have the project completed for a work-shopped performance sometime in 2016, possibly as a part of the local Juneteenth celebrations in the area.”
That’s something Melvinia’s great-great-great grandchildren in Smith County, Tennessee, would have to see. Neither though they nor their late mother ever met the woman who connects them to the First Family, although they feel they are getting to know her better as more segments of her life are coming to light.

“‘From the land of the free and the home of the brave.’ These words speak such truth about my great-great-great grandma Melvinia, my great-great grandmother Rose, my grandmother Lula, and my mother, Jennie Bell Stewart,” said Doreen.

“She prevailed. She went on to raise her family, provide a living, a religious woman, often seen with her Bible. She was strong in her faith. It had to have brought her through. We had strong women in our family. Our mother, our grandmother, they may not have had a lot, but what they lacked they made up by loving their family.”



IMG_1969marshIn mid-January 2009 Doreen Stewart, her sisters Anne and Debra, brother Dennis, nephews Perry and Thomas and a friend made the 630-mile road trip from Carthage, Tenn., to Washington, D.C., with one goal in mind: They wanted to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama, the first black man elected president of the United States.

Doreen recalls that on that cloudy day, moments before the new president took his oath of office, the sun broke through and shone upon the thousands of people gathered.

“It was so amazing,” she said of the historic event, “we were all one.”

“We were about 300 feet away from the president,” Anne said, “close enough that we could see him without monitors.”

Doreen kept a journal during the trip as she wanted to preserve her memories for a lifetime.

“People near us were telling their stories,” she said, thus she put her journal into the hands of family members and strangers and invited them to record their thoughts.

The words below were penned in her memory book between Jan. 18-20, 2009.


“I stood in front of the Lincoln Memorial and listened to Queen Latifah speak about how the famous opera singer Marian Anderson sung on these steps because she had been denied access to an inside venue. Later, another entertainer reminded the crowd that Dr. King, Jr. spoke to thousands from these steps and encouraged people to learn to respect each other and treat everyone as equals. Tomorrow our nation will swear in our first black president. To be able to be here and see this historical event is proof that anything is possible because this is America and change really happens.” —Doreen’s sister Anne Waggoner


“A very great historical moment. To be here, to see it, to hear it, and to live it. Words can’t put it in the right place. “The Dream—Yes We Can!” —Doreen’s brother Dennis Stewart


“Although very surprising, this day is a day very memorable moment in history, not only just for African Americans or myself alone but for all people everywhere.” — Jason Scott, a black man who worked at the American Historical Museum in Washington, D.C.


“What a monumental moment. It’s so incredible to see how far our country has come, and Obama truly gives us more hope for the future. Seeing all these people come together is unbelievable. Blacks, Whites, Asians, etcetera. No more — WE ARE ONE” — Katherine Freniere and Chad Samijan, who flew from Orlando, Fla., to Dallas, Texas, to Boston, Mass., to Washington, D.C.

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