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Historic Travellers Rest launches online database to tell the stories of the Overton slaves

Travellers Rest Database Project
Posted at 4:09 PM, Jun 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-19 11:34:43-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There are Juneteenth Celebrations taking place all over Middle Tennessee this weekend. But on Saturday morning, there was a unique opportunity at the Historic Travellers Rest Home and Museum for some Nashville natives to retrace a piece of their own history.

"The original portion was built in 1799; this is the oldest Nashville home that is still open to the public," said Chad Burgess, one of the tour guides at Travellers Rest.

For those who love history, it's hard to pass up the opportunity to take a walk back in time.

"You can come on in," said Amy Grubbs, another tour guide. "These are the original floors."

For generations, the staff at Travellers Rest have shared a glimpse at the lives of the Overton family. But maybe, not the full picture.

"It’s really critical to tell a complete story," said Katie O'Bryan, Executive Director at Travellers Rest.

Just down from the palatial plantation home is a much smaller building called the Weaving House. On the walls are the names, but not the faces, of the other Overtons.

"When the judge passed away, he left in his death inventory a listing of the 53 people who would have been enslaved here during his time, and we have their names, their ages — which is really, really rare for a historic site to have access to," said O'Bryan.

While it may be hard to believe, the little snippets they have on each person took a lot of work to discover.

"Bills of sale, runaway listings, even personal correspondence that the judge and his son had with others, like Andrew Jackson," she said.

That work has now inspired a new mission. They've taken just a list of names and ages and turned it into an online database.

"The age of a person, a little snippet about their history, and then the source," said O'Bryan.

Their hope is that families hoping to trace their own history will find it and use it.

"Somebody could be sitting in their living room halfway across the world or halfway across our country and find something," she said.

In turn, maybe — just maybe — they'll get a clearer picture of who these people were.

"We're hoping they look at our website and seeing this database might spur people who might have information or even think they might have something that might be relevant to contact us so we can work to continue adding information onto this resource tool," said O'Bryan.

When people take a walk back in time, the staff of Travellers Rest believes they deserve the whole story.

"I hope, frankly, that it just spurs ongoing efforts to tell these stories. I hope that everyone realizes that these are stories that need to be told on a daily basis," she said.

There is a Google document of the database available for perusal online.