By Faye Gaston
Eight senior citizen women enjoyed a history lesson on a trip to LaGrange, Georgia on Tuesday, January 15, 2019.
This was sponsored by WHEELS, a ministry to senior citizens by the First Baptist Church of Union Springs. They toured the Bellevue Mansion (a house museum), ate lunch at the "A Taste of Lemon" restaurant and shopped at a huge antique store.
The quaint restaurant in downtown Lagrange was the former First Methodist Episcopal Church. In touring Bellevue, the host Freddie Cardwell and hostess, Valerie Cardwell, gave them a history lesson in life in the period of the just before, during and after the War Between the States.
A certificate on the wall states that "Bellevue has been designated a National Historic Landmark. This site possesses national significance in commemorating the history of the United States of America," and is signed by the director of the National Park Service and the secretary of the U.S. Dept. of the Interior. (The host and hostess live in half of the upstairs.)
Requiring three years to build the magnificent Greek revival mansion from wood from the plantation, Benjamin Harvey Hill, his wife and children moved into the home in 1854 on a 1,200 acre plantation. Ben Hill was a successful attorney, making his family one of the wealthiest in this part of Georgia.
The four large magnolia trees on the lawn were planted by the Hills. He served on the committee in Montgomery, Alabama who wrote the Confederate constitution that was adopted in March 1861. He was a member of the Confederate senate.
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, said that Hill was his most loyal supporter. After the War Between the States, he was a leading spokesman against reconstruction.
The mansion displays a portrait of Robert E. Lee in the drawing room/family parlor. A painting of General Stonewall Jackson on his horse in a battle is in another room.
There are eleven framed portraits of eleven Confederate generals on the grand staircase made of black walnut wood. A frame holds several denominations of paper Confederate money.
In the house museum are the Hill's solid rosewood piano, original yellow pine floors, an oil portrait of Mr. Hill, and the grand ballroom with sliding pocket doors. The elaborate woodwork is hand carved.
Many families have donated their valued pieces of that period to furnish Bellevue. There are pier mirrors, silver serving pieces for meals, a pump organ, shadow boxes with 3-D pages of women's clothing, half-canopied bed, a case holding period clothes and furniture.
Later on the mansion was purchased by the Fuller Callaway Foundation and donated to the LaGrange Woman's Club.
Fundraisers are held to help maintain the house. DAR meetings are held here.
There are wedding receptions, baby showers, and other social functions here.
Enjoying the day trip were Mona Crawford, Amy Hall, Brenda Gray, Cookie Tullos, Faye Gaston, Betty Shepherd, Diane Renfroe and Gail Barr.