Stacey Watson’s day job is director of community development for the Middle Tennessee law offices of Stites & Harbison, which seems like a perfect fit for her passion for historic preservation and involvement as secretary on the board of a nonprofit group called Franklin’s Charge. The City Paper talked with her about the organization’s plans.
What is Franklin’s Charge?
Franklin’s Charge is a 501c3 nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Civil War battlefields in Franklin and Williamson County. We are about the preservation of these sites, educating the public about what went on in their backyard, and the reclamation of land that was part of the Civil War battles.
To what do you attribute continued interest in the Civil War?
As we approach the sesquicentennial celebration in 2014, Franklin is the only town chosen in Tennessee by the National Sesquicentennial Commission for that year to serve as an official sesquicentennial site. Chattanooga currently holds that honor and Shiloh last year.
One of the reasons Franklin was chosen is we are doing reclamation in addition to preservation, which raises awareness. We all need to know our history — the Civil War shaped this country regardless of when your family arrived in this country. What we are doing is unique, and it has been raising awareness nationally with media like USA Today and National Geographic focusing on our efforts.
Right now, much of our battlefield is about covered in commercial and residential properties. We are incredibly blessed with historians living right here in town that can educate people know what happened there. For example, the Battle of Franklin was so horrific that the last wounded soldier left a year after the battle. It took him that long to recover enough to travel.
What is Franklin’s Charge currently working on?
Carter’s Cotton Gin Park is our current project. This will involve moving some houses, as we have acquired three parcels and are in the purchasing process for the final parcel. On this purchase, the land is currently in commercial use, and the current property owner will be building another property where all his current tenants have been invited to relocate. We have already located wood/lumber from that era to rebuild the cotton gin building from the outside, with the interior dedicated to history and education.
When will this phase be complete?
Our goal is the sesquicentennial, November of 2014.
What is the future of Franklin’s Charge? How big are your reclamation plans?
As things come available, we look at them. Two more properties for example we are working on are: one that is near the Carter’s location and the other is the Dooley property on the east side of Columbia Pike. We have saved 125 acres thus far, due to developers, bankers and preservationists working side by side. We were honored when Jim Lighthizer, CEO of the Civil War Trust in Washington, D.C., called our organization the largest public-private partnership in battlefield preservation ever.