Historic home offers authentic, old-fashioned activities
Less than two miles from campus, the antebellum Oaklands Historic House museum is holding fall events ranging from wine tastings to mourning tours.
The house has been part of the Rutherford County landscape since 1813, when James Maney started a plantation on 274 acres of land. After over 100 years of the land and house passing hands, the city of Murfreesboro purchased the property, making the Oaklands part of the historical community.
In continuation of its annual events, the museum will begin its fall festivities Sept. 20-21 with an all-day wash, churn and learn experience. The $5 event is geared more toward elementary children, but anyone is welcome to participate in the hands-on presentations.
“Children will be able to learn how to churn butter,” said Mary Beth Nevills, education director of the Oaklands Historic House. “They will also get to beat rugs and wash clothing on a wash board. Children will be able to see what life was like in the 1800s.”
In the same week, the museum will also host a wine tasting and dinner al fresco Sept. 27 at 425 East Main St. starting at 6 p.m. The event is presented by local restaurants, stores and media with tickets costing $55.
Starting in October, the house anticipates more students from the MTSU community to tour the house and visit the grounds. The last two weeks of October, the Oaklands will be hosting its annual mourning tour, which consists of a guided tour of the house and the Evergreen Cemetery.
“We are going to show visitors what Victorian mourning customs are like,” Nevills said. “The shutters will be drawn and musical instruments closed. There is lots of superstition involved in the customs. Visitors will also get a tour of the cemetery and get a small history lesson without even realizing it.”
Some MTSU students will intentionally receive history lessons, as two different departments will go to the house for trips in October.
History professor Elizabeth Gritter is taking her students to the museum in order for her to have a firsthand look at an aspect of community life in the antebellum era.
“I am teaching U.S. History to 1877, and students will be able to experience a historic house from this time period through touring the mansion,” Gritter said. “It is an exhibit not only appropriate for the month of October, given Halloween, but also it will provide a unique perspective on 19th century American history. I am a big believer in incorporating local history into my class, and Oaklands Mansion, given its historical significance and proximity to campus, provides a great opportunity for doing so.”
Nursing professor Mary Lavender is also taking her students to the museum during her class’ regular lecture time to study and learn about 19th century medicine and end-of-life practices.
“I take them to the museum because most of our students are young, and they need to know how their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents deal with end-of-life, which is the class I teach,” Lavender said. “The mansion has good examples like the black ribbons on the mirrors, and they cover the customs and rituals along with sharing how people handled death in the 1800s and early 1900s.”
Regular mourning tours of the home will be open to the public for $5, and the presentation lasts up to an hour.
After the Halloween season, the museum plans to host its annual field day on the lawn of the grounds for all public and homeschooled children in Rutherford County. For the remaining two months of the year, the house will be decorated for the holiday season and preparing for the tour of homes.
However, Nevills mentioned that students don’t have to come for any special event or holiday season.
“Students don’t always have to come for events,” Nevills said. “College students come for something affordable to do on the weekend, and I know in the past some history professors have offered extra credit for students who came on their own.”