Meeting and talking with folks is something I really enjoy, and sharing stories from my books goes right along with that. Recently, I spoke to the federal retired employees group and to several other retiree groups, as well as civic organizations.Without fail, someone will tell me a story about Tennessee history that I didn’t know. I’ve always said the stories are there waiting for us to find if we only listen!
When I researched Lucy Petway Holcombe of La Grange, Tennessee, born in June 1832, I found it fascinating that she married Francis Wilkinson Pickens, 27 years older than she was and twice-widowed, when he became Minister to Russia. With her knowledge of French and Russian, she became a court favorite in St. Petersburg of Czar Alexander II and Czarina Maria. In August 1860 Francis Pickens was elected governor of South Carolina, three days before South Carolina seceded from the Union.
Considered by many to be the most beautiful woman in the Confederacy, Lucy Pickens’ image was placed on three issues of the Confederate $100 bill and on one issue of the $1 bill. She was the only woman whose likeness was ever placed on Confederate currency.
Gov. Pickens died at age 63, but Mrs. Pickens spent the next 30 years managing the family plantations in Edgefield, S.C. It’s rumored some of the jewels she was given in Russia kept the plantations going. Her granddaughters inherited the Edgewood house, but it fell into disrepair.
In 1929, Eulalie Chafee Salley, a prominent Aiken businesswoman and leader of the women’s rights movement. purchased the plantation house, which was in serious disrepair, and moved it to Aiken, S.C. where it was beautifully restored. In 1990, the house was moved to the University of South Carolina campus. You can find photos here: http://www.nationalregister.sc.gov/a…/S10817702016/index.htm