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Like Oxford or Cambridge, all professors and upper-class students had to wear black gowns to class and church.The University’s buildings–classrooms, chapels, dormitories, and even the fraternity houses, designed for parties and meetings and not student living--were chiefly in the English gothic style.Football was played on Hardee Field, dedicated to the memory of Confederate General William J. The descendants of Edmund Kirby Smith, one of the last Confederate generals to surrender in 1865, headed local society. Rennie,” the town’s physician, occupied a Tara-like mansion opposite Hardee Field.The oldest house in Sewanee, a spacious, sturdy log cabin, still in use, called “Rebel’s Rest,” was owned by the heirs of Major George Rainsford Fairbanks, another Civil War hero. Augustine’s Chapel, fading Confederate battle flags filled casements along the side aisles.Even the names of the most prominent sights were almost poetic: Morgan’s Steep, so named (no doubt mythically) for a Rebel general officer who had fled pursuing federals by leaping with his horse over a high bluff and escaped; Lost Cove Cave, situated below poet and memoirist William Alexander Percy’s summer place, Brinkwood; Point Disappointment; and, my favorite, Fiery Gizzard with its waterfall and swimming hole.Wonderful names for the scattered settlements near Sewanee abounded: Sherwood, presumably named for Robin Hood’s hangout, and nearby, Garnertown, perched on the side of the mountain and famous locally as the moonshine capital of Franklin County.2 Similarly poetic, for white Southerners at least, were the Confederate deities who stood watch over the place.Without the benefit of electricity and natural gas, a small birthday cake, with four candles, had magically appeared on March 19 with the help of a tiny kerosene stove.No less wonderful than the vagaries of that river were the Saturday afternoon children’s concerts of the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra under the direction of a Dr. The auditorium had a sky-blue ceiling covered with gold stars.
Moreover, many of the residences had so mid-Victorian an appearance that a visitor might expect to see emerging from one of them a figure resembling Archdeacon Theophilus Grantly or some other Trollopian clergyman resplendent in gates-ajar collar, gaiters, and black frock coat.Then in her seventies, Eliza Matthews Little was my mother’s mother.Yet, though things turned out better than I anticipated, that mule struck me at the time as a very inauspicious sign of the new life I was about to lead.On this first encounter, I cared little about any of such attractions, not even the Rebel ghosts.Nor had I yet had the experience of reading the Barsetshire series to notice any resemblance between Sewanee’s enclosed Anglican domain and Anthony Trollope’s imagined cathedral close.