Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Lotz House

The Lotz House
  I finally got around to touring the Lotz House in Franklin and I enjoyed it so much that I wondered why I didn't do it sooner. The house and furnishings were beautiful and the story of the Lotz family was fascinating to me. Johann Alfred Lotz was a German immigrant that bought five acres of land from Fountain Branch Carter in 1855. The land was right across the Columbia Avenue from the Carter House. In 1858 he completed his house. He was a master woodworker and he used his house as a showcase for his work to potential clients. He not only built his house which he built a wraparound handrail to his staircase but the bottom post is an inverted leg to a grand piano. He was also a piano maker and repaired guitars and violins. Lotz also built three fireplace mantels that demonstrate his range of talent, He started out in Nashville but moved to Franklin because there was less competition there and wood was more plentiful. He did work for St. Cecelia and St. Bernard in Nashville. The Lotz family consisted of his wife Margaretha and six children. Two children, Paul and Amelia, were from Mathilda's previous marriage. Augusta, Matilda, and twins Julius and Julia belonged to the Lotz couple. At the time of the battle, November 30, 1864, there were three children living at the Lotz house. Paul, age 9, Matilda, age 5, and Augustus, who was a baby. The twins tragically died after playing in a nearby creek that had been poisoned by the Union Army. 

  Union soldiers dismantled Alfreds wood shop. Pulled down his fences, cut down all of his trees to create a field of fire, and used the trees to create breastworks. The soldiers slaughtered his hogs, cattle, and chicken. Matilda later said that she watched as a Union soldier shot her pet calf in the head to cook for his breakfast.. Alfred knew that his house would be directly in the line of fire if a battle happened. The Confederates arrived late in the afternoon of November 30, and the Union Army didn't think that Confederate general John Bell Hood would attack. There was only about an hour of daylight left and there were very few night battles in the Civil War. Because of the smoke produced by the black powder of that era, battles were confusing enough in the daylight much less at night. For this reason and the late hour of Hood's arrival the Carter and Lotz family thought that they had enough time to safely evacuate the area. It quickly became evident that their assumptions were wrong when they saw the Confederate army form a line of battle along Winstead Hill, two miles to the south. The Lotz and Carter family quickly gathered in the Carter House basement for safety. The Lotz House had a basement but Alfred felt that they would be safer in the Carter basement. Every time I think of this situation I visualize a family riding out a storm like a hurricane or a tornado but this storm lasted for five solid hours. 

  The worst fighting occurred in the immediate vicinity of the Carter and Lotz houses. There was always the danger that the house above them could catch fire and burn to the ground trapping the 17 civilians in the basement. Above them they could hear the cannon booming and rifle blasts. The screams of men enduring close hand to hand combat and the screams and pleading of the wounded. Men fought with bayonets, shovels, pick-axes, rifle butts and their bare fists. Eye-witness accounts testified to the fact that the blood was ankle deep in places. So many men died at close quarters that some of the dead had no place to fall. After the battle ended the Union Army decided to escape Franklin under the cover of darkness and make their way to Nashville.Early the next morning as the Lotz family felt safe enough to venture out of the basement they witnessed a scene of carnage that no adult should see, much less three children. As they crossed Columbia Avenue to their damaged home they saw stacks of dead bodies, wounded men and horses in every conceivable condition. It was said that it would have been possible to walk back to their house without their feet touching the ground just by walking on the bodies. The south end of the Lotz house was nearly destroyed by bullets and artillery shells. They passed completely through the house. One solid shot cannonball crashed through the roof and upper floor, falling to the floor below. The ball was still hot and burned an indention into the wood floor that can still be seen today in the gift shop. The beautiful staircase was destroyed. It took Mr. Lotz three years to build the house and five years to repair it. Because of a lack of money in the South after the war he was unable to replace the damaged windows on the south side of the house and their are no windows on that side. 

  Lotz billed the Federal government for damage caused by Union soldiers but he never received any money. He tried to resume his woodworking business but because of the war the South was very poor. He built a grand piano and carved an eagle holding a United States and Confederate flag in his talons. For unknown reasons the eagles claws are tightly gripping the Confederate flag. In the summer of 1869 the Klan heard about the piano. They came to his house to investigate and were outraged by the carving. They felt that he had disrespected the flag. Lotz heard through the grapevine that the Klan was planning a return but this time he would be tarred and feathered in his front yard. He quickly decided to move selling or giving away most of his belongings. Within ten days he moves his family to San Jose California. Matilda loved animals and routinely painted their farm animals. She managed to meet Phoebe Hearst, the mother of William Randolh Hearst. Phoebe was so impressed with her paintings that she helped Matilda get into the Paris Art Academy. Matilda would go on to be a famous world renown artist dying at the age of 65. Some of her art is hanging in the Lotz home today. Augustus Lotz became a famous inventor. Over the years the house has been used for various reasons. It is amazing how well preserved that the house is considering that it has been a private residence, an attorneys office, a sub shop, a bakery and a haunted house. It almost became a Mexican restaurant that was going to be named "Lots of Taco's" which was to be a play on the Lotz name. Luckily the house was bought and turned into a museum that does honor to it's history and the Lotz family.
Johann Alfred Lotz

Margaretha Lotz

Matilda Lotz

A damaged plank from the south side of the house
Art of Matilda Lotz

Lotz staircase

Lotz house in the 1800's

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