Living History Home Tour
at The Pillars

Bolivar, Tennessee
April 30 &  May 1, 2005

The Pillars, home of the John Houston Bills family for more than a century, was a picture of Southern Splendor during the Bolivar Living History Home Tour.  The house, purchased by John Houston Bills in 1837, was the oldest home featured on the tour.  For this occasion chandeliers sparkled, a table was set for tea, and fresh garden flowers perfumed the rooms. 


Docents in period costume portrayed key figures from the Bills family who took visitors back to April 1862 following the Battle of Shiloh.  Mr. Bills (Gary McClure – attired in black vest and coat) greeted visitors at the door and told how he had gone with three other townsmen to the battlefield soon after the engagement, on April 6-7, 1862.  He was concerned for the welfare of his son Leonidas I. Bills, and two sons-in-law Captains Marshall T. Polk and Robert H. Wood who had lead their Confederate troops in that battle.  Mr. Bills detailed his own capture as a spy, when he was held for 4 days by General U. S. Grant aboard the steamer Tigress, at Pittsburg Landing in the Tennessee River .


Mrs. Sarah Childress Polk, widow of President James Knox Polk, (portrayed by Bonnie McClure – wearing a black & white plaid dress) told how she had been promptly notified of Mr. Bills’ capture and Capt. Marshall Polk’s serious injury.  She telegraphed President Abraham Lincoln, from her home in Nashville, requesting their release.  Mr. Bills and his party were allowed to leave on their own parole on the condition that they not take up arms against the U.S.  However, her adopted son, Marshall Polk was held for treatment by the Union surgeons.  Mrs. Polk had come to Bolivar to be closer to Marshall, who was also the husband of John Houston Bills daughter, Evelina (Jenny Jones – wearing a blue dress).


Mrs. Lucy Duke Wood, second wife of John Houston Bills, (portrayed by Carolyn Tardy – wearing a dark green taffeta dress) explained the difficulties of managing the affairs of the household during the tumultuous war times, with troops confiscating her turkeys and vegetables, doctors treating wounded soldiers in her home, and the difficulties of keeping the children and servants calm and actively engaged in useful tasks.  Her home had always been a welcome place for guests to stay, but, the uncertainty of the times made her anxious for the welfare of everyone at the Pillars, as well as for her adult children living in homes of their own in the area.


Lucy Ann Bills, 12 year old daughter of John H. and Lucy D. Bills, (portrayed by Caily Jones – who wore a pink dress with pantaloons) added her child’s perspective of all the activities, and showed visitors her artwork, which she painted when not busy helping her mother.


Others pictured in the photographs, are Joy Grubbs, President of the local chapter of the Association for Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (wearing a gray costume); Angela Grubbs, Joy’s daughter (wearing a dark skirt and shawl) who assisted with the weekend coordination; Mariesa Bridges a reenactor from Memphis (wearing a black mourning dress) portrayed Mrs. McNeal; and Randy Bishop (in Confederate coat and hat) a local historian and author who was selling signed copies of his new book The Tennessee Brigade.   Boys and girls from the Hardeman County 4-H Club members served as ticket takers and were dressed in period costume at each tour site.


Gone Like The Wind

July 31, 2012