Knoxville historian Jack Neely has written a fascinating article on the legacy of East Tennessee’s own Admiral David Farragut, with an update on the disappearing birthplace monument.
The current status of Farragut’s boyhood home and the marker that once stood there is…well, complicated. Very, very complicated.
What I didn’t know before reading Neely’s piece is that Farragut has become a hero among Americans of Spanish-speaking descent. His father was a native of Minorca who settled in the Knoxville area back when Tennessee was still the Southwest Territory.
Knoxville historians once assumed they were the only ones who’ve ever heard of George Farragut, the early settler. But there’s a high-quality portrait of him at the Smithsonian. He’s the one Knoxville settler of whom we have the clearest physical image: a robust fellow on the verge of a chuckle. Now he has his own Wikipedia page. George Farragut has emerged as a Spanish-American patriot of the Revolutionary War.
His son who became an admiral has also gained new attention. “I am extremely proud of sharing the same heritage as Admiral Farragut,” says Coral Getino, the Spanish-born leader of Knoxville’s HoLa Hora Latina, hosts of the popular annual festival. “Farragut is a role model for us: A first-generation Hispanic-American, hard-working family man, who earned the highest Navy rank for the first time in history,” she says. “His bravery, determination, and perseverance—in battle and in life—exemplify values we want to teach our children. He is a national hero who was born right here, almost in my neighborhood.” Learning the Farragut story, she says, helped inspire her to get involved in the Knoxville community.
Navy guys, Civil War buffs, and various other constituencies are also keenly interested in the fate of Farragut’s birthplace. A pity more people from the admiral’s own neck of the woods aren’t as concerned. Neely notes that at the time of its dedication, the birthplace monument was probably the most prominent marker of its kind in the Knoxville area. You wouldn’t expect a rock like that to fade from memory, but then you wouldn’t expect it to grow legs and walk away, either.