Juliette Gordon Low loved animals. She tamed and owned a goodly number of them, from rabbits to horses to many kinds of birds and several breeds of dogs. In her early twenties she was very fond of a cow named Lilburn. She set herself the task of learning how to milk that cow by charming a cousin from Etowah Cliffs into teaching her.
Lilburn the cow was named after the home of a friend of hers, Elizabeth (Bessie) McKim Hazelhurst. It was a gorgeous mansion, just outside of Baltimore, in Ellicott City, Maryland. Bessie’s father, Henry Richard Hazelhurst, was a civil engineer who built Lilburn in the 1850s with the fortune he amassed in the railroad and iron industries. Lilburn was a large but comfortable house. It welcomed visitors from its perch atop a hill that was perfect for picnics. There were rooms for dancing and lovely nooks for long talks. The stables held riding horses for endless canters over the Hazelhurst acres. Young women with romantic dreams found the crenelated tower irresistible. Daisy and her sisters enjoyed many happy visits at Lilburn with the several Hazelhurst daughters.
|Lilburn, the home
It brought great joy to the Gordons when, in November 1882, nineteen-year-old Bessie Hazelhurst married Daisy’s 26-year old cousin, Beirne Gordon. Beirne was the son of Daisy’s father’s older brother, and would later go into business with Daisy’s father. The wedding happened at Lilburn, and the sun burst through the clouds just as the couple completed their vows.
Given how much time Daisy spent at Lilburn, it certainly makes sense to have named a favorite cow after the site where so many joyful hours were spent.
Or maybe the cow was named after Lilburn, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. There is also a Hazelhurst, Georgia, named for railroad baron George H. Hazelhurst. George Hazelhurst’s Macon and Brunswick Railroad was a feeder line of the Central of Georgia Railroad–and the Central of Georgia was started in part by Daisy’s grandfather.
|A cow, but not Lilburn the cow
This kind of information is the sort of thing that drives historians batty and adds to the years it takes to write a really excellent biography. Does is matter how the cow got its name? Not really. But such connections are pretty neat, and if I can prove them, they give us more of an idea of how Daisy’s mind worked. In this case, if Lilburn the cow were named after Lilburn the home, it would demonstrate the strength of the bonds between Daisy and her friend Bessie. It might also show how Daisy, by her early twenties, had worked through the fierce Southern loyalty she felt when she was younger.
Naming her cow after a northern manse could be evidence that she’d gotten past her instinctive feelings of dislike for Yankees…that is, if the cow truly was named after Lilburn in Maryland and not Lilburn in Georgia.
And what is the connection between the Hazelhursts of Maryland and the Hazelhursts of Georgia? This sort of question is what some historians call a bunny trail. Hopping down too many of them never gets a book written.
But here’s the interesting thing about Lilburn today: it’s haunted. A simple google search turns up stories concerning the scent of cigars, the sound of footsteps, and the sight of apparitions presumed to be long-dead Hazelhursts.
Daisy loved ghost stories–but if she were the one telling the legend of haunted Lilburn, she’d probably find a way to give her cow a starring role.
Lilburn the house photo from www.hauntedhouses.com. Cow photo from thejewishstar.wordpress.com.