by Gale Wilkes Ford.
Hundreds of motorists rush past the intersection of Old Hickory Boulevard and Chickering Road every day without realizing they have just glimpsed a bit of early Tennessee history. Nearby, on the property of Percy Warner Park, stands an old two-story log house with white siding, its three limestone chimneys now cold.
This is the Hodge House, built circa 1795 by Francis Hodge, an early pioneer settler who signed the 1780 Cumberland Compact and later received a land preemption of 640 acres. As Indian attacks diminished, many of the settlers ventured out from Fort Nashborough to settle on their own land. In the area of today’s Carden Road, Francis Hodge and his family built a log house which they called Hodge’s Station. It became a gathering place where many early Tennesseans, including James and Charlotte Robertson, came to study Methodism. Hodge later sold that tract of land to Joseph Ewing and built a cabin three or four miles south, on the plot where it now stands — land that had previously belonged to James Robertson.
This second Hodge house, originally a single pen log cabin (as has been determined by Metropolitan Historical Commission staff), stands today in the southeastern corner of Percy Warner Park. Francis Hodge and his two oldest sons, James and George, constructed the two-story dwelling of white ash logs. Over the years, the family added several more rooms, white clapboard siding, and a tin roof. To accommodate the family slaves, they built additional cabins, one of which survived into the late 1950s.
Within a few years the property was purchased by Mary and Samuel Northern, James Hodge’s daughter and son-in-law. The Northerns, whose descendants would live on this land for nearly one hundred years, dedicated an acre northeast of the house for use as a family cemetery. When James Hodge died in 1817, he was the first of the family to be buried in this graveyard, near what is now the Harpeth Hills Golf Course.
Pioneer Francis Hodge died in 1828. His will, written in his own hand, shows the excellent penmanship characteristic of an educated man. The will identifies his sons as John, James, Robert, and George; and his daughters as Elizabeth (Betsy) Armstrong, Sarah Slaughter, and Priscilla Carruthers. No surviving record indicates where Francis is buried. His son George died in 1833, willing the land, the house, and fourteen slaves to his wife Elizabeth. George’s 1829 will also stipulated that after Elizabeth’s death several nieces and nephews should inherit the property. One of the nephews named was Francis Hodge Asbury Slaughter, who, with Sterling Clack Robertson, was part of the first Texas colony.
Members of the Hodge family married into other local families whose names are still well known in the area: Betts, Becton, Harding, Northern, Osborne, Page, Reams, Sawyer, Slaughter, and Wilkes. The old house saw the Civil War come and go, with both Union and Confederate soldiers marching past on the historic Indian trail in front of the property. Hodge descendants occupied the home until its sale in 1895. In 1927 the property became part of the Warner Parks and is now listed on and protected by the National Register of Historic Places. According to the Warner Parks website, it is the “only early rural farmhouse of its type under public ownership in the county.”
The house served for many years as a residence for Parks Department employees and their families. In the early 1990s it was boarded up because of its deteriorated condition and was left vacant until a group of Hodge descendants began lobbying for protection and restoration of the property. Renewed interest in the site led to a survey of the old Hodge-Northern cemetery, during which sixteen unmarked graves, including several burial sites of children, were discovered. Moreover, as part of this year’s  celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Warner Parks, the Hodge House has been designated for renovation, in order to make it a more valuable, hands-on local history resource. The Friends of the Warner Parks (FWP) has been working side-by-side with the Nashville Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation to acquire funding for the project. Their first objective is to restore the original white ash log cabin. FWP Director Eleanor Willis, who has spearheaded the project, describes the logs now visible in the attic area as “beautifully preserved.” Work on the foundation and the limestone chimneys is already underway. Visitors will soon be able to view the historic Hodge House as it appeared two centuries ago to the early settlers of Middle Tennessee. (2002)