Andrew Jackson Pageot

by Carol Kaplan.

Andrew Jackson Pageot was born a child of privilege: he was named for his godfather, the President; his mother was heir to a wealthy Nashville estate; his father was the son of a diplomat. This baby’s future was bright. How then did it come about that he lies in an unmarked grave, his burial place lost to history?

Earliest known photograph of the white House, taken c. 1846 by John Plumbe during the administration of James K. Polk.

The first (and only) Catholic wedding ceremony held in the White House took place November 29, 1832. The groom was Alphonse Pageot, secretary of the French Legation and brother-in-law of the French Minister. The bride was Nashvillian Mary Anne Lewis, daughter of Major William Berkeley Lewis, a friend and political appointee of Andrew Jackson. The Lewises’ Nashville home was called Fairfield, set on an estate not far from City Cemetery. Today’s Fairfield Avenue was originally one of the lanes leading to the residence.

Although Mary Anne and her half-siblings William Henry and Margaret Adelaide grew up in relative comfort, they all suffered early losses. William B. Lewis’s first wife (Mary Anne’s mother) was Margaret Lewis, the daughter of W. Tyrrell Lewis and owner of Fairfield. Margaret died at Fairfield in 1816, when Mary Anne was about 12. The mother of the other two children was William B. Lewis’s second wife, Mary Adelaide Stokes, daughter of U.S. Senator Montfort Stokes. Mary Adelaide died in May 1823, leaving behind “an infant son [little William Henry was not yet two] & daughter five days old.”

After their marriage, Mary Anne and Alphonse Pageot lived in Washington, D.C., in a house provided by her father, William B. Lewis, who wrote a friend, “I go to housekeeping with them.” Their son, Andrew Jackson Pageot, was born the following year and christened at the White House. The Rev. William Matthews of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church officiated, as he had for the wedding of the baby’s parents.

As a diplomatic family, the Pageots moved often between the United States and France. Major Lewis returned to Nashville, where he had to face yet another loss, that of his son, William Henry, who died August 30, 1842, “in the twentieth year of his age,” Major Lewis’s youngest child, Margaret Adelaide, who was said to be the most beautiful young woman in Tennessee, had married George Washington of Wessyngton Plantation in Robertson County that same year. She herself died at the age of 21 in November 1844, three weeks after the birth of her only son, William Lewis Washington.

Wessyngton Plantation [Historic American Buildings Survey, November, 1971 North (front) façade from northeast. – Wessyngton, Cedar Hill, Robertson County, TN HABS TENN,74-CEDHI.V,1-1…Jack Boucher – https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/tn0113.photos.153962p]

When the Civil War began, William B. Lewis remained loyal to his country and active in local politics. On December 14, 1864, the night before the Battle of Nashville, as Federal troops dug entrenchments in Fairfield’s front lawn, U.S. Major T. J. Morgan stayed in the house, occupying the room that Andrew Jackson had always been given. As a loyal citizen, Lewis would eventually receive compensation from the Federal government for the damage to his property.

Two weeks after the Battle of Nashville the family suffered another tragedy. On January 11, 1865, this notice was published in the Nashville Daily Union:

“Died, on Monday morning, the 9th inst., at the residence of his Grandfather, Major William B. Lewis, Andrew Jackson Pageot, Esq., son of Hon. A. Pageot of Paris France, and Mary Ann, his wife. He died from an acute attack of the heart, after only an hour’s illness, in the 32nd year of his age. His funeral will take place this morning, at 11 o’clock, at the residence of Major Lewis. Hacks will be waiting at W. R. Cornelius’ on Church Street, at 10 o’clock this morning, to take out friends and acquaintances who desire to attend the funeral.”

Where was Pageot buried? He has an interment entry in City Cemetery records, but no location is indicated. In 1843 Major Lewis had purchased a 40×40-foot lot in section 5 for $80.00. Who, if anyone, was buried on this lot? Not Major Lewis, who died in 1866. He and others of his family, along with their tombstones, were removed to Mt. Olivet in 1890 from “the old family burying ground.” Whether this burying ground was on the Fairfield estate is yet another mystery. The property was sold at auction in 1867, and by 1890 St. Margarethe’s Hospital occupied the location.

Fairfield, during the period when it was used as St. Margarethe’s Hospital (courtesy of Debie Cox, Nashville History)

None of the removal records lists the name of Andrew J. Pageot. Was he originally interred with other Lewis family members and then, having been buried without a marker, simply forgotten? Does the partial record at City Cemetery exist because undertaker Cornelius merely assumed he would be interred there?

The old PBS series History Detectives insisted that “no secret is safe.” Is the secret of Andrew Jackson Pageot waiting to be found someday?  (2010)

Dedication ceremony for new Sally Thomas grave marker, 2009

Sally Thomas died during Nashville’s 1850 cholera epidemic. In 1908 her tombstone could still be found, but by 2005 it was no longer standing. In 2009 a replacement tombstone for Sally Thomas was dedicated in a well-attended ceremony at City Cemetery.


Previously published in Monuments & Milestones, the Nashville City Cemetery newsletter.

Sarah “Sallie” McGavock Lindsley, 1830-1903

by Kathy B. Lauder.

Sarah Malvina Bass McGavock, usually called Sallie, was born July 17, 1830, in Nashville, Tennessee.1 Her father was Jacob McGavock (1790-1878), a county, circuit, and U.S. circuit court clerk for fifty years.2 Jacob had served as Andrew Jackson’s aide during the Creek War,3 and the two men remained close friends throughout their lives.4 Sallie’s mother, Louisa Grundy McGavock, was the daughter of noted jurist Felix Grundy,5 Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, U. S. Representative and Senator from Tennessee, and U. S. Attorney General under President Martin Van Buren.6          

Sallie McGavock Lindsley

On February 9, 1857, Sallie married Dr. John Berrien Lindsley (1822-1897),7 one of Nashville’s most eligible bachelors. Lindsley’s journal reports, “At 4 & 10 minutes P.M. was married by the Rev. J. T. Edgar, D.D. to Miss Sallie McGavock . . . only the immediate family and a very few friends present. All very happy.”8

Sallie Lindsley gave birth to six children: Louise Grundy Lindsley (1858-1944); Jacob McGavock Lindsley (1860-1925), nicknamed “J. Mac,” who married Kittie Kline; Mary McGavock Lindsley (b 1861), wife of R. C. Kent; Margaret Elizabeth Lawrence Lindsley (1863-1936), who married Percy Warner, and whose descendants bore the names Frazer, White, Mallison, and Lea; Anne “Annie” Dickinson Lindsley (1864-1958), who married Dr. Carl Warner; and Randal McGavock Lindsley (1870-1871),9 named for Sallie’s brother, a former Nashville mayor (1824-1825), who had died in the Civil War.

Dr. John Berrien Lindsley

The Lindsley family remained in Nashville during the War, moving to Sallie’s parents’ home after Union troops seized the Lindsleys’ property during the Battle of Nashville.10 Sallie later became active in various charities of the First Presbyterian Church. She was a charter member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (founded in1894) and served as the group’s first corresponding secretary.11 The work closest to Sallie Lindsley’s heart, however, was the creation of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association (LHA), organized to protect and preserve Andrew Jackson’s home, a state property scheduled to become a rest home for aged and needy Confederate soldiers.12 When attorney A. S. Colyar determined that only unmarried women (femmes soles) were eligible to sign the LHA charter of incorporation,13 the committee members selected five unmarried women, including Sallie’s daughter, Louise Grundy Lindsley,14 to sign the document.  Meanwhile, John Berrien Lindsley, then Executive Secretary of the State Board of Public Health, was attempting unsuccessfully to craft a compromise between the Confederate organization and the LHA. At his urging, Sallie met with Representative John H. Savage, a former Confederate officer and the chief opponent of the amendment that would cede the women’s group 25 acres that included the house, family graveyard, and tomb.15 Sallie persuaded Savage to change his vote, the amendment passed, and the Association opened the property to the public in July 1889.16  The group’s first major undertaking, restoring Jackson’s original log home, “First Hermitage,” was Tennessee’s first historic preservation project. 17

“First Hermitage,” Hermitage, Davidson County, Tennessee

Sallie Lindsley was elected Second Vice Regent of the Ladies’ Hermitage Association (1891-1899), then served as Regent18 until her death by heart failure on July 5, 1903.19   (2014)


SOURCES:

1 Her birth and death dates are inscribed on her tombstone in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

2 Gray, Robert. The McGavock Family: A Genealogical History of James McGavock and His Descendants from 1760 to 1903. Richmond, VA: William Ellis Jones, Printer, 1903, 21.3 Gray, Robert, 20-21.

4 Gray, Robert, 14.

5 “Mrs. Lindsley Dead. Passes Away Quietly after Brief Illness.” The Nashville American, July 6, 1903, page 4.

6 “Felix Grundy.” United States Congress. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-2005. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 2005.

7 Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. Nashville: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

8 Lindsley, John Berrien. Diary, Volume 5, October 6, 1856 – January 1, 1866. Lindsley Family Papers, ca. 1812 – [1840-1940] – 1953, Box 1, Folder 23. Tennessee State Library and Archives. February 9, 1857.

9 Lindly, John M. The History of the Lindley-Lindsley-Linsley Families in America, 1639-1924, Vol. II.  Winfield, Iowa: Self-published, 1924, 19.

10 Lindsley, John Berrien. Diary, Volume 5, December 1-24, 1864.

11 Bucy, Carole Stanford. “Quiet Revolutionaries: The Grundy Women and the Beginnings of Women’s Volunteer Associations in Tennessee,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol.LIV, No. 1, Spring 1995, 45.

12 Bucy, Carole Stanford. “Ladies’ Hermitage Association.” Tennessee Encyclopedia Online. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2002-2014.

13 Dorris, Mary C. Currey. Preservation of the Hermitage, 1889-1915: Annals, History, and Stories. Smith & Lamar, 1915, 35.

14 Bucy, Carole Stanford. “Quiet Revolutionaries,” 46.

15 Bucy, Carole Stanford. “Quiet Revolutionaries,” 46.

16 The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson website. Accessed 6-23-2014. http://www.thehermitage.com/mansion-grounds/mansion/hermitage

17 The Hermitage, Home of President Andrew Jackson website. Accessed 6-23-2014.

18 Dorris, Mary C. Currey. Preservation of the Hermitage, 1889-1915, 219-220.

19 Tennessee City Death Records, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis, 1848-1907.  Nashville: Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Aesop and the Wedding of Human and Natural History

Musings by Mike Slate.

Would you drive across town to visit a tree? Our busy lives and priorities seldom allow such a trek. However, whether old or young, man or woman, liberal or conservative, we share this oxygenated planet with many other interdependent life forms. Although human history is the historiographer’s normal province, other species also have important stories to tell if we would but listen.

This stunning oak tree became part of the Tennessee Landmark and Historic Tree Register in 1999, nominated by James Summerville. (photo by Maury Miller III)

“Aesop” is the name I have given a stunning oak tree on Granny White Pike at Clifton Lane. Like his namesake, the ancient fabulist, our Aesop has contributed significantly to our lives, albeit in silence and relative obscurity. We take him for granted most of the time, but he has been honored at least twice. He was the champion chestnut oak* in the 1994 Big Old Tree Contest sponsored by the Nashville Tree Foundation, and in 1999 he was voted into the Tennessee Landmark and Historic Tree Register.

Aesop is old enough to have been present at the 1864 Battle of Nashville. Perhaps weary Union or Confederate soldiers leaned upon him, or maybe his roots absorbed the blood of the slain. Through the years frolicking children have no doubt played on and around him as their elders enjoyed his shade and admired his grandeur. He has been home to song birds, squirrels, raccoons, insects. I wonder whether a mathematician could calculate the number of liters of oxygen Aesop has provided, or the number of lungs his breath would fill.

The Battle of Nashville Monument (photo from NHN collection)

About twenty yards northwest of Aesop stands the distinguished Battle of Nashville Monument, which, in addition to the conflict it so aptly commemorates, has its own illustrious history. Thus, two archetypes stand juxtaposed in one small park – one of natural history and one of human history.

Historians are slow to combine the various divisions of their discipline. An outstanding example is the continued segregation of the histories of white and black Americans. The relatively new field of women’s studies contains still more historical material not often integrated into the general curriculum. Clearly the wedding of human and natural history is a rare occurrence, although such works as Harriette Arnow’s wonderful books, Seedtime on the Cumberland and Flowering on the Cumberland are significant exceptions.

Although you may never read about Aesop in a history book, he is well over 150 years old, perhaps demonstrating more character and majesty today than ever before. His existence has become quite personal to me–as it has to others. I know from experience that his northwest side is an effective shelter from a slow rain. I usually visit him alone, although to be alone with Aesop is to have plenty of company. Perhaps the concept of tree spirits might be more than just a primitive or romantic notion.

Like his namesake, Aesop is a teacher. He shares his woody wisdom freely, instructing us in such values as dependability and service to others. He is a visual mantra, an environmental balm, an arboreal benediction, a monumental survivor. Gather the children or grandchildren and pay him a visit: he will greet you with open arms.


* Other experts have identified this tree as a Chinquapin oak rather than a chestnut oak. These two varieties of white oak are quite similar.

The Battle of Nashville: Shy, Smith, and Hood

by Doris Boyce.

A detail in the death of a Williamson County Civil War hero was clarified after Colonel William Shy’s grave was vandalized in 1977. Before that time, it was believed that Shy had been killed by a mini-ball shot from a muzzle-loading firearm during the Battle of Nashville, December 16, 1864. When anthropologist Dr. William M. Bass (founder of the University of Tennessee’s “Body Farm”) reconstructed the wound in Shy’s skull, he found that the wound was too large to have been caused by a mini-ball. Shy’s wound was more likely the result of the bombardment that Nashville citizens had watched from Capitol Hill.

William Mabry Shy, Colonel of the 20th Tennessee, was left dead on the top of what was then Compton Hill. When his body was recovered, it had been stripped and bayoneted to a tree. His descendants are still in possession of the bayonet. General Benton Smith*, Shy’s superior officer, was taken prisoner at the bottom of the hill, where his captor cracked him over the head three or four times with a saber. He never entirely recovered and ended his life in an insane asylum.

General John Bell Hood, Confederate commander of the battle, appeared to associate valor with casualties. Hood was a none-too-stable combat veteran who had to be tied onto his horse because of a useless arm and an amputated leg. Sixteen days earlier, on November 30th, Hood had attacked the Union Army in the bloody one-day Battle of Franklin, which had resulted in 6,000 Confederate losses.

The Battle of Nashville thrust 21,000 of Hood’s ill-equipped infantry and 4,000 cavalry against General George H. Thomas’s well-equipped Union infantry, about 60,000 strong. The fighting took place in the hills near the present-day intersection of Granny White Pike and Harding Place/Battery Lane, ultimately spreading over five miles, from Franklin Road to Hillsboro Pike. The Union bombardment lasted for two days before their troops attacked with overwhelming force. Confederate survivors limped away as best they could after suffering some 4,000 casualties. After the Battle of Nashville, Hood, a West Point graduate who believed in frontal attacks with flags flying, retreated to Mississippi. In January of 1865, less than one month later, he gave up command, having all but destroyed the Army of Tennessee. Hood died in relative obscurity after ten years as a successful New Orleans businessman.

Confederate kepi

Thankfully, the valor of the Confederate dead will not be forgotten. In 1968 the Metro Historical Commission placed a plaque at the slope of Compton Hill, which has been re-named Shy’s Hill. The area can be accessed via Shy’s Hill Road or Benton Smith Road from Harding Place, two blocks west of Granny White Pike.


* Gen. Thomas Benton Smith, who had been gravely wounded at Stones River (31 Dec 1862-2 Jan 1863) and Chickamauga (18-20 Sep 1863), returned to military duty after his eventual recovery. As Smith surrendered to Union Col. William L. McMillen during the Battle of Nashville, McMillen attacked the disarmed general savagely with his own sword, causing such severe brain injuries that Smith was at first not expected to survive. Although he eventually recovered sufficiently to return to his pre-war job at the Nashville & Decatur Railroad, he was eventually confined in a Nashville insane asylum, where he lived for most of his last 47 years. He is buried in Confederate Circle at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.


Editor’s note: When this essay was published earlier on another site, a reader strenuously objected to its characterization of General John Bell Hood. We understand that other views of Hood’s tactical wisdom and effectiveness are certainly possible. Hood was a complex individual whose actions have engendered both hostility and admiration among those who have studied his military career. The points of view expressed in this essay are those of its author, but other positions may be equally valid. We encourage any reader to submit an essay detailing your own perspectives on Hood, particularly as they relate to the Battle of Nashville.   

Their Dust Dispersed on Many Fields: The Confederate Circle at Mt. Olivet Cemetery

by Terry Baker.

Eighteen-year-old Private Willis L. McWhirter of Adamsville in McNairy County was mustered into the 27th Tennessee Infantry, CSA, in September 1861. He would not survive the war. A little over three years after his enlistment he was hit by artillery fire at the Battle of Franklin. The missile caused severe damage to his right hip joint, and it is remarkable that McWhirter, by then a corporal, survived as long as he did.

The monument that graces Confederate Circle in Mt. Olivet Cemetery is a granite obelisk topped by a nine-foot statue of a Confederate soldier. Thirteen rows of graves surround the monument: buried in the first six rows are Confederate soldiers from other states; in the seventh row are unknown soldiers; and in the outer rows, the graves of Tennesseans. (photo from NHN collection)

When Hood retreated after the Battle of Nashville, McWhirter remained behind with the rest of those too seriously wounded to be moved. Taken prisoner on December 17, 1864, he was left in the care of Union Army surgeons at the U.S. Army General Hospital #1, on the hill near where Third and Lindsley now meet. McWhirter died of his wounds on January 31, 1865, and was buried the next day at Nashville City Cemetery.

According to his military records, the corporal was assigned two numbers, a hospital patient number and a grave number, the latter also appearing in Nashville mortician W. R. Cornelius‘s burial ledger. The letters “GSW” next to his name there represent the cause of death: “gunshot wound.” Cornelius had contracted with the Union military authorities to bury both the Union dead and their Confederate counterparts. His ledger contains over 15,000 entries, many of them unknown soldiers. 

In 1869 a movement developed to honor fallen Confederates by re-interring them at Mount Olivet Cemetery, in existence then for nearly 15 years. Twenty years later, in 1889, the monument at Confederate Circle was dedicated in a ceremony commemorated by photos in Confederate Veteran Magazine. In the early 1970s, owing largely to the work of the Reverend Florence Redelsheimer of the Mount Olivet staff, markers provided by the United States Veterans Administration (now the Department of Veterans Affairs) were placed around the circle. Flat stones were chosen rather than the more typical vertical stones (which were pointed, allegedly to prevent disrespectful persons from sitting on them). Walking the northern face of the Circle, a visitor can see rows of markers for Alabama soldiers along with Corporal McWhirter’s, one of half a dozen Tennesseans whose markers lie on that side.

Not far from Corporal McWhirter lies the grave of one of only three women buried here. Mary Kate Patterson Davis Hill Kyle was an active member of a Confederate unit known as Coleman’s Scouts.  It was this company to which Sam Davis belonged at the time of his 1863 capture. The story of Davis’s hanging by the Federals is well-known to Middle Tennesseans. Mary Kate, whose first marriage was to Sam’s brother John, died in 1931 at age 97.

In at least one case, a husband and wife were buried together in Confederate Circle: William and Catharine Palmer rest together under upright stones. We see from the inscriptions that William lived to be one hundred years old, and Catharine survived until 1952. Behind an evergreen tree in the outer rows lies J.A. Hankin, a nurse who died in 1863.

It should be noted that Corporal McWhirter is buried under the name William, rather than Willis, as his service records identify him.  Many of the old records are difficult to read, particularly since styles of penmanship have changed; to complicate matters further, some of Mount Olivet’s microfilm records are almost illegible.  Not so the records of Mr. W. R. Cornelius, the mortician, whose hand was quite elegant.

Missing are the pre-1875 records for Mount Olivet, later supplemented by the discovery of some interment books in a building on the cemetery grounds. Also lost was a pre-1952 map, without which it was difficult for the staff to locate the known Confederate graves. Add to that the apparent indifference to standardized name spellings during the Civil War and the high illiteracy rate among rural soldiers, and one can begin to understand why so many names on the markers are oddly spelled.

Close to 1,500 Confederate soldiers are buried in thirteen rows, the overwhelming majority of the soldiers unknown. Those who died in hospitals and prison camps left records of their names, and these can be found on the inner row markers. Unknown soldiers were buried in a trench running completely around the Circle. In the outer rows lie men who died after the war, their names etched in stone for all to read. On the left side of the 45-foot-tall monument is a touching verse, which reads in part, “The muster roll of our dauntless dead is lost and their dust dispersed on many fields.” At least a part of that muster roll has finally been recovered.

This 45-foot monument stands guard over Confederate Circle in Mt. Olivet Cemetery (photo from NHN collection)

The author would like to thank Tim Burgess, researcher into Confederate deaths and burials, who has been instrumental in having markers placed at Confederate Circle in recent years. This essay was composed using material supplied by Mr. Burgess, along with microfilm records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.


Notes from readers:

1. Mary Kate Patterson Davis Hill Kyle had a brother, Everard Meade Patterson, who was also a Coleman Scout. He, too, is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. Three other Coleman Scouts are also buried there. Everard died in 1932, being the last of the Scouts. My relative Joshua Brown was a Scout, and he, Mary Kate, and Everard are profiled in our new Civil War book, Shadow Soldiers of the Confederacy. (Talley Bailey)

2. I am named for John F. Wheless, First Tennessee Rock City Guard, who is buried in the Circle, He was a friend and business partner of my great-grandfather, Henry Wade, and godfather to my grandfather, Harry Wheless Wade Sr. (Harry Wheless Wade III, Nashville)

Ten Important Dates in Nashville History

by Mike Slate.

A short list of important dates in Nashville history must necessarily exclude many defining events. Nevertheless, we believe the effort to narrow our history into an easily memorized list is worthwhile. The listed items provide an overview of the whole and serve as guideposts between which additional events can be viewed with some perspective. Perhaps it is also motivating to realize that memorizing a list of ten important Nashville dates will result in your suddenly knowing more Nashville history than probably eighty or ninety percent of all Nashvillians!

Photo of Tennessee State Capitol from NHN collection

Regrettably, in addition to Native American history, our list of dates omits Nashville’s heroic pre-settlement period, including the exploits of Timothy Demonbreun and the founding journeys to the Cumberland region led by James Robertson and John Donelson. Also omitted is the date of the formation of Davidson County (1783) as well as the dates on which Nashville was officially named (1784) and incorporated (1806). The Union occupation of Nashville (beginning February 1862) is another significant event not specified here. Several important twentieth century dates, including the rise of the huge DuPont Powder Plant complex during World War I, are not included. Finally, the modern development of Nashville, with its high-rise buildings and its various sports and entertainment venues, has been left for some future list.

No entry on the list should necessarily be construed as carrying the same historical weight as any other item on the list. For example, the 1925 beginning of the Grand Ole Opry would probably not carry the same weight as, say, the 1864 Battle of Nashville.

Expansive timelines of Nashville history can be found in other sources, including such excellent books as Henry McRaven’s Nashville: “Athens of the South.”

Photo of Parthenon from NHN collection

1. 1780 The signing of the Cumberland Compact.

2. 1824 The arrival of Philip Lindsley and the rise of the University of Nashville.

3. 1828 The election of Andrew Jackson as President of the United States.

4. 1843 The designation of Nashville as the capital of Tennessee.

5. 1864 The Battle of Nashville.

6. 1873 The founding of Vanderbilt University.

7. 1880 The Nashville Centennial Celebration.

8. 1897 The Tennessee Centennial Exposition.

9. 1925 The beginning of the Grand Ole Opry.

10. 1963 The formation of Metropolitan Nashville Government.

(article published in 2001)

A Woman Challenged: The Life of Granny White

by Doris Boyce.

Born in 1743, Lucinda Wilson became the second wife of Zachariah White about 1760 and helped raise his children, along with a brood of her own. Zachariah wanted land badly enough to risk his scalp. He joined James Robertson and headed overland to North Carolina’s Cumberland territory to help establish the settlement of French Lick, where the city of Nashville now stands.

Granny White Grave Marker (from The Historical Marker Database; photo by Michael Manning)

Zachariah was a militiaman, a farmer, and a part-time teacher. He opened the first school at French Lick in the spring of 1781, but he was killed at the Battle of the Bluffs later that year, leaving Lucinda, called Lucy, and his heirs so poor they could not afford the surveyor’s fee required for eligibility to receive the 640-acre grant North Carolina awarded to families of men killed defending the settlement.

Seventeen years later, in 1801, 58-year-old Lucy was informed by the courts of Surrey County in the Tidewater district of North Carolina that she was too old and too poor to take on the responsibility of her two orphaned grandsons, Thomas and Willis, ages 8 and 9. The judge, who would not have granted custody to a woman in any case, ruled that the boys must be bound over to a tradesman in order to keep them out of the poorhouse.

But Lucy would not be told “No” again, certainly not by North Carolina! She loaded her spinning wheel and household goods onto an oxcart pulled by a yellow longhorn steer and left in the middle of the night, along with Thomas, Willis, and an elderly slave called Uncle Zachary. Traveling only about three miles a day, they walked 800-900 miles through Indian territory and the rugged Carolina mountains, leading the oxcart toward the Cumberland settlements where Lucy had three adult children and a number of step-children. Along the way they made several stopovers, staying long enough in each place to make a little money and become more self-sufficient. In Roane County, Tennessee, at a place called Meredith, she put up a ginger cake stand where she sold baked goods to travelers.

The small, white-haired Lucy was 60 years old when she arrived in Nashville in 1803. She set up another ginger cake stand, along with a tar pit or kiln for greasing wagon axles. With the money she made from her various enterprises, she purchased 50 acres that consisted of the facing slopes of a pair of adjoining hills. Her land was located along an old buffalo path that had been the first road built going south from Nashville to Franklin. One of Lucy’s hillsides had to be dug away to create space to build a log house. The other hill was planted in grapevines, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens. The land was so steep that apples rolled downhill into the fence and pumpkins had to be staked to the hillside.

By 1812 Lucy had opened an inn that attracted travelers from the Natchez Trace, four miles to the west. She soon became known for her excellent cooking and the whiskey that she made herself. Guests of the inn praised her for the finest brandy and applejack, the best pancakes, and the cleanest beds. She charged 12 1/2 cents a night for a room and 50 cents a night to board horses. Lucy was innkeeper, housekeeper, and cook, and somehow found time to weave the bed linens and the family’s wearing apparel. When more guest rooms became necessary, she added new wings, a room at a time.

Lucy’s grandsons called her “Granny,” and soon the customers did, too. Still remembered today as Granny White, she was 73 years old when she died in 1816, possessed of considerable wealth, along with slaves, horses, and cattle. Grandson Thomas had died in an accident as a youth, so Willis inherited the property, but the tavern was not open to paying guests after Granny’s death. Willis and his wife Winifred moved to Nashville so their ten children could go to school, but the couple returned to the inn in their old age, after the children were gone.

The inn was half-rotted by late 1864, when the Battle of Nashville took place all around it. Everett Beasley acquired the lands in 1930 and in 1942 replicated the log tavern at the same location with logs from a frontier inn in Dickson County. After 30 years, however, the old logs began to sag just as Granny’s originals had. In 1983 Robert Neil and Vander Linder conveyed the logs to Cheatham County, where they constructed a log house that still stands today.

One hundred sixty-five years after Granny’s death the property was developed into 43 residences called The Inns of Granny White. Her fenced gravesite is near the entrance. To get there from Nashville, you will take the same route the buffalo did, along the street toward Franklin, now named Granny White Pike.

Granny did not accept the social wisdom of her day. She did not let being a woman, being old, or being poor defeat her. After an apparently hopeless beginning, she became a self-reliant individual, an entrepreneur. She ignored the hurdles in her path by flaunting the law, engaging in commerce, making and selling liquor, and taking strangers into her home. She accepted the challenge of frontier life and did what she had to do.

Woodlawn Memorial Park

by Doris Boyce.

A scene in the Forehand compound in Woodlawn Memorial Park (photo from NHN collection)

Woodlawn Memorial Park, a cemetery established in the 1930s and acquired in 1993 by Houston-based Roesch-Patton Corporation, occupies a piece of ground rich in local history. The property, which eventually became known as Melrose, was part of John Topp’s Revolutionary War Grant #461 of November 25, 1788. The original 960 acres were reduced by a sale to Michael Deadrick, first president of the old Nashville Bank. The remaining 205 acres were purchased in 1836 by a United States Senator from Louisiana, who built a mansion there. In December 1865, the property was the site of a field hospital during the Battle of Nashville. Even today a group of log cabins, a spring house, and a man-made pond can be found near the site where the Melrose mansion once stood. Present-day Woodlawn cemetery is part of the 205-acre site that once ran from what is now the Melrose shopping area on Franklin Road to Melrose Avenue between Bransford Avenue and Nolensville Road. 

Melrose Mansion, built in 1836 by Louisiana planter Alexander Barrow II, was sold six years later to John W. Saunders, who died shortly after taking possession of the property. In 1845 Saunders’ widow married Aaron V. Brown, just after his inauguration as the thirteenth governor of Tennessee. Brown, a law partner of James K. Polk (who was elected President the same year Brown became governor), had over a 24-year period served in both the Tennessee State Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives.  He later served as President Buchanan’s Postmaster from 1857 until Brown’s death in 1859.     

The widow Brown suffered severe financial losses as a result of the Civil War. After her death in 1892, the property, by then only 130 acres, was sold at auction to Godfrey M. Fogg. The house would later pass into the hands of first the Sinclair and then the Bransford families. In time it became the Melrose House Restaurant, which operated in the building until the mid-1970s. Eventually two fires, in 1975 and 1979, destroyed the old mansion.  

A few years earlier, in 1966, the Forehand area of the property took its name, when George and Lillian Forehand leased the stone spring house where the Melrose Mansion’s owners kept milk, butter, and other perishables. They attached their own home to the spring house, which became the Forehands’ living room, with its three-foot thick walls and cork floor.

A plaque beside the spring points out that the Confederate works ran 200 yards south of the Melrose residence; a second marker explains that a Confederate cannon used in the Battle of Nashville was borrowed from the home of Spencer McGavock. The cannon, featured in a photograph taken at the dedication of the memorial in 1969, no longer guards the plaque. The gun’s current location is a mystery. 

One of the two log cabins on the Forehand property. (photo from NHN collection)

As the Forehand house was under construction, the family acquired two more historic structures: log cabins that had once stood on ground now covered by Percy Priest Lake. Numbered before being dismantled, the logs were transported to their present location, where they were carefully reassembled. In front of one of the cabins is a placard identifying it as “one of the oldest remaining houses from the early American era.” 

The cabins’ original owner, Tennessee pioneer Alexander Carper, came to Davidson County from Virginia and settled in the Cane Ridge community of Antioch. He married in 1825 and built his log home near Mill Creek.  Descendant William Washington “Wash” Carper and his family dedicated the buildings in 1969 to Woodlawn Memorial Park for historical preservation. 

The Forehand enclave nestles among sheltering trees on a bend of the road behind the Woodlawn funeral home. The couple created an idealistic pioneer setting there, ornamented with flowering shrubs and plants blooming in pots and hanging baskets. Cats napped on the porches, ducks swam in the lily pond, and the flag soared proudly above a colorful garden. 

Eventually graves began to encroach upon the Forehand property. After George’s death in 2001, Lillian lived there alone, surrounded by the cemetery. Armed with pistol and shotgun, and under the watchful eyes of the Berry Hill police, she kept the vandals away. Eventually Lillian, too, moved from the house. 

Memorials are created to be visited, contemplated, appreciated, and enjoyed. Today the Forehand compound features the spring and spring house of Melrose Mansion, the two Carper cabins, plaques to remind us of our Civil War past, and a tribute to Governor Aaron V. Brown.  Sadly, few Nashvillians and no newcomers are aware of the existence of this historic oasis within the well-known cemetery.