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)


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.

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.