Hurt Drive, located off Elm Hill Pike in the Donelson suburb of Nashville, is for me the eeriest street in Davidson County. In the 1960s this half-mile-long road was part of my boyhood newspaper route, and some of my friends lived here in neat, moderately sized brick houses. Today nothing remains of that civilization except a ribbon of asphalt road.
Built during the 1950s Donelson boom, the subdivision that includes Hurt Drive thrived for about thirty years before the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority acquired it during its noise mitigation program of the 1980s and ’90s. (Indeed, today’s planes fly very low over this area.) The MNAA razed every house along Hurt Drive, carefully removed all rubble, constructed impressive masonry gates at both the north and south ends of the street, and generally returned the land to nature. Currently the agency keeps much of the grass cut while allowing a few lots to grow more freely.
The aforementioned gates, which inhibit vehicular but not pedestrian traffic, enhance the mysterious aura of the empty street. Arriving at the south gate, a visitor is roadblocked without any explanatory signage. May I walk along this road and enjoy it as a greenway path? Should I keep away from here altogether? Nothing answers such questions. However, around at the north gate a lonesome sign warns, “MOTORIZED VEHICLES PROHIBITED,” implicitly granting permission to walk the road. Yet visitors unacquainted with the area’s history are still faced with the overarching conundrum: why is this road here, since there’s nothing on it?
And what about the name itself, Hurt Drive (sometimes “Hurt Road”)? Where did that come from? Since “Hurt” is an esteemed local surname with area roots at least back to the War of 1812, my guess is that the road was named after the Hurt clan (or a member thereof). Hurt family members are buried in the nearby James Buchanan Cemetery; Benjamin Hurt was an area postmaster in the 1850s; Joe Hurt, also a postmaster, owned a grocery store at Lebanon Road and Donelson Pike around 1900; and Dr. Joseph Hurt was a well-known Donelson physician of recent years.
McCrory’s Creek flows immediately to the east of Hurt Drive. In fact, the ancient creek forms the back boundaries of some of the street’s lots, adding convincingly to Hurt Drive as a de facto greenway. Not surprisingly, “McCrory” is another eminent pioneer name. The specific individual for whom the creek was named is lost to history, but in 1792 Thomas McCrory helped repel the famous Indian attack at Buchanan’s Station, which was situated on Mill Creek, about three miles west of Hurt Drive down the present Elm Hill Pike. Although the McCrory family played a major role in the early development of the Davidson County area now known as Forest Hills, there are very few McCrorys remaining in the county today.
It’s nearly impossible for me to think of McCrory’s Creek without remembering the venerable Miss Jane Thomas. Her father settled along the creek in 1809 when Miss Thomas was nine years old. Later she helped establish a Methodist church nearby, raising money for a log building. When she was in her 90s, she wrote reminiscences in a series of newspaper articles, which were collected into a delightful, gossipy volume titled Old Days in Nashville. The important little sourcebook was first published in 1897, and reprints are still available today.
Virtually every Nashville historian is acquainted with Miss Thomas and her book, yet no one knows the precise location on McCrory’s Creek of either the Thomas home place or the Methodist church she helped found. If an enterprising researcher cannot pinpoint at least one of these and place an appropriate historical marker there, then perhaps a marker to the memory of the grand old lady could be erected on Hurt Drive, offering walkers something to read and contemplate.
At Elm Hill Pike, Hurt Drive is sandwiched between McCrory’s Creek to the east and the Buchanan Log House to the west, giving visitors a triple treat in a single geographical spot. The landmark house, owned by the non-profit Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA), has in its front lawn a new Metro historical marker that describes the home and its circa 1807 origins. Branches of the local Buchanan family, however, stretch back even further than that, all the way to the very beginnings of Nashville. Two Buchanans signed the 1780 Cumberland Compact, and another died in the 1781 “Battle of the Bluffs” at Fort Nashborough. In addition, Maj. John Buchanan fought along with Thomas McCrory at the “Battle of Buchanan’s Station,” mentioned above.
The log house marker also records the circa 1820 addition to the structure. It’s satisfying to imagine that, in addition to Buchanans, the enlargement project may have been watched or joined by members of the Thomas (perhaps by Miss Jane Thomas herself!), Hurt, and even McCrory families.
For lack of space the marker does not relate the important second ownership of the Buchanan House. After Buchanans had lived here for over fifty years, the place was purchased by Thomas Neal Frazier, an area judge. His son, who grew up here on the banks of McCrory’s Creek, was James B. Frazier. You might recognize that name, for he became governor of Tennessee in 1903 and a U.S. senator after that.
Hurt Drive, flanked by the Buchanan House and McCrory’s Creek, well illustrates the richness of Nashville history. Chapters of our heritage abound on every river, on every creek, and on almost every street or farm in the county . . . and all across Tennessee. Citizens who seek historical edification will likely find it right under their feet.
Source Note: A variety of written sources were consulted in the preparation of this article, but none were more helpful than two fonts of living knowledge: Debie Cox of the Metro Nashville Archives and Lu Whitworth of the Buchanan Log House.
This article was first published in the July 2009 issue of The Nashville Retrospect. We thank publisher Allen Forkum for his permission to republish it here.
Primary Source Document, transcribed by Kathy B. Lauder.
On November 9, 1889, members of the State Board of Education and the University of Nashville Board of Trustees met in the office of Governor Robert L. Taylor to plan a banquet in honor of the Peabody Board of Trustees. William H. Payne had been Chancellor of the University and President of the recently-named Peabody Normal College for two years. One of his frequently stated goals was for the college to become the sole recipient of Peabody funds, which would allow it, as he said, to become the major educational institution in the South.
Following a recent conflict with the Tennessee Legislature over educational appropriations, Payne was also eager to secure a permanent, dependable source of funding for the school. Having hung large portraits of Peabody Board members in prominent locations in the chapel, he now persuaded the State Board of Education to produce a huge banquet for visiting Peabody Board members. The State Board rushed into action, checking on rates at both the Maxwell House and the Hotel Duncan and arranging for lodgings and carriages for the visiting Peabody representatives.
By November 12, arrangements were nearly finished. A banquet for 100 of Tennessee’s most prominent citizens would take place at the Duncan (which finessed the Maxwell House by offering the meal at $3.00 a plate), on November 21, 1889, at 8:00 p.m. Committees rushed around arranging details. It is interesting to note that, although the male faculty members of Peabody College were invited to take part in the festivities, no women, including the female faculty members, were present.
On November 22 the Nashville Daily American carried this comprehensive description of the evening:
Compliment Extended the Visiting Peabody Trustees. The Hotel Duncan a Scene of Brilliancy.
Who Were Present, Who Made Speeches and What They Ate – The Meeting Yesterday.
It was a most distinguished gathering of gentlemen who met at the Duncan last night at a banquet given by the trustees of the University of Nashville and the State Board of Education in honor of the committee from the Peabody Board of Trust. Nashville has known few such assemblages, and has extended the hearty hand of genuine welcome to few such visiting delegations.
The occasion illustrates, if nothing else, how dear to the heart of this city is the cause of education, and how eagerly our people grasp at every opportunity that is offered to make manifest their earnestness in the cause.
The honorees of last night were ex-President Hayes, Bishop H.B. Whipple, of Minnesota; Hon. Samuel A. Green, of Massachusetts; Hon. J.L.M. Currey, ex-Minister to Spain; Hon. James D. Porter, ex-Governor of Tennessee.
The hosts of the occasion were the members of the State Board of Education: His Excellency Robert L. Taylor, President; Frank Goodman, Secretary and Treasurer; Dr. W. P. Jones, Hon. Frank M. Smith, Hon. Thomas H. Paine, Rev. J.W. Bachman, Superintendent Charles S. Douglass.
Also the following Trustees of the University of Nashville: Hon. James D. Porter, President; Edward D. Hicks, Secretary and Treasurer; Hon. Edwin H. Ewing, LL.D., Hon. Abram Demoss, Hon. John Overton, Hon. Edward H. East, LL.D., John M. Thompson, Hon. Mark S. Cockrill, Hon. Campbell Brown, C.D. Berry, H.M. Doak, Edgar Jones, Hon. William B. Reese, Hon. W. F. Cooper, LL.D., Hon. Frank T. Reid, Hon. Robert B. Lea, Hon. Charles G. Smith, LL.D., Hon. Samuel Watson, John M. Bass, Hon. Thos. D. Craighead, and William H. Payne, LL.D., Chancellor of the University and President of the Peabody Normal College.
The very handsome new hotel was the fitting scene for such a gathering. The parlors on the second floor were thrown wide open for the reception of the guests. They and the hallways and the dining-room were brightened by a tasteful and bounteous array of potted flowers and chrysanthemum decorations.
In the dining-room covers had been spread for more than 100 guests and nearly every seat was occupied.
There were two long tables and one cross table. At the head of these sat ex-President Hayes; at his left was Gov. Taylor, and on his right was Hon. J.L.M. Currey. At one foot of the table sat ex-Gov. Porter, with Hon. Mr. Green to his right; at the other foot sat Judge D.M. Key, with Bishop Whipple to his right.
The guests were all seated at 9 o’clock. From that hour until about 1 o’clock in the morning when the last toast was spoken the royal banquet proceeded. During those hours the speeches were spoken and wit and wisdom was the order.
The following is a full list of the invited guests: Senator Wm. B. Bate. Hon. Benton McMillin, member Congress. Hon. J. E. Washington, member of Congress. Hon. D. M. Key, United States Federal Judge and ex-Postmaster General. Hon. Howell E. Jackson, United States Circuit Judge. Hon. H. H. Lurton, Justice of State Supreme Court. Hon. Andrew Allison, Chancellor. Hon. G. S. Ridley, Judge Criminal Court. Hon. W. K. McAlister, Judge Circuit Court. Hon. N. Baxter, Sr., Clerk Supreme Court. State Treasurer M. F. House. State Comptroller J. W. Allen. Secretary of State Charles Miller. Hon. B. M. Hord, Commissioner of Agriculture. Gen. Laps D. McCord, Adjutant General. Chas. L. Ridley, Coal Oil Inspector. Hon. John Ruhm, United States District Attorney. Maj. A. W. Wills, Postmaster. Hon. Carter B. Harrison, United States Marshall. Maj. J. W. Thomas, President Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. Maj. W. L. Danley, General Passenger Agent Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. Maj. E. B. Stahlman, Vice President Louisville & Nashville Railway. Hon. W. L. Clapp of Memphis, Speaker House of Representatives. Hon. Benj. J. Lea, of Brownsville, Speaker State Senate. Hon. J. B. Killebrew. Hon. Leon Trousdale, Sr. Gen. W. H. Jackson. H. C. Hensley, President Merchants’ Exchange. Lewis T. Baxter, President Commercial Club. Dr. J. Berrien Lindsley, Secretary State Board of Health. Col. P. P. Pickard, ex-Comptroller. Dr. Wm. Morrow. Col. A. S. Colyar. Judge John M. Lea. Wm. M. Duncan. Hon. T. O. Morris, Chairman of Legislative Educational Committee. Dr. C. D. Elliott. Geo. W. Fall. Roger Eastman. Gen. G. P. Thruston. Dr. J.P. Dake. Hon. Robert Ewing, President Board of Public Works. Col. E. W. Cole. Jos. S. Carels, Librarian Howard Library. Hon. Nathaniel Baxter, Jr. Anson Nelson, ex-City Treasurer. Col. Jeremiah George Harris, Paymaster United States Navy. Judge Jas. Whitworth. Judge Thos. J. Freeman. Hon. Jere Baxter. Gen. Jno. F. Wheless. Hon. Jno. Allison, ex-Secretary of State. Dr. J.H. Callender, Superintendent State Insane Asylum. Col. B. F. Wilson. J. W. Childress, E. W. Carmack, Walter Cain, J. D. Campbell and W. H. Peck, of THE AMERICAN. G. H. Baskett, Robt. J. G. Miller, David G. Ray and James Clark, of the Banner. Col. Duncan B. Cooper, Geo. H. Armistead, R. A. Halley and W. B. Palmer, of the Herald. Rev. O. P. Fitzgerald, of the Christian Advocate. Dr. D. M. Harris, President Art Association and editor of the Cumberland Presbyterian. Rev. David Lipscomb, of the Gospel Advocate. A.H. Landis, Jr., of the National Review. J. H. McDowell, of the Toiler. Geo. W. Armistead, of the Issue. Rev. B. J. Moody, of the Baptist and Reflector. A. E. Baird, of the Southern Lumberman. Dr. Chas. W. Dabney, Jr., President University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Chancellor L. C. Garland, of Vanderbilt University. Judge N. Green, Chancellor Cumberland University, Lebanon. Dr. W. J. Darby, General Manager Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House. Rev. Telfair Hodgson, Vice Chancellor University of the South, Sewanee. Dr. Geo. W. Jarman, President Southwestern Baptist University, Jackson. Dr. John Braden, President Central Tennessee College. Dr. A. Owen, President Roger Williams University. Dr. E. M. Cravath, President Fisk University. Dr. J. N. Waddell, President Clarksville Presbyterian University. G. M. Fogg, President Nashville Board of Education. Z. H. Brown, Superintendent Nashville Public Schools. Capt. W. R. Garrett, Secretary National Educational Association. Rev. Geo. W. F. Price, President Nashville College for Young Ladies. Prof. J. B. Hancock, President Ward’s Seminary. Prof. S. M. D. Clark, Principal Montgomery Bell Academy. Dr. Duncan Eve, Dean Medical College, University of Tennessee. Dr. W. T. Briggs, Dean University of Nashville Medical College. Dr. Thos. Menees, Dean Vanderbilt Medical College. Dr. Wm. H. Morgan, Dean Vanderbilt Dental College. Prof. S. A. Link, Superintendent Tennessee Blind Asylum. Dr. J. S. Cain, University of Tennessee Medical College. Dr. R. E. Freeman, Vanderbilt, Dental College. Col. J. W. Barlow, United States Army. Profs. B. B. Penfield, J. L. Lampson, A. L. Purinton, E. C. Huntington, Geo. F. James, H. A. Vance, Peabody Normal College. J. L. Pearcy, Warden State Prison. Hon. T. B. Harwell, member Legislature from Giles County. Dr. T. A. Atchison. Col. J. W. Stone. Gen. H. B. Lyons, member of Congress from Kentucky. Col. J. M. Hamilton. Dr. T. L. Maddin, of the Medical Department of Vanderbilt University. Capt. John Demoville. Prof. Wharton S. Jones, Memphis.
The following was the menu:
Blue Points on Shell. Boston brown bread. Olives. Celery. Bouillon. Cutlets of chicken aux truffles. Sliced tomatoes. Baked sweet potatoes. Fillet of beef, larded, mushroom sauce. Potato croquettes. French peas. Punch, a la Cardinal. Mallard duck, currant jelly. Asparagus. Lobster salad. Plum pudding, brandy sauce. Neopolitaine ice cream. Assorted cake. Florida oranges. Grapes. Pears. Cheese. Cafe Noir.
The toasts were introduced by ex-Gov. Porter, who presided over the banquet and introduced each speaker in that happy manner characteristic of him.
In introducing the first speaker he extended to the visitors the hospitality of Nashville and of Tennessee in most graceful style. “Among our visitors,” said he, “is a man who has filled the most exalted place in the gift of his countryman, a man who has been distinguished in all the walks of life, as a private citizen, as a member of the bar of his State, as a Representative in Congress, as a distinguished soldier, twice the Governor of his State from which high place he was called to the highest within the gift of the people, where he signalized himself by a display of honesty of purpose, by maintaining the dignity of his high office, by furnishing a clean administration, by restoring their citizenship to the disfranchised people of Louisiana. In his retirement he has maintained the same dignity, and has attached himself to the people of Nashville and the South by his efforts in the great educational work upon which he is now engaged. I introduce the Hon. Rutherford B. Hayes.”
Mr. Hayes was roundly applauded as he arose. Addressing himself to the “Peabody Trust,” as the toast propounded, he referred to the donation of Mr. Peabody made twenty-three years ago, and repeated his grand words when he said: “I make this gift to the suffering South for the good of the whole country.”
He referred in the highest terms to the President of the Board of Trustees, Hon. Robert C. Winthrop, and complimented the great work of Dr. Sears, the first agent of the fund. He alluded to the visit of the Prison Congress to Nashville and asserted that every member left Nashville with feelings of unmixed satisfaction at having been present. He said he ought to make acknowledgements for the kindness which he had received while here.
The committee of the Peabody Board had with unanimity made the largest appropriation to the Peabody Normal College in Nashville that it had ever made for such a purpose.
This could not be taken as a pledge of the action of the Trustees in disposing of the fund amounting to $2,000,000. The trust might run six or seven years and “if it shall be that this structure authorized to be built in Nashville shall turn out to become the first step towards the establishment of a final monument to Mr. Peabody by the donation of the whole sum to the institution in Nashville, I have to say that not one of the committee who are your guests will ever regret that fact.”
This declaration was received with much applause.
Judge Edwin H. Ewing, who had been announced to respond to the toast “The University of Nashville,” was absent, and Dr. J. Berrien Lindsley was called upon to supply his place.
“No one better than myself,” said Dr. Lindsley, “recognizes the difficulty of supplying the place of such a man as Judge Ewing. The University of Nashville, so far as age goes, can claim renowned antiquity. For twenty-six years its existence shone with brilliant classic light. Its graduates took high honors at Harvard, Princeton and elsewhere. In 1861 in method of work and equipment it was second to no institution in the land. Its Board of Trustees have now placed the citizens of Nashville and Tennessee under sacred obligations and raised a monument to the memory of that great man, who will always be remembered in his efforts to advance the cause of education-George H. Peabody.” [Applause].
The next speaker was Dr. W. P. Jones, who responded to the toast, “The Tennessee State Board of Education.”
“It is said that honest confession is good for the soul,” he remarked, in beginning his address. “The vitalization of the public school system of Tennessee comes, in a great degree, through the Board of Trustees of the Peabody Educational Fund. Dr. Sears, Agent of that Fund, gave the State Teachers’ Association soon after his arrival here $1,500, to obtain a man to canvass the State in the interest of public education. James Killebrew in this capacity did great good for the people, but received little thanks.”
Dr. Jones referred to a bill prepared by Superintendent S.Y. Caldwell and himself, and revised by Dr. Sears, which passed the Tennessee Legislature and led to the foundation of the State Normal School.
“This Normal College of Tennessee has outgrown the expectations of the first agent of the Peabody Board, as well as of the people. It is not now only a State school, but of right should be the Peabody College for the whole South, and the State Board of Education recognizes the idea that the Peabody Board should have supervision over the institution. Between the State and the Peabody Board there is harmony, and will likely continue so. We of the State Board may wish that the school may be developed and nourished to be worthy of that renowned philanthropist, Geo. Peabody, who, in giving $2,000,000, said, ‘This I give to the suffering South for the good of the whole country.’ He desired that the education and elevation brought about by it should have a national reflex action. He was a patriot as well as a philanthropist. I am looking in the face of one who when occupying highest position in the country, with thousands asking what can be best done for the party, said: ‘He serves his country.’ Few more important truths have ever been uttered. Twenty years ago Dr. Sears said Nashville had all the improved means of education. If that was true, then what can be said of Nashville to-day? The tented fields around Nashville have been converted into classic grounds. I hope the visitors to-morrow will view the educational advantages for colored people, nowhere surpassed in America; the female schools, then Vanderbilt, and tell their advantages to the other members of the board. The educational centre of the South should of all places be selected for the Peabody Normal College. Build upon the beautiful campus a building which shall be a monument to George Peabody, and write upon it his immortal words. ‘This is a gift to the suffering South for the good of the whole people.'” [Applause.]
In the absence of Senator W. B. Bate, Dr. J. L. M. Currey responded to the toast, the “United States.”
“It is a high honor,” said he, “which ought to be duly appreciated to be called to stand in the shoes of the Senator of Tennessee, and a still higher honor to respond to the sentiment proposed; but as the young man who was about to be married said, I hope I will have your sympathies. I am probably more of a cosmopolite than many of you. I have been in every State of the Union except three and love our country and honor it. Patriotism begins at home, and begins with the State which throws the aegis of its protection over the dearest relations of life, and I believe in an indissoluble Union of indestructible States. While one may be a patriot at home and have his affections centered upon his own State, when he goes abroad the horizon of his patriotism widens and he looks up, not to a single star, but to the stars and stripes. I have wandered through the dilapidated streets of Palos, and I must confess that I never had before in looking upon a material object such thrilling, overpowering and tearful emotions as when I looked in imagination across to the country where have been wrought out the most beneficent questions of civilization, humanity, and good government. The foundation of our government and something which is next to Christianity, the best preservative of our free institutions is universal education, for without intelligence of the masses there can be no freedom of the masses. Before the Government it was declared that freedom of institutions depended upon education, and the Government should aid the schools.”
The speaker referred in glowing terms to Mr. Peabody’s gift, and said he could not think of anything that contributed more to the establishment of friendly relations between the sections. His act was the first to bring about a reconciliation. It would be one of the justest and most magnanimous acts for the Southern States to erect in the hall of the National House of Representatives a monument more lasting than brass to their greatest benefactor. Referring to the Peabody memorial school, he inquired why should there not be in Nashville, in the centre of this great country, established the great normal school of the United States? Applause followed his remarks.
Gov. Robert L. Taylor responded to the toast “The State of Tennessee.” “Tennessee,” said he, “lies on the happiest lines that girdle the globe, on the golden lines of God’s favor to man. I have thought that when God turned our progenitors out of the Garden of Eden, loth [sic] to destroy the beauties of Paradise he transplanted them to Tennessee. Our mountains are higher than other mountains, our valleys more fertile, our sunlight as beautiful as Mahomet’s vision of heaven. Our men are brave in battle, and our women are the sweetest that ever presided at home except the women of Virginia, and New York and Ohio and North Carolina, where I got my wife. [Laughter.] Tennessee is the richest country in the world. She has never had her proper place in public estimation. Her resources, capabilities, and possibilities have never been measured. Lying between the great cereal and cotton regions, their peculiarities are wedded on her own fertile soil where each is produced in profusion.
“The chemical forces elsewhere at war, here in harmony blend and produce results nowhere else reached. We have the happiest people in the world and the brightest atmosphere except about this time in November. Beneath the rich soil you find mines of wealth never dreamed of even here in Tennessee. More mineral wealth is found here than in any other State in the Union.
“A State of universities and good common schools-only one thing was needed to make Tennessee’s people happy. That was a great central normal college at Nashville, where teachers might be turned out to instruct the land, and live a monument to the memory of George Peabody. He did not believe the day was far distant when the visitors present and their fellow members of the board would in this great school complete the school system in Tennessee.” [Applause.]
Judge D. M. Key, of Chattanooga, was called upon and responded by saying that he thought he was on a side-track, as there was nothing on the programme set down against him. To Mr. Porter he had past obligations, but the force of the present ones he did not feel. There was a kind of honorable rivalry between Federal and State courts, and he did not think it would be kind for him to praise the Federal judiciary system in the presence of one of the State’s most honored justices who sat in silence. Like Webster “Here are the Federal officers. Behold them; they speak for themselves.”
The toast “The Schools and Colleges of Tennessee,” was responded to by Dr. G. W. F. Price, who said the gentlemen who had spoken seemed to have preempted and preoccupied the territory. He did not know what ground to stand upon unless he stretched a hawser from the Rocky Mountain peaks to the blasted projections of the moon, and performed aerial Blondin feats among the blazing stars and wheeling comets. He referred to Mr. Peabody in the highest terms and commended the Peabody Normal College as an institution of magnificent design and worthy of the most extended development.
In the enforced absence of Mr. E. A. Carmack, Mr. G. H. Baskette responded to the toast “The Press.” He said the weary, dry hours of the night had been reached and the party could, no doubt, appreciate the ingenuity of the man who tacked the Lord’s prayer over the wall and on cold nights jumped into bed, saying, “Lord, them’s my sentiments.” The press was a tremendous engine for potency and influence-one which had a great field for opportunities. It was, however, open to abuses. It was courted and feared, praised and denounced. It is the moulder of sentiment, the framer of public policy. It was a great educational power.
It has not done its whole duty in the uplifting of a Christian civilization, but is doing much for education, and with a united influence, will contribute to an educational development of the country more rapid than ever before seen. His remarks were liberally applauded.
The company dispersed at 1:30 o’clock. The following are the committees who were in charge of the banquet. Committee on Reception – Gov. Robert L. Taylor, Hon. William F. Cooper. Committee on Visitations – Hon. William B. Reese, Hon. Frank M. Smith. Committee on Invitations – John M. Bass, Frank Goodman.
To all is due the very highest compliment for their success. Especial mention is tendered Prof. Frank Goodman, the very efficient Secretary of the State Board of Education and Secretary also of the local Peabody Board for his interest in the work of making the affair a success.
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.
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.
The two-story Victorian house that is now 3212 Freno Lane in Lincoya subdivision was the residence of Governor A. H. Roberts and his family from 1928 until shortly after his death in 1946. Roberts (1868-1946) is best remembered as being the chief executive of the State of Tennessee when, in 1920, the Tennessee legislature approved the 19th amendment, which granted voting rights to women.
The old house, located on the western slope of Todd’s Knob, was built in 1880 by Alex and Anna Perry. Perry’s house and large farm, called Nutwood, was across McGavock Lane from Spence McGavock’s Two Rivers farm1. Alex Perry died in 1927, and Roberts purchased 150 acres from Perry’s heirs on July 8, 19272. This was only a portion of the Perry tract.
There were eight Perry children, several of whom owned tracts of land carved from their parents’ property. Roberts continued to purchase property from these heirs from time to time. A granddaughter of Governor Roberts has written that his farm eventually comprised 600 acres, including all of Todd’s Knob, and was bounded by Stone’s River3.
Roberts had returned to his law practice in Nashville when his two-year term as governor expired in 1921. By 1927 he was 59 years old and probably thinking of retiring when he purchased his farm. It is also possible that he was anxious to have sufficient property for his adult children to be able to live near him. During the 1930s three of his four children owned houses on the farm.
Maurice M. and Hattie Smith Roberts built Stone Cottage, an English cottage-style house, at 3214 McGavock Lane. Sadie Roberts Capps and her husband Paul bought the shingle cottage at 3238 McGavock Lane from Boyd Perry4. Nan Isbell and A. H. Roberts, Jr. built a stone house near the summit of Todd’s Knob. This house was named Fort Houston in honor of Gov. Roberts’ ancestor, Sam Houston. It was designed by McKissack Brothers, Architects5. Helen Roberts, who married Dr. Horace Gayden, lived in Nashville on the southeast corner of Hillsboro Road and Woodmont Boulevard.
After living in Donelson for only four years, Governor Roberts’ first wife, Nora Deane Bowden Roberts, died in 1932. On October 3, 1934, Roberts married Irene Arnstein, who had previously resided on Lauderdale Road in Cherokee Park where she owned a home dry-cleaning machine. On March 7, 1935, as Irene was dry cleaning some clothes in her former home, the machine exploded. Gravely injured, she died the following day at St. Thomas Hospital6. Governor Roberts married a third time, to Mary Edwards, but this union ended in divorce in 1944.
Gov. Roberts died in 1946 and was buried in Livingston, Tennessee7. After his death his children sold the Victorian house and the property to Criswell, Freeman, and Nokes, who developed the Lincoya subdivision on the farmland.
According to Gov. Roberts’ granddaughter, Betty Capps Uffelman, who remained in the Donelson area, there was another house built on the Roberts farm at 3210 McGavock Lane. This was the residence of Maj. Claude Daughtry and his family. Maj. Daughtry was a good friend of A. H. Roberts and had been on his staff when he was governor. This house, on the site of the Donelson Free Will Baptist Church, was razed in the 1990s. (2000)
1 Smith, Elizabeth M. “A Nashvillian Tells Her Story.” Unpublished manuscript. Nashville Room, Ben West Public Library. 2Davidson County Deed Book No. 777, p. 213. 3The Nashville Tennessean, September 6, 1972. 4 Author’s interview with Mrs. Betty Capps Uffelman, April 3, 2000. 5Aiken, Leona T.Donelson, Tennessee: Its History and Landmarks, pp. 222-224. 6The Nashville Tennessean, March 7, 1935. 7 Braden, Kenneth S. “The Wizard of Overton: Governor A. H. Roberts of Tennessee.” Unpublished thesis at University of Memphis (also at TSLA), 1983.
This sad tale of woe involves four principal players: the victim, John W. Kirk, Superintendent of Prisons; Andrew B. Vaughn, Warden of Coal Creek Prison, who fired the fatal shot; O. B. Paxton, a prison guard, whose appointment by Kirk and dismissal by Vaughn made him the center of the controversy; and Paxton’s friend J. T. Davis, Chairman of Marshall County Democratic Executive Committee and intended target of the shooting.
Kirk, the former Warden of Coal Creek, had hired Paxton as a guard there. After Kirk’s promotion to Superintendent, Andrew Vaughn was named to succeed him. Vaughn soon removed Paxton from his position as prison guard for alleged rule violations, but Kirk reassigned Paxton to temporary work at the main prison.
Vaughn came to Nashville on Wednesday, May 29, 1895, to attend his niece’s wedding and then to transport a convict back to Coal Creek. He called on Superintendent Kirk at the Capitol to discuss the Paxton case–namely, who had authority to hire and fire prison guards.
A conflict erupted when Vaughn encountered Paxton in the crowded first floor corridor and accused him of lying to Kirk. Hurling violent epithets, the two began to fight. Davis, a friend of Paxton, attempted to separate them. Vaughn lashed out with his walking stick, striking Davis twice on the head and causing a large knot over one eye. Vaughn was himself injured after Davis wrenched the stick from his grip.
The men were finally separated. Paxton and Davis were taken to the Governor’s Office, where Governor Peter Turney and his son James were having lunch. The Turneys attempted unsuccessfully to hold on to Davis, who was still in possession of Vaughn’s stick. Warden Vaughn, meanwhile, had been taken to the Treasurer’s Office to calm down but insisted that his stick be returned.
When Davis heard about Vaughn’s demand, he eluded the Governor’s grip and rushed to the Treasurer’s Office at the end of the hallway. Davis and Vaughn began cursing each other again. Senator W.P. Caldwell, who was sitting in the Treasurer’s Office, promptly fled through the nearest window. Vaughn grabbed the stick, but Davis snatched it back and struck his opponent on the head. Enraged, Vaughn pulled a gun from his pocket, firing three shots. The first barely missed Davis, causing powder burns to his face. He pushed past Deputy Insurance Commissioner Ridley Wills and raced into the corridor. Vaughn followed, firing at least two more shots in the main corridor, where Superintendent Kirk crouched near the north wall. The second or third bullet accidentally struck Kirk behind the left ear, lodging in his brain.
Warden Vaughn sidestepped Kirk’s body and continued his pursuit of Davis, who escaped by ducking into the Adjutant General’s Office. Returning to the Treasurer’s Office, Vaughn stated calmly that Superintendent Kirk was the best friend he ever had.
The shooting occurred at 2:10 p.m., shortly before the legislature was to convene in their chambers upstairs. The shots were heard throughout the busy building and out on the streets. The halls quickly filled with curious people after the news was telephoned down into the city.
Kirk was carried to State Treasurer E. B. Craig’s office, and Representative R. E. Maiden attended to him by placing a bundle of pamphlets under his head until Doctors Eve and Briggs arrived. They dressed the wound and transported Kirk to City Hospital, not expecting him to live long. No attempt was made to remove the bullet. Governor Turney telephoned Mrs. Kirk in Henderson, TN, to come at once. She sat by her husband’s bedside as he drifted in and out of consciousness, able to answer “yes” or “no” to some questions. A robust man, he lived from Wednesday afternoon until 12:24 a.m. on Saturday, June 1, 1895.
Vaughn and Davis quietly submitted to arrest when the police arrived. Taken to the station house, neither was placed behind bars. Davis returned to his home on the afternoon train; Vaughn was charged with two counts of assault and released on $5,000 bail. He was later indicted for murder. At the end of his sensational two-week murder trial ending on April 15, 1896, the jury declared Vaughn “not guilty.”
Thus concludes the nearly forgotten tale of the only person killed in the Tennessee State Capitol . . . so far.