Excerpted from Minute Book #55 of the State Board of Education, pages 145-155, transcribed by Kathy B. Lauder.
At the end of the nineteenth century, the role of the Tennessee State Board of Education was to oversee the finances and administration of Peabody Normal College, formerly the University of Nashville. The Board met in the office of the governor, who served as board president. Members included Governor William Brimage Bate, John Berrien Lindsley, Frank Goodman, W. P. Jones, J. W. Hoyte, George H. Morgan, and Leon Trousdale. Eben S. Stearns, Chancellor of the University of Nashville and President of the Peabody Normal School from 1875 to 1887, was also present on this occasion.
Office, State Supt. of Public Instruction, Oct. 27, 1883.
The Board met at 3 o’clock P.M. Present, Gov. Bate, W.P. Jones, Geo. H. Morgan, Leon Trousdale and Frank Goodman, also Dr. Stearns by invitation . . ..
Gov. Bate stated that the graduating class of last year had called on him in a body and asked to be allowed to present a memoreal [sic] in the interest of the College. — The Senior Class of this year had made a like request. He had told them they must present their memoreal in the most respectful terms and furnish a copy to Dr. Stearns. They had done so, and a committee representing the Alumni and another the present Senior Class, had asked the privilege of appearing before the Board, and were now in waiting; he therefore favored admitting the Chairman of each committee and allowing him to read his petition before the Board.
Dr. Jones thought no notice should be taken of the petitions and moved they be laid upon the table. Lost, for want of a second . . .. Dr. Stearns also opposed hearing the students, as he thought it would encourage insubordination and asked the Board if it was going to allow the students to be judges. Col. Trousdale thought they should be heard, as did also Gov. Bate and Messrs. Morgan and Goodman, and on motion of Senator Morgan the Board ordered the petitioners be heard, through their chairmen. Dr. Jones voted in the negative and prepared [a] protest in writing . . ..
The Board then admitted Mr. J. C. Shirley who represented the Alumni. He read the following:
Memoreal of the Alumni of State Normal College
To the State Board of Education. — Gentlemen.
We the undersigned members of the graduating class of 1883 of the State Normal College, would respectfully present to you as follows:
First. — That as to the past we have been more or less disappointed in the College in every respect.
Second. — That as to the present we feel deeply aggrieved by the action of the College toward us as students.
Third. — That as to the future we are without home as to the success and permanence of the institution unless immediate and radical changes are made.
Therefore, in all humility as becomes our youth and with the greatest consideration for Chancellor Stearns, for whom we have the highest personal regard, and with a deep and abiding interest in the welfare of our Alma Mater, we ask — nay in the name of right and justice we demand the following measures:
First. — That only teachers of well known reputation, experience and ability be employed – those who are not only specialists in their several departments, but those who enter heart and soul into the Public School and Normal School work. – representative teachers of the new education and the Public school spirit of the times, – men and women of the highest attainment and the broadest culture.
Second. — A supply of text books suitable to the needs of a Normal College, plenty of text and reference books of the most approved kinds and a reasonable adherence to them in instruction, in place of random lectures or stereotyped note-taking.
Third. — A supply of apparatus to enable students to prosecute successfully, the study of the sciences; and at the same time access to the cabinet and library, and that the library be to represent the advanced spirit of education in all departments pertaining to our professional work.
Fourth. — Facilities for publishing a paper, either by the faculty of the college or by its students and alumni, this especially, that the gross ignorance, which breeds a deep and almost unconquerable prejudice against our college may be removed.
Fifth. — That co-operation and harmony be secured between the various boards of trust connected with college.
Sixth. — That the immediate administration of affairs be placed in the hands of a regular faculty of eminent professors.
Seventh. — That co-operation and harmony be secured between the President and teachers and that regular and frequent meetings of the faculty be held in order to secure such result.
Eighth. — That co-operation and harmony be secured between the students and the teachers and that facilities be provided for daily as well as social intercourse between pupils and teachers.
Ninth. — That measures be taken to secure the co-operation and sympathy of the community and general public.
Tenth. — That measures be taken to secure the co-operation and influence of the alumni of the College.
Eleventh. — That stricter regulations be had in order to secure benefits of the college to professional teachers only.
Twelfth —. That the so-called teaching exercise be either abolished or entirely changed.
Thirteenth. — That the Literary Societies be recognized and given proper encouragement.
Fourteenth. — That the standing and marking of examination papers be made known to the students respectively.
Fifteenth. — That measures be taken to extend the benefits of the college to a wider circle and to a greater number.
Sixteenth. — That a suitable course of study and lectures be provided in Pedagogics and kindred subjects.
Seventeenth — In a word, that our College be made what the people, its students and the times demand – the center of Public Schools – and Normal education in the South and South West.
And, finally, we ask a favorable and early consideration of the above petition and have requested a reply from Chancellor Stearns, in writing, to each specification before a lapse of time should make it necessary for us to seek elsewhere for reforms, in regard to which we have already been silent too long.”
After Mr. Shirley had finished reading the above, the Chairman asked Dr. Stearns if he had any questions to ask Mr. Shirley; as he had none, several members of the Board questioned Mr. Shirley, after which he retired. –
Mr. Brandon of N.C. a representative of the present Senior Class was admitted and read the following memoreal which was signed by every male member of the class except one who was sick. – it was as follows:
Memoreal of Senior Class, 1883. State Normal College
To the Honorable State Board of Education. –
Gentlemen. — We the undersigned, members of the Senior Class of 83-4 of the State Normal College of Tenn. Do hereby respectfully memorealize your honorable body in regard to the status of affairs of said Institution.
First. — However, we desire to say that we are actuated by no spirit of malice, dissention or insubordination whatever. For the Chancellor and Faculty, personally we have the highest regard. We are moved only by a desire to see the College raised to that position which it should of right occupy, so that those who come after us may have and enjoy the advantages of which, we feel, we have been deprived.
It is an open secret that there has existed all the while great dissatisfaction and discontent among the students of said College, and why?
1st. Because the College is not what the catalogue advertises it to be.
(a) The course of instruction is said to include the general management of classes and schools, organization, government and discipline &c. (catalogue p 6). In these most essential particulars we have had no instruction whatever, either from the chancellor, any member of the Faculty, or any paid Lecturer.
(b) The following studies have never been taught according to catalogue since our connection with the College; to wit: Moral Sciences, Spherical Geometry and Trigonometry, Calculus, French.
(c) A system of espionage is practiced in times of examination, and constant aspersions are cast upon the honor of those “who are expected to conduct themselves as cultivated ladies and gentlemen.”
(d) The Library of the University has been entered by only one member of our class. There is no Librarian, nor has the Library been opened to the College since our connection with it. Hence we have access to no technical books, pertaining to our profession, pedagogical or otherwise.
(e) The “large collection of well selected apparatus” is actually insufficient to afford us any practical knowledge of the sciences, first, – because there is a lack of such apparatus, and secondly, – because what there is, is old and imperfect.
(f) The Museum has never been open to us for class purposes.
2nd. An excessive amount is charged for the use of text books and for incidental fee. In regard to text books, there is not a sufficient number of the kinds in use, while many of those furnished are not suited to Normal class purposes.
3rd. Because of the anonalous [sic] attitude assumed by the Chancellor toward the Literary Societies. These are regarded as in no wide factors in college work, have never been taken under its auspices, and hence have never received any sort of official recognition or support. — The use of the College audience room for public literary exercises is denied us; also the privilege of securing a suitable hall elsewhere. Thus, the Literary Societies are without the College and yet within the reach of its authority.
We would respectfully submit these as a few of the grounds for dissatisfaction and discontent, and while we are not disposed to quibble at small matters, yet these and other things have served to break down class enthusiasm and college spirit, thereby rendering successful work well nigh impossible.
We, as members of the outgoing Senior Class, and as parties to a contract, feel that the conditions, on part of the college are carried out, not as we could wish nor as we feel we have a right to expect. — Hence we memorealize your honorable body to the end, that the evils herein set forth may be righted as seems best to your wisdom. — Your most earnest consideration of the matter we pray &c.
(Signed by 21, of the 22 male members of Senior Class.)
After Mr. Branson finished reading the above, and Dr. Stearns having no questions to ask or anything to say, each member of the Board questioned Mr. Branson closely, and elicited suggestions from him.
No action was taken in reference to the papers; but the chairman of the Board suggested that Dr. Stearns should carefully examine the papers and see what remedies could be had and report to him in writing.
The Board suggested that it would be well for Dr. Stearns and the chairman to consider the suggestions embraced in the petitions, before appropriating the money in the Treasury, as hertofore [sic], and make their first expenditures accordingly.
Having been in session nearly three hours, the Board adjourned to meet at the call of the President.
Felix Randolph Robertson, a man of diverse talents, contributed much to the development of Nashville from its beginnings through the Civil War. Born January 11, 1781, to Nashville founders James and Charlotte Robertson, he was the first Caucasian child born in the new settlement.
Although the son of a pioneer, Robertson earned a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He studied under Dr. Benjamin Rush (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) and graduated in 1806, specializing in children’s diseases.
Robertson courted Lydia Waters in Maryland but, uneasy about asking Lydia to abandon her comfortable surroundings for a frontier town, returned alone to Nashville to build his home and practice. He erected a two-story building at 129 Cherry Street (near today’s 4th Avenue N. and Church Street) that served him as both office and home, and he became Nashville’s first pediatrician.
Eighteen months later Robertson returned to propose to Lydia, who not only accepted but also arranged to bring her mother and siblings to Nashville. The couple married on October 8, 1808.
Lydia and Felix Robertson had eight children before Lydia’s 1832 death at 44. Felix never remarried, remaining a widower for 33 years.
Dr. Robertson made many contributions to the field of medicine but is probably best known for advocating the use of quinine to treat malarial fevers. Founder and first president of the Nashville Medical Society, he served as president of the Medical Society of Tennessee from 1834-1840. He was a professor of medicine in the University of Nashville Medical Department, served briefly as president of the Bank of Tennessee, and was twice elected mayor of Nashville.
In 1826 Robertson, as president of the Texas Association, led thirty men to Texas to survey land and start a settlement in what is now Robertson County, Texas. Though he did not stay in Texas, his cousin, Sterling Clack Robertson did. After winning a legal battle with Stephen F. Austin over the land, Sterling surveyed and established Nashville, Texas, on the Brazos River.
Felix Robertson lived alone in his later years after all six surviving children married and settled outside of Nashville. He died in 1865, at the age of 84, from injuries sustained in a buggy accident caused by a runaway horse. The first-born Nashvillian had lived through the War of 1812, the growth and development of “the Athens of the South,” and the devastating Civil War, in which family members fought on both sides. His positive impact on Nashville is reflected in his tombstone inscription in City Cemetery: “First white child born in Settlement now called Nashville. Distinguished as a physician. Foremost as citizen.” (2013)
Previously published in Monuments & Milestones, the Nashville City Cemetery newsletter.
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.
Jacob McGavock Dickinson was a distinguished attorney, Tennessee Supreme Court Justice, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, and U. S. Secretary of War. A grandson of Jacob McGavock and great-grandson of Felix Grundy, Dickinson was born January 30, 1851, in Mississippi. He enlisted at fourteen in the Confederate cavalry,1 just as the Civil War ended, and soon thereafter earned A.B. and M.A. degrees from the University of Nashville. He studied law at Columbia University and in Europe2 before being admitted to the Tennessee Bar (1874).3 He and his wife, née Martha Overton, reared three sons.4
Dickinson, an early law partner of Judge Claude Waller,5 accepted four temporary appointments to the Tennessee Supreme Court (1891-1893) 6 before becoming Assistant U.S. Attorney General (1895-1897), as well as General Attorney for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad7 and law professor at Vanderbilt University (1897-1899).8
He moved to Chicago to serve as Solicitor General (1899-1901) and General Counsel (1901-1909) for the Illinois Central Railroad.9 One of three attorneys representing the United States before the Alaskan Boundary Tribunal (1903),10 Dickinson delivered the successful closing argument in an emotionally charged case.11 He helped organize the American Society of International Law (1906) and became president of the American Bar Association a year later.12 Between 1905 and 1909 he received honorary doctorates from Columbia,13 Yale,14 and the University of Illinois.15
In March 1909, President William H. Taft, a long-time friend,16 appointed him Secretary of War, a post he occupied until May 1911.17 Secretary Dickinson proposed two pieces of legislation: providing an annuity retirement system for civil service employees and admitting foreign students to West Point.18
Much in demand as a dinner guest, Dickinson preferred the company of friends and family to the Washington social scene. Once, having refused a persistent hostess’s dinner invitations for each night from Monday through the weekend, he finally growled, “Dammit, madam, I’ll just come Monday!”19
Before 1890 Dickinson owned several large estates, including the Henry Hayes mansion, Ensworth, which he sold in 1898 to the Sisters of Charity as the future site of St. Thomas Hospital.20 Around the same time, he infuriated Nashville residents with his decision to sell another historic property, Polk Place (the former residence of not only U.S. Congressman, Senator, and Attorney General Felix Grundy, but also President James K. Polk) to a developer, who razed the presidential home (1900) to build apartments.21 Dickinson bought Belle Meade in 1906 as a place to entertain guests22; his son Overton lived there year-round with his family.23 When Overton died of heart disease in 1910, a year after his wife’s death, Jacob Dickinson sold Belle Meade and never returned.24
From 1913-1917 he served as Special Assistant U.S. Attorney General in the federal prosecution of the U.S. Steel Corporation, acting also as receiver for the Rock Island Line, which he restored to solvency.25 In later years Dickinson was president of the Izaak Walton League, an early conservation group.26
After his death on December 13, 1928, his body lay in state in the Tennessee Capitol27 before being transported to Mt. Olivet Cemetery for burial.28
The Dickinson papers at the Tennessee State Library and Archives include his correspondence with, among others, William Jennings Bryan, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, George W. Goethals, and presidents Cleveland, Coolidge, Hoover, Taft, Wilson, and Theodore Roosevelt.29 (2015)
1 Nashville Families and Homes: Selected Paragraphs from Nashville History. Nashville: Nashville Room, Nashville Public Library, 1983, 33.
2Nashville, A Family Town: 1975-76 Paragraphs from Nashville History. Nashville: The Nashville Room, Nashville Public Library, 1978, 85.
3 Dickinson, Jacob McGavock (1851-1928) Family Papers, 1812-1946. Microfilm #836. Tennessee State Library and Archives (finding aid).
4 Sobel, Robert. Biographical Directory of the United States Executive Branch, 1774-1989. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood Publishing Group (ABC-CLIO), 1990.
5Nashville, A Family Town, 85. Waller was the first judge appointed to the Second Circuit Court after its creation in 1895.
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!
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’sNashville: “Athens of the South.”
Born October 24, 1822, John Berrien Lindsley came to Nashville in 1824, when his father, Philip, became president of the University of Nashville. Young Lindsley was educated at home by his parents and a neighbor, Septima Sexta Rutledge.1 At 14 he entered the University of Nashville, earning a B.A. at 17 and an M.A. two years later.2 In 1842 he entered the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, receiving his M.D. in March 1843.3 Here Lindsley began a lifelong friendship with adventurer William Walker.4
Lindsley’s next pursuit was theology: in December 1843 the Nashville Presbytery accepted him as a candidate for the ministry.5 He was licensed to preach in April 1845,6 shortly before attending to Andrew Jackson at his deathbed.7 Lindsley ministered to churches at the Hermitage and in Smyrna and, beginning in 1847, preached to slaves and the poor.8 An 1849 cholera epidemic9 kindled his interest in public health.
When Philip Lindsley left the University of Nashville in 1850, his son John Berrien became Chancellor. He proposed to rescue the faltering university by merging with the Western Military Institute of Georgetown, Kentucky,10 and by establishing the long-awaited medical school. Though apprehensive, Board members permitted the merger. Lindsley spearheaded the development of the medical school in 1851, became its first dean, and taught there until 1873.11 [Note: the following year the University of Nashville Medical School was incorporated into Vanderbilt University, which had been founded in 1873 by virtue of a grant from Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt. From that point on, it would be known as the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.]
In 1857 Lindsley married Felix Grundy’s granddaughter Sarah “Sallie” McGavock, with whom he had six children. He served on the Nashville Board of Education and was secretary of the State Board of Education, administering the Peabody Education Fund and overseeing the transition of the University of Nashville into Peabody College.12 Having received a Doctorate of Sacred Theology from Princeton (1858), he lectured in the Cumberland University Theological Department in Lebanon.13
Following the capture of Fort Donelson (February 1862), Lindsley became post surgeon of Nashville hospitals. His valiant efforts to protect university property during federal occupation saved the library, laboratory equipment, and the valuable Troost mineral collection.14
After the war, Lindsley served on the Nashville Board of Education and was superintendent of Nashville public schools. He helped establish Montgomery Bell Academy (1867) and the Tennessee College of Pharmacy (1870),15 and in 1875 presided over the State Teachers Association. Having promoted the passage of an 1877 law establishing the State Board of Health, he served as its first executive secretary.16 As Nashville Public Health Officer from 1876-1880, he supervised all health efforts in Tennessee during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic.17 He taught Sanitary Science and Preventative Medicine at the University of Tennessee from 1880-1897.18
Distressed by wartime divisions within the Presbyterian Church, Lindsley became a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1874.19 He authored History of the Law School of Cumberland University at Lebanon,Confederate Military Annals of Tennessee, and many works on medicine and public health. He was an early member of the Tennessee Historical Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Medicine.20 His many talents led Alfred Leland Crabb to call him the “Benjamin Franklin of Nashville.”21
John Berrien Lindsley died December 7, 1897, in Nashville. He is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. (2014)
1 Windrow, John Edwin. John Berrien Lindsley, Educator, Physician, Social Philosopher. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1938, 8.
2 Lindsley, John Berrien. Diary, Volume 4, 1849-1856. Lindsley Family Papers, ca. 1812 – [1840-1940] – 1953, Box 1, Folder 21. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
3 Windrow, 11.
4 Lindsley, John Berrien. Letter to Adrian Van Sinderen Lindsley, April 8, 1843. Lindsley Family Papers, ca. 1812 – [1840-1940] – 1953. Oversize folder (49). Tennessee State Library and Archives.
5 Lindsley, John Berrien. Diary, Volume 4, 1849-1856.
6 Windrow, 12.
7 Lindsley, Philip. Journal. Lindsley Family Papers, ca. 1812 – [1840-1940] – 1953, Box 2, Folder 33. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
8 Lindsley, John Berrien. Diary, Volume 4, 1849-1856.
Philip Lindsley was born December 21, 1786, into a cultured New Jersey family that honored education as the highest virtue. The boy was sent away early to boarding school, advancing from Robert Finley’s Academy to the junior class at Princeton (then called the College of New Jersey) at the age of fourteen.1 He graduated in 1804 and earned his MA in 1807.2 Hired as a tutor by Princeton, he remained for seventeen years as teacher-librarian, renowned as an “earnest and impressive preacher”3 and an inspiring professor of linguistics and theology.
Philip Lindsley served as Princeton’s interim president for a year but refused the presidencies of Transylvania University, Ohio University, and Dickinson College. “I infinitely preferred my peaceful classical chair at Princeton,” he wrote.4 The Trustees of Nashville’s Cumberland College pursued him for months before he finally accepted their offer. “Throughout the [Southwest] there exists not a single college,” he explained to friends. “The time has arrived when they must have the means of education at their own doors.”5 On December 24, 1824, he moved his wife and four children to Tennessee.
The Nashville area was educationally unique. Within five years of its first permanent settlement (1779-1780), as the community still faced Indian attacks, Thomas Craighead presided over Davidson Academy. The school became Cumberland College in 1806; its main campus building opened in 1808.7 Craighead was succeeded by James Priestley, who soon suspended the financially unstable school’s operations.8 Lindsley had much to overcome.
President Lindsley was inaugurated on January 12, 1825, at Nashville’s First Presbyterian Church.9 He revised the school’s charter in November 1826 and renamed the institution the University of Nashville. He first proposed opening a medical college in 1829. The committee he appointed in 1843 to study the prospect recommended the immediate establishment of a medical school.10
For twenty-five years Philip Lindsley taught two dozen class hours a week while also struggling with complex financial and administrative challenges. Disciplinary issues in this boisterous frontier college made harsh demands on the gentle educator. School records are full of “expulsions and midnight riots in which heads were bruised and equipment destroyed.” 11
By 1850 a series of conflicts and losses had sapped Lindsley’s energy. The deaths of his wife and nine-year-old son had devastated him.12 His faculty was aging; Professors James Hamilton and Gerard Troost had died. The university neighborhood had deteriorated, and the Board wanted to rebuild elsewhere.13 A cholera epidemic and competition from Cumberland College in Lebanon diminished enrollment, and no funds were available to build the coveted medical school that Lindsley had dreamed of.14 The Board rejected Lindsley’s 1849 offer to resign,15 but pressures and criticisms continued to grow.
In April 1849 Lindsley married Mary Ann Ayers, widow of the founder of New Albany Theological Seminary. When the Seminary Board offered him a professorship, he accepted, moving to Indiana in December 1850.16 He taught there until shortly before his death.
Philip Lindsley suffered a stroke in Nashville on May 23, 1855, and died two days later, attended by the University of Nashville Medical Faculty.17 (2014)
1 Lindsley, Philip. The Works of Philip Lindsley, D. D.: Volume III, Miscellaneous Discoursesand Essays. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1866, 11.
2 Lindsley, Volume III, 14.
3 Maclean, John Jr., Princeton President 1854-68, quoted in Lindsley, Volume III, 16.
4 Lindsley, Volume III, 23.
5 Lindsley, Volume III, 24.
6 Crabb, Alfred Leland. The Historical Background of Peabody College. Nashville: George Peabody College for Teachers, 1941, 9.
7 Crabb, 9.
8 Crabb, 10-11.
9 Lindsley, Volume III, 27.
10 Crabb, 18.
11 Crabb, 17.
12 Lindsley, Philip. Journal. Lindsley Family Papers, ca. 1812 – [1840-1940] – 1953, Box 2, Folder 33. Tennessee State Library and Archives.
13 Conkin, Paul K. Peabody College: From a Frontier Academy to the Frontiers of Teaching andLearning. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2002, 68.
14 Conklin, 69.
15 Crabb, 18.
16 Lindsley, Volume III, 54.
17 Lindsley, John Berrien. Diary, Volume 4, 1849-1856. Lindsley Family Papers, ca. 1812 – [1840-1940] – 1953, Box 1, Folder 21. Tennessee State Library and Archives.