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|1. Antrim Farm||2. Booker-Ingram Place||3. Elm Springs||4. Ferguson Hall|
|5. Haynes Haven||6. Mayes-Frierson-Fuston Home||7. Liberty Hall||8. Oaklawn|
|9. Polk Home||10. Rally Hill||11. Rattle and Snap||12. Rippavilla|
|13. Vine Hill||14. Walnut Grove||15. Webster House||16. Whippoorwill Hills|
|17. McKissack House||18. McKissack House|
Maury County, Tennessee is the antebellum homes capital of Tennessee, and it is our pleasure to share those beautiful and grand homes with all who love and wish to preserve the homes' historical significance. Many are included on the National Register of Historic Places. For a listing of those included, go to National Register of Historic Places in Maury County, Tennessee.
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Circa 1810 - 1840
From A Tiny Acorn A Fine Oak Grew
Two-storied and humble in its beginnings, the oldest portion of Antrim claims a special distinction. It can remember what it was like to be Maury County's first brick house south of the Duck River.
Stacked one room atop another with a ground level entrance hall, the Antrim that Joseph Brown Porter built here around 1810 cast but a meager shadow of the Antrim it would one day become.
Though it fell far below the mark of pretension, Joseph Brown Porter's early Middle Tennessee homestead had what it took to shirk off the long reaching rigors of the great New Madrid Earthquake of 1811. The tremors that carved out Reelfoot Lake in the northwestern part of the state left only a simple crack in the eighteen-inch brick walls of Antrim.
Joseph Brown Porter and his first cousin, Colonel Joseph Brown, had ventured into the Duck River country around 1806. Both were definitely on hand here when the first court met at Colonel Brown's on December 21st of the following year and elected Joseph Brown Porter as its clerk. At this time the Porter family was living in a temporary log cabin near the present site of Antrim, some four miles south of Columbia, Tennessee and just east of the Pulaski Pike of today.
Sometime in the 1840s, Antrim enjoyed a white-pillared face-lifting from its new owner, John Mourning Francis. The size of Joseph Porter's original house was more than doubled in this latter day remodeling. With a final flourish of elegant simplicity, the demure and humble demeanor of this frontier Middle Tennessee offspring had been helped across the threshold of its crude beginnings and ushered into the more elaborate Planter Age of the Old South.
James K. Polk was no stranger to the Porter or Brown families, as he received his earliest education with the siblings of both of these families at the Brick Meeting House built near the old pioneer family graveyard, just a few hundred yards behind Antrim. Joseph Brown's oldest son, James Brown, also learned to be a surveyor in West Tennessee under "the elder Polk" (the President's father, Samuel) and his uncle Joseph B. Porter (of Antrim). One of Joseph Brown's sons, David Franklin, married a first cousin to James K. Polk, the granddaughter of the celebrated Colonel Ezekiel Polk. Also, several letters of correspondence from Joseph Brown and Joseph Brown Porter, as well as their siblings, exist over business and personal affairs. One final Polk connection of interest involves the famous Tennessee statesman, Felix Grundy. Polk first studied law under Grundy, who was the great, great, great grandfather of today's Antrim owner, Margaret "Peggy" Dickinson Fleming. A museum quality portrait of this famous Tennessean proudly hangs at Antrim today.
Antrim and its remaining 300 plus acres was the hub of activity in this area for many years, and is the father home to beautiful Beechlawn on the Pulaski Pike. Its earliest inhabitants were Indians of the Stone Grave race (most likely according to some historians, the Shawnees), of which many relics and much proof exist. Six old house sites are located on the property, close to the many good springs, and all have produced many interesting and fascinating relics--the Joseph Brown home site and the Joseph Brown Porter original home site behind Antrim being the most prolific sources of these relics.
The War Between the States was no stranger to the Antrim, as an official skirmish was recorded on her front lots on the 23rd of December 1864, and both armies camped here going to and coming from the Battles of Franklin and Nashville. Confederate General Frank Cheatham was a guest at Antrim in November 1864 while General Hood was at Beechlawn. Many War Between the States relics have been pulled from her soil, including seven belt plates, attesting to the high amount of activity that occurred at and around Antrim.
History abounds in this place called Antrim, named for the county in Ireland from whence cane the McGavocks, ancestors of both Peggy and her husband Swope Fleming. But oh how history repeats itself. Peggy Fleming (Brown), Joseph Brown's grandmother was born in Antrim County Ireland in 1701, and came to American in 1745. Better than two centuries later, there is still a Peggy Fleming living at Antrim, a stone's throw from the graveyard of Peggy Fleming Brown's many descendants. Margaret (Peggy Fleming) Brown survived her husband nearly half a century, strong in body and character. When she was 84, she traveled over the mountains from North Carolina to Davidson County, Tennessee in a wagon and on horseback with some of her children. She died September 17th, 1801 at the age of 100 years five months and seventeen days, and was buried in Spring Hill cemetery at Nashville.
We owe a great deal to Peggy Dickinson Fleming for saving the Antrim and all of its surrounding beauty and history. She and her husband, Swope, married at Traveler's Rest in Nashville and moved here in 1937. At the time tenant farmers had inhabited Antrim for many years. She not only saved the fine oak, but also watered and nurtured it in time of drought and disease. Without her love and care, its history would not have been preserved, just as the folks of the Polk Society have preserved the Polk Home. Thanks to both of you! Come and enjoy the Polk Party.
Go to the following Antrim Farm link for additional information.
Credits: Majestic Middle Tennessee by Reid Smith, Pelican Publishing Company, Gretna, 1983 and Brown, William and Margaret (Peggy Fleming), Descendants of, Compiled by Helen Rugeley, 1983.
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The Booker-Ingram Place in Culleoka, Tennessee is an excellent example of Federal architecture which preceded the grandiose Greek Revival period. It has perfect proportions and a small, single-story, double-columned pediment porch and three dormers on the second floor. There are two chimneys on either end of the house, with the north one extending to the basement. Originally the winter kitchen and work area, the basement is currently used as a family room.
Merritt Hobson Booker built Booker Place in 1828, having followed his brother, Peter R. Booker, to Maury County. Records place Peter in Maury County as early as 1807. Merritt and Peter were the sons of Richard and Lucy Hobson Booker of Amelia County, Virginia. Records also indicate that Merritt Booker was a trustee of the Pleasant Grove Academy in 1835.
Merritt Booker married Martha Frances Mosby, daughter of Colonel Littleberry Mosby (Mosely) (1729-1809) of Powhatan County, Virginia. Mosby Tavern, the home of her grandfather, Benjamin, served as the courthouse for both Cumberland and Powhatan counties. Martha started the Culleoka Reading Club, and books from that library still exist and are highly prized.
Merritt was born on June 4th, 1787 in Cumberland County, Virginia, and died in Maury County, Tennessee, on June 11th, 1839. He was buried in the family cemetery just north of the house. Martha was born in 1790 in Virginia, but if she was buried near her husband, the grave stone cannot be found. Their sons, Richard A. Booker, born 1829; Lucien Booker, born 1842; and Mosby L. Booker, born 1846 were buried near their father.
In the 1850 census, Martha's brother, Littleberry C. Mosby (born 1799 in Virginia), was living with her. She had 10 other siblings: brothers Robert, Elbert, Benjamin, Dewitt, Edward, and John Wade; and sisters Sally Mumford, Mary Page, Lucy Ann Frierson, and Elizabeth Truehart. Lucy Mosby married John W. Frierson in Maury County on September 14th, 1836.
The history of Booker Place continued with the Ingram family, to whom the Booker descendants sold the house. In 1880, Jonas Ingram (born 1837), grandfather of Dan Ingram, inherited the place from his father, John (born 1803 in Kentucky). Frank H. Smith (1848-1915 and the first elected secretary of the Maury County Historical Society) recorded that three Ingram brothers--Jonas and his brothers Dan and Hiram--were all in the Confederacy.
The house was altered over the years, and after the death of Miss Mary Ingram, Dan's aunt, Booker-Ingram Place fell into disrepair. In 1966, Dan and his wife, the former Anna Worth Butler of Marshall County, Tennessee, decided to buy and restore the home that had then been in the Ingram family for almost 100 years.
As a youth, Dan had lived at the old Fitzpatrick place (built in 1837 in Mooresville, Tennessee), and had developed a love of old houses. In order to replicate the woodwork in the Booker-Ingram Place, he used antique tools which he had saved from the old Goodrum house, located near McCains, Tennessee, that was torn down. It took the Ingrams, Dan and Anna Worth, approximately five years to complete the beautiful restoration as it appears today.
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Elm Springs is the name of one of the lovely antebellum houses in Maury County. Going east on Tennessee Highway 50, Elm Springs is located on the Mooresville Pike about .2 miles from where the Mooresville Pike intersects with Tennessee Highway 50. Located on a slight hill, it is plainly visible to all who pass by this way on the Mooresville Pike. The house was built about 1837 by Mr. James Dick, a wealthy New Orleans merchant, for his sister, Sarah Todd, wife of Christopher Todd. The Todd family lived here until the couple passed away, and then the property was inherited by a daughter, Susan, who was the wife of Abram M. Looney, a prominent attorney in Maury County.
During the Civil War, Abram Looney served the Confederacy as a Captain, later promoted to Colonel, in Company H, 1st Tennessee Infantry. He was an outspoken Southerner, and this almost resulted in the loss of Elm Springs. In November 1864, the Union Army, which had occupied Maury County for several months, was preparing defensive positions ahead of the oncoming Confederate troops under Gen. John B. Hood. Their line of defense extended from the Mooresville Pike to the Mt. Pleasant Pike. One of the defensive tactics used was the destruction of important buildings along the line. Elm Springs anchored the eastern flank of their line. Many houses were burned during those days, and Elm Springs was slated to be destroyed too. Fires were started that might have burned the house except for the opportune arrival of Confederate troops who extinguished the flames. The Akin family acquired the property about 1910, and in 1985 the Gillham family purchased and restored it to its near-original state. In 1992, it was acquired by the Sons of the Confederacy for its national headquarters.
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Ferguson Hall is one of the fine sights that may be seen while traveling down US Highway 31 in Spring Hill, Tennessee. It was built by Dr. John Haddox, one of the early physicians who practiced in this area for many years. Dr. Haddox sold the property to Martin Cheairs about 1854. Ferguson Hall is most noted for an incident that transpired there in 1863. After the Battle of Murfreesboro, Confederate General Bragg's troops drew back to occupy more secure bases to the South. General Earl Van Dorn, a native of Mississippi, was commander of Bragg's cavalry. He brought his troops to Spring Hill, and chose Ferguson Hall (called the Cheairs Home at the time) as his headquarters. Whether his reputation as a "womanizer" was true or not has been the subject of much discussion over the years, but one of his affairs brought about his death. It was rumored that he was carrying on an affair with Jesse McKissack Peters, the wife of Dr. George B. Peters, a local physician, and it was said that Mrs. Peters could be seen coming and going from the Cheairs house at odd hours. Dr. Peters became aware of these rumors, and on the morning of 7 May 1863 was waiting at the house when General Van Buren arrived. Details of the events of that day are few, but at the conclusion of it all, General Van Dorn lay dead on the floor and Dr. Peters had fled the area. Evidence collected by army investigators seemed to point to justifiable murder, and the doctor was never brought to trial.
In 1897, William C. Branham and William Hughes opened a school in Spring Hill. The following year they acquired the property of what had been Spring Hill Male College, and in 1905 purchased the old Martin Cheairs place with its 57 acres of land and the mansion. It was given the name "Ferguson Hall" in honor of a relative of the Branhams. The Branham and Hughes School became known far and wide as an excellent educational institution. When the Depression hit the country in the 1930s, the school, however, was forced to close its doors. In 1934, the property was deeded to the Trustees of Tennessee Orphans Home, and became an institution for the care of needy children. The name has been changed to Tennessee Children's Home, and today it is an arm of the Churches of Christ.
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John L. Haynes, a native Tennessean, made his fortune in Texas, and purchased this site from the W. M. Tolley estate in the mid-1930s. Tolley had bred trotters and pacers. Napoleon Direct and other champion horses of the Hal and Direct bloodlines are buried here with markers.
Colonel Haynes erected the house in 1938 to replace an earlier Italianate house known as Woodlawn, which was destroyed by fire while workmen were restoring it. He continued the tradition of horse breeding, but concentrated on Tennessee Walking horses. He Owned Strolling Jim, the first world champion, and Haynes Peacock, which won the title in 1940 and 1941.
After Colonel Haynes' death, his daughter, Virginia Ann and her husband, Robert Lancaster lived at Haynes Haven for a number of years. After the Lancasters sold the house and moved to Harlansdale Farm in Franklin, the property had a number of owners in the intervening years. One owner was Jesse Stallings, who was president of Capitol Airways at one time and while owning the house built an airstrip to the south of the house. In the mid-1980s, the Saturn Corporation bought the large acreage and built the Saturn automobile plant currently situated on the property. The stables were converted to a visitor center, and the house is used by company executives.
The site's earlier Woodlawn heritage connects with other well-known Maury County names. The Polks were its first occupants before moving to the Mt. Pleasant Pike area. It is said that Lucius Polk lived here while a bachelor. Better known, however, is its association with Dr. Spivey McKissack, the first mayor of Spring Hill, who gave the site the name Woodlawn, for the large trees gracing the lawn. This ancient grove was destroyed by a tornado in 1875.
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6. Mayes-Frierson-Fuston Home
In 1833 Irish immigrant Patrick McGuire contracted with master builder Nathan Vaught to build a home designed by Prussian architect Adolphus Heiman to be a wedding gift befitting his daughter, Ellen, and her betrothed, Roger Bradley Mayes. The resulting home became the setting for lavish entertainment for some of the most notable persons of the day. The house would remain in the hands of Patrick McGuire’s female descendents for the next 150 years. Today portraits of Ellen and Roger Bradley Mayes greet visitors in the entry foyer, and Ellen’s Parisian monogrammed wedding china is displayed in the dining room. Today the home has been restored to its original grandeur..
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George Pope Webster built Liberty Hall in 1844, upon the 1,800 (some historical literature says 1,200) acre tract given to him by his father, Jonathan, just to the north and east of his home place. Notwithstanding the actual acreage, this Middle Tennessee home and tract of land has been one of the undisputed antebellum landmarks of Maury County's Cross Bridges Community, and the county as a whole. George was married to Harriet Blair on August 17th, 1837, by the Reverend James Arnell, the minister at Zion Presbyterian Church.
Anthony Gholson was the contractor for Liberty Hall, and his talented slave brick mansions erected the 14-inch thick walls. Federal architecture was its initial style, but when columned porticos became popular, the front porch was added, as was done at Clifton Place. George Pope Webster's initials may still be seen along the southeast edge of the roof.
Like many houses of the period, construction was actually two brick buildings joined by a brick courtyard. The front building, which has beautiful ash flooring, contained the parlor/reception rooms and sleeping quarters. A harder and more durable wood than poplar, ash is found on the lower floors of many old buildings in the county, whereas the less-used upper floors are of poplar. Ash was also used to floor the rear L-shaped porch of Liberty Hall. The rear building housed the kitchen and dining areas. Some claim that the second floor of this back building was a ballroom, but it seems more likely that it was the living quarters of the house servants.
Being of the planter class, George Pope Webster had a staunch political view, one that would say he could be nothing other than a dye-in-the-pocketbook Democrat. This became quite evident when James K. Polk threw his hat into the presidential ring. On October 16th, 1844, Webster placed an ad in the local newspaper reflecting his views for all of his Whig friends to read: "1,000 on the general result, in money or its equivalent, one bale of cotton on each state from Maine to Louisiana. Now ye coons, dance up to either of the above propositions." A man of staunch views, especially political.
The Websters, like the Polks and Pillows, divided their large land holdings among their sons, and those sons built great houses upon their land. Another house called Liberty Hall was located on the Hampshire Pike, but the George Webster place was not known by its present name, Liberty Hall, until later.
George Webster's granddaughter, Mrs. Lucille (Gordon) Frierson, was the last of his family to live at Liberty Hall. Born on March 8th, 1869, Lucille and Camille Gordon were twin daughters of Richard Cross and Mary Camp Webster Gordon, who had been married by Dr. David Pise on August 20th, 1863. Lucille married Hinton Strother Frierson on November 27th, 1895. Hinton Frierson died in 1941, and was buried at Zion Presbyterian Church. Lucille died in 1963, and was buried at Rose Hill Cemetery with Camille, who died in 1937.
Mr. and Mrs. John Dillingham bought the place after Lucille Frierson's death, and worked extensively on the house in restoring it. After their tenure, Jane Hoover Babcock (Mrs. Oliver) sold Rattle and Snap and bought Liberty Hall. She also did much renovation and added a sunroom on its south side. Liberty Hall now belongs to Dawson Gray and his wife, Dr. Susan Thomas Gray. One could say that Liberty Hall has returned to the family, since Dawson Gray is the son of Dr. Dan and Eleanor Gaither Frierson Gray. His grandfather, John Dawson Frierson, was a first cousin of Hinton Strother Frierson.
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Absalom Thompson came to Maury County from his native Williamson County sometime prior to 1830, and acquired a plantation about three miles south of Spring Hill, Tennessee. He quickly became one of the important citizens of the area, being a Trustee of Jackson College and of the Presbyterian Church. Although Thompson was the largest slave owner in Maury County (having more than 80), he was what, at the time, was called "a slave spoiler" because of his kind treatment of his slaves. He permitted no abuse of his slaves, held weekly prayer meetings and church services for them, provided relatively good housing for them, and never permitted that a slave family be separated. In 1843, the farm reported that about 25,000 pounds of cotton was produced.
Thompson built his mansion in 1835, calling it Oaklawn. When originally built, the house had but one floor. The ceilings were 16 feet high and the rooms large (20' by 20'). A large fireplace heated the hugh front parlor and a wide hall led to dining room and bed rooms. About 10 years later, a second floor was added, as was the front porch, second-story balcony and tall, square columns. When finished, it was, and still is, one of the most imposing structures in the county.
Three of the Thompson sons marched off to fight for the Confederacy during the Civil War. Thomas was killed in battle, and Elijah died of Tuberculosis, soon after the close of the war, that he had contracted during his years of military duty and imprisonment. The third son, James T. S. Thompson was a medical doctor who had served on the staff of Generals Joseph E. Johnston and John Bell Hood. It was James who invited his commanding officer, General Hood, to use his family home as his headquarters on the night of 29 November 1864, providing the ambient for one of the Civil War's most enduring debates.
After the terrible defeats suffered by the Confederates in the Georgia Campaign, General Hood withdrew to reorganize his troops and to make one last effort to free Tennessee from the grasp of the Union forces. He felt that he could divide the Union troops, camped in Columbia under General Schofield, from the main army of General Thomas, headquartered in Nashville. General Hood bypassed Columbia and drove northward to Spring Hill. It was here that he planned to intercept General Schofield. Both the railroad and the Nashville Pike converged at this place, and General Hood calculated that should these two arteries be controlled, General Schofield would be bottled up and easily defeated. Thus, when General Hood received the invitation from his physician to spend the night at Oaklawn, just two miles out of Spring Hill, he readily accepted.
Here is where the debate takes form. General Hood had been horribly wounded in battle, had lost a leg and had to be tied into his saddle. Some feel that he was heavily doped with laudanum, administered to kill the pain. Others think that General Hood was intoxicated with an over indulgence in whiskey. In any case, he failed to make his plans for the campaign clear to his subordinates and while he slept the night away in the high, postered bed on the lower floor of Oaklawn, the Union troops marched north on the Nashville Pike and escaped, almost intact, to Franklin. When General Hood was appraised of the fact on the following morning, the irate general blamed everybody else for the occurrence and ordered that the Confederate troops move out to overtake their enemies. This they did in Franklin, but that is completely another story.
Oaklawn passed by inheritance into the possession of Dr. James T. S. Thompson, and later, to his descendants. In 1911, the family disposed of it, and thus, began the mansion's passing through several owners. For some years it was abandoned as a dwelling place, and was even used for hay storage for some time. In the 1950s, the Allen Sloans acquired the house, restored it, and added such modern facilities as a heating system, bathrooms, electric lights, etc. In 1973, it was acquired by singers George Jones and Tammy Wynette who disposed of it the following year to Tower Real Estate Development Corporation, who in turn sold it to Dr. John and Martha L. Smith. The Smiths sold the property in recent years to Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Parker who make it their home and from time to time open the house as a part of the Society's Fall Parade of Historic Homes. The property has also been the site for a several Civil War reenactments featuring the Battles of Spring Hill, Franklin, and Nashville.
Go to following Oaklawn link for additional information about this magnificent antebellum home. www.springhilltn.com
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James K. Polk, 11th President of the United States, spent most of his childhood in Maury County and in Columbia for several of those years. He was born in North Carolina in 1795, but accompanied his parents to Maury County at the age of 11 years. The Samuel Polk family first settled on a track of land about five miles north of Columbia, on what was to become known in later years as the Nashville Highway (Hwy. 31). After completing his basic studies under local teachers, young Polk returned to his native state to study at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. During the time he was living in Chapel Hill his parents erected a home in the city of Columbia. It is this house to which he returned when he graduated from the University and began to practice law in Maury and surrounding counties. This is the house that we today know as the "Polk Home". Samuel Polk also built a house next door which was occupied by his daughter, Jane Mariah, and her husband, James Walker until they built a new residence on West Eighth Street in 1848, calling it Rally Hill. (See item below.)
After James K. Polk married in 1824, he built a house of his own--located a block north of his parents' home--and never again resided at his parent's home. He constantly visited there, however, during the years when he lived in Nashville or Washington, D.C. Upon the termination of his term as President, Polk returned to his residence in Nashville, dying there only three months after leaving public office. His former residence in Columbia had been sold several years before and the Nashville house sold upon the death of Mrs. Polk in 1891. Thus, the Polk Home in Columbia is the only house still standing in which James K. Polk actually resided.
Today the Polk House is one of our Nation's treasures. It is listed on almost everybody's list of important historical sites. It is now a museum of Polk memorabilia and is administered by the Polk Association. It is open almost every day of the year for tourists who come by the thousands each year to view the house, Polk family portraits, the household furniture, silver and china, personal items used by the Polks, and the well-kept grounds around the house.
Go to following James K. Polk Home link for additional information about President Polk's ancestral home.
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Rally Hill was built by James Walker circa 1848. He called it Rally Hill since troops had mustered here before they marched to Louisiana during the War of 1812.
James Walker was born on May 29th, 1792 in Fayette County, Kentucky, the son of Joseph and Mary Hays Walker. His mother died when James was just a boy, and he did not fare well with his stepmother. He left home to visit a cousin, John B. Hayes (Hays) in Rockbridge County, Virginia, and in 1808 he moved to Nashville where he was apprenticed as a printer. He was in Columbia by 1810. The move to Tennessee may have been inspired by a family connection to Colonel Robert Hays, an early settler of Nashville, who married Jane Donelson, sister of Andrew Jackson's wife, Rachel.
Walker soon turned his apprenticeship into a career, when he began the first newspaper in Columbia in 1810, the Western Chronicle.
Later, James married Jane Maria Polk, daughter of Samuel and Jane Knox Polk, she being only 15 and he 21 years of age. There were very few marriages registered in Maury County in 1813, and his marriage was not among them, nevertheless they were married. Their union produced 11 children, six boys and five girls.
Walker's business interests included real estate, contracting for the War Department to furnish provisions for the Chickasaws, co-owning of the first bank, a partnership in a steamboat, a director of a stage coach line and mail carrier, owner of a general store which received consignments of tobacco and cotton to be shipped to New Orleans, and part owner of Marion Iron Furnace in Hardin County. He was also active politically as noted by his being chairman of the quarterly court from 1824 to 1829; mayor of Columbia, 1830 to 1831; on the Board of Trustees of The Female Institute; and an active supporter of James K. Polk, his brother-in-law.
Although reared a Presbyterian, Walker felt their stern discipline regarding social behavior was unfair. When his wife sent their little boy to dancing school, the rigid Presbyterians of that day expressed their opinions that dancing was a frivolous amusement. Walker then allied himself with a small group of Episcopalians and became a leader of its parish as senior warden. He gave the land where St. Peter's now stands.
Mentioned in many old deeds was Walker's Well, which now lies under the pavement of West Eighth Street and the old First Baptist parking lot.
After being inherited by Annie Walker Phillips, Rally Hill was owned by the Biddle family for many years. In the 1970s, Monroe and Mary Margaret Erwin Lovell restored the house. After their ownership, the house had several owners and was almost lost in the 1980s, but was saved due to public outcry. It is currently undergoing massive restoration by its new owner, Ruben Lambardini.
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Rattle and Snap
Perhaps the most widely known and most acclaimed antebellum home in Maury County bears the name "Rattle and Snap." The name came from the method by which William Polk acquired 5,000 acres of the finest land in Tennessee. The story is that Polk, a wealthy land speculator in North Carolina, engaged the Governor of that state in a dice-like game called "Rattle and Snap," and that the stakes got very high. The Governor placed the deed to a large Tennessee property on the table. Polk won the game and took possession of the land. The land lay in the heart of Maury County, about half way between the county seat, Columbia, and the town of Mt. Pleasant. Polk divided the property among four of his sons, all of whom moved to Tennessee and built imposing homes on their land. One of these, George W. Polk, called his estate "Rattle and Snap," preserving the name of the game by which the property was acquired. From 1843 to 1845 George W. Polk engaged in building this lovely antebellum home. The house has been called "the grandest of its style in Tennessee to which only a handful in the nation are comparable." Over the years the house received a number of architectural changes as successive owners sought to adapt it to their own use. In 1979, it was purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Amon C. Evans who spent several years in restoring it, as near as possible, to its original form and appearance. It is furnished with period pieces, some of which were originally owned by Lucius Polk, brother of George. The place is listed as a National Historic Landmark, and is open to tours upon contact with its current owners.
See Rattle and Snap Plantation for additional information about this magnificent home.
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Most travelers who drive down the Nashville\Columbia Highway (Hwy. 31) are impressed by the majestic antebellum house just across the road from the Saturn Corporation plant. This is Rippavilla, the house built in the 1850s by Nathaniel Cheairs and used as the family residence until about 1920. One observer called the structure, "A majestic reminder of the past and a showplace of Maury County." When Saturn purchased the land upon which their automobile plant was built, Rippavilla was included in their acquisition. Company officials soon announced that the landmark would be restored and preserved, perhaps even turned into a museum. Steps were quickly taken by Saturn to repair and repaint the exterior of the house and its outbuildings and plans prepared for the restoration of the structure, adding such modern amenities as air conditioning, heat, new electrical system, etc. Later, the house and grounds were turned over to Maury County. The County has completed the restoration work, and has sought to return the place to its original condition. During this process, the old wallpaper patterns and paint shades were discovered and have been duplicated, insofar as possible. The carriage house has been turned into a book and souvenir shop, and a competent manager employed to oversee the operation of Rippavilla.
Throughout this process, the Maury County Historical Society has been actively engaged, both from a financial and a personnel standpoint. Several grants have been made by the Society to help with specific phases of the work. The Society restored an original one-room, log school building that had once served as a Freedman's School. It may now be visited at Rippavilla. Most of the period furniture that had been used in Vine Hill (formerly property of the Society) was placed in Rippavilla. Many hours of volunteer labor were contributed by Society members in the renovation of the mansion. Rippavilla is the headquarters of the Antebellum Trail Bureau, and is one of the stops on the tours this group promotes. Little by little a nice museum display is being organized with authentic artifacts of Rippavilla's past history. The house is open to the public on a regular basis. A modest fee is charged for the guided tour.
Nathaniel Cheairs, builder of Rippavilla, came to Maury County from his native Montgomery County, North Carolina early in life and settled in the Spring Hill area. He married Susan McKissack in 1841, and they first lived in the old McKissack place in Spring Hill. Cheairs inherited the land just south of the village about 1850, and almost immediately began building Rippavilla. The house was not finished until 1855, largely due to Cheairs' obsessive desire for perfection in the construction. He tore the walls down twice because he felt that they had been weakened by climatic conditions or inferior materials. The actual construction was done by slaves furnished by William McKissack, Nathaniel Cheair's father-in-law.
When Nathaniel marched off in 1861 to become a Major in the Confederate Army, Susan and the children remained at Rippavilla. As military control of the area changed during the following years, Rippavilla was often used by the troops as a headquarters building. Although often abused, the structure was not destroyed. One of the last times it was used for these purposes was in 1864 when General John Bell Hood and his Army of Tennessee occupied it for an outpost during their unsuccessful attempt at bottling up the Union forces under General John Schofield and his troops who were, supposedly, camped in Columbia. For still debated reasons, Schofield's troops passed down the pike toward Franklin during the night and escaped the trap. Hood and his officers, several of whom had spent the night at nearby Oaklawn, met at Rippavilla the following morning, had breakfast with Mrs. Cheairs, and then proceeded to follow Schofield toward Franklin. There, the Union troops had prepared their defenses, and in the terrible battle that followed, thousands of Union and Confederate troops lost their lives. Among these were several of the officers who had started the day at Rippavilla. After the war, Major Cheairs returned to his plantation where he spent much of the remainder of his life. A very public service-minded man, he served as the Mayor of Spring Hill for some years. His beloved wife, Susan, died in 1893, and he died in 1914.
The Cheairs family sold Rippavilla in the 1920's and over the following seventy years it was occupied by various owners. Additions and changes were made by some of these owners but it continues as one of the most imposing and authentic antebellum sites in Maury County. See Rippavilla Plantation for additional information about this magnificent home and property.
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Jonathan Webster (see Webster House for biographical sketch) was the father of a number of children, and to several of them he gave portions of his property upon which to build their homes. One of them, James, was the first child born in Maury County after it was created. When James reached legal age, he built his home on a high hill on the road from Cross Bridges to Willamsport, giving it the name "Vine Hill." It is a large two-story structure with a massive entrance hall and an equally sized hall on the upper floor. Twin stairways connect the two levels. Porches on three sides provide comfortable areas for relaxation and a pleasant escape from the heat on summer days. A detached kitchen still reveals many touches of antebellum lifestyle.
Mrs. Charles Deere Wiman was the last of the Webster line to reside in the home. She resided in other places and did extensive traveling for many years, but always desired to return to Vine Hill. In her travels she accumulated many valuable articles of furniture, table wear, art objects, etc., and used these to furnish Vine Hill when she did return. Since she had no children, she bequeathed the old historic house and its furnishings to the Maury County Historical Society. For more than 20 years, the Society used the house as a meeting place (at least during the summer months). It became clear in the 1990s, however, that the Society was not able to continue with the costs of maintenance and would have to dispose of it. Fortunately, about this time, Mr. and Mrs. S. Randolph Jackson, were planning to return to their native county to live during their retirement years. They purchased Vine Hill, and have made extensive repairs to the house since they acquired it in 1993. They have completely furnished it with antique furniture, and Vine Hill is once again inhabited and is often opened to the public during the Spring and Fall Tour of Historic Homes.
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Sabra Boddie Lawerence (1787–1867) was a native of North Carolina. After the death of her husband, she lived with her brother Willis Henry Boddie (1788-1841) in Mt. Pleasant. They stayed in the original house that was built in 1824. This residence was destroyed by fire in 1850. The first kitchen, a two-story structure behind the home, survived the blaze. This kitchen is the oldest brick building in Mt. Pleasant. The underground ice house, used for refrigeration, is still on the property. During the Civil War, troops from the North and South passed through Mt. Pleasant, and Sabra’s land was frequently a temporary camp for these soldiers. Sabra commissioned Nathan Vaught, master builder of Maury County, to construct the present Walnut Grove home in 1858. Walnut Grove is a three-story symmetrical brick Greek Revival style structure. The front porch has classical square columns. Red glass sidelights flank the front door. The red glass was created by adding gold to the glass, giving it the rare ruby color. This glass adds a striking appearance to Walnut Grove’s entry hall. A grand staircase leads to a central hall on the second floor. There are fourteen foot ceilings throughout the house. The floors are made of walnut and ash woods, and there is a fireplace in each room. In 1984, Walnut Grove was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The name Walnut Grove refers to the numerous Black Walnut trees in the front yard. This species is the tallest of the walnut trees. Black Walnut trees are well-known for their nuts and the beautiful hardwood, with the wood used to make gunstocks and furniture. This grove of trees is the focal point of the estate. George and Judith Vestal purchased Walnut Grove in 2006. The detached Brick Building, the first kitchen, has been completely restored. The main home has been updated. Walnut Grove continues to be a distinguished Greek Revival antebellum home
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Jonathan Webster, native of Wilkes County, Georgia and veteran of the Revolutionary War, cut his way through the cane brakes of Maury County in 1807, and occupied a 1,000 acre spread along a creek called Tombigbee, now shortened to Bigby Creek. The rich soil of the valley produced abundant crops after being cleared of its natural vegetation. Within a few years Webster dammed the waters of the creek and built a grist mill to grind his own grain and a saw mill to produce lumber from the abundant hardwoods in the surrounding forests. A village began to grow up around the mill and soon became known by the name "Webster" or "Webster's Mill." The name was later changed to "Lipscomb" and still later to "Cross Bridges," the name by which the village is known today.
Prior to leaving his native state, Jonathan Webster had married Mary Williams. She gave birth to three children, but died sometime before 1805. That year the widower Jonathan Webster married Sarah Jossey. She was to bear him eight more children over the years. She must have been "great with child" during the rigorous trek to Maury County, for in a matter of months, James H. Webster was born. James, born in 1808, was one of the first children to be born in Maury County after it was created.
In 1810, Jonathan built his house about a mile from his mill on Bigby Creek. In the day when log houses were the style, Jonathan constructed a brick house. The first brick house, it is said, between Bigby Creek and the Mississippi River. The house was sturdily built, and continues to serve as a dwelling today. A few hundred yards away is the family cemetery which contains the remains of dozens of family members.
Several of the Webster children became prosperous farmers, millers, and merchants in the neighborhood, and as they grew into manhood, Jonathan deeded a part of his property to several of them. Among these were James H. Webster, builder of the Vine Hill Mansion, and George Pope Webster, builder of Liberty Hall. Many of these properties stayed in the family for several generations, but with time, they passed into other hands. The historic Webster House has been acquired by Mr. and Mrs. Mike Webster. They are now engaged in a project that will see the old mansion restored to a near-original state.
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Whippoorwill Hills is located approximately one and two tenths of a mile from the post office on Baptist Church Road in Culleoka, Tennessee. Traveling one-half mile east on TN State Highway 373 from Culleoka's post office, turn left onto Baptist Church Road and travel seven tenths of a mile. The original part of Whippoorwill Hills is the chestnut log cabin constructed on the Elijah Robertson's grant, which lay on the McCutcheon Trace. Elijah was a brother of James Robertson, founder of Nashville. It is believed that the cabin, which is now enclosed within the add-ons and expansions of the house that have occurred over time, was erected perhaps as early as 1795 or as late as 1805. Nonetheless, the exact year is somewhere in this time period. In 1818, Andrew M. Kerr, who was born in 1785 in North Carolina, purchased the tract of land on which the house is situated. Andrew Kerr was the first schoolmaster in the area, and he built a school (Fountain Creek Male Academy) on a hill just south of the house.
In about 1824, Kerr covered the Chestnut logs with beaded 10 inch wide boards, and in 1836, he added two large rooms to the east side of the house. Some time later he erected a two-room, detached kitchen-dining room building, which was later rolled to the west side of the house and attached to the main house. In 1865, Kerr made a deed of gift of this property to his wife, Clotilda, and son, George.
On January 3rd, 1884, George Kerr of Navarro County, Texas, sold 107 acres to William Brown Smith and his sons William Jefferson Smith and Irwin Leonidas Smith. As a lad, William Brown Smith attended Kerr's first school. Later William Jefferson Smith bought out his brother and father, and upon his death, the property was inherited by his daughter, Patricia Smith Wright, wife of Aubrey Buren Wright. From her, the property went to her children, Colonel William Jefferson Wright and Alice Wright Algood. It is now owned by Alice's daughter, Patricia Algood Junkin, and her husband, Bruce. Their son, Jefferson Bruce Junkin, represents the sixth generation to have lived on this land settled more than 200 years ago.
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William McKissack House
William McKissack, son of Revolutionary War soldier, Thomas McKissack, came to Maury County from North Carolina in 1834. He soon opened a prosperous business in Spring Hill, and within a few years, built one of the finest houses in the town. One of his business ventures was a brickyard. It is recorded that when Nathaniel Cheairs, McKissack's son-in-law, built Rippavilla, the brick came from the McKissack Brickyard. It is not known whether or not McKissack manufactured the brick for his own house or not, but it is likely that he did.
By the time of the Civil War, the house in Spring Hill had become the property of Eleanor, daughter of William McKissack. An interesting event took place on 29 November 1864 when Union General John M. Schofield was leading his troops in their flight from Columbia toward Nashville to escape the onrushing Confederate Army under General Hood. Scholfield arrived in Spring Hill about dusk and appeared at the McKissack house, planning to commandeer it for his headquarters. About midnight he decided to risk moving his troops further north, hoping that the Confederates had not sealed off the escape route toward Franklin. As he was leaving to accompany his troops, General Schofield handed his sword and pistol to Eleanor McKissack and asked that she guard them for him. He was afraid that he would be captured by the Confederates, and did not wish that his weapons be lost. History records that the move was successful, and the Union troops arrived in Franklin the next morning in time to prepare breastworks behind which they held the Confederate army at bay in the terrible Battle of Franklin. Some weeks later, Schofield returned to the McKissack House, this time to retrieve his weapons. The Confederates had been defeated in the Battle of Nashville and were in full retreat.
The old house remained in the McKissack family until 1936 when it passed into the hands of other families. Fortunately, these later owners have preserved the structure and made extensive improvements. It still stands in the center of Spring Hill as a model of Antebellum architecture and as a symbol of the lifestyle of the "rich and famous" of Maury County in those pre-Civil War years.
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