Historic Structures

Building History Belmont Mansion, Nashville Tennessee

The history of Belmont revolves around the personality of its mistres, Adelicia Acklen, a woman of extraordinary character. Her father, Oliver Bliss Hayes (1783-1858), a New Englander from South Rokeby, Massachusetts, settled in Nashville in 1808. Adelicia was born in 1819 and died in 1889. She graduated from Dr. William Elliotts famous Nashville Female Academy. At the age of twenty, she married Isaac Franklin (1789-1846), thirty years her senior. As a bride, she lived at Fairview in Sumner County, one of the showplaces of the Nashville area. This home had been erected in 1832 by Isaac Franklin on a plantation of more than 2,000 acres.

By the time Isaac was forty years old, he had made a million dollars by his own efforts, mainly as a slave trader. Then he bought several plantations in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. When he married Adelicia Hayes in 1839, she requested that he become known as a southern planter rather than a slave trader. Adelicia brought social distinction, culture, and charm to Fairview. The Franklin winters were usually spent at Belleview in West Feliciana Parish or at their home in New Orleans.

In 1846 Isaac Franklin died, leaving a fortune which reputedly made his widow the wealthiest woman in the United States. In addition to Fairview and seven plantations in Louisiana, he left her some fifty thousand acres of land in Texas. She kept Fairview until 1882, except for small parts of the property of her daughter Emma and herself which she sold before marrying Col. Joseph Acklen in 1848.

Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen was a young, dashing lawyer from Huntsville, Alabama. He was the grandson of John Hunt, the founder of that city. Soon after his marriage to Adelicia Franklin late in 1848, they set out for a nineteen-month honeymoon in Europe. With the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, Acklen was interested in making every possible contribution to the Confederacy. He contracted a fever upon a trip to his plantations in Louisiana and died.

The third chapter of Adelicia's life - and the second for that of Belmont - began in June, 1867, when she married Dr. William Cheatham. The outdoor wedding which took place at Belmont is renowned. What is less well known but which illuminates this woman's strong sense of independence is the marriage contract which she executed with Dr. Cheatham to assure her the continuing right of ownership to all her properties, including Belmont. Adelicia died in 1889 and was buried in Mr. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville. Her life had been filled with drama and romance, and she was probably the only Nashvillian to be presented to Queen Victoria.

Adelicia Cheatham sold Belmont in 1887, two years prior to her death, to Miss Ida E. Hood and Miss Susan L. Heron, both of Philadelphia and both educated in the east. These two ladies were founders, joint owners and principals of Belmont Junior College which was established at Belmont after 1890. In 1911 Miss Hood and Miss Heron retired; in the following years Ward Seminary moved to the Belmont College campus, and the institution became known as the Ward-Belmont School (1912-1951), a junior college for women. In February, 1951, the school was sold to the Tennessee Baptist Convention for the consideration of outstanding indebtedness, and Belmont College, a co-educational, four-year college under the supervision of the Tennessee Baptist Convention, was founded.