The McGavock - Harris - Lindsley House
North Edgefield, Davidson County
researched and written by Debie Cox
Confusion concerning the origins of the historic residence located at 908 Meridian Street in North East Nashville has prompted research into the ownership of the property and of the families who lived there. The land was owned by members and descendants of the David McGavock family for more than one hundred years.
In History of the Dickinson Road, author L. C. Bell wrote,
It is not known just when David McGavock built the beautiful old residence which stood on a slight elevation some distance from the Dickinson Road. ... As the city grew three streets were opened through the front lawn of the old McGavock home, at that time the property of Dr. Gatewood. Meridian Street was also extended to the rear, and it became necessary to front the residence on that street. The old house built on six hundred and forty acres of land seemed crowded with so many new homes around it but merged into its new surroundings with dignity and is still an attractive place.
There is little chance that David McGavock, who died in 1841, built the house. In fact David McGavock may have never lived on the land. In his History of Davidson County Tennessee, the author W. W. Clayton writes that David McGavock, "... never moved across the river to his own purchase, but built him a house at McGavock's spring, near the cotton factory of North Nashville, on the tract belonging to his father."
David McGavock came to the Cumberland settlements in 1785 to find land for himself and for his father, James McGavock, Sr. He surveyed and drew a map showing the location of several parcels he had made claim to, dated August of 1786.
There were four tracts in all, two on the south side of the Cumberland river and two on the north side. He put his own name on 640 acres on the North side of the Cumberland River that had originally been granted to Evan Baker. David's choice, square in shape and measuring one mile on each side, had two large springs, Fountain Blue and Luckhole spring. The south west corner of the tract began where the present North First Street once intersected Foster Street, near the East side of the Jefferson Street Bridge.
In 1816 David McGavock wrote a deed of gift to his son James, for the western half of 320 acres, of the land "... commonly known as the Fountain Blue tract." On the same day, David wrote a deed giving the eastern 320 acres to his son John. In the deeds David stated that in 1808, the tract had been divided into equal parts, when he ran a line from north to south "... about halfway between the Fountain Blue spring and the spring where William Wilkison lived." According to the deeds James and John had already taken possession of the land. The brothers were in their mid-twenties at the time and married to sisters, Mary and Cynthia Kent of Virginia.
In 1812, James McGavock, son of David, was married to Mary Kent, in Virginia. Soon after the marriage he brought his bride to Tennessee. Mary died in 1827. She and James were parents to six children; Margaret, Sarah, Lucinda, Wiley, Joseph Kent, and Mary K. McGavock. Sarah born in 1815, died as an infant. Wiley died at the age of 20 in 1838. James McGavock was murdered January 23, 1841 on the White's Creek Turnpike.
James McGavock almost certainly built a home for his family on his land, possibly a wooden building located adjacent to the present brick house. An 1870 plat of the property shows an odd shaped structure at the site of the current residence: two square buildings, one of wood on the west and one of brick on the east, of comparable size, joined by a wooden structure. The 1889 Atlas of the City of Nashville shows the brick house and the connecting wooden structure. On the 1908 Hopkins Plat Book of Nashville only the brick building remains.
According to Tim Walker of the Metro Historical Commission, the current brick house, which has many Greek Revival features, was probably built no earlier than 1840. It was most likely constructed in 1844. The front entrance of the house was originally on the south side toward the present Cleveland Street. An addition, made to the house about 1891, moved the entrance from the south side to the east side of the house. An upstairs porch was added to the new front, also facing east toward Meridian Street.
The oldest daughter of James and Mary, Margaret McGavock, was married in 1833 to Hardy Bryan and gave birth to a son, James H., on March 17, 1835. Margaret died on March 21, only four days after the birth of her child. There is evidence that Hardy and Margaret had built a home south of the present house. The land on which this house stood was given after the death of James McGavock to his grandson James H. Bryan, heir of Margaret. The Bryan home was later purchased by, and became the residence of, the Reverend John B. McFerrin. This house stood on south side of Berry Street, near Meridian in the area of McFerrin Park.
The division of the property of James McGavock, was recorded in Circuit Court minute book O, page 270. Property listed in the division was described as follows: "we valued the Fountain Blue tract containing 352 acres to 22,500 and the undivided moiety of the Mill tract on White's Creek, and the 63 acres on the Clay lick fork of Whites Creek and 200 acres lying in the Western District in Gibson and Dyer County at $7500 dollars, making the whole value "thirty thousand dollars there being four heirs makes $7500 to each heir."
Lot No 1 was granted to James' daughter,Lucinda Harris, "it being the southwest corner of the tract and including the building beginning at a Sweet gum the south west corner of the original tract ... containing 94 acres and valued at $7500."
Lot No. 2, containing 104 acres with a value of $7500, was given to James H. Bryan, grandson of James and heir of Margaret K. Bryan, formerly Margaret K. McGavock. This tract was just east of the tract given to Lucinda Harris.
Lot No. 3 went to Mary K. McGavock, youngest daughter of James, "it being the north end of the tract ..." containing 154 acres and valued at $7500.
Lot No. 4, to Joseph K. McGavock, James' only surviving son, was "the undivided moiety of the Mill tract on White's Creek the other half is owned by Hugh W. McGavock, and the 63 acres on the Clay lick fork of Whites Creek and 200 acres lying in the Western District in Gibson and Dyer County and a small portion of land being held by grant lying south of Talbot and entered towards Pages ferry all containing 1000 acres more or less and valued to $7500.
Joseph K. McGavock died in 1845 at the age of 25. As he did not inherit any part of the Fountain Blue tract, it is doubtful that Joseph would have built a house on the property. His sister Mary was probably too young to have been the builder. At his death Joseph’s inheritance, lot no. 4, passed to his sisters, Lucinda Harris and Mary K. McGavock.
The most probable person to have built the house other than James McGavock himself, would have been his daughter Lucinda McGavock. She was married in May of 1842 to Jeremiah George Harris, Paymaster of the United States Navy and editor and owner of The Nashville Union. Lucinda and George became parents to a son Joseph Ewing Harris born in 1843 and a daughter Lucie born in 1846. Harris went to abroad in 1843, serving as the United States Commercial Agent in Europe. He returned home in 1844 and soon after in a letter to President Polk, wrote , “A good deal of my time is necessarily occupied in having an eye to my dwelling house now building within a mile of town.”
In 1849, Mary K. McGavock was married to Albert G. Wilcox. Mary Wilcox and her husband Albert petitioned the Chancery Court in Davidson in 1850 concerning the remaining land from Joseph's estate. The Wilcox's asked the court for approval of a trade of the 125 acres that Mary K. inherited from her father, with the heirs of Lucinda Harris for their interest in the estate Joseph K. McGavock. The swap was approved and a deed was executed by the Clerk and Master stating that all interest in the tract of land on Whites Creek and also their interest in the tracts in Gibson and Dyer Counties, "be divested out of said Lucy, Joseph E. and Jeremiah G. and vested in the complt. Mary K ... " The deed was filed with the papers of the chancery court case but was not registered until August of 1906, being recorded in Davidson County deed book 340, page 48.
In 1887, a deed mentioning the 1850 land exchange, was filed in Davidson County register’s book 102, page 626. Jeremiah George Harris relinquished his life estate in certain property, to his daughter Lucie Harris Lindsley. The land was described as 125 acres, "lying next North of brick dwelling house in what is called North, Edgefield,..." It is stated in the deed that Lucinda and Mary also inherited "from the said Joseph [McGavock] a plantation on White's Creek, known as McGavock's Mills. ... Harris and wife [Lucinda McGavock] exchanged with Wilcox and wife [Mary McGavock] their half of the McGavock Mills place for 125 acres inherited by Mary from her father."
When Lucie's brother Joseph died in 1865, while traveling in Europe, she became the sole owner of the brick house. Lucie Harris married Dr. Van Sinderin Lindsley in 1868.
It was Lucie who supplied W. W. Clayton with the original map of the Fountain Blue tract that had been drawn by her great grandfather David McGavock in 1786. Clayton included a copy of the map in his History of Davidson County Tennessee.
In 1870 the Lindsley's had a corrected survey made of the property, Lot No. 1 of the division of James McGavock, which Lucie had inherited from her mother Lucinda. Lucie and Dr. Lindsley subdivided much of the land and began to sell lots and small tracts. An 1871 map of Davidson County by Wilbur F. Foster shows Meridian Street running from Foster Street out to the Lindsley house. Several streets are shown in the southern portion of Lucie's land in the Harris Addition to Edgefield. Maps dated 1889 and 1908 detail the growth of the neighborhood, showing streets and houses all across the area, between Dickerson Road and the house on Meridian.
Dr. Van S. Lindsley died November of 1885. Although Lucie and Dr. Lindsley owned a house on Spruce Street in Nashville, the family likely spent summers in the old home place, away from the heat of the city. In 1891 Lucie sold to Dr. Wesley Emmett Gatewood and J. L. Perroit an 8 acre tract for $10,000, which included the house where Lucie had probably been born. Lucie Harris Lindsley died in New York in 1906, where she was living with her daughter Georgie and her son-in-law Dr. Edward Ayers. Dr. Gatewood kept a daily diary. The diaries, now in possession of Dr. Gatewood's granddaughter, Linden Ranels, have been transcribed and detail the purchase and extensive renovation of the old home.
Dr. Wesley Gatewood moved his wife and children from Ohio, into their new home on Meridian Street. In 1891 the family is listed in the Nashville City Directory at 908 Meridian. They continued there until 1905, when Dr. Gatewood and his wife Annie sold the house and 8 acres to Alonzo C. Webb for $17,000. The Gatewood family returned to Ohio, where they are found on the 1910 census.
Alonzo C. Webb was an educator, supervisor of writing and drawing for the Nashville Public Schools. Professor Webb was an also an artist, as was his wife and at least two of his four children. On the day that Webb purchased the property from Gatewood, he sold a tract in the northeast corner of the house tract to J. J. Keyes, Superintendent of Nashville Public Schools. Webb and his family did not move into their newly acquired house. Instead, they continued to live in their home on nearby Wilburn Street and Professor Keyes moved into the house at 908 Meridian Street. In 1913 Keyes and his wife Mary built a new home at 914 Meridian, in northeast corner of the property.
About 1915 Robert Cline moved into the house. It was probably then that the house was converted into separate apartments. Professor Webb stayed in his Wilburn Street home until 1928. He then moved to 908 Meridian, but continued to rent much of the house to tenants. In 1939 A. C. Webb died and in his will left the house to his four children equally. In 1941, daughter and executrix, Susanna Webb, sold the house. The house has had numerous owners and tenants in the ensuing years. Today the house is owned by the Ray of Hope Community Church, located across the street, at 901 Meridian. The future of the house is not known.
Click here McGavock Family History , to read The McGavock Family, James McGavock and his descendants.
The McGavock-Harris-Lindsley House by Debie Oeser Cox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at freepages.misc.rootsweb.ancestry.com.
Originally Published June 26, 2005 at
Edited May 14, 2011