Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Lookaway and the Whitson Sisters

I remember my Mama singing an old song called, (click on title, to listen while you read) "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," when I was a little girl.   I bet my Mama didn't know that the young women who penned the lyrics to this song lived on McFerrin Avenue in East Nashville.  The writers were Beth Slater Whitson and her sister Alice Whitson. I first learned of the Whitson sisters when author George Zepp wrote about them for his Tennessean column, "Learn Nashville."

This picture of Beth Slater Whitson was featured on the cover of one of her songs, "Down Among The Sun-Kissed Hills Of Tennessee", published in 1905.  Photo from family tree of Steve Gregory, ancestry.com

Beth and her younger sister Alice were daughters of John H. and Anna Slater Whitson of Hickman County, Tennessee.  Beth started out writing alone but after a few years she and her sister collaborated and eventually wrote hundreds of songs, both together and independently.  They also wrote and published many poems and short stories.  The family lived in Hickman County near Centerville, Tennessee. Their father John was co-editor of the Hickman Pioneer.

John and Anna Slater Whitson and family.  Alice is on the right and Beth on the left.  Photo from http://www.bethslaterwhitson.com/

About 1913 the family moved to Nashville and in 1917, Beth married George Whitson, a distant cousin.  In 1919, Beth Whitson purchased an antebellum home and about 6 acres, at 1001 McFerrin Avenue in East Nashville. She called her home Lookaway.

Lookaway, home of Beth Slater Whitson. Located at 909 Manila St. Nashville, 37206

City directories show Beth and George living at the house as early as 1918, and  they may have rented before the purchased. Beth and George, along with Beth's mother and father, her sister Alice and Alice's husband, George Norton all lived in the house together at times.

Beth died in 1930 and was buried at Springhill Cemetery in Davidson County.

Photo by Kathleen Fleury Bilbrey

At her death, Beth left her home to her husband George and her sister Alice.  George Whitson, and Alice and her husband George Norton continued to live in the house for many years.

The historic old house is still standing and the address today is 909 Manila St. 

Davidson Co. Register of Deeds, book 421, page 40

This link (click here) will take you to some great stories and news articles about Beth and Alice Whitson, including the George Zepp article and an autobiographical story written by Beth Slater Whitson.

(notes on Whitson family) John H. Whitson and his wife Anna Slater Whitson had children other than Beth and Alice.  Their oldest daughter Susan Whitson born in 1874 died in 1884 at age 10.  The next daughter, Laura Belle Whitson, was born in 1874 and married Edwin Hassell.  A son, Washington Russell Whitson, was born in 1882.  Laura Belle Whitson Hassell was mother to Annie Lyon Hassell who married Harley Hulick.  The Hulick's bought Lookaway from George Whitson and Alice Whitson in 1941.  George Whiston and Alice Whitson reserved a life estate in the house when it was sold to the Hulick's. George lived in the house, along with the Hulick family, until his death in 1948.

Death Certificate for George M. Whitson showing his last address as 1001 McFerrin Ave.


  1. When I was at Hattie Cotton Elem in the middle 50's, I had a friend that lived in this house, I think with her grandmother. My friend's name was Judy Hulick.
    Becky Hentz Allen

    1. The Hulick's bought the house in 1941 from Beth Slater Whitson's husband and sister. Mr. Hulick was a pallbearer at Beth's funeral and may have been related to the family.

  2. Marsha Coggins VickOctober 12, 2014 at 11:21 PM

    I lived at 932 Granada Avenue, Manilla dead ended near the side of our backyard. I remember that house well. I also went to Hattie Cotton in the mid 50's, was enrolled there when it was bombed.

  3. My mom is Judy. My grandmother is Anne Hulick and she owned the house. Beth and Alice are my distant Aunts. I am looking for stories of the family, if you have any you would like to share with me, please email me. Thanks
    Cricketcookie @gmail.com

    1. If you read the story above you will see a link to other stories and articles about the Whitson family.


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