Sunday, June 3, 2018

Hadley Park

The question of the hour is who is Hadley Park named for? That question has gone unanswered for more 100 years. I am not sure it can be determined. I have my own ideas about how it was named. In the end, though, my opinion is just more conjecture. However, you can be certain the park was not named for John L. Hadley. He owned no land there. I don't know how his name ever got in the mix. The historical marker at the park gives John L. Hadley's name. In 1984 Hadley Park Tennis Center sponsored the John L. Hadley Tennis Classic. I cannot find any explanation as to why they did this. In 1991, a Tennessean writer stated that the park was named for John L. Hadley who donated the land for the park from his plantation. There is no earlier association with the name John L. Hadley and Hadley Park to be found. I can only guess that some person, curious about who the park was named for found the name of John L. Hadley and it stuck.

Hadley Park, image from

The property where Hadley Park is located was purchased in January 1837 by William Hadley. Hadley was at one time, Mayor of Gallatin, Tennessee. Around 1836, William Hadley moved to Nashville, having been recently widowed. In 1837 he purchased from John Nichol, 178 acres of land situated where Hadley Park is located today. His neighbors, mentioned in the deed were Matthew Barrow, Beal Bosley, and Boyd McNairy. In 1838, Hadley married for a second time to Mary Hull Barry. In 1840, Mary gave birth to a daughter, who was also named Mary. While little Mary was just a toddler, her father died in 1842. William Hadley left his all of his property to his wife and his daughter. He made a provision for his slaves to be emancipated if his daughter should not attain the age of 15.

Mary lived to adulthood and 1860 census records show that she owned 15 slaves. In 1860 she was living on the farm she had inherited from her father, with her mother Mary Barry Brown and stepfather John Lucien Brown. In 1864 Mary married to William Clare. Before her marriage, she had a prenuptial contract drawn up to keep her property separate from her husband. In the contract, she estimated the property left to her by her father William Hadley had a value of $100,000. She and her husband lived together in the house that Mary had inherited. It was near and south of Jefferson Street. An 1871 map shows the location of the Clare family and a footprint of their house.

Location of Mary Hadley Clare property in 1871.  Library of Congress

After the death of her husband, William Clare in 1870, Mary attempted to rent the house. Eventually, she moved into town. In 1887 Mary Hadley Clare and her mother, Mary Brown sold the house and property to Walter Stokes. The language used in the deed mirrored that of the deed from 1837 of her father's purchase from John Nichol. The house changed hand several times and in 1904 Mrs. Roberta Harding, wife of John Harding, Jr. bought the house and 34 acres. The Hardings placed the property in the hands of a trustee, P. D. Houston in 1911. Houston transferred the tract to Realty Savings Bank and Trust who in turn sold the property to the Board of Parks on June 11, 1912. Hadley Park was dedicated on July 4, 1912.

Nashville Globe, July 12, 1912, shared with me by Sherrie Davids

William Hadley had been dead for seventy years when Hadley Park was created. It would have not made sense to name the park for a person that few people living could remember. Mary Hadley Clare had died a few years before and would have had no input on the naming of the park. Dr. W. A. Hadley may have well been a slave of Mary Hadley Clare, but he was born 10 years after William Hadley died. Dr. Hadley's father, Charles Hadley was born in 1830. He could have been one of William Hadley's slaves and if so he would have known him. I found one instance that stated the park was named for "Mr. Hadley" the original owner of the land. The article continues with biographical information of Dr. W. A. Hadley with this statement, "and while the park was not primarily named for him..."  This indicates that the park was named for an ancient landowner who had been dead for seventy years and also for Dr. W. A. Hadley. It was controversial that the city had purchased land for a park for the exclusive use of African-American citizens. It was believed that it was the first municipal park in the country to be dedicated as such. If the intention had been to name the park for Dr. Hadley, the fact would have been hidden to prevent further dispute.

Dr. William Abrums Hadley was born in Davidson County. He had lived near the park and had raised his family in the area. His father and mother Charles and Sarah Hadley lived in the neighborhood. His brothers Jordon and Crump lived there as well. In 1870 Dr. Hadley married Jennie Martin. They were parents of five children. Dr. Hadley graduated from Meharry Medical College and practiced medicine for a time. He left the medical field to teach. He was principal for many years at Knowles School. When he died in 1901, he was the principal of Carter School. He was the founder in 1872, of one of the early African-American fraternal societies in Tennessee, The Independent Order of the Immaculates. A son, Charles O. Hadley, served in the Army, Company G, in the first world war. He was, like his father, a graduate of Meharry Medical College. In addition to practicing medicine, Charles O. Hadley was a professor at Meharry.

Dr. Charles O. Hadley, son of Dr. W. A. Hadley, Nashville Globe

Much credit was given to Ben J. Carr for the park. It was reported that without Carr's effort, in persistently contacting Mayor Howse, the park would not have been created.

To sum it all up, we may never know who the park was named for. We just know it was not named for John L. Hadley. We do know that Hadley Park has a long history in the community near TSU. Many people have lifelong memories of the park, and memories handed down by their elders. A ceremony honoring W. A. Hadley and dedicating the park in his honor might go a long way to remove any bitter taste that the name of the park has caused.

Sources -
The Nashville Globe.
The Tennessean.
Davidson County Register of Deeds.
Davidson County Court Rule Number 4289.