Sunday, November 22, 2015

Growing Up In Historic Edgefield

  Although I have always been a student of history I was ignorant of the historic significance of Edgefield when I was dating my wife Debbie in the 1960's. It was probably after her father sold the old house at 915 Boscobel street in the early 1990's that I became fully aware of it's rich history. I didn't know that Edgefield was the Belle Meade of Nashville in the 1800's and remained so until the great East Nashville fire of 1916. Edgefield was part of a large plantation owned by the prominent Nashville physician Dr. John Shelby in the early 1800's. He built two mansions called Fatherland and Boscobel for each of his daughters. During the Civil War General Albert Sidney Johnston established his headquarters in Edgefield after the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson.  The Union army occupied Edgefield after the retreat of the Confederate army and the burning of the suspension and railroad bridges across the Cumberland. Nashville Mayor Richard Cheatham was rowed across the Cumberland to surrender Nashville to Union Colonel John Kennett on February 25th 1862. The surrender took place in the home of Charles A. Fuller. Cheatham was hoping to prevent the destruction of the city by the Union army. During the war a large Union encampment was in the area of the Titans stadium today and the railroad bridge was rebuilt and fortified. Troops must have been stationed on the hill near present day tenth and Shelby because Civil War relics have been found in the area.
I am sitting about where the man on the top picture is sitting

  After the war many prominent homes were built throughout the area that once made up the Shelby plantation, After the failed Northfield Minnesota bank robbery attempt on September 7, 1876 the entire Younger - James gang was killed or captured with the exception of Frank and Jesse James. They made their way to Edgefield where they hid out. They became respectable citizens for a few years. Jesse James lived at 606 Boscobel Street and 711 Fatherland Street. Frank James had a farm near Whites Creek. The East Nashville fire of March 22, 1916 destroyed over 600 homes and caused 1,500,000 in damage, which in 1916 dollars was a lot of money. After the fire the wealthy citizens of Edgefield began migrating to Belle Meade in west Nashville. The area began to deteriorate socioeconomically. More and more working class people began moving into the area. By WW2 many of the beautiful old homes were being rented out or subdivided into apartments. This was the Edgefield that I remember.
The charred ruins left after the East Nashville fire of 1916
Ruins of East Nashville in 1916

Graduation day

  When I began dating Debbie in 1966 her house had been remodeled. She lived in that house from the time she was born in 1950 until we married in 1968. After my discharge from the Air Force we regularly visited until her dad moved in the early 1990's. The house was built sometime after the Civil War. Her parents lowered the ceilings, paneled the walls and removed the ornate woodwork on the front of the house. In the last twenty years or so a wealthier class of people have been moving back into the neighborhood. They have been restoring the old homes. A few years ago we took the historic Edgefield tour and was blown away by the grandeur of some of these old homes. One home we toured had a third floor ballroom. Debbie bought a history book about Edgefield and to my surprise I found a picture of Debbie's house at 915 Boscobel St. in 1906. The picture was taken from the front yard of 916 Boscobel St. which was the house where her best friend Carolyn Robinson grew up across the street.
Debbie's house at 915 Boscobel St. in 1998
Jesse James house at 606 Boscobel which no longer exists
Jesse James house at 711 Fatherland St.

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