Cemeteries. Every city has one. They are mysterious, historic, haunting and, to me, fascinating. I developed a fondness for cemeteries as a boy.
Now whenever I’m out of town, I always make it a point to visit a cemetery. To me, they are better than any mountain range, skyline or other popular tourist attraction. They are hidden treasures containing a wealth of information about communities and the people who lived there.
Chances are you have visited a cemetery at some time in your life to pay your respects to a family member or friend, and perhaps you too appreciate the stories represented among the tombstones and monuments.
My travels take me to all over the South and Midwest, so I have decided to start documenting my cemetery visits with a series of photos in a new Sunday feature.
The 250-acre cemetery serves as home to many notables, including 11 former Nashville mayors, U.S. Senators, musicians, Civil War generals, a presidential candidate, Tennessee governor, a former U.S. Attorney General, a former U.S. Supreme Court Justice, a former Speaker of United States House of Representatives, businessmen, painters, photographers and architects. It’s also where my friend Gina’s family is buried.
But the notable resident who captured most of my attention was Nashville socialite and businesswoman Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham (b. 1817, d. 1887).
She married her first husband, 50-year-old slave trader and plantation owner Isaac Franklin, where she was 22. They had four children – Victoria, Adelicia, Julius and Emma – none of whom survived to adulthood. When her husband passed, she inherited his three plantations in Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas, among other things, and as a result became the wealthiest woman in Tennessee.
She had six children with her second husband, Alabama attorney Joseph Alexander Smith Acklen, with whom she built Belmont Mansion in Nashville, which is now part of Belmont University that she founded. She married a third time at age 50, to Dr. William Archer Cheatham, who was only 47.
What’s interesting about Adelicia is she had her second husband sign a prenuptial agreement even though he was worth three times her wealth. She also required Cheatham to sign a prenuptial contract.
Adelicia died during a shopping trip to New York City. She and nine of her children are buried at Mount Olivet.
Until next time….