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  • Jay Brothers


Updated: Feb 2

Ashlawn, built in 1832 by Richard Christmas (1805-1841) & Mary Ann (Emeline) Smith Christmas (1815-1842), is located at 902 Franklin Pike - 2 miles south of Brentwood.

From First American Bank "Homes of Tennessee"

The couple built their plantation on 200 acres along the Little Harpeth Valley given to them by Emeline’s parents, Sarah Jane Leiper and Alexander Smith. Richard had very extensive landholdings in Mississippi including the counties of Humphries, Washington, Madison, Hinds, and Lowndes. His Mississippi plantation home was called Shiloh. When Richard married Emeline in 1832, he built Ashlawn as a lavish summer home along what became the Franklin Turnpike and at the time just southeast of the original Brentwood area settlement. Emeline’s grandfather was Captain James Leiper of Leiper’s Fork renown.

Two years after being built, In 1834, Ashlawn was being remodeled and caught fire with some damage. In 1835, Christmas was appointed by the Tennessee State Legislature to the Board of Trustees of the Franklin Female Academy. Just five years later, in 1839, the Christmas family sold the mansion. Richard died two years later, and Emeline died the next year in a steamboat accident.

The Christmas family sold the property in 1839 with 315 acres to Dr. Reuben A. Gentry (?-1941) and his cousin Ruth Rogers Gentry. He was a prominent physician and continued to develop the plantation into one of the largest in the area. After his death, his widow and daughter traveled between major cities in the U.S. and in Europe.

In 1850, Montgomery Bell (1769-1855) owned the plantation. Bell had moved to Middle Tennessee in 1804 and bought James Robertson’s iron works. In Cheatham County, he made a tunnel at a point on the Harpeth River known as the Narrows of the Harpeth and created a small waterfall to help his forge called Patterson Iron Works. It became one of the first manufactured tunnels in the U.S. His legacy includes a grant to help grow the University of Nashville which eventually moved its campus west. The board renamed the school Montgomery Bell Academy, the premiere all-boys school in Nashville. Bell is also remembered through Montgomery Bell State Park, and Montgomery Bell Bridge which crosses the Cumberland River near Ashland City.

In 1854 James Owen and Catherine Owen owned Ashlawn for 17 years. They were wealthy landowners and donated land and bricks to construct Owen Chapel Church of Christ. Then in 1871, Henry Zellner (1814-1899) and Martha Jane Hughes Zellner (1824-1889) moved from Maury County where they were planters and purchased Ashlawn. They married in 1839. He had 2 daughters who married and lived in the Brentwood area. Zellner was a prominent farmer, bridge builder and invented a cotton baler, a clover huller and a hemp brake. One, Margaret Ophelia, married David Lipscomb who taught at Lipscomb School on Concord Rd. and later founded Nashville Bible College (now Lipscomb University). He and Margaret lived at Avalon which became part of Lipscomb University. The other daughter, Mary Jane, married William Callender. When Callender’s parents died in his youth, he and his siblings moved into Ashlawn with Aunt Catherine and Uncle James Owen.

After Henry died, the farm was inherited by his son, (William) James Zellner (1846-1905) and Sarah Rebecca Alexander Zellner (1846-1927) who lived at Ashlawn from 1901-05. He and Sarah married in 1866.

After James died, Andrew Hooper Mizell, Sr. (1860-1925) and Lucy Frances Merrill Mizell (1869-1943) bought the property and resided there from 1905-1945. Mizell was a reputable Nashville wholesale grocer who was a partner in Mizell, Hooper & Co., wholesale grocers in downtown Nashville.

In 1945, Stirton Oman (1903-1977) and Elizabeth Frances Allen Oman (1904-1992) bought Ashlawn and restored the home. Stirton was nationally known in the construction industry. He was board chairman of Oman Construction Company, owned Couch Construction in Alabama, and owned other construction companies. Famously, he was a contractor on the Alaska pipeline, Panama Canal, the Oro Dam in California, and the Titan II rocket launching sites in Arkansa. He also was a member of the Commerce Union Bank board. On the Ashlawn property, the couple raised prize show cattle; in 1956, the house sat on 750 acres. Mary Frances lived at Ashlawn until her death in 1992.

By 1996, the property was owned by Gwen Shamblin Lara who lead Remnant Fellowship Church. See also Hadleywood, Harmon House, Avalon


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2 則留言

Jay Brothers

Thanks for reading. Don't know from where the 1841 came. Richard died 1878 likely from yellow fever in epidemic that swept the coastal areas at the time. Enjoy the rest of your reading & appreciate visit & feedback. Will correct the blog soon. Jay



Mary Elizabeth Phillips was Richard Christmas's second wife. Norma was their daughter. Richard died in 1878 (not 1841). His wife and daughter moved to France a couple years later where Norma married the Marquis d'Aulan.

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