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Barrow's Hill/ Stegar Brick: A Founder of Ryman Auditorium

In 1811, Matthew Barrow (1784-1855) and Martha (Patsy) Childress Barrow (1789-1872) bought 141 acres near present-day 31st Ave. North and Charlotte Ave.


Patsy was the second oldest white child born in Davidson county. They wed in 1808. Twenty-three year later, they built a 3 story mansion on top of the hill in 1834 which they named Barrow’s Hill. The mansion faced Charlotte Ave. As they prospered, the farm acreage increased to 500-600 acres and reached along both sides of Charlotte. Barrow was Register of Deeds for Davidson County. Patsy left the residence prior to Nashville’s occupation in the Civil War and never returned. The mansion was used as a scouting location and for various purposes during the Civil War.


The year after Patsy died, the mansion and property were put up for public sale and publicized in a 1873 Nashville Banner notice. Their daughter Nancy E. Barrow Pilcher (1812-1885) and Capt. Meritt Scott Pilcher (1802-1865) bought Barrow Hill estate at auction but did not reside there. Capt. Pilcher was a wide-ranging steamboat captain, and Nancy seems to have traveled extensively with him around the country. In 1825, Nancy was one of the select guests to attend the famous ball in Nashville for Gen. Lafayette’s United States tour. Barrow’s Hill remained vacant until 1878. During a bad yellow fever epidemic in 1878, the city of Nashville used the home as an isolation hospital.


In 1879, 3 pieces of Barrow estate property were posted for sale by the Chancery Court in the Daily American newspaper: a 29 + acre tract near 31st Ave. North bounded by Charlotte turnpike and the Elliston lands to the south; another 39 + acre tract with the mansion bounded by Charlotte Ave., Torbett St., Barrow Ave. and Pilcher Ave. (now 37th Ave. N). After the epidemic passed, the Barrow’s grandson, Capt. Matthew Barrow Pilcher (1840-1908) and Judith Dudley Winston Pilcher (1842-1909) took back possession of the property which he had purchased at auction. He served in the Confederate States of America army and was badly wounded at the Battle of Franklin. He became a prominent Nashville businessman and citizen and in 1900 constructed and owned the M. B. Pilcher Building on Market St. (now Second Ave.) and one of the buildings damaged in the January 2021 Nashville bombing.


Along with Capt. Ryman, Capt. Pilcher was a prime donor to the establishment of the Union Tabernacle Church (later renamed Ryman Auditorium), helped found Immanuel Baptist Church (in 1887 as missionary church of First Baptist Church; in the early 1900s, it took over the Malone’s Honeywood mansion in what became Belle Meade) as well as becoming one of the founders of Belle Meade Country Club.


Nine years later in 1889, Pilcher sold property to Dr. A.M. Pierce with the Nashville Land Improvement Co. (NLIC). It was part of the development of New Town. In the same year, it was purchased by Capt. Thomas Maddin Stegar (1842-1925) and Ann “Nannie” Eakin Stegar (1847-1926) for use as a country house. They wed in 1871. Early in his career, Stegar was a civil engineer. He served in the Confederate army. Captured in combat, he studied law while imprisoned and upon release went to Harvard University to study law. He was an attorney in Nashville, and for years practiced in the Stegar Building downtown which he had helped build.


That building was demolished for the construction of the Life & Casualty Insurance Co. (L&C) building. Stegar was an officer of the NLIC as well as president of the Nashville Railway and Light Co. He was a famous attorney well known for co-writing the Tennessee Code known as Thompson and Stegar’s Code of Tennessee. Ann Eakin was the granddaughter of the Hon. Felix Grundy of the Grundy Place/ Polk Place. The home burned down in 1920. The property names derived from family names and house characteristics - Barrow’s Hill and Stegar Brick. See Grundy Place/ Polk Place


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