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Boscobel: A Shelby Gift

Boscobel was located in East Nashville on Sevier St. near South Seventh on a corner of the Shelby estate.


Photo from Nashville blogspot


The mansion was built by Dr. John Shelby for his daughter Anna Maria Shelby Barrow (1813-?) and her husband (George) Washington Barrow (1807-1866) in 1827, the same year they married. It was built on part of the 640- acre property owned by Dr. Shelby and near his first Fatherland mansion. Barrow was raised at Barrow’s Grove estate - near Broad St. and the Old Cemetery. His brother was Alexander Barrow of Melrose. The mansion was huge with white columns and several verandas as well as 2 stories and a 3rd story cupola. The home sat on 17 acres which stretched to the Cumberland River. Washington was a lawyer and was a founder and the first president of the Nashville Gas Light Company. He was also Minister to Portugal, 1841-1844. He served as a representative in the U.S. Congress as well as a State Senator.


Washington led the Tennessee delegation in joining the Confederacy and then served in the Civil War. In 1862, Barrow along with Joe Guild and W.G. Harding was imprisoned for promoting Tennessee secession at Fort Mackinac. Harding and Guild both took an oath to the Union; Barrow refused. After a prisoner exchange, Barrow became part of Tennessee’s Confederate government in exile. After the war, he returned to Nashville in poor health and financially ruined.


After Barrow’s death, the mansion was then owned by John Shelby Williams (1834-1878) and Matilda “Mattie” J. Williams (1836-1918) who sold the property. John Shelby was Anna Maria’s nephew. The Williams lived at their estate, Edgefield, which was also part of the area of East Nashville that Dr. John Shelby and partners developed into the Edgefield area.


By about 1889, Boscobel mansion became a school for young ladies, Boscobel College. Established on a 10-acre campus, Boscobel College (founded as Nashville Baptist Female College) was run by the Tennessee Baptist Convention and lasted from 1889-1914. About 1918, it became another educational facility-National Baptist Seminary and Missionary Training School until 1931. In 1940, the buildings were destroyed and sold for scrap. The James Cayce Homes, Nashville’s oldest and largest public housing development, sits on the site now. The name derives from the Italian phrase bosco bella meaning “in the midst of fair woods” or “beautiful woods.” The mansion is remembered with Boscobel St. - just north of Shelby Ave. See Edgefield, Fatherland, Melrose.


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