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Cragfont

It was renowned as the finest mansion on the Tennessee frontier.


Photo by Brian Stansberry


Cragfont was built by James Winchester (1752-1826) and Susan Black Winchester (1777-1864) between 1798 and 1802 and located in Castalian Springs off SR 25. It is a 2 story limestone structure built in Georgian style that sits on a bluff overlooking Bledsoe’s Creek at 200 Cragfont Rd. James served in the Revolutionary War and as a Brigadier General in the War of 1812. He was the first speaker of the Tennessee Senate and helped found Memphis with Andrew Jackson and Judge John Overton. Tobacco and corn were among the primary crops grown. After James died, Susan resided there until her death.


His son, Maj. George Washington Winchester, Sr.(1822-1878), with his wife, Malvina Henderson Gaines Winchester (1821-1887) lived at Cragfont after their 1840 wedding. George studied law under Judge Jo Conn Guild and began a practice. In the 1840s and 1850s, he was part of a group advocating for a Louisville and Nashville railroad line. He served in the Tennessee legislature for one session - 1853-55. After Maj. Winchester returned from serving in the Confederate States of America army in 1864, the Winchesters had to sell Cragfont and most of the farm equipment, and they moved to Memphis by 1871. There, he opened a law practice with his son.


Various families lived there afterward. The first buyer, John Embry Sweeney died before completing payments (1864-1872) so the purchase was transferred in 1870 to H. Tandy Arnold on behalf of the Sweeney estate and Elizabeth Sweeney. In 1880, Elizabeth added 65.5 more acres. There was controversy over the title of Cragfont in the late 1880s: the property title went in succession to the Miller family, then Joseph Wright and J.T. Littleton in 1887.


In 1890, William H.B. Satterwhite (1845-1931) and Michella “Mike” Duffy Satterwhite purchased the property. They resided for about forty-one years. In 1924, William deeded Cragfont with 504 acres to James Satterwhite and Nell Satterwhite. Nell could not pay for the property, and it was sold at auction to Samuel “Sam” Bryant McMurtry (1865-1948) of Trousdale County in 1931. Sam and his wife Effie Lawrence McMurtry (1872-1947) lived there from 1935-1940. They divided the property among their children but several did not want the property. One son, Ed McMurtry, did build a house near Cragfont.


In 1957, Sam and Effie put Cragfont up for sale. At that point, Ellen Stokes Wemyss ( Stokes Farm, Fairvue, etc.) and the Sumner County Chapter of the Association of the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA), petitioned the Tennessee Historical Commission to buy Cragfont and the surrounding land. The State of Tennessee under Governor Frank C. Clement passed a bill to enable purchase and renovation of Cragfont. Work began in 1959 to restore Cragfont. More land was purchased in the 1970s and 1980s. It is now open to the public. The name Cragfont is from Winchester and because the mansion stands on a rocky bluff with a spring at its base. NRHP 1970


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