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Craighead House: Another Connection to Earliest Nashville on the West side

Updated: Apr 18

Jonathan Friar Robertson (1769-1814) and Ciddy “Kitty” Davis Robertson (1772-1859) built the home in 1809 at what became 3710 Westbrook Ave. just off West End Ave. (the old Richland Turnpike).


It was constructed in brick in Federal style and is now one of the oldest brick homes in Nashville. They married in 1791. Robertson was a surveyor and the son of James and Charlotte Robertson. At some point, the property became incorporated into Joseph Erwin’s Peach Blossom plantation.


Then Jane Erwin Dickinson Craighead (1787-1821) married John Brown Craighead (1782-1854) in 1809. Her first husband was Charles H. Dickinson who was killed in a duel by Andrew Jackson. Craighead was an attorney, wealthy merchant and sugar planter in Louisiana and the son of Rev. Thomas Craighead of Evergreen and Glen Echo. Craighead had a primary residence in Plaquemine, LA and was a major sugar planter there. When he married the widow Jane E. Dickinson, he built his summer home on property he purchased from her father. The Craighead farm just produced food to supply the family.


After Jane died, Craighead married Lavinia Robertson Beck of Buena Vista 2 years later. She was a daughter of James and Charlotte Robertson and her first husband was John Everett Beck. It became known as the Craighead House over time. At this point, Craighead added an addition over the original kitchen. Further renovations to enlarge the house happened in 1842 and 1850. The home was the manor house of the Craighead family on their 194 acres plantation off of the larger Erwin Peach Blossom plantation. After James Robertson died, his widow Charlotte came to live with the couple until Charlotte’s death.


When the railroad to Memphis was built, the tracks were laid very close (within 50 yards) of the home. When the Civil War erupted in the Nashville area, Lavinia moved her family to a house further southwest near what is now U.S. Highway 100 and kept Craighead House; however the family never returned.


In 1890, Samuel M. Murphy and Anna H. Murphy purchased the property and resided there for fifteen years. They had lived on a large estate comprising about 8-10 square miles with their mansion fronting on Church St. between 20th and 21st Aves. The mansion was located about where the current Baptist/ St. Thomas Midtown campus is. By the 1890s, a couple sources report that the Murphys were the richest family in Nashville through his whisky operations. They deeded a huge tract of land to the City of Nashville with the provision that a school be built; whereupon the historic Murphy School was erected about a block from St. Thomas Hospital and operated from 1908-2004. Protestant Hospital was established in 1918 in the old Murphy mansion.


After residing in Craighead House for fifteen years, the Murphy family sold all the farm acreage to the Richland Realty Co. and likely returned to their home on Church St. By 1905, Nashville’s westward growth had reached the area, and the Richland Realty Company purchased nearby land along Richland Pike (now West End Ave.) to create and develop the Richland-West End neighborhood. The investors focused on building homes for affluent professionals moving west outside the city. The Craighead property has had multiple owners in the twentieth century.


In 1914, the property was sold to W. E. and Sarah Watson for investment purposes, and they flipped it in a year. The next year, 1915, Homer T. and Grace Derryberry bought and resided for 4 years. He renovated the home. At some point, Bonnie A. McGraw was the owner next.


From the early 1940s, the Derryberry’s daughter and son-in-law, Ann Elizabeth Derrbyberry Perry (?-2013) and Warren Whiter Perry, purchased and resided at the property with 1 acre. In 1954, Jack and Sarah Gillasy purchased it and lived there for 3 years. In 1957, Sarah Frances Moore Rand Ewald and William George Ewald were owners.


Then in 1971, John and Ann Nixon were owners for 2 years. By 1973, Dr. and Mrs. George V. Mann had purchased it and were there in 1979. The Mann family sold Craighead House to Carl Hasty who owned the home until 1998. In 1980, the Craighead House was featured on the Richland-West End home tour.


In 1998, new owners realtor Allen DeCuyper and landscape designer Steve Sirls built additions and enlarged the home. They won an architectural award from the Metro Historical Commission. In 2016, Sirls remained the owner. There were major additions to the house in 1824, 1919, and 1998. The Craighead family is also remembered by Craighead Ave. which runs near the home. See Buena Vista, Evergreen Place, Glen Echo, Peach Blossom, Richland/ Traveler’s Rest.


Sources:

Nashville Pikes Vol. 2, R Wills pp. 188-19

Nashville Pikes Vol 3, R Wills p. 57

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