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Devon Farm/ Harpeth/ Oak Hill/ now Ensworth High School

Updated: Feb 9

Devon Farm was built in 1795 by Capt. John L. Davis (1770-1853) just off the former Richland Turnpike - now 7401 Highway 100. After an initial log home burned, a 2-story brick home was constructed which John named Harpeth. Harpeth was built on a hillside where the land opened wide among several large hilly areas. Davis had received one of the earliest recorded land grants of 3,840 acres near Ft. Nashboro because of Revolutionary War service. In 1798, John married (Mary) Dorcas Gleaves Davis (1778-1851).

John had come with the original settlers of Nashville. He was a surveyor and as he went about his work, he accumulated great tracts of land in what became Davidson, Williamson, Hickman, Dickson, and Cheatham counties totaling nearly 7,000 acres. He was good friends with Gen. James Robertson. Their ties became closer: Two Robertson sons married Davis daughters. John’s sister Ciddy “Kitty” Davis Robertson (1772-1859) married James’ oldest son Jonathan Friar Robertson (1769-1814) of Richland in 1791 and later another daughter Ellen Mordant Davis married Dr. Peyton Robertson, another Robertson son, in 1820. One of Ciddy and Jonathan’s daughters married Leonard P. Cheatham in 1817. Their daughter Frances “Fanny” Gleaves Hicks married (David) Morris Harding, brother of John Harding and uncle of Gen. William Giles Harding of Belle Meade Plantation.

Morris and Fanny inherited and resided at Harpeth which they renamed Oak Hill from 1816-1865 and expanded the operations. Morris Harding added a whiskey business to the other farm operations. Oak Hill prospered. John and Mary Dorcas’ daughter Nancy Watkins Davis (1806-1832) married Edward Dickson Hicks (1802-1839) in 1830. Dickson County was named for his family. They lived in another house on the farm. Edward had successful iron smelting furnaces and an interest in steamboats. They took over management of the now Oak Hill farm.

Nancy died when their son, E.D. Hicks II, was two years old, and E.D. arranged for his child to live with his sister, Sophia Weston Davis Horton (1799-1824), and her husband, Joseph White Horton (1792-1846), on their estate on Franklin Rd. Joe was a cashier of the Bank of Tennessee, and his parents were Josiah and Nancy Horton of the S. B. Davidson House off Charlotte Ave.

Hicks moved to Georgia where he had business interests in Hicks, VanLeer and Baxter. He later wed again in Georgia.

Hicks II was an excellent student and also an adventurous spirit. In 1849, he was enrolled at the University of Nashville but left for the California Gold Rush. Eventually, Oak Hill passed onto Edward Dickson (E.D.) Hicks II (1831-1894). E.D. II married Mary Ann White Gordon (1834-1916). He was a director of Nashville Commercial Insurance Co. and the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. Hicks organized several railroad lines together and a Hicks Station rail stop crossing was located at Hicks Rd. near his home He also served on the board of trustees of the University of Nashville. E.D. II introduced Devon cattle to the United States and eventually built the largest (140) head of Devon cattle in the country. He renamed the property Devon Farm to identify his operation better. At some point, the Hicks lands encompassed most of the Bellevue community lands from Highway 100 to Highway 70 and further toward Charlotte Ave. and extending west.

Staying in the family, son Gordon Davis Hicks (1865-1955) and Gertrude P. Eoff Hicks (1870-1931) inherited a large portion of the western lands including around the tracks of the Chattanooga & St. Louis railroad, along Hicks Station and along Hicks Road likely to Old Harding Pike or even to Hwy 70. Those lands were developed for the neighborhoods between Hwy 100 and 70.

Other son E.D. Hicks III (1861-1941) continued with operations after his marriage to Harriett T. Cockrill (1866-1915), whose relative, Mark Cockrill, ran Richland Farm (Cockrill had the world prizing winning Merino sheep). When Harriett died, E.D. III left his family farm and moved to Joplin, MO. Mary Hill Hicks, oldest daughter of E.D. III and Harriett, married Joseph Baugh and lived at Belle Vue, the Baugh homestead.

By 1946, E.D. Hicks IV (1892-1961), founder of Dobson-Hicks Seed Co. in 1926, inherited property. He had served honorably in the Great War. At the end of hostilities, he competed in several Army horsemanship competitions and won second place in a major European steeplechase event. He married (William) Hunter Griers (1891-1975) in 1920. He enlarged Devon Farms to 800 acres of the original tract by the early 1950s. At some point, Hunter moved from Devon Farm to the Belle Meade Links area on Windsor Dr. E.D. IV and Hunter’s only daughter, Sarah Hunter Hicks Green (1923-2015) continued to own Devon Farm. Sarah married C. William “Bill” Green (?-1997).

In 2002, the Ensworth School Board of Trust purchased the property and built Ensworth High School. The original name Harpeth came from the location on a hill overlooking the junction of the Little Harpeth and Harpeth Rivers. Until sold, Devon Farm was the oldest house in Davidson County continuously occupied by the same family - 6 generations of Davis-Hicks descendants. The Hicks family is remembered through Devon Highlands, Devon Valley, and Hicks Rd., much of which remains an active road. Unused portions of Hicks Rd. can still be seen off Harpeth Bend Dr. and between Edwin Warner Park and Ensworth High School. The road was the northeastern border of their farmland. NRHP 1974 See Belle Meade Plantation, Belle Vue, S.B. Davidson House, Richland, Westover

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