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Grassland/ William Leaton House

Updated: Jan 8

Photo by Skye Marthaler

Located at Hillsboro Road (Highway 431) and Manley Lane, Grassland/ William Leaton House was built by William Leaton III (1780-1839) and Susanna “Susan” Hunter Leaton (1775-1844).

They wed in 1800 in North Carolina. William’s father had first arrived to the area later called Grassland community, and later William won the land through court action in 1826 against other litigants Nathan Hardeman and Thomas McCrory heirs. It is a 2 story frame home. After Leaton died, Susan left Tennessee with her children and moved to Missouri.

The Leaton estate was sold to (Sidney) Prior Smith in 1846 with 432 acres. Smith added adjoining land from John Stewart heirs in 1847 and from James P. Sneed heirs in 1860 to total 1,000 acres. He remodeled the simple home, built it into a ten-room home, and it was utilized as an inn and a post office since it was on the Hillsboro turnpike.

In 1867, the property was purchased by Alexander T. Obendchain and James H. Fulton, and they used the property for business purposes. James was married to Mary Morrow. Fulton and Obendchain sold the property to Fulton’s parents next.

In 1874, Grassland was purchased by William Douglas (W. D.) Fulton (1820-1882) and Sara Mary J. Henderson Fulton. They married in 1844. Sara operated a post office in the back that operated until 1888, and in large part, helped give the community the Grassland name. Mail was picked up at Hick’s Station (on Highway 100) and delivered to Beechland, Grassland, and Forest Home where residents retrieved their mail- rural postal delivery did not exist. Fullton had had an illustrious banking, legal and political career in both Athens, GA and Chattanooga, TN prior to moving to Williamson Co. W.D. was a prominent Athens lawyer and after the Mexican War was superintendent of the Georgia State Railroad. In 1852, he was the cashier of the Bank of Chattanooga. Their home in Chattanooga was destroyed during the Civil War, and his bank was closed. About 1865, the Fultons moved to Nashville, and W.D. supervised the completion of the Maxwell House Hotel in downtown. Thereafter, for many years, the Maxwell House was the center of Nashville social and political life. W.D. was a Tennessee State Senator 1877-79. Grassland plantation increased to over 1,000 acres.

Two owners in between were Thomas L. and Mary B. Jones and Samuel P. and Louisa Sweeney (dates unknown). In 1904, Grassland was purchased by Charles M. McDaniel and Thomas Jefferson Moran (1864-1943). Moran elected to take the house, the barns and 350 acres and was a farmer. He married Margaret Alexina Sawyer (1890-1955) in 1914.

After Thomas died, the Moran family lived at Grassland until about 1956. From 1915-1952, their daughter, Lula Fain Moran Major (1915-2015) lived in Grassland including after her marriage. Lulu wed Herman Emerson Major (1908-2003) in 1939. About 1956 or so, the property went through foreclosure and was owned by National Life and Accident Insurance Co. In 1960, Bob and Charlene Ring bought the property. Bob is a former Williamson County executive and was raised on Locust Guard farm in the area. Grassland consists of 200 acres.

In 1988, Reese and Marcella Vivrette Smith, Jr. owned it. Reese was founder and partner in Haury & Smith Contractors and Haury & Smith Realty Company. Because of Reese’s contributions to sports at Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and other organizations, his name is on the baseball complex at MTSU, the athletic complex at David Lipscomb High School and the Bellevue Little League and Babe Ruth Park. He was founder and part owner of the Nashville Sounds. About 1976, Reese and development partners created a portion of the Grassland property into River Rest Estates with the old house serving as the clubhouse.

The area is known as Grassland and family names are remembered by Leaton Ct, Moran Rd., and Sam Houston Ct. (T.J. Moran’s father was Sam Houston Moran). NRHP 1988 See Locust Guard


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