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Historic Travellers Rest-Nashville's oldest historic home museum

Traveller’s Rest, home of Judge John Overton (1766-1833), was built Federal style in 1799 on the west fork of Mill Creek about seven miles south of Nashville. Overton was one of the first lawyers in Nashville and raised Arabian horses.

The property was originally called Golgotha before it became known as Travellers Rest. At the farm, he raised and sold peaches, apple tree slips, and cotton.

In 1820, Judge Overton married Mrs. Mary McConnell White May (1782-1863), widow of Dr. Francis May and sister of Hugh Lawson White of Knoxville. Mary’s father helped found Knoxville. Judge Overton was very involved in Nashville government and politics. From 1804-1810 he sat on the Superior Court of Tennessee. He moved in 1811 to the new Supreme Court of Errors and Appeals. Judge Overton was a friend of John Donelson and lifelong friend of Andrew Jackson with whom he helped found Memphis (in 1826) through a land venture. Mary inherited the Travellers Rest property and lived there for thirty years until her death.

Then, their son, Col. John Overton, Jr. (1821-1898), and his wife Rachel Harding Overton (1822-1843) inherited Traveller’s Rest with 1,050 acres and added an adjoining 1,280 acres by purchase and marriage. Portions of the land went to John’s two sisters: Ann Overton (Mr. Robert) Brinkley of Memphis and Elizabeth Overton (Mrs. John M.) Lea of Nashville of Overton Hall. After Rachel’s death, Col. Overton wed Harriet Virginia Maxwell (1832-1899). They raised several children including (Jackson) May and Martha. He built the Maxwell House Hotel (named for his wife) starting in 1859 and completed it in 1869 after his service in the Confederacy. The Maxwell House originally stood at Fourth Ave. North and Church St. Col. Overton named the hotel for his second wife, Harriet Maxwell. It was one of the most prominent hotels in Nashville until it burned on Christmas night in 1961. Before the Civil War, John was reportedly the wealthiest man in Tennessee. Post war, John bred trotting horses.

Col. Overton and Harriett died within a year of one another. About 1864, Travellers Rest plantation stretched from Hogan Rd. in the south to nearly Wedgewood Ave. in the north to Trousdale Rd. in east to Franklin Pike in the west. The home and 183 acres remained in the family passing from son (Jackson) May Overton (1865-1920) and his wife Nannie Hensley Overton (1855-1890) to their daughter, Harriet Virginia Overton Williams (1882-1968), and her husband Dr. John Philip Williams, Jr. (1878-1954) who married in 1903. Dr. Phillips ran a coal business in Nashville. In 1932, Gen. Jacob McGavock Dickinson, Jr. (1891-1963) and his wife Sally Perry Dickinson purchased the ancestral home of his mother, Martha Overton. After service in World War I, Gen. Dickinson had first lived in Chicago and practiced law with his father, Judge Jacob McGavock Dickinson before moving to Nashville and into Traveller’s Rest. Jacob ran the largest Arabian horse breeding operation in the Americas.

In 1938, the business outgrew the Travellers Rest space, and he sold the property to move to River Grange Farm which he owned in Williamson County. Jacob had also purchased Belle Meade Plantation as a retreat and for entertainment purposes. [His oldest son, (John) Overton Dickinson, and his family resided there.] In 1946, Dr. John B. Youmans bought the home and farm, now reduced to 70 acres. Having worked at Vanderbilt School of Medicine earlier, Dr. Youmans had returned to Vanderbilt School of Medicine as Dean, Professor of Medicine and Director of Medical Affairs in 1950. In 1951, Dr. Youmans sold the Travellers Rest property to the L&N Railroad. In 1954, the home was nearly demolished, but the National Society of Colonial Dames of America in the State of Tennessee purchased the home and 3 acres of property to make a museum. After much effort to restore the home and furnishings as a historic interpretation, in 1989 a new arrangement was made. Now the NSCDA-TN leases the property to the Travellers Rest Historic House Museum, Inc. The house was first called Golgotha (meaning place of the skull Matthew 27:33) because so many bones and skulls were found while digging the foundation. By 1804, it was renamed Traveller’s Rest. NRHP

1969 See Belle Meade Plantation, Ensworth, Grundy/ Polk Place, Lealand, Overton Hall/ Crieve Hall

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