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Martin Cheairs Home/ Ferguson Hall

Photo by Hal Jespersen

The Martin Cheairs Home/ Ferguson Hall was built by Dr. John Haddox in Columbia in 1853. Dr. Haddox was a physician in the area. The architectural style was Greek Revival.

The property was sold to Martin Terrell Cheairs (1804-1891) in 1854 - the same year Dr. Haddox died so Haddox may never have lived in the mansion. The new Greek Revival style served as an inspiration for Martin’s brother Nicholas Cheairs home of Rippavilla just down the road. Martin married Martha Ann Bond (1820-1874) in 1837. The mansion is best known locally for the infamous romantic-inspired death at the home: Martin’s brother Nathaniel was married to Susan McKissack. Susan’s sister was Jessie McKissack Peters. Allegedly Jesse, wife of Dr. George B. Peters, was having an affair with General Earl Van Dorn. General Dorn had had to leave one house in the area and had taken the Cheairs home as a base. Dr. Peters had been away regularly on business. Dr. Peters heard the gossip of the affair and confronted General Dorn at the home - Dorn ended up dead.

The Cheairs family held vast land holdings in Maury County at that time. Martin lived there until his death in 1891. His descendants held the property for several years until 1905. Then William Branham and William Hughes bought the house and 57 acres for a college called Spring Hill Male College. Branham and Hughes had opened a school in 1897 in Spring Hill and purchased the property of the prior Spring Hill Male College the following year. With the 1905 purchase, they moved to the new land. The house itself was renamed Ferguson Hall in honor of a Branham relative. Shortly afterward it evolved to Branham-Hughes Academy. The Great Depression hit and the Academy was forced to close in the early 1930s. In 1934, the property was bought by the Church of Christ and became the Tennessee Orphan Home and later Tennessee Children’s Home.

The next year, the building was moved to Spring Hill on Hwy 31 (current address 5350 Main St.). In 2019, the Main St. campus was sold, and the Tennessee Children’s Home is transitioning to a new campus. In 2021, a private developer was trying to get design and zoning approvals to develop a new 100+ commercial area on the property and incorporate Ferguson Hall as part of a hotel. NRHP 1976 See Rippavilla


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