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Mercer Hall: Another Episcopal tie

Updated: Feb 10

Photo from Library of Congress

Mercer Hall, located in Columbia at 902 Mercer Court, was built in 1838 for Dr. William Leacock, an Episcopal rector.

He sold the home and its 54 acres 2 years later in 1840 to Dr. John B. Hayes (1794-1868) and Ophelia Clarissa Polk Hayes (1812-1854). They married in 1830. Ophelia was a sister of President J.K. Polk. He had arrived in Maury Co. from Virginia in 1816 and practiced medicine for many decades. It is a fine example of Greek Revival style.

Next, Jonas E. Thomas (1803-1856) and Martha Adkisson Thomas (?-1870) owned the property. The couple arrived from Virginia. Thomas was a lawyer and politician and was an early Sheriff of Maury County. He served in both branches of the Tennessee Assembly, as Speaker of the TN Senate 1839-41. He served in the Mexican-American War and achieved the rank of colonel. Prior to 1848, it was in the trust of Union Bank of Tennessee.

In 1848, Bishop James Harvey Otey (1800-1863) and his wife Eliza Davis Panhill Otey (1800-1861) bought the property and owned it until 1860. Otey was the Episcopal presence in the Southwest. He opened a Christian school in Franklin. In 1836, he and Bishop Leonidas Polk started the Columbia Institute for Young Women. Later the bishops helped found the University of the South at Sewanee, and “Good Bishop” Otey became the first chancellor. [James and Eliza Otey’s daughter was Henrietta Otey Tomes who owned Glen Oak in Nashville.]

In 1860, Bishop Otey sold Mercer Hall to Narcissa M. Martin after he moved to Memphis in 1852. Martin’s heirs sold to L.D. Meyers in 1871. In 1860, Meyers was an attorney in Tennessee. Meyers sold to Margaret Owen in 1884. Owen’s daughter, Mary Harris Owen McKennon and her husband George E. McKinnon (1860-1954) owned the property. They wed in 1890. The family lived at the property in the 1930s and 1940s until they sold the property to E.H. Griggs in 1947.

Wally Smith (?-2003) and Mary Jane Church Beasley (1927-2011) bought Mercer Hall in 1957 and have lived there through 2011. Mary Jane was a substitute teacher at Columbia Central High School for years. She was very involved in the community including the Maury County Chapter of the A.P.T. A., the James K. Polk Memorial Association, and the Tennessee Historical Society. Wally was president of Beasley and Millinor Company in Florida, president of Columbia Produce Company, and partner in W.S. Beasley Company. He was a former member of the board of trustees of Columbia State Community College Foundation and several other civic organizations. Then Wally Smith Beasley, Jr. and Charlotte Beasley resided there.

The name was given by Bishop Otey in honor of his friend Dr. Mercer of Natchez. The home and families are remembered with Mercer Ct., Myers Ave. NRHP 1982 See Glen Oak


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