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Ravenswood: Named for Sam Houston's nickname

Ravenswood was built by James Hazard Wilson II (1800-1869) and wife & cousin, Emeline Wilson (1808-1860), at 1825 Wilson Pike in 1825.

Photo by Skye Marthaler

It is a 2 story brick house in Federal and Greek Revival style. Over the years, James II increased his holdings to over 1,000 acres and became extremely successful. The Wilsons had large plantations and mansions in Tennessee, Louisiana and Mississippi as well as a steamboat line on the Mississippi River. Their main crop was cotton. Wilson Pike was originally called Harpeth Turnpike. It became a toll road about 1840 with James II a majority stakeholder. He was instrumental in bringing a railroad line to Brentwood and helped grow the area. At its zenith, Ravenswood was one of the three largest plantations in antebellum Williamson County (others: Beechwood-Mayberry, Gentry Farms-Glass). After James died, the Wilsons left the large estate to their 3 sons. In 1873, James III (1828-1890) and wife Virginia Pocahantas Wilson (1837-1912) had to move to Nashville to find work.

It was soon sold out of the family and passed through a few owners. At some point, John D. Lewis owned Ravenswood for 20 years.

In 1961, Reese and Marcella Vivrette Smith, Jr. bought the house and the remaining 320 - 480 acres. Reese was a partner in Haury & Smith contractors. In 1969, the firm diversified into apartments and condominium construction as well as light industry. The firm became a leading contractor in Middle Tennessee. After the Smiths passed away, the Smith’s sons cared for the house but it was vacant for about 14 years.

By 2010, the Smith family negotiated with the City of Brentwood which purchased the property and eventually 400 acres to establish a park named in honor of Marcella Smith. The house was named for Sam Houston who was a close friend and best man at the Wilson wedding. Houston was called Colonneh (The Raven) by the Cherokee Indians - probably because of his dark black hair in younger years. NRHP 1983 See Oak Hall, Inglehamme, Grassland


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