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Rock Castle: A Tie to Nashville's Airport

Rock Castle, built in Hendersonville, TN from 1784-1791, was the home of Gen. Daniel Smith (1748-1818) and Sarah Michie Smith (1755-1831). They wed in 1773. He had an illustrious career in politics and warfare including service in the British Army, a colonel during the American Revolution, Territorial Secretary of TN as well as TN U.S. Senator. He was a best friend of Andrew Jackson. About 1783, the family moved from Virginia to then Cumberland County, TN and built the first stone house west of the Allegheny Mtns. Later, Gen. Smith opposed daughter Mary “Polly” Smith’s engagement to Samuel Donelson; however Andrew Jackson and family members conspired to help the couple elope. In 1788, Smith bought 4,700 acres of land in Sumner Co.


Photo by Sassy Countess


At Smith’s death, children received parcels including Polly, Daniel (151 acres), Sarah (1,510 acres), and the remaining to son, George Smith. George (1776-1849) and Tabitha Donelson Smith (1781-1854) owned Rock Castle next. Tabitha’s brother was Stockley Donelson of Tulip Grove. The next generation was Harry Smith (1806-1888) and Sallie Sypert Smith (1837-1863). Harry was a surveyor and accumulated a fortune exploring and surveying the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase vast territory. That wealth enabled him to pay off Rock Castle debts and save the homestead. Their daughter, Nannie Smith Berry (1861-1961) married Horatio Berry (1851-1908) and resided there. They wed in 1880. Horatio’s father was W. W. Berry of Elmwood. They moved to Rock Castle likely to care for the elderly Harry Smith during his last 8 years. Ther son, Col. Harry Smith Berry, served in the military and air force, and later Nashville’s airport was named in his honor, Berry Field (whence BNA derives - Berry Field-Nashville Airport).


After Harry Smith’s death, Nannie and Horatio moved to Hazel Path and managed Rock Castle and other properties from there. Caretakers looked after the Rock Castle grounds and fields. When Old Hickory Dam was created in 1954, it flooded much land behind the mansion. Over the years, five generations of family members lived on property. Currently, the mansion sits on just 18 acres. In 1969, Friends of Rock Castle was formed with the help of Sarah Crosby Berry (1886-1978) (great-great-great granddaughter of Gen. Smith and daughter of the Berrys of Hazel Path and of Tulip Grove) and with the assistance of ownership by the State of TN, Rock Castle is maintained. NRHP 1970 See also Elmwood, Hazel Path, Tulip Grove


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