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Rokeby was built about 1805 southwest of Nashville (about current address 1908 Grand Ave) by Judge John Childress (1773-1819) and Elizabeth Robertson Childress (1783-1822).

They married in 1799. Their plantation’s name was Rokeby, derived from a poem “Rokeby,” by Sir Walter Scott. It reached 1,280 acres around the present Vanderbilt and Peabody campuses. Elizabeth was part of the founding Robertson family. John was a great friend of Andrew Jackson (The Hermitage). He was a trustee of Davidson Academy and became a wealthy landowner. Family tradition has it that Jackson stayed at Rokeby enough that a room was kept ready for him.

The Childress family led esteemed lives: Daughters were Matilda and Sarah and son George. George helped organize the Texas Republic and draft the constitution of the Republic of Texas. Matilda Childress married Justice John Catron (1786-1865) in 1821. The Catron family lived on Cherry St. (now Fourth Ave.) across from where the Maxwell House was built later. In 1824, John was elected to the Supreme Court of Tennessee and served 10 years. He became an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (1837-1865). Sarah married James K. Polk who became President of the United States. Their home in downtown Nashville was called Polk Place.

Judge Childress gave the property to his daughter, Matilda Childress Catron (1802-1872) and her husband Justice John Catron (1786-1865). They wed in 1821 and died childless. He was the first Tennessean to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the 1820s, Rev. Oliver Bliss Hayes (1783-1858) purchased Rokeby from Matilda C. Catron. Oliver had married Sarah “Sallie” Clements Hightower (1795-1871) in 1812. He practiced law in Nashville early in his professional life, and then about 1834, became an ordained Presbyterian minister. Rokeby was the center of Hayes great estate with children’s estates nearby. Laura Hayes Shields (1829-1892) married George Washington Shields (1874-1904) in 1855 got Rokeby.

In 1875, after the Hayes family sold the property to the new Vanderbilt University, Rokeby was utilized as the first dormitory. In 1950, Rokeby was demolished and the Upper Room in the United Methodist Center now occupies the site. [Hayes family homes: Adelicia Hayes Acklen built Belmont; Corinne Hayes Lawrence built Hillside; Henry Martin Hayes built Ensworth.] See Belmont, Ensworth, Hillside, Polk Place


Nashville Pikes: Vol Two 150 Years along Hillsboro Pike, Ridley Wills II, p. 66

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