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Shelby Hall/ Fatherland: Pioneer settler and doc in East Nashville

Shelby Hall hosted one of the most storied Nashville families in Nashville history. Dr. John and Anna Maria Shelby were important pioneers in early Nashville.


Dr. John Shelby (1785-1859) and wife Anna Maria Green Minick Shelby (1793-1873) built Shelby Hall (soon renamed Fatherland) in East Nashville. It was built in the early 1820s on Fatherland St. between Russell, Main, and South Third St. His parents, David and Sarah Bledsoe Shelby, were one of the first settlers in what became Sumner County, and John is recognized as the first white child born in what became Sumner Co. In 1809, Dr. Shelby completed studies at the Medical College of the University of Pennsylvania, returned to Gallatin, and married Anna Maria. He began his medical practice in 1809. David Shelby had purchased a 640 acre tract from James Shaw just east of Nashville. He gave the land to sons John and Anthony, and in 1818, John bought out his brother and moved his family south to Nashville.


Dr. Shelby was well known for his accomplishments in healthcare and his promotion of the growth of Nashville. He was Postmaster of Nashville, helped to organize Nashville’s first Jockey Club in 1816, and was a founder of Christ Episcopal Church in 1825, the first Episcopal church in Nashville. He gave land and was a founder of Shelby Medical School in 1857. While it closed because of the Civil War, its members later became the founding of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Dr. Shelby and his father were principal shareholders in the Nashville Bridge Company that built the first bridge (covered stone bridge) across the Cumberland River in 1822 which connected the northeast corner of the public square with Gallatin Pike. It was important in opening growth across the river east of Nashville. East of Shelby Mansion,


Shelby built Boscobel for daughter Anna and husband (George) Washington Barrow. Barrow’s father, Alexander Barrow owned Melrose on Franklin Rd. In the 1850s, Shelby subdivided his sizable lands to create the Edgefield neighborhood and left Shelby Mansion. In 1855, Dr. Shelby was in his mid-seventies and one of the wealthiest Nashvillians.


In that year, he built Fatherland II for himself closer to the river bluff and intended it for his other daughter, Priscilla. Shelby Hall was destroyed. Priscilla was married twice: David Williams, and then Judge John D. Phelan. The second Fatherland was built because the newly constructed Fatherland Street Bridge emptied traffic from downtown Nashville right in front of his original home. [Side note: David Shelby bought the land of Thomas Spencer which was called Spencer’s Choice. Spencer was single and had lived in a giant hollow-out sycamore tree trunk near Wynnewood in Castalian Springs. Spencer was a legendary frontiersman and explorer who was killed in 1794.] The Shelby family is recognized by Shelby Bottoms Greenway, Shelby Ave. Boscobel St. and Fatherland St. See Boscobel, Fatherland II, Spencer’s Choice, Melrose


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