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Stone Hall: Generations in Donelson

Photo by Skye Marthaler

Stone Hall, built for Dempsey W. Cantrell (1880-1965) and Nora Johnson Cantrell (1882-1959) in 1918, is located at 1014 Stones River Rd. - where it intersects with Lebanon Rd. Dempsey and Nora married in 1907.

Constructed in Colonial Revival style, it sits on 12 acres of land on the Stones River. The Cantrells had lived in East Nashville on Russell St. and narrowly escaped the great fire of 1916. Nora’s father, J.J. Johnson, owned land in Donelson so they built Stone Hall there. [The Russell St. house remained used for another 40 years until torn down in the 1960s for interstate development.] Nora was a well-known poet and author and was poet laureate of the Tennessee Federated Women’s Clubs. Cantrell founded Southern Woodenware Company in 1903 which was a large wholesale paper goods company headquartered on Second Ave. in downtown Nashville. Cantrell was also on the Davidson County School Board (President 1926-1932), was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the Bank of Donelson (1936). [It was sold to Commerce Union Bank in 1948.]

In 1964, their daughter Angie Fields Cantrell Merritt Donelson (1914-2000), married Gilbert Stroud Merritt (1911-1955) in 1934 and they resided at Stone Hall. Dempsey sold Southern Woodenware to Gilbert in 1946. After Gilbert’s death, Angie assumed ownership of the company.

After Dempsey passed away, Angie sold the company. Eleven years after Gilbert’s death, Angie married John Donelson VII in 1966 and they lived at Stone Hall as well. After John died, Angie’s third marriage was to DeWitt Ezell, Sr. in 1996. Angie was Chairman of the board of the Nashville Presbyterian Neighborhood House of the Elder Presbyterian Church, 1989-1992; a founding member of the Davidson County Cancer Society, a board member of the Nashville Symphony Association, 1961-64; and a member of the Tennessee Historical Society.

In 1964, their son, Judge Gilbert Stroud Merritt, Jr. (1936-?) married Louise Clark Fort Merritt (1941-1973) and they lived at Stone Hall. Judge Merrit was appointed by Pres. Jimmy Carter was Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit from 1977-2001 and served as the Chief Judge of the same from 1989-1996.

In 1971, the Merritts purchased McEwen House in Williamson Co. Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County and Greenways of Nashville with assistance from the Memorial Foundation and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the cooperation of Gilbert S. Merritt III purchased the property from the family estate in 2006. Its name reflects the home of an16th century English ancestor. The family and home are recognized by Stone Hall Blvd., Stones River Rd., and Stone Hall Park. NRHP 2010


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