Adelicia Hayes, one of the most fascinating Tennesseans of the 19th century, is our namesake. Linked directly to its prestigious heritage, the Adelicia stands upon the site of her childhood home, Rokeby. Adelicia was a tough and savvy woman. Intelligent. Compassionate. Courageous. Her story is one of wealth and privilege, but also a life darkened by tragedy. Throughout her days, her strength of character and sense of generosity persevered and her legacy is still enjoyed by nashvillians today.
Born to a prominent Nashville family in 1817, she grew up at Rokeby before blossoming into a woman of sophistication and culture. Adelicia married Isaac Franklin at age 22 and they had four children. After only seven years of marriage, Isaac passed away and left his entire estate, including plantations and farms in Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas, in her care.
In 1843 she married Joseph Acklen and together they built a grand Italianate villa, now known as Belmont Mansion, completed in 1853. She generously opened the resplendent grounds and gardens to the public, as the city did not yet have a public park. The Acklens were married for 14 years and had six children together.
After Acklen’s demise in 1863, Adelicia, now in her mid-40s and recently widowed, bravely journeyed to Louisiana in an attempt to save nearly 3,000 bales of cotton stranded on Acklen plantations during the Civil War. After some canny negotiations with both Union and Confederate authorities, she managed single-handedly to get the cotton to England and get herself to safety. At the end of the war, she sold the cotton, netting $960,000 in gold for her efforts. Four years later she married Dr. William Cheatham, a highly regarded Nashville physician.
Adelicia’s legacy in Nashville’s culture and history is remarkable, and her Belle Monte Mansion still reflects its rich heritage. The antebellum mansion, nestled in its stately gardens, stands today, and the grounds remain open to the Nashville public.
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