Does Blackman history matter? (Living on Blackman Road)

My house is surrounded by forgotten history. It’s on Blackman Road in the middle of a former plantation. I live on (or near) land that was cleared and worked by black men, women, and children, who were held in a lifetime of forced labor and human trafficking, by Judge John Overton.

Judge Overton established much of Tennessee’s legal system. He was the lifelong best friend of President Andrew Jackson, who was a frequent visitor at Overton’s plantation house. Overton first called it Golgotha (which means place of a skull) because it was built in 1799 on an ancient burial ground and many skulls were unearthed during construction. Later he changed the name to Travelers Rest. I tell more about the Overton plantation in my book, Off the RACE Track.

Blackman Road comes to a dead end a few hundred feet before it reaches Travelers Rest. If you extended it, it would lead right to Overton’s mansion. Could Blackman Road have been the way slaves came and went? Could it have been the road to slave shacks? I haven’t been able to find the origin of the name anywhere. (Someone helped answer those questions by sending me an old newspaper article and a map that showed that Hays Blackman {1797-1873} had a plantation around what is now Blackman Road, that was adjacent to Overton’s land, prior to the Civil War. After he died, his son, Dr. Blackman inherited the land. Blackman Road was probably named for one or both of them.)

Another plantation that adjoined Overton’s land, (which is just a few blocks away from my house and I frequently walk to) is now called Ellington Agricultural Center. It’s owned by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture. The main building there is a reproduction of The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s plantation house. It was built by a wealthy banker in 1928.

Prior to that, the land was a plantation owned by William Ewing and his family. They are buried in an old cemetery on the property (the first grave was in 1822). Some were Confederate soldiers. However, the Ewings and their plantation are a mystery. Although they were neighbors of John Overton, I haven’t been able to find anything about them on the internet or anywhere else, besides from the gravestones. Only silence. I often wonder why their stories (and the stories of their slaves) are lost to history.

My house on Blackman Road is also surrounded by three Civil War Battlefields. The Battle of Nashville was fought a few blocks west of here. During that battle, Overton’s Travelers Rest Mansion was the headquarters of Confederate General John Bell Hood. The Battle of Franklin about was fought about 10 miles south of here, and the Battle of Stones River about 30 miles southeast of here.

When I’m sitting on my deck, looking at my huge magnolia tree, it’s so peaceful here. It’s hard for me to imagine the bondage and cruelty that took place all around me.

I didn’t plan to live on Blackman Road. My previous house had been on the market for two years and wouldn’t sell. (Well, it did sell one time and my wife and I put a contract on another home, but our buyer backed out the night before closing.) When our previous home finally sold again, our realtor called me and said that she had found the house for us. She told me to get my wife and daughter and rush to Blackman Road because a house had just gone on the market and she was showing it to someone else.

When my wife, daughter, and I arrived at Blackman Road, we all really liked the house. Our realter said that the other guy was planning to put a contract on it, but she thought she could talk him into buying another house on a different street. So we immediately put in an offer. Our realtor said there were 3 other offers made that day, but the sellers accepted ours.

Then our realtor, with great astonishment, told us that something amazing had happened. She said that she had faxed (remember fax machines) our signed contract to the sellers’ agent. When that agent called our agent to accept the contract, she told our agent that her sellers would also pay the $4,000 toward our closing costs that we had requested. However, neither our agent or we ever requested that. Our agent just couldn’t understand how it happened. We told her it had to be God.

So now I live on Blackman Road. In reality I’ve been on black man road ever since I sold Ebony’s Pictorial History Of Black America door to door when I was in college. Spending 6 days a week hanging out with hundreds of amazing black people opened my heart to them. I’ve been on the road of love and respect for black men, women, and children ever since.

About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I co-lead a non-traditional expression of the body of Christ in Nashville based on open participation and Spirit-led sharing. We long to see the power and passion of the first Christ-followers come to life in our time. I have written a book about our experiences called, "Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible--Ekklesia" that is available in Kindle & paperback @ http://amzn.to/2nCr5dP
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6 Responses to Does Blackman history matter? (Living on Blackman Road)

  1. Pam Griffith says:

    I had heard there was a Blackman family but that was all I had known. I didn’t have a first name. I think I will do some research. As for your interest in Black History, are you familiar with Tina Calahan Jones. She is a transplant but over the past twenty years has jumped in with both feet into the research of Black History in Williamson and Davison Counties. She is easy to find on Facebook. If that is your house in the picture I am familiar with it. It is cute. I have driven Blackman Road more times than I can count. I went to Overton. My in laws lived on Blackman. Also Blackman is one of the best roads to get from point A to point B. Good luck on your continued research.

    • Steve Simms says:

      Thanks for the comment, Pam. I will contact Ms. Jones on FB. That isn’t my house, I took the picture this morning of the Street name at the corner of Timberdale and Blackman. Didn’t mean to get that house in the pic.

  2. Bill Taylor says:

    Thank you for this very interesting history of your neighborhood.

    I’ve done some work on the William Ewing Cemetery and posted several photos and transcriptions on BillionGraves.com.
    https://billiongraves.com/cemetery/William-Ewing-Cemetery/329903   

    The Davidson County Cemetery Survey has some information about the cemetery. The survey was a cooperative effort of many groups including the Metro Archives, Colonial Dames (NSCDA-TN), Nashville Room of the Public Library, Metro Planning and Historical Commissions, Historic Nashville, Inc., the State Archaeologist, local historians and citizens.
    http://files.usgwarchives.net/tn/davidson/cemeteries/wewing.txt

    In the book, Williams-From-Ewing-Book-2 on page 35 of the document (page 25 of the text) in Chapter IV William Ewing (1771-1845) is recorded as the third child of Andrew Ewing. Several of the children and other relatives listed are buried in the cemetery too.
     https://www.scribd.com/document/92417890/Williams-From-Ewing-Book-2  

    In other sources like Ancestry.com I also found that William Ewing (1771-1845) who is buried in this cemetery is the third child of Andrew Ewing (1740-1813) and Suzannah Shannon Ewing (1737-1818). Andrew and Susannah are buried in the Nashville City Cemetery. It is my understanding that Andrew Ewing was a Revolutionary War veteran, he was one of the founders of Nashville, he was the first Court Clerk of the Cumberland Territory and the first Court Clerk of Davidson County which was part of North Carolina when it was established. I believe William got some of his father’s land and was a farmer. William had a brother Nathan who was also County Court Clerk until his death.

  3. Jim Hogan says:

    Mr. Simms, I’m researching the area of Nashville close to Blackman Rd, specifically where the Hogan Farm existed circa mid-1800s near current day Ellington Agricultural Center and Hogan Rd. I am trying to determine if my great-grandfather might have originated in this area, so I’m trying to find info on the Hogan farm that existed there in mid-1800s. My specific question for you: do you know if Sevenmile Creek was previously named “Little Mill Creek”? An 1871 map shows a “Little Mill Creek” that seems to follow present day Sevenmile Creek. My info is that my ancestors lived near “Little Mill Creek” in Nashville, but current map only shows Sevenmile Creek in vicinity of the Hogan farm and Hogan Rd. Any help or referrals welcomed! My email: hoganj57@mchsi.co. Jim Hogan

    • Steve Simms says:

      Jim: Love your interest in the history of the Crieve Hall area of Nashville. I’ve been trying to learn all I can about it, but unfortunately I don’t know the answer to your question.

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