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The Bradford-Berry House: A Hidden Treasure 


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Hilda Nason

Around 1795 Revolutionary War Patriot Henry Bradford built one of the first brick homes in the area known as the Cumberland Country, the Mero District and eventually Middle Tennessee.

A recipient of a 1,000-acre land grant for his service in the war, he built his home on a plot near Drakes Creek adjacent to present-day 31 E or Gallatin
Road and west of Hendersonville City Hall. Remembering the beautiful brick homes of his native Virginia, Bradford borrowed slaves from his stepfather William Nash to make bricks, fired on location, for his new home. The workers had to be very vigilant because the area was troubled with Indian unrest at the time.

Originally named Hazel Patch, the house has become known as the Bradford-Berry house in honor of the builder and the only other family to own the property. Before it fell into disrepair, the stately home was grand enough to stand on the Palace Green in Colonial Williamsburg. It shares a Virginia influence in several ways. The home is of the Federal two-story design with simple floor plan.

Built in a townhouse style and not the conventional two-over-two centered by a hall, this unique floor plan was normally better suited to narrow city lots and not as a rural planters' home. Framed in walnut and yellow pine, the facade of the home is comprised of two colonial windows and a front door on the bottom floor and three windows on the top floor.
There are no windows on the sides possibly because windows had to be ordered and brought down the river. The entrance opens into a long hallway with a circular staircase at the rear. Its three-bay front and left side hall plan is consistent with structures built in the late 18th century. There is a parlor, dining room, family room, and kitchen on the bottom floor and three spacious rooms upstairs.

The full cellar is built of native limestone with a large fireplace. Notably there is an original wooden vent often found in Colonial Williamsburg. This particular design was for air circulation in the upper floors and was still efficient in early 21st century when became uninhabited. Bradford Berry house is significant in terms of its architectural character by virtue of being a rare surviving example of a high-style dwelling associated with the early settlement period of Tennessee and its association with prominent early
Sumner County settler and Revolutionary War veteran Henry Bradford.

The roof rafters are half-lapped and pegged, an early technique found locally at Cragfont and Rock Castle. They, the original cellar and entire original structure, unlike the 1960 "additions, remain sturdy and sound today.

According to Salt of the Earth by direct descendant Sara Bradford Saunders, the workers must have been skilled craftsmen because the carvings on the over mantel and mantle in the parlor, the staircase, tall ceilings, the door and window surrounds, of the baseboards and the walnut mantles upstairs were magnificent. During a 1960's renovation some were removed to modern structures in Hendersonville.

The style, form, and layout of the house are far superior to most homes of the period. The rows of native cedar trees along the carriage way leading to the historic home are reminiscent of the rows of native live oaks at Boone Hall near Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1811-1812 a series of earthquakes occurred along the New Madrid North Fault, putting pressure on the Reelfoot Fault. As a result of the damage caused by the earthquakes, many people put iron bar supports through their homes to stabilize them. The iron stars located on the front of the home are the ends of those supports.

Horatio Berry purchased the homestead home and several hundred acres of land for his newborn daughter Sarah Crosby Berry in 1887. Though she renovated the house by adding a garage, kitchen wing and installed an elevator with the intention to move there from her inherited home, Hazel Path, she never moved into the house. Instead, she rented the home to tenants until she sold it to General Electric in 1969. It was since sold at auction to a trust managed by developer Jack May.

The Bradford family cemetery is located on the east side of the front of the house. Henry Bradford is buried there, along with some of his descendants, including his son Priestly, his wife Elizabeth, their son Norman, and their daughters Martha Elizabeth Bradford Shute, Jane Bradford Darlington, Cecelia Bradford, and Mary Sophia Bradford Willis. It is believed that only descendants of Bradford are buried there. Granddaughters married into the Willis, Shute and Darlington families. Over time the Bradford family
cemetery became known as the Willis Cemetery. According to Willis Cemetery records and other published sources, there are at least 16 graves there.

Vandals stole Bradford's original marble tombstone on a cold, snowy night many years ago. If it were not for the French Lick Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution who marked his grave in 1973, his gravesite would not be marked. In July of 1999, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9851 and the Ladies Auxiliary conducted a wreath-laying ceremony at Bradford's gravesite. The stone base of that marker has since deteriorated, and the bronze marker is sinking into the dirt. The French Lick chapter of DAR is undertaking restoration and rededication of Revolutionary Patriot Henry Bradford's marker.

There is great concern for the disappearance of the locations of the other 15 graves. These graves are unmarked because the tombstones and markers have been destroyed over time or covered with dirt and grass. Furthermore, historical oral accounts passed to living descendants of Bradford have it that there is also a slave cemetery on the property. It is said that those graves are somewhere to the side of the house.

Sources:

1. Letter from E. Patrick Mcintyre, Executive Director, Tennessee Preservation
Trust, 2004 -noted by direct quotes

Salt a/the Earth, by Sarah Bradford Saunders, (1983) pp. 41-49

"Molly Blakemore's Family" by Peggy Bone Colella

The City by the Lake by Timothy L. Takacs, pages 432-433.

Tennessee Preservation Trust, Letter to Mr. Jack May, April 18, 2004.

"Henry Bradford Family" by Peggy Bone Colella

http:/www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/tnsumner/brad/a.htm

Hendersonville Arts Council report

Hendersonville Cemeteries- Willis Cemetery- 5-12.

Tennessee Records: Tombstone Inscriptions and Manuscripts by Jeanette T. Acklen,
p.100.

The National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution has recently granted permission for the French Lick Chapter to again renovate and rededicate the gravesite of Henry Bradford. This time the Chapter will place his bronze marker atop a 40-inch high granite marker. Rededication Ceremonies will be held on Sunday, Oct. 15.

The Chapter and City Officials are eager for citizens of the community to participate in a patriotic program designed to inspire and rekindle the spirit of liberty and freedom that moved our forefathers to risk their property, even their lives to found this nation and to move the frontier westward across the continent in an expansion of those notions.

Our early community leaders like Henry Bradford pushed that dream from the very soil we inhabit today. The historic treasurers they built to last should be cherished by this generation for the benefit of the next.

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