Final Days of the Plantation
General William Hicks Jackson died on 30 March 1903 at the age of 67; his son having contracted typhoid fever, died on 19 July 1903. After William Harding Jackson’s death, the ownership of Belle Meade Plantation passed to Jackson’s sister Selene Elliston, his two-year-old son William Harding Jackson Jr. and the Catholic Church. James B. Richardson, William Harding Jackson’s father-in-law, was executor of the estate. Richardson and William Harding Jackson’s wife, Annie, made the decision to sell the farm. Included in the various sales, which took years to complete, were the last of the horses, other livestock, acres of land, furniture, and the mansion.
The Belle Meade Land Company, a business syndicate formed by Jacob McGavock Dickinson, Jesse M Overton, J.C. Welling, J.T. Harahan and Stuyvesant Fish, consolidated the mansion and acreage. On 19 May 1906, Dickinson, a second cousin to Elizabeth Harding, purchased the Belle Meade Mansion and 40 surrounding acres. John Overton Dickinson moved into the mansion with his family.
The Belle Meade land Company paid for the construction of a road through the Deer Park and with the cooperation of the Belle Meade Company, a separate business entity, developed the neighborhood of Belle Meade; a 1938 vote for incorporation created the City of Belle Meade.
After the tragic death of J.O. Dickinson’s wife in 1909, James O. Leake bought the property for $110,000. In 1916 Walter O. Parmer, owner of Edenwold Stud, purchased the mansion and moved his own Thoroughbred operation to Belle Meade. Parmer enclosed the breezeway before his death in 1932; the mansion was next sold to Mr. and Mrs. Meredith Caldwell.
In 1952 the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities, founded by Louisa Van Ness a year earlier, announced the opening of a campaign to raise funds to buy Belle Meade Mansion; Mrs. Guilford Dudley led an effort to convince the state legislature to purchase the house. On 25 March 1953, the State of Tennessee purchased the home and deeded it in trust to the APTA.