Harber’s History: Marymont rose to great heights

Susan Harber, The Daily News Journal, January 21, 2017

Marymont, named for Mary Rucker Donnell on Rucker Lane, has shined as a rare historical jewel in our county for 155 years. The home of Southern Colonial architecture was listed with the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

In 1795, Aaron Jenkins bequeathed 1,920 acres from a Revolutionary War land grant to his sons Hiram and Nimrod. When Nimrod arrived to Rutherford County, he brought a bag of gold. He had a dream that his treasure was stolen; and when he awoke, the gold was gone the next day. Yet, Nimrod was a savvy businessman and became prosperous over time.

In 1860, Hiram owned the land on Rucker Lane and built the fine Greek Revival house on 640 acres among grand maple trees. The mansion was constructed from 1861-1867. With the Civil War in motion, some workers departed to fight for the Confederacy. During the war, Marymont was a Federal garrison and hospital. Incredibly, Marymont was one of the few homes in Rutherford County unscarred by the Stones River Battle.

The two-story brick home on this thriving cotton plantation featured central halls. An ell retained the smokehouse, servants’ quarters and kitchen. Slaves baked handmade bricks in a kiln for solid walls on the property. Talented artisans, including well-known carpenter Nathan Vaught from Maury County, showcased exquisite millwork. His authentic walnut mantles are preserved in the interior of the home.

Moreover, the curving stairwell had intricate carved scrolls on each step. Within the home lay a library, dining room, four large bedrooms, and double parlors that evinced gold leaf wallpaper ordered in 1861 from France. Rosewood furniture was also purchased from France; and two grandiose French mirrors imported from Holland were beautifully displayed. Pieces of glassware and china purchased by Hiram Jenkins were on display and sparkling within Marymont.

Nimrod Jenkins’ daughter, Nimmie, and husband Dr. J.J. Rucker, a physician of 50 years, brought the home to great heights with their marriage in 1878. They threw open the doors for elegant entertaining and counted Sarah Childress Polk as a close friend. A prism candelabra and console from the James K. Polk home was manifest as special heirlooms.

In the late 1870s, Dr. Rucker added the Roman Revival portico with four massive iconic columns and Italianate bracketed cornice to Marymont. The Ruckers also maintained a lovely garden on well-tended grounds.

Dr. Rucker, like his father, was a well-respected and honorable physician in the county. In 1885, Rucker was vice president of the Rutherford County Medical Society. He was also on the building committee for a major renovation in 1908 of our Rutherford County Courthouse, and he represented the county in the State House of Representatives. Dr. Rucker and Nimmie had five children, with only Mary surviving beyond infancy. Three of the Rucker children were buried in a cemetery near the home. There was also a slave cemetery near Marymont. Rucker Lane is named for Dr. J.J. Rucker.

Namesake Mary Rucker inherited the home and continued an open door for others to enjoy her spectacular abode. Mary wed R.J. Donnell, who died early in their marriage, leaving her to raise children James, Riley and Dorothy and manage the farm alone. Mary’s daughter Dorothy Eanes inherited the home and continued the traditions of hospitality. Dorothy and Fred Eanes’ daughter was the last familial owner of the estate.

Marymont is one of the largest Classical Revival homes built in Middle Tennessee before 1860. The sheer beauty of this home has reigned as a stately dwelling for families deeply rooted within our county over a long chapter of time. Many stories are buried within the walls of a home that witnessed untold history.

Contact Susan Harber at susanharber@hotmail.com.

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