Researched and by Barry Lamb and Carol White, Froe Chip, March/April, 2021
The impressive Greek Revival style home of William Ralph McFadden, formerly located at 632 East Main Street on western corner of Hancock Street, was built for McFadden and his wife, Clementine Brock McFadden, around 1860.
Mr. McFadden was born in 1817 to Samuel and Hollie Posey McFadden and spent his formative years on the family farm, located a couple of miles northwest of Murfreesboro. That farm would later attain historical significance for the fighting which occurred there during the Battle of Stones River on January 2, 1863 at McFadden’s Ford.
William R. McFadden was a dry goods and hardware merchant on the Murfreesboro town square for many years before the Civil War. Prior to his death in 1862, McFadden’s business partner was James T. C. McKnight. A photograph of the McFadden & McKnight store, along with other store houses and buildings on the town square, were discovered in Colorado several years ago and are now preserved for posterity. McFadden also served as an alderman and town treasurer from 1857-1858. His granddaughter, Elvie McFadden, was a noted school teacher in Murfreesboro and had the honor of having a school named for her in the Westview section of the town.
The house was sold by Mrs. McFadden to William C. Eagleton in 1866. He was a son of the long-time pastor of the 1st Presbyterian Church, William Eagleton, and his wife, Margaret Ewing Eagleton. William C. Eagleton was, like McFadden, also a town merchant and was in partnership with his brother, John Alexander Eagleton, in his mercantile pursuits. The home remained in the hands of the Eagleton family until 1884 when it was sold to Joseph and Mary Livsey.
Following a brief three year occupancy, the Livsey couple transferred the property to Bryon Broough Kerr Sr. in 1887. B. B. Kerr Sr. (pronounced Carr) was a native of Murfreesboro, having been born in 1850 to Wilson Hugh Kerr and Mary Ann Edwards Kerr. He was a younger brother of former Murfreesboro Mayor William Henry Harrison Kerr.
B. B. Kerr was a grocery and liquor merchant and for many years had a partner by the name of William H. Mercer in a business on the west side of the public square. He also served as town alderman from 1882-1883, 1885-1888, and 1892-1893.
Kerr married his second wife, Lillie Webb, daughter of former Rutherford County Sheriff Isaac Shelby Webb, in October 1887, one month after he purchased the home. The couple was blessed with one son, John E. Kerr. A son from his previous marriage, Bryon Broough Kerr Jr., became a well known druggist in town.
Kerr sold the home to Mrs. Ella Ransom Wilson in 1892. She was a daughter of Joseph and Mary Virginia Williams Ransom of the Salem and Eagleville communities respectively. Ella had married Isaac Boyd Wilson the previous year but she was the sole grantee in the purchase of the property. Ella remained in the home until 1902, when she sold it to Foster L. Spain. She moved to Florida soon afterwards and later married a man by the surname of Craig.
Foster L. Spain was born in 1858 to Thomas and Lucy Davis Spain. The father was a native of Ireland and was engaged in the manufacturing of carriages in Murfreesboro following the Civil War. The son became involved in the hardware business with his wife’s uncle, William Manford Street, and Charles Hall Byrn in the firm, Street, Byrn & Company in 1879. Following Street’s death in 1902, Spain became partners with William E. Hudson in the same business and at the same location on the south side of the public square.
F. L. Spain and his wife, Cornelia Shannon Spain, made the house their home for 35 years, longer than any other owner of the home. Mr. Spain died in 1936 and his widow sold the place to Mrs. Lizzie S. West the following year. After one year of ownership, Mrs. West sold the house to Richard B. Womack and his wife, Sarah Loutie Burt Womack.
Dick Womack was a well known livestock dealer in Murfreesboro and was especially known for his active mule trade. He and his wife lived in the house for seven years before selling it to Harold T. and Helen H. Mead. This fine old home was demolished around 1950 and a brick apartment dwelling occupies that ground at the present time.
The writer regrets that he cannot provide any description of any interesting events that may have occurred in the home or any information about the interior of the house such as carpentry work, rugs, wallpaper and other appointments that would give the reader a more colorful account that this fine home deserves. Such is the case with many of Rutherford County’s extinct historic homes that have faded into oblivion during the past decades.
A debt of gratitude is owed to Mary B. Hughes who in 1942 published the book, Hearthstones. Hughes lived during a time when many of the county’s old homes were extant and many of the former owners were still living. This provided her the opportunity to paint a vivid and detailed portrayal of the homes that she chose to write about in her book. May her work always be cherished throughout the generations.