Bristol Nelson Physiological School, 1911-1949

BRISTOL NELSON PHYSIOLOGICAL SCHOOL 1911-1949 was located at 512 North Highland Ave., Murfreesboro. The site is shown on the 1878 Beers Map as the home of J. W. Ewing facing High Street and bordered by Burton Street and Liberty Pike. Not only is the building historic, but it has been associated with four schools.

The building was erected in 1856 by E. L. Jordan at the request of Dr. Fred Norfleet of Port Royal, Tennessee, who never lived in the house. It was a two-story brick with tall colonial columns and a second-story balcony. Inside was a broad hall with a beautiful stairway. Two rooms were on the right side, and two, the parlor and the living room, on the left. Upstairs off the hail were four large bedrooms. A second-story balcony was at the back.

The property was bought by E. L. Jordan, Mrs. Norfleet’s brother-inlaw, who lived in the house from 1861-February 26, 1866.

Judge Edwin Hickman Ewing, Congressman, Associate Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court, and a friend of Daniel Webster, bought the home for his son, Josiah W. Ewing, and his daughter-in-law, Ada B. Fiord Ewing. The retired judge lived with them from about 1882 until his death in 1902. The house became known as the “Ewing House.”

After her husband’s death, Mrs. Josiah Ewing sold the property to W. M. Mooney, who built on the grounds two frame buildings a dormitories for his MOONEY SCHOOL students. Because Mr. Mooney was unable to pay off his mortgage, the school trustees resold the home by a deed signed August 7, 1911, to Mr. and Mrs. George D. Nelson of Lebanon. George Nelson had been a mail clerk on the railroad from Nashville to Chattanooga and liked Murfreesboro.

Cora Bristol Nelson had an afflicted child. Upon Mr. Nelson’s retirement, the couple opened the BRISTOL NELSON PHYSIOLOGICAL SCHOOL, locally referred to as “MRS. NELSON’S HOME,” for afflicted children.

Nancy Wilder, who later married Frank McElroy, helped Mrs. Nelson care for and teach the children. Nancy “Big Mama” and Frank “Daddy Frank” founded the LOUISA SCHOOL in 1949. The LOUISA SCHOOL, now the LOUISA DEVELOPMENT CENTER, is today an approved Intermediate Care Facility for the Mentally Retarded, headed by the founder’s son, James R. McElroy.

L. D. C., LOUISA DEVELOPMENT CENTER, stands for Love, Dedication, and Caring. The purpose of the school is to provide a home-like atmosphere designed to teach mentally retarded individuals how to do what they can do for themselves in order to reach their own potentials as human beings, regardless of what those potentials may be.

SOURCES: Deed Book 54, p. 348. Letter, dated October 12, 1984, from James R. McElroy. “Letters from Louisa,” Vol. 2, nos. 2, 3, 4, July, August, September, 1984. Mary B. Hughes, Hearthstones Murfreesboro: Mid-South Pub. Co., 1942, p. 23. *C. C. Sims, A History of Rutherford County Sims, 1947, p. 160. Interviews, Sept. 9, 1984, with C. P. Blankenship, at whose home on E. Main Street many of the parents with children at “Mrs. Nelson’s” stayed overnight; March 30, 1983, with Tom Cannon, the step-great-grandson of E. L. Jordan.

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