Nancy De Gennaro, Daily News Journal, July 8, 2016
Oaklands Mansion was built by Dr. James Maney and Sally Murfree Maney. Murfree Maney was the daughter of Revolutionary War Col. Hardy Murfree, for whom the town is named. The land Oaklands Mansion stands on, originally 274 acres, was inherited by Murfree Maney in 1815, and the family was shown to be living there by the 1820 census. Because the exact date is unknown, Oaklands Mansion is celebrating a bicentennial now through 2020. Eventually the plantation grew to nearly 1,500 acres.
Lewis Maney married Adaline Cannon, who was the daughter of Tennessee Gov. Newton Cannon (1835-39). Before it was known as Murfreesboro, the
town was named Cannonsburgh in honor of the governor. Today Cannonsburgh, built as part of the city’s contribution to the country’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, stands as a replica of a pioneer village.
Adaline Maney inherited the deed to Oaklands instead of her husband because he was sickly and her father-in-law knew she probably would outlive him. She did, although she lost the plantation and home after the Civil War to pay for debts Lewis Maney incurred in a lawsuit. She ended up living within a stone’s throw at a home that is today known as Big Holly, located at 718 N. Maney Ave.
Wealthy Memphis widow Elizabeth Swope purchased Oaklands Mansion and the property for $8,505 in 1884. Eventually the property was inherited by her daughter, Tempe, and son-in-law, George Darrow, the first millionaire in Murfreesboro. He was godfather to Frank Gumm, father of Frances Gumm, who is known by the world as Judy Garland. There is a Gumm community located out Manchester Highway near the Rutherford County line.
One-third of the furnishings at Oaklands Mansion once belonged to the Maney family, including Adaline Maney’s wedding china, the family crib, a four-poster bed with accord finials, and an Empire-era bookcase in the library.
Oaklands Mansion is in the process of being re-certified as an arboretum that features native trees. The area is part of neighboring Oaklands Park, owned by the city of Murfreesboro, and features a protected wetland area and natural spring.
A 130-foot-tall white oak tree on the property is listed on the Tennessee Landmark and Historic Tree Register. Sprouted in the 1770s, the massive oak that measures at least 60 inches in diameter is one of the oldest in the county.
The spring adjacent to Oaklands Mansion was used by the Native American population as far back as 10,000 years ago. They hunted in the area and used the spring for drinking water. The same spring is still flowing and is the same one the Union soldiers drank from and the Maney family used as a well. A spring house was built around it and used to keep food cool.
There are several items on display in Oaklands Mansion that lean toward the macabre. In a back hallway you’ll see a display of hair art that was woven from real human hair, as well as a postmortem portrait (commonplace) of Lavinia Maney, who died as a baby. Dr. James Maney’s medical instruments are on display in the house, including bone saws and tourniquets.
From 1954 to 1957, Oaklands sat vacant and fell prey to vandals. By 1958 the mansion and 35.5 acres was sold by H.C. Elrod to the city of Murfreesboro for $40,000 in order to expand public housing in the area. But in 1959, Oaklands Association was organized by a group of concerned women who wanted to save the historic site. Eventually Oaklands Mansion and 0.3 acres was deeded to Oaklands Association for $1 with the stipulation that the mansion be open to the public as a museum within three years. The ladies began restoration and opened for tours within one year.
To learn more about Oaklands Mansion, visit www.oaklandsmuseum.org, visit the mansion at 900 North Maney Ave. or call 615-893-0022.
Reach Nancy De Gennaro at 615-278-5148 and on Twitter @DNJMama.