Hillcrest, also known as, The Crest

March 3, 2020, March/April Froe Chips, written and researched by Barry Lamb

‘The Crest’, was likely built during the 1830s for Legrand Carney was located one half mile due north of the Rutherford County Court House, between what is now North Maple and North Church Streets.

“It was in this home, with its red brick walls and tall white columns, that five hundred persons attended what has been called the ‘most beautiful wedding celebration ever held in Murfreesboro’.”

These words, written by Mary Boddie Fox Hughes in her 1942 book, “Hearthstones”, described the wedding celebration of William Joseph Carney and his bride, Mariah Laura Butler Carney, during those halcyon days of the Carney plantation before the Civil War. The date was March 15, 1856. The place was Crestland, the plantation home of Legrand Hargis Carney and his wife, Katherine Wells Lytle Carney, the parents of the groom.

The home, also known as The Crest, was likely built during the 1830s for Legrand Carney, a Murfreesboro mayor (see September/October edition of Froe Chips), prosperous dry goods merchant and plantation owner of 63 slaves, according to the 1860 census. The mansion and its vast acreage was located one half mile due north of the Rutherford County court house between what is now North Maple and North Church Streets. It was described by Hughes as “one of the most imposing mansions ever constructed in this area”.

William Joseph Carney, whose wedding took place at Crestland, became the master of a modest plantation with 20 slaves between the time of his marriage and the commencement of the war. He joined Company C, 45th Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA, at its organization and served in that organization approximately one year. He worked as a farmer in the 18th district (just south east of the town limits) following the war and moved back to Murfreesboro during the 1890s where he owned and operated a butcher shop.

John Lytle Carney, younger brother of William Joseph Carney, was also raised to manhood at The Crest. He later became captain of the 11th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment, CSA, during the war and moved to Lake Weir, Florida after the war and became a successful orange grower there.

Another brother, Legrand Vanhook Carney, served in Company I, 1st (Maney’s) Tennessee Infantry Regiment, CSA, for a time before serving under his brother in Company D, 11th Tennessee Cavalry Regiment. He moved to Lee County, Texas following the war and lived there for the remainder of his life.

A sister, Katherine “Kate” Carney, was a noted diarist during the war. She was sympathetic towards the southern cause and detailed the everyday life of the occupied town of Murfreesboro. She later married William Spencer Poindexter of Clarksville, Tennessee and lived there much of her adult life.

Two of Kate’s sisters, Jennie (Mrs. Samuel H. Mitchell) and Rosalind (Mrs. James A. Moore Jr.), remained in Rutherford County and lived the remainder of their lives there.

Due to his staunch support for the Confederacy and not taking the oath of allegiance to the Federal government, Legrand H. Carney, was not able to continue his dry goods business during the war, and also lost his slaves as a result of the emancipation proclamation. He was forced to sell Crestland in 1868 as a result of financial hardships.

William Yandel Elliott, son of James and Adaline Bowman Elliott, and his wife, Margaret Graham Johnston Elliott, purchased the home in 1868. Mr. Elliott was a prosperous town merchant and was in business with Murfreesboro mayor, Edward Leland Jordan, for many years.

Mr. Elliott died in 1898 and his widow sold the home that year to John Ezra Richardson, a local attorney. Richardson and his family lived in the home until 1909 when he sold the place to William M. Freeman. The new owner razed the historic mansion the following year, marking the beginning of the demise of many historic Murfreesboro landmarks in the decades to come.

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