November 1, 2019, Researched and written by Barry Lamb
Few homes bore witness to significant events in Murfreesboro history than the Anderson-Keeble-Sparks-Ransom home. If houses could talk, it would have spoken of the infancy of the town when it served as the Tennessee state capital. It would have talked about the growing pains and expansion of the emerging township. It would have described Murfreesboro during the harsh years of the Civil War and how it was commandeered by the head of the Union army, General William Rosecrans, following the Battle of Stones River. It would also have mentioned the birth within its walls of Grantland Rice, who would later become perhaps the most well known and influential American sportswriters of the first half of the 20th century.
The spacious two story brick home, once located at 124 North Spring Street, was built around 1820 by Judge Samuel Anderson. Born in 1787 in Rockbridge County, Virginia, Anderson moved to Murfreesboro in 1811 after receiving his license to practice law in Knox County, Tennessee the previous year. The young Murfreesboro attorney represented Rutherford County in the Tennessee State House of Representatives from 1817-1821, the latter part of his service being at a time when Murfreesboro was the state capital as previously mentioned. He also served as town alderman, magistrate, and judge of the 5th judicial circuit afterwards.
After living in the mansion for around 15 years, Anderson sold the house to William T. Christy, a local clothing merchant, in 1836. Mr. Christy’s nephew, Simeon Bush Christy Jr., is remembered by some today as being instrumental in the creation of the Rutherford County hospital in 1927.
After only a brief residency in the home, Christy sold it to Dr. James Maney the following year for the use of his daughter, Mary W. Maney Keeble, and her husband, Edwin Augustus Keeble, who had been recently married.
Mr. Keeble, a native of the old Jefferson community of Rutherford County, was admitted to the Rutherford County bar in 1833 and had begun his law practice in Murfreesboro soon afterwards. He was also the editor and publisher of the newspaper, the Murfreesboro Monitor, during the mid 1830s. Involved in public service, Keeble served as mayor of Murfreesboro in 1838 and in 1855. He also represented Rutherford County in the lower house of the Tennessee legislature from 1861-1863, and served in the Confederate States House of Representatives from 1864-1865.
Following the death of Mrs. Keeble in 1863 and Mr. Keeble in 1868, the home place was inherited by their children, James Maney Keeble, Sallie Eliza Keeble, Thomas Maney Keeble, and Mary Browne Keeble, after the death of their grandfather, Dr. James Maney, according to his will.
It is not known if any of the Keeble heirs lived in the house after obtaining it, but it is known to have been rented to other families between 1872 and 1885. One of these renters was Bolling H. Rice and his wife, Beulah Grantland Rice, natives of Greene County, Alabama. The couple moved to Murfreesboro following the Civil War and was renting the home at the time of the birth of their well known son, Henry Grantland Rice, on November 1, 1880.
Grantland Rice would go on to write for several of the major newspapers in the northeast and would be known as the Dean of American sportswriters after his columns became nationally syndicated in 1930. The well known phrase, “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”, is attributed to him.
The place was purchased by Jesse Wadlington Sparks from the Keeble heirs in 1885 and remained in the hands of the Sparks family until 1917 when it was sold to James Anthony Ransom, a local cotton and lumber merchant.
The home was owned by various members of the Ransom family until around 1937, when the venerable place was demolished. With its destruction, Murfreesboro lost a very valuable piece of heritage and historical significance.