commonly known as The House of Mayors
Researched and written by Barry Lamb
On January the fourth of this year, the town of Murfreesboro and lovers of history and architecture lost an old and dear friend at 500 North Spring Street. She was a southern belle, born in the antebellum south, and exhibited the charm and grace characteristic of that era.
Conceived and created in 1850 by Sterling Brown Jones, she lived to the age of 172 and is survived by those who loved her.
She was the hostess who sheltered citizens of the town of Murfreesboro and took leadership roles in the civic affairs of the town and the county. Four mayors and one sheriff rested within the bosom of her opulent rooms and during her advanced years, a college professor provided for her the much-needed love and devotion that she deserved.
She was finally placed on life support with her internal organs failing and the cost of continuing her life was too prohibitive and unsustainable to keep her on life support and the decision to pull the plug and have her demolished was made.
The first family that she played hostess to was the Sterling Brown Jones family. Jones, a young brick mason and plasterer, 26 years of age, desired to provide his new bride, Lockey, with a fine new home to inhabit and to help raise their future family. Jones himself had been raised in a comfortable home in Murfreesboro by his parents, former mayor John Jones and his wife, Elizabeth Molloy Jones. The Jones family felt her warmth and care for several years.
The next family who felt her loving embrace was that of Martha Covington Collier and many of her descendants. Martha, born in 1801 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia to her parents, John and Jane Davis Hankins Covington, migrated to western portion of Rutherford County with her parents as a child. She was a sister of this writer’s direct ancestor, Larkin Anderson Covington, and the loss of this antebellum jewel is particularly regrettable to this writer.
Martha Covington was married to Ingram Blanks Collier Jr. in Rutherford County in 1817. They raised a large family in the Sulphur Springs district, just north of the land on which the great Battle of Stones River would later be contested. The husband died in 1841 and Martha remained a widow for the remaining years of her life.
Three of Martha’s sons, John A., Jesse Anderson, and Newton Cannon Collier, moved to Murfreesboro during the 1840s and 1850s and established various dry goods and other mercantile businesses on the town square following an apprenticeship in the store of their uncle, Edmund Joseph Covington.
Jesse and Newton purchased the Spring Street home for their mother in 1858 and several of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren would call the house their home for many decades.
The residence received the moniker, The House of Mayors, due to the fact that four Murfreesboro mayors resided in the place during her lifetime. Martha’s sons, Newton Cannon Collier and Ingram Blanks Collier III served as mayor of the town during the 1870s.
Martha’s granddaughter, Emily Lane, daughter of William T. and Martha Collier Lane, resided in the home during the Civil War years and recorded one of three existing diaries authored by Murfreesboro women during the war years.
Emily later married James H. Crichlow in 1874 and he took up residence in the home afterward. Crichlow served as mayor of the town from 1900-1909 and was very popular in that office. Their son, Newton Collier Crichlow, was born in the house in 1880 and was the fourth member of this family to serve as mayor, serving for a brief period of time from 1933-1934 to fill the unexpired term of Newton Cannon Maney.
In 1920 at the age of 70, the family that she had sheltered for so many years abandoned her and the family of James Taylor McKnight began to experience comfort within her walls. Mr. McKnight has served as sheriff of Rutherford County from 1908-1912, and along with his brother, Albert Dolison McKnight, also a Murfreesboro mayor, was a mortician in the firm of McKnight and Harrison during the 1920s and 1930s.
Other families would afterward know the intimate details of her being during her elderly years and her life was extended and nourished by Professor Deborah Wagnon from 1994-2021 by the love and attention that she gave to her.
Barry Lamb, “A thank you acknowledgment to Hillary Brown of the Rutherford County Archives and my friend, Bill Jakes, for the valuable research that they provided.”