The Tilford-Wendel Home

May 1, 2022, Researched and written by Barry Lamb

“When shall we three meet again?
When the hurlyburly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.
Then shall we three meet again.”
Sarah Jane Keeble

The foregoing doleful, yet poetic sentiments of a wife and mother who missed her beloved husband, David Deaderick Wendel, and dear son, William Wendel, were expressed in a letter sent to her husband in 1863. (Jakes & Campbell, pg. 195)

D.D. Wendel had absconded Murfreesboro following the Battle of Murfreesboro and the impending occupation of the town for sanctuary further south to places where Yankee troops had yet to conquer because of his fear of arrest and imprisonment by Union authorities due to his staunch Confederate support. Her son, William, was away from home, serving in the quartermaster department of the Confederate army. She had previously lost another son, Walter Keeble Wendel, during the Battle of Richmond, Kentucky the previous year.

The husband’s flight south had left the Wendel home bereft of its patron, probably for the first time since the family had occupied the house at 115 North Springs Street.

The two story log house was built by Nicholas Tilford, likely soon after his purchase of town lot #22 in May 1815. Tilford and his wife, Jane Masters Tilford, had migrated to Murfreesboro from Rockbridge County, Virginia during the early 1810s. Mr. Tilford has the distinction of having served on the town’s first board of aldermen in 1818. He was a town merchant and millwright during his brief residency in Murfreesboro before moving to Lawrence County, Alabama in 1821.

The house became the home of the Wendel family in 1818 when David Wendel purchased the place from Tilford during that year and the house remained in the hands of the Wendel family for nearly one century.

David Wendel, born in 1785, possibly in Winchester County, Virginia, was a son of Christopher and Susanna Deaderick Wendel. He was married to Sarah Hale Neilson, daughter of Hugh Douglas and Sarah Hale Neilson, in Hamblen County, Tennessee in 1806. He moved his family to the town of Jefferson in Rutherford County during the 1810s and established a mercantile business there. He and his family relocated to Murfreesboro in 1817 according to some sources. Involved in public service, Mr. Wendel served as Murfreesboro’s second mayor from July 1818 until April 1819 and as a town alderman in 1829. He also served as the town’s second postmaster, serving in that capacity from 1819 until 1838. His wife died in 1838, and he followed her in that state in 1840.

Following the death of Wendel, the ownership of the house devolved upon his son, William H. D. Wendel. Whether he occupied the home at any point in time is a subject of speculation. He was a resident of Lafayette County, Mississippi at the time he sold the home to his brother, David Deaderick Wendel, in February 1848.

David Deaderick Wendel was born in Hamblen County, Tennessee in 1811. He spent most of his formative years at the Spring Street home before his marriage to Sarah Jane Keeble in 1837. He was very active and versatile during his career as public servant. His varied career included the following offices: postmaster, town alderman, town recorder, town treasurer, circuit court clerk, and chancery court clerk and master.

David Deaderick Wendel’s private life was devoted to a commitment of reverence for God. An example of this is reflected in a letter written to his son, William, in 1863. “Place your trust implicitly in God your heavenly father and though dangers may surround you and though you may lose your life, you will in that event enjoy a life of blissful eternity. Do right in all things, swerve not an inch from the path of rectitude, moral and religion, no matter what temptations may beset you, and you are safe.” (Jakes & Campbell, pg. 149).

If the Bowenian theory of multigenerational transmission applied to the generation that preceded and followed David D. Wendel, it might be reasonable to assume that his values and characteristics were also representative in those generations also.

Like many southern women whose men were away from home during the war, Sarah was concerned with the welfare of her children who were still at home with her and the management of the household and servants. In her letters to her husband, she spoke of these concerns and the domestic affairs of extended family members and various citizens of the town. The servants were often mentioned in her letters as sending their love along with her love. It is remarkable that these servants opted to remain with the family long after Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had taken effect.

Sarah, David, and William all survived the war and were once again reunited to fulfill her hopes and dreams that her poem conveyed. Sarah and David remained on this earth eight years following the end of the war, both passing on to the other side in 1873.

The old homeplace came into possession of their son, William, who purchased the place from his wife’s brother-in-law, Josiah Williams Ewing, in 1877.

William Wendel was born on September 5, 1844 and became a clerk in the Confederate quartermaster department under Major John S. Bransford at the age of eighteen. He was apparently very close to his father, regarding him as a close friend. In one of his letters to his father in 1864 he penned; “Since your departure from Georgia and since your letters have ceased to come, I feel as if some dear friend always near me and to whom I could always go to for advice had left me for so I regarded your beautiful fatherly letters, ever welcome, pleasant, and full of advice.” (Jakes & Campbell, pg. 221).

William became a druggist following the war and was initially associated with his uncle, Dr. Robert Searcy Wendel, in that occupation. He later owned and operated his own apothecary, conducting it at various locations on the town square for more than a quarter century. Like his father, he was also involved in public service, having served seven terms as town alderman at varying times from the 1870s until the 1890s. He also served as town treasurer from 1894-1895.

He was married to Ellen Lucretia Hord in 1874. She grew up on the noted Hord plantation, which still stands on the Nashville Pike and is presently owned by the same family. The wife died three years after their marriage and he was later married to Harriet DeWolfe Foard.

Following William’s death in 1910, his wife remained at the old homeplace for four years before selling the place to the Elks Club. They razed the house the following year to construct their own club building. It was one of the earliest historically relevant houses to be demolished in town.

Sources-The Wendel Papers, Bill Jakes & Sandra Campbell, 2021; Municipal Officers of Murfreesboro 1818-1982, Barry Lamb 2017; Rutherford County Deed Books.

Author’s note: If it hadn’t been for the fortuitous discovery by my friend Bill Jakes of a series of correspondences between Wendel family members during the Civil War, the story of the Tilford-Wendel home would have been limited to a set of dry facts and statistics recorded in public records. Jakes, with the adroit assistance of Sandra Campbell, have brought to light the hidden and forgotten experiences of that notable family during that great war in their book, The Wendel Papers. This author highly recommends to all who love local history, particularly of the Civil War period, the purchase of this fine work.

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