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Dr William Archer Cheatham

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Dr William Archer Cheatham

Birth
Springfield, Robertson County, Tennessee, USA
Death 9 Jun 1900 (aged 79)
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
Burial Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, USA
Memorial ID 21013707 View Source

William Archer Cheatham was a noted physician and the third husband of Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham, the mistress of Belmont Mansion in Nashville. Dr. Cheatham was born in Springfield, TN, to General Richard Cheatham and his wife, Susan Saunders Cheatham. After studying at the University of Nashville, William enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where he took a medical degree in 1843. Among the members of the Class of '43 were Cheatham's fellow Nashvillians John Berrien Lindsley, later to distinguish himself as an author, educator, and physician; and William Walker, Tennessee's "Gray Eyed Man of Destiny," who later became president of the republic of Nicaragua.

In 1847, William A. Cheatham married Mary Emma Ready of Murfreesboro, TN. They had two children, daughter Martha and son Richard. In 1852, William was appointed superintendent of the state insane asylum at Nashville, replacing John Berrien Lindsley and continuing efforts to improve the care and treatment Tennessee's mentally ill citizens received. Dr. Cheatham was appointed to a second 8-year term in 1859, but when Nashville fell to the Union army in 1862, his days in the position were numbered. Military governor Andrew Johnson dismissed Cheatham on July 25th, 1862. However, the job loss was only the beginning of a tragic period in the physician's life.

Mary Emma Ready Cheatham's sister married John Hunt Morgan, the legendary Confederate cavalry officer, late in 1862. Eventually Mary was accused of spying on behalf of her brother-in-law, and she and her husband were arrested and sent to federal prison in Illinois. On the journey, however, Mary's health failed. The couple returned to Nashville, where Mary died in April 1864.

Dr. Cheatham resumed the practice of medicine, and on the night of June 18th, 1867, he married Adelicia Acklen at Belmont Mansion. The wedding itself was a small affair, but the reception was another matter altogether. Held nine days later, the wedding reception took place under tents on the grounds of Belmont; 1,500 invitations were sent out, and all the Nashville papers brimmed with reports of the guests, decorations, and refreshments. Like Adelicia's second husband, Colonel Joseph Acklen, Dr. Cheatham signed a prenuptial agreement and took over the management of the Acklen plantations. Unlike Colonel Acklen, Dr. Cheatham was unsuccessful as a businessman. In 1872, Cheatham's daughter Martha married Thomas Weaver at Belmont. However, the bliss of Martha's marriage was undermined by financial difficulties; by the end of the year, Cheatham was bankrupt. As a result, Adelicia fired her own husband and assumed control of her finances, assisted by her brother-in-law, George Shields. When Adelicia decided to move to Washington, DC, in 1884, Dr. Cheatham did not go with her. Although they never divorced, William and Adelicia Cheatham did not reside together for the remaining 2 1/2 years of her life. At least one source states that the separation was amicable.

Dr. Cheatham moved into a boarding house in Nashville after Adelicia's departure, but eventually he settled at Seven Oaks, the home of his daughter and son-in-law. Shortly before his 80th birthday, he died there in 1900. Although obscured by the fame of his third wife and other members of his family--his brother Edward has a county named after him in Tennessee, another brother, Richard, served as Mayor of Nashville, and his cousin, Frank, was Nashville's highest ranking Confederate officer--William Archer Cheatham was a distinguished person in his own right and one of the leading physicians in Victorian Nashville.


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