Adelica Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham, "the mistress of Belmont," was one of the wealthiest and most interesting women in antebellum America. Born into a prominent Nashville family in 1817, Adelicia married for the first time at the age of 22. Her first husband, Issac Franklin, was a planter and slave trader 28 years older than Adelicia. Apparently the Franklins were very happy together--their marriage lasted 7 years and produced 4 children. After Issac's death in 1846, Adelicia acquired his fortune, estimated at 1 million dollars in contemporary accounts. Adelicia married her second husband, Joseph A. S. Acklen, in 1849. Joseph was a handsome attorney and a veteran of the Texas Revolution, but he didn't quite sweep Adelicia off her feet; two days before they were to be married, Adelicia presented Joseph with a prenuptial agreement which stated that she would be sole owner and final authority over all the properties she brought into the marriage. The Acklens were married for 14 years and had 6 children together, and Joseph gave up his law practice to manage the family businesses. By the outbreak of the Civil War, he had tripled the family fortune. Joseph died in Louisiana in 1863, and shortly thereafter Adelicia journeyed to Louisiana in an attempt to save the nearly 3,000 bales of cotton stranded on the Acklen plantations. After some canny negotiations with both Union and Confederate authorities, Adelicia managed to move the cotton to New Orleans and later to Liverpool, England. For her efforts Adelicia earned $1 million dollars from the cotton sale. Four years after Joseph's death, Adelicia married Dr. William Archer Cheatham, a highly regarded Nashville physician. The marriage lasted for nearly 20 years, but in 1884 the Cheathams separated and Adelicia relocated to Washington, DC. Adelicia died in New York City on May 4, 1887, while on a buying trip for her new home in Washington. Her body was returned to Nashville, where she is buried with her first two husbands and nine of her ten children.
Belmont, the home of Joseph and Adelicia Acklen, was completed in 1853. It was the Acklen summer home--a little getaway place of 36 rooms and 19,000 square feet! At Belmont the Acklens entertained such notables as President Andrew Johnson, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, socialite Octavia La Vert, philosopher Thomas Huxley, and solider of fortune William Walker, as well as numerous Confederate officers and political figures. During the Battle of Nashville in 1864, Belmont was used as the headquarters of General Thomas Wood, one of the Union commanders.
Adelicia enjoyed the benefits of a large fortune and impressive social status, but she also experienced many tragedies in her life. She buried six children and two husbands, and she also endured the hardships associated with the Civil War and Reconstruction. The house became part of Belmont College after Adelicia's death and still stands on the campus; the mansion is open for tours, receptions, and other functions.
Bio by: Jonathan Malcolm Lampley
Julius Caesar Franklin
Joseph Hayes Acklen
Laura Victoria Acklen
Corinne Adelicia Acklen
William Hayes Ackland
Claude Melnotte Acklen
Pauline Acklen Lockett