Travellers Rest Plantation
Travellers Rest (636 Farrell Pkwy., 615/832-8197, www.travellersrestplantation.org, Tues.–Sat. 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Sun. 1–4 p.m., $2–10) was the home of John Overton, a Nashville lawyer who helped found Memphis, served on the first Tennessee Supreme Court, and was a trusted advisor to Andrew Jackson, the seventh U.S. president and the first from Tennessee.
Overton was born in Virginia and studied law in Kentucky before he decided to move to Middle Tennessee, what was then the western frontier of the United States. When workmen were digging the cellar for the original home in 1799, they uncovered Native American skeletons and artifacts—Overton had chosen a Mississipian-era Indian mound for the site of his home.
But the archaeological finds did not stop Overton, who initially named his home Golgotha, or hill of skulls. The name did not stick, however; tradition has it that Overton later named the home Travellers Rest because it was his place of rest between long trips as a circuit judge in Middle and East Tennessee.
Travellers Rest underwent two major expansions in its lifetime: one in 1808 and another 20 years later. The additions allowed Overton first to accommodate a growing number of young law students who wished to study law with him, later his wife, Mary, and their children, and, finally, the elaborate parties that Overton hosted to further the political career of Andrew Jackson.
John Overton was many different things in his lifetime. Among them was slave owner. Records show that between 30 and 80 slaves lived at Travellers Rest before emancipation. While Overton’s plantation was not the primary source of his wealth, it no doubt contributed to his status and prominence.
Sadly, when the L&N Railroad purchased the Overton property in the 1940s, the company destroyed not only the Overton family burial ground and peach orchard, but also the slave cabins that remained at the rear of the house.
Visitors to Travellers Rest may choose to skip the mansion tour; admission to the grounds alone is just $3. But to get the full story and flavor of the property, choose the 45-minute guided tour.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition