Belle Meade Winery
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John was an investor in the Nashville Female Academy and enrolled both of his daughters to attend the school. His son, William Giles Harding, was sent to a military academy in Connecticut. Following his graduation from the academy, William returned home and married Mary Selena McNairy in 1829. William took over management of the Pennington bend property and moved his new bride there. Mary Selena gave William five children with only one son, John Harding II, surviving to adulthood. Following the birth of their fifth child, Mary Selena’s health was failing. She died in 1837. William returned home to Belle Meade in 1839 to assume management of his boyhood home. He married again in 1840 to Elizabeth McGavock. Elizabeth was from the Carnton Plantation in Franklin owned by her Father, Randall McGavock, A former mayor of Nashville.
Following their marriage at Carnton, William brought his new bride home to Belle Meade. She assumed managing their household slaves and seeing to the day to day operation of their household. She gave him a daughter in 1841. Unfortunately the child was born dead. Tragedy in their personal lives continued over the next several years. Of the nine children born to the couple, only two survived childhood. They had two daughters, Selene, born in 1846, and Mary Elizabeth, born in 1850. Despite his personal tragedy, William and Elizabeth were very successful and revered by the Nashville community. In 1860, the Harding’s were listed in the census as one of the largest land holding and slave holding families in Nashville. Though William had never held public office, he definitely had strong political opinions. He was an avid supporter of the Confederate cause and in 1861, worked to secure funds to arm and equip Nashville men to take the field for the South. The newspapers in the city reported that he had given $500,000 of his own money to support the cause.
Though many southerners lost everything when the Civil war ended, The Harding family held on to the Belle Meade farm and it flourished following the war. Elizabeth Harding died in 1867 and the following year, her eldest daughter married a former Confederate General, William Hicks Jackson. Twelve years her senior, he proposed on his thirty third birthday while visiting Belle Meade and William Harding gave his blessing on one condition that the couple stay at Belle Meade following their marriage. Selene managed their household affairs and Harding continued supervising the operation of the farm. General Jackson did not receive much responsibility with the farming operation until 1883 when Harding suffered a debilitating stroke. Harding died three years later in 1886. He was 78 years old.
General and Selene Jackson had three children of their own, Eunice, William, and Selene. The Jackson family remained at Belle Meade following the death of William Harding. They were joined by Selene’s cousin, Lizzie Hoover, who never married and needed a place to live following the deaths of her parents. Lizzie lived at Belle Meade and assisted Selene with the running of their household and she worked as a nanny for the Jackson children who affectionately called her, “Ninnie.”
Following the birth of her first child, Selene began to experience trouble with her breathing. Her physician, Dr. Briggs, diagnosed her with asthma. Her health gradually worsened and in 1892, she died of an asthma attack.
General Jackson never remarried and slowly turned the day to day running of Belle Meade over to his children and their spouses. General Jackson died in 1903 and following his death, his children made the decision to sell Belle Meade Farm. The operation had been failing financially for years and they were drowning in debt.