Backstory and Context
Before the American Civil War, Oaklands was a symbol of Southern wealth and prosperity. With a fortune built upon land, enslaved people, medicine, retail, and railroads, the Maneys were involved in the economic, religious, and educational development of the city. Like most families of their position, the Maneys quickly fell upon economic hardship during and following the Civil War and faded from their previous social prominence.
In 1813, Sally Hardy Murfree Maney inherited 274 acres of land north of the town named for her father, Colonel Hardy Murfree, who died in 1809. It was on this tract that the Maney family, who migrated from eastern North Carolina, began their Murfreesboro plantation.
Oaklands plantation began sometime between 1815-1818 when Dr. James Maney and his wife, Sally Murfree Maney, initiated construction of a two-room brick house next to a large spring on the property. The two-room house was built on the hall-and-parlor plan, a design popular for its simplicity and adaptability that would have been familiar to the Maneys. It was a well-constructed one-and-a-half-story house with dormer windows and a chimney at each end, with penciling on the brick mortar. At a time when most people in Murfreesboro lived in log cabins or wooden houses, this small brick structure reflected permanence and distinction.
Oaklands appearance was greatly enhanced in the 1820's when the Maneys had a two-story, Federal-style addition added to the west gable end of the original house. The new rooms included a parlor, a front hall passage with a staircase, and a chamber over the parlor that probably served as the Maneys’ first guest bedroom.
By 1830, the Maney family was prospering and growing. In that decade, a two-story ell was added, consisting of a dining room on the first floor, and children's bedrooms directly above and to the rear of the original two-room house.
The following obituary ran in the Nashville Republican Banner on September 19, 1857: “Departed this life on the 12th inst. (August 12, 1857) Mrs. Sally H. Maney, consort of Dr. James Maney, of Murfreesboro, Tenn. Aged 64 years. Mrs. Maney became hopefully pious at an early period of her married life, and from thirty-five to forty years she was in membership in the Presbyterian church of Murfreesboro. For many years before her death, her health had been delicate; but by great care, and the watchfulness and unremitting attentions of a kind a devoted husband, she has outlived the expectations of her friends. At length, however, she fell a victim to the disease that had been so long dreaded- a pulmonary affliction. Mrs. Maney had often been called to drink of the cup of affliction. She was the mother of eight children, five of whom preceded her to the spirit land, and, as is hoped, the land of happy spirits. Besides her children, she was called upon to part with many other dear relatives. These bereaving visitations of God’s providence were not without a perceptible effect on her Christian character. She was led to inquire with an increasing earnestness after the likeness and enjoyment of God- being fully persuaded that all earthly attainments are unsubstantial and evanescent. On the last page of her Bible was found inscribed with her own hand, and signed with the initial of her own name, a sentence indicative of the estimate she placed in its sacred teachings, its precious promises, and its remedy for guilt and wretchedness: - “There is nothing in the world but religion worth living for.” This truly Christian sentiment was followed with a couple of texts from the Book of Job- one expressive of the character of her faith; The other- of her hope beyond the grave. Job 13:15, first clause- “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Job 16:19, “Also now, behold, my witness is in Heaven, and my record is on high.” These penciling done with her own hand, and near the close of her life, may be regarded as her dying testimony. Commendably humble- an example of meekness and patience, and resignation to the will of the ever-blessed Lord; this worthy sister in Christ has passed away from the walk of the church militant, and entered, as is fondly hoped, the walks of the Church triumphant! May the blessings of the Most High rest on her bereaved husband and family; and may all realize that happy meeting, to which she so earnestly referred just before her departure!” W.E. Murfreesboro, Tenn. Aug. 20, ’57. Mrs. Maney was buried in the Vine Street Cemetery in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Her husband, Dr. Maney, retired from his medical practice that same year.
Although his son, Lewis, and daughter-in-law, Adaline, resided at Oaklands, Dr. Maney remained the owner until his death in 1872. Around 1858, the family initiated extensive renovations to the house, as well as the addition of the iconic Italianate facade that gives the mansion its present appearance.
Lewis and his wife, Adaline, the daughter of former Tennessee governor Newton Cannon (for whom Cannonsburgh was named), were both accustomed to the privileges that accompanied their elite social status. Aware of the latest fashions in furnishings and architecture, they planned a new Italianate addition that would totally eclipse the old plantation house and make the manor more suitable for lavish entertaining. Note: Cannonsburgh was the name of the original village that later became Murfreesboro.
The Italianate-styled two-story front addition, attributed to prominent local architect Richard Sanders, included a library and a front parlor. At the rear of the front hall is a magnificent spiral staircase that leads to the upstairs bedrooms. A spacious central hall separated the bedrooms. The exterior of this section featured a grand arched front entrance on the first floor, hooded moldings, bracketed eaves, and an elegant second floor window that repeats the arched design of the front entrance directly below. The entire facade was dominated by a veranda of elaborate elongated chamfered arches and columns. It is this piece of architectural extravagance that sets Oaklands apart and has become a widely recognizable feature.
The Maney family hosted many notable visitors including John Bell (Presidential candidate against Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas in the 1860 Presidential election), Sarah Childress Polk (the wife of President James K. Polk), naval officer and oceanographer Matthew Fontaine Maury (cousin of Rachel Adaline), Confederate General Braxton Bragg, Major General Leonidas Polk, Brigadier General George Maney (commander of the 1st Tennessee Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. and cousin of the Maneys), and various Union officers. Family lore also claims an overnight visit by Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his aide de camp, George Washington Custis Lee (son of Robert E. Lee) though no documents have been found proving this.
Lewis and Adaline did not have much time to enjoy their new home due to the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. By then, Oaklands was the center of a working plantation that grew cotton, tobacco, vegetables, and other crops.
On July 13, 1862, Confederate cavalrymen under Nathan Bedford Forrest surprised and defeated Federal forces encamped on the plantation grounds (front lawn of Oaklands) near the spring and at the courthouse as part of a raid on Union-occupied Murfreesboro. It is said that Lewis and Adaline's children watched the fighting from the window of the second floor hallway. After the surrender was signed, both armies gathered for a meal of Black eyed peas and sweet potatoes.
Union Colonel William Duffield, commander of the 9th Michigan Infantry Regiment, was wounded in the skirmish and taken into the house, where he was treated by the family. Colonel William Duffield's wife was a guest in the Maney home while her husband recovered for several months. This began the friendship between Colonel Duffield and the Maneys that continued long after the war. Local legend holds that the Confederates accepted the surrender of Murfreesboro at a dinner of Black-eyed peas and sweet potatoes inside the mansion, but no documents verify this.
Like most southern planter families, the Maneys experienced personal and economic hardship as a result of the Civil War. By 1863, Lewis and Rachel Adaline had lost three of their eight children to illness. The abolition of slavery, as a result of the war, eliminated the work force on the Maney's plantations and therefore their principle source of income.
Around 1815, The Maney family migrated from Maney’s Neck, North Carolina to Middle Tennessee. They settled land that Mrs. Sally Maney inherited upon the death of her father, Colonel Hardy Murfree. Accompanying them was a population of enslaved workers. By 1820, at least fifty enslaved people lived and worked on their estate. As the fortunes of the Maney family grew, land was purchased and the Maney family continued to purchase enslaved people to work their estates. The enslaved community grew to nearly one hundred people by 1840. Lured by the prospect of richer soils, Dr. James Maney moved most of his large-scale cash crop operations to his Trio plantation in the Mississippi delta. This move led to the separation of families and households as nearly half of his enslaved workers were forced to migrate to Mississippi. Enslaved workers used their skills in carpentry and masonry to build each phase of the Maney home at Oaklands. The enslaved at Oaklands also cleared land, planted and harvested crops, tended livestock, worked the garden and orchard, and worked as domestic servants in the Maney’s house. Whitewashed walls and the remains of a bell pulley in the cellar under the Maney’s house suggest that domestic slaves worked and possibly lived in the cellar, available to answer the ringing bell at any time. About three generations of enslaved families lived, worked, and died at Oaklands. By 1860, Dr. Maney divided his land and slave holdings between his two sons and his son in law, Edwin Keeble. Most enslaved lived in the nineteen slave dwellings divided over three farms owned by Dr. Maney and his sons. A diverse and complex community developed of relatives and friends living and working separately on all of the Maney properties. Spence Maney recalled frequent visits to see his family on the farms owned by Dr. Maney’s sons. Another former slave recalled his father leaving his home every Saturday evening and travelling nine miles to visit his mother on a neighboring farm. The Civil War brought momentous change for the people of Oaklands leading to an uncertain future beyond the plantation. Some men escaped enslavement to join the United States Colored Troops (USCT.) Others gained their freedom moving to “contraband camps” throughout the area, including a camp at Maney spring. After the Civil war, freed people created new communities with independent schools and churches at their center. Former slaves, for the first time, married with legal recognition, owned property, freely attended school, held public office, and African American men gained the right to vote. Many migrated from rural areas to urban centers while others chose to live near the old plantation. In the decades following emancipation, freed people from Oaklands and their descendants lived rich lives beyond the plantation. The descendants of David and Lucy Maney became pillars of their community as church leaders, soldiers, business owners, and educators. David was an early deacon with the First Baptist Church and he worked as a Blacksmith. His son, Luke Maney, was a veteran of the Spanish American war, and followed in his father’s footsteps at the Blacksmith shop. Luke’s wife, Ada Sykes Maney, was an active member of the church for most of her life. Their descendant, Elma McKnight, a retired Murfreesboro educator said, “We are not descendants of slaves; we are descendants of an enslaved people.” Marshall Keeble was a legendary Preacher of the Gospel. He was born in Murfreesboro in 1878 to parents who had been enslaved by the Keeble family. Marshall Keeble rose to become perhaps the best-known minister of the Church of Christ, transcending racial barriers in a way that few could. He baptized more than 50,000 people before his death in 1968. Marshall Keeble, grandfather of the famous preacher, signed his marriage license with an ‘X” in 1876. By 1881, he could sign his own name. Literacy was a cornerstone of citizenship that had been denied before emancipation. In 1842, at the age of three, John Manny (1839-1927) was sent to the Maney plantation in Madison County, Mississippi. During the Civil war, he escaped to join the Union army in nearby Vicksburg. “I was born in Murfreesboro… Rutherford Co. Tenn- was a slave and lived near Calhoun Station, Madison Co. Miss. – ran away and went to Vicksburg and enlisted in Co. B, 5th Reg. U.S.C.H.A. think it was in 1862; about the age of 23 years.” The 5th Heavy artillery, United States Colored Troops (U.S.C.T) was assigned to garrison duty in defense of Vicksburg, which was under Union control beginning in July of 1863. Manny had “enlisted to serve 3 years and was honorably discharged” in May of 1866. He lived in Vicksburg for a couple of years, and then moved to Hinds County, Mississippi to work as a sharecropper. Later in life, he received a pension for military service. There were at least seven other men named Manny who served in the U.S.C.T. at Vicksburg- all born in Murfreesboro. Their names can be found on the African American Civil War Memorial in Washington D.C. • Dempsy Manny, Co. B, 5th Heavy Artillery • George Manny, Co. A, 5th Heavy Artillery • Jeremiah Manny, Co. B, 5th Heavy Artillery • Joseph Manny, Co. B, 5th Heavy Artillery • Thomas Manny, Co. B, 5th Heavy Artillery • Wesley Manny, Co. B, 5th Heavy Artillery • Luke Manny, Co. D, 2nd Light Artillery. Jim Maney (1843-1932) was born in November of 1843 in Murfreesboro, a slave of Dr. James Maney. He was the younger brother of Albert Maney. Their parents were Eli and Eliza Maney. Jim Maney witnessed the Civil War first hand, and recounted his experiences in a narrative included in his application for a Tennessee Colored Confederate Pension: “I, James Maney, colored, was a slave of Dr. James Maney, the grandfather of Lieut. James Keeble, who was an aide on the staff of gen. George Maney. Dr. James Maney, at the breaking out of the war, was the owner of a large plantation, 2,400 acres in Mississippi, and I was on that plantation at that time. When the Federals took possession of that part of the State in 1863, I, with the other slaves, was carried to Georgia, and was put at work in the “Dixie Works,” at Macon Ga. Form which place, in the latter part of 1863, I was sent to Dalton, as a body servant for my young master, James Keeble… I went with him through all the Dalton campaign, up to the time Hood came into Tennessee. When Hood left for Tennessee, I was put in charge of a horse belonging to Col. Richard Keeble, at [Aberdeen, Miss.] When Hood[returned] from Tennessee, I rejoined my master, went with him through Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and up into North Carolina, and was with him when the army surrendered, at Greensboro, and then came home with him.” In the 1870s, Jim and his brother Albert bought a lot in Maney’s Addition on the corner of what is now North Highland Avenue and Jackson Street. He married three times, had four children, and continued to live in the same house until his death in 1932.
Dr. Maney lived in the various households of his children until his death on November 12, 1872. After his passing, Adaline and Lewis took ownership of the mansion. Last Will and Testament of Dr. James Maney: “Impressed with the uncertainty of all things here below and living in hope of peace in a better world, I James Maney, whilst in health and in the possession of my rational powers, do make the following testamentary disposition of those temporal goods and possessions with which a kind providence has blessed me. All that pertains to my burial, I leave to my children. They know the place I prefer and there, no doubt, they will lay me. 1st I wish that all such debts as I may owe, may be promptly paid by my executors. 2nd I give and devise to my Daughter-in-law, Mary L. Maney, wife of my son D D Maney, the following real estate situated near Murfreesboro in Rutherford County, Tennessee. To wit, one tract of land containing two hundred seventy eight acres which I purchased of D D Bell and valued at eight thousand dollars, One other tract containing one hundred and forty six acres which purchased of Sally Bell valued at seven thousand dollars, and also another tract adjoining the last and situated on the Lebanon and Murfreesboro turnpike road containing sixty one acres which I bought of Daniel Leiman valued at twenty six hundred dollars. And for a more particular description of said several tracts of land, reference is here made to the deeds of said vendors conveying them to me. To have and to hold the same during her natural life for the benefit of herself and children. Upon her death, I give and devise the same to the children of my son, D D Maney and to his wife, Mary L to any that may be bore to them hereafter equally with those living at this time to have and to hold the same to them and their heirs forever. I here charge as advanced to my son, D D Maney, the following property and money heretofore given him to wit, a tract of land containing three hundred acres off the east end of my homestead tract situated on the Murfreesboro and Lascassas turnpike road as the same was laid off to him by private commissioners in the division of my homestead tract of land which is more particularly described in a plat of said division in my possession furnished by James M. Tompkins Esq. which tract is valued to him at twenty thousand dollars. A house and lot in the town of Murfreesboro valued at thirty-five hundred dollars and law office in said town valued at seven hundred and fifty dollars. Also, twelve hundred dollars paid for him for the telegraph printing office and two thousand dollars in cash advanced him all of which arrangements together with the lands devised to his family are valued at forty-five thousand and fifty dollars exclusive of slave property advanced him. 3rd To my daughter-in-law, Adaline wife of my son, L M Maney, I give and devise the tract of land containing my former residence including the mansion and spring, being the western tract of the three in which my homestead was divided and containing two hundred and fourteen acres for a more particular description of which reference is made to a plat of division is held by J M Tompkins Esq. surveyor. To have and to hold the same for the benefit of herself and children during her natural life. Upon her death, I give and devise to the children of my son L M Maney and his wife Adaline. To any that may be born to them hereafter equally with those living at this time. To have and to hold the same to them and their heirs forever. Said tract of land is valued at twenty thousand dollars. I here charge as advanced to my son, L M Maney, the following property and money to wit, one thousand acres of land west of the west fork of Stones river valued at twenty thousand dollars, and four thousand dollars in cash advanced him making in all advancements including the tract of land above devised to his family the sum of forty-four thousand dollars exclusive of slave property heretofore given him. 4th To the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble, I give and devise the following property to wit, the house and lot in Murfreesboro where they resided purchased of Wm T Christy situated at the intersection of college and spring streets valued to them at thirty-five hundred dollars. I also give and devise to them a tract of land in Rutherford county Tennessee containing six hundred and forty acres adjoining the lands of the late Joseph Phillips on the south, of John M Childress on the west, of L H Carney on the north, and Wm Love on the east. Being the same tract conveyed to me by James C Moore, to whose deed reference is here made valued to them at sixteen thousand dollars. I also give and devise to the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble, two hundred and sixty-four acres of land from my homestead tract being the middle portion of the division before referenced to and more particularly described in the surveyor’s plat to which, reference has been several times made. Which is valued to them at twenty thousand dollars. All of which lands and property above mentioned I give and devise to the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble to have and to hold to them and their heirs forever. I have charge as an advancement to my daughter, Mary M Keeble, the sum of two thousand dollars in cash which with real estate herein devised to her children makes in all the sum of forty-one thousand and five hundred dollars exclusive to slave property heretofore advanced to her. I also will and direct that the land reserved by me in the late division of my landed estate, lying around the Baptist female Institute, be divided equally between my two sons, L M Maney, and D D Maney and the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble. One third going to each of my sons, and the other third going to the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble. 5th I authorize and instruct my executors to sell all my real estate in Mississippi at such time and in such manner as they may think most expedient and the proceeds of such sales together with any other funds coming into their hands and belonging to me be all equally divided between my two sons L M Maney and D D Maney and the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble the other third. And I further will and direct that the money coming to the children of my daughter Mary M Keeble, shall be so invested as may seem best to my executors. 6th And whereas the lands assigned to the families of my sons, L M Maney and D D Maney have been laid waste and greatly injured by the armies encamped in this vicinity and the lands purchased of James E Moore and given in this testament to the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble, have escaped injury I hereby release my sons L M Maney and D D Maney from the payment of any sums of money as an amount due for any excess in the value of the property assigned them at the time I made them those advancements and it is my will and I so devise that in regards all divisions thus far of my property they be considered as having received equal advancements. 7th I further will and direct that my son- in- law, Edwin Keeble, shall have the sum of the dwelling house occupied by him during his life for the benefit of himself and the children of my daughter, Mary M Keeble. And I hereby appoint said Edwin A Keeble trustee for his children for the management of this property and I request the children that they allow him a reasonable support from the proceeds of this property. 8th I hereby appoint Lewis M Maney, David D Maney, and Edwin A. Keeble, the executors of this, my last will and testament and having entire confidence in their capacity and integrity I hereby release them from the burden of giving security for the faithful performance of their trust.” James Maney (Seal) Test. E D Hancock witnessed this will the 6th of June 1866. D D Wendell County Court December 3rd 1872 State of Tennessee Rutherford County.
In 1872, Dr. Maney filed a claim against the federal government in the amount of $27,012 for property damage and losses incurred at Oaklands during the war as the result of the activities of both armies. The claim was ultimately rejected.
Before the war, the Maneys owned at least two tracks of land in Mississippi. One being The Trio Plantation which had 2,400 acres and a second tract of 2,000 acres. Each likely experienced extensive damage during the war, although the extent is not known. To alleviate their post-war financial difficulties, the Maneys sold off portions of their Oaklands landholdings. Two such transactions resulted in the creation of Murfreesboro's first subdivision "Maney's Addition," those streets between present-day N. Maney Avenue and Highland Avenue, and the plantation burial grounds which became the "new" city cemetery known as Evergreen Cemetery.
The Maneys had managed to retain possession of the plantation for almost twenty years following the war. However, in 1884, Rachel Adaline sold the house and 200 acres at public auction to cover Lewis Maney’s debts. Elizabeth Swoope of Memphis purchased the property. It was later inherited by her brother, Leonidas Hayley, and then, following his death, by Mrs. Swoope's daughter, Tempe Swoope Darrow. A number of changes, mostly interior modernizations such as the addition of electricity and plumbing, were made during the Swoope-Darrow period.
Tempe and her husband, George Darrow, moved out of Oaklands and into their new home on East Main Street in 1912. They then sold Oaklands to R. B. and Jennie Roberts. The Roberts family remained at Oaklands until 1936.
Oaklands remained in the Roberts family until 1936 when it was sold to the Jetton family. The Jettons owned the home until 1957. A few years before then, Ms. Rebecca Jetton found the house too large to maintain alone and moved into the James K. Polk Hotel in downtown Murfreesboro. The hotel was described on a hotel postcard as "a strictly modern hotel, including every room with bath, circulating ice water and ceiling fan" and also "all rooms luxuriously furnished and a homelike atmosphere throughout".
From 1954 to 1957, the mansion was vacant and suffered neglect and vandalism. Woodwork, mantels, window frames, and many other architectural features were damaged or stolen. After the restoration began in 1959, many artifacts were returned and continue to be a part of our preservation.
City of Murfreesboro The City of Murfreesboro purchased the property from a local realtor in 1958 and planned to demolish the mansion in order to build public housing. When the plan to raze Oaklands became known, a group of concerned local ladies mobilized to save the mansion from destruction.
In April 1959, ten ladies of the community lobbied the City of Murfreesboro to deed Oaklands to them. The City agreed to do so, with the stipulation that the ladies oversee restoration of the mansion and open it to the public within two years. Oaklands Association, Inc., a 501 (c) 3 non-profit educational organization was chartered in 1959.
Oaklands opened to the public as a house museum in the early 1960s. Since then, the Association has directed its energies toward preserving, restoring, interpreting, and maintaining the mansion and its grounds, collections, and furnishings.
Oaklands Mansion welcomes thousands of visitors from around the world. It is a popular venue for special events and engaging community programs. We invite you to visit soon and experience Oaklands for yourself!