History of Old
Fairvue, Part Two – The Reed Era
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Fairvue has always
attracted attention. The land along its two fertile creek valleys
leading to rich river bottoms must have looked like paradise to the
first settlers. Revolutionary War Veteran James Franklin, along with
his five sons, soon claimed it. One of them, Isaac, became hugely
rich trading in slaves, land and cotton, - precious cotton, rapidly
replacing wool as the worldwide fabric of choice.
Isaac built the
largest plantation house in Tennessee on the high ground between the
two creeks. In 1839 he married the stunning Adelicia Hayes of
Nashville, and together they had four children and the management of
10,000 acres in seven plantations spread from Tennessee downriver to
Louisiana. They also had the care and feeding of 600 slaves.
Fairvue Plantation with
Icehouse - Bill Puryear - 12"x24" - Oil on Panel
Four decades and a
Civil war intervened. Franklin and all his children died, the South
lay devastated, the slaves fled, the fields lay untended, and
Fairvue, like mythic Tara, was a n empty shell, its glory gone with
Anyone who then
predicted that this ruined plantation would again attract wealthy
owners and admirers from as far away as New York, London, and Europe
would have been thought crazy. Yet the next century brought to it
titans of industry, royalty, and the international champions of the
sport to which she was best suited, the breeding and racing of
In 1882 the Adelicia
sold Fairvue to Charles Reed. Virtually everybody acquainted with
the history of the American turf had heard of the New Yorker who had
paid $100,000 for St. Blaise, the winner of the English derby. This
was the record for a racehorse, equivalent to several millions of
dollars today. By comparison, for Fairvue and its 2,000 acres, he
paid only $50,000.
Anne Jane and Charles Reed, about 1873
Blaise, winning racehorse of the English Derby
Reed was a self-made
man in every respect, accustomed to getting his way. As a teenager
he ran away from home, then dug gold in California, ran the blockade
for the South during the War, married an Irish lady in England,
became a major gambling house operator, first in New Orleans, then
in New York and Saratoga, knew the leaders of sport, finance, and
the theatre, and owned and bred champion racehorses. At 55, he was
described as good-looking, strongly built, brusque and domineering.
His clientele at his New York gambling house included Theodore
Roosevelt, August Belmont, Lillian Russell, Buffalo Bill and Sarah
At Saratoga he first
met Isaac Franklin’s nephew, Captain James Franklin, who bred
thoroughbred racehorses at Kennesaw, across the pike from Fairvue. Impressed by the superiority of the Tennessee-bred horses, Reed
bought two yearlings at W.G.Harding’s sale at Belle Meade in April
of 1882. In September of that year, he bought Fairvue, settling the
difference between the $50,000 bid and the $60,000 asked by the flip
of a coin.
Kennesaw, under Pilots' Knob -
Bill Puryear - 30"x12" - Watercolor on Fabriano paper
Reed changed the name of the place to Fairview and planned to raze
the crumbling plantation house with a home in the style of the day
with turrets and gingerbread, but his wife, Anne Jane, talked him
out of it. Instead, he spent $200,000 in fitting Fairview as a home
and horse breeding establishment.
It was never Reed’s policy to skimp. As Margaret Lindsey Warner, in
her book The Saga of Fairvue relates it:
"Penny people, nickel people, quarter people, and dollar people were
the ways Charlie Reed graded his acquaintances. He was definitely a
dollar person. Dandelions would be dug out of the bluegrass by as
many as a hundred Negro men, women, and children. If fifty yearlings
were to be led about a mile to the flag station (Peytona siding on
the railroad) for shipment to New York, they would be led all the
way by fifty retainers. Nails would be purchased by the barrel.
Nearly a hundred exercising saddles were at the barns.
Mr. Reed in true New York spirit named the main road from the
turnpike to the house Broadway and a parallel one Fifth Avenue”
Along this road were 24 acre paddocks, each containing a small
stable with cypress shingle roof…
At its peak, this famous Thoroughbred nursery had 286 box stalls
distributed over a number of stables. In 1897 there were about 150
broodmares. Some stalls were 24 feet square. All had piped in water
and oat sifters.
(He) built the five stallion boxes which stand today on the west
side of Broadway (as well as) the massive stone stable with chestnut
lined stalls eighteen feet square with a covered track on all sides.
Stallion Barns at Fairvue -
Bill Puryear - 24"x36" - Oil on Panel
Reed bought three carloads of furniture used by Marie Antionette and
later by Napoleon and shipped part of it to Fairview. Some of these
furnishings did not leave the place until the final dispersal sale,
120 years later.
Reed divided his time between his gambling houses in New York and
Saratoga and Fairview, leaving its day-to-day management to wife
Anna Jane and son, Maurice. Lavish parties were held during the
Reed’s early tenure. The guest included not only locals such as the
Allens, Franklins, Haynies, Gardners, Peytons, Kirkpatricks, and
Witherspoons, but notables form New York, as well, including the
Peabodys, brought in by special Pullman car.
The Reeds produced outstanding thoroughbreds while at Fairview,
importing the best stallions and mares from England, Australia, or
from wherever they might be found at whatever price. The long list
of champions bred at Fairview included Dobbins, Sir Francis,
Yorkville Belle, and The Bard, as well as the second rank of
Agitator, Refugee, Peter, and Don Alonzo.
Gallatin became a social mecca , with the glitter of celebrity added
by New York visitors including Pierre Lorillard, W. C. Whitney , and
August Belmont. The area around Fairview became studded with a
number of tracks and some of the best examples of thoroughbred farms
of the Tennessee Bluegrass Region, including Kennesaw, Avondale,
Foxland Hall and St. Blaise. When St. Blaise himself, the most
famous stallion of the time, arrived at Peytona siding, a crowd
gathered to watch $100,000 of horseflesh arrive at his new home.
Then, the old gambler’s luck turned. Five of his eight children
died, his “fast” daughter ran off to Paris to pursue a stage career,
and son Maurice, whose only job skill was writing tip sheets on the
races when in England, was caught juggling the accounts at Fairview.
Octavia, her mother’s favorite and an accomplished pianist, died in
1893, the fine piano was locked, and the formal parlors were seldom
opened thereafter. Anne Jane became an invalid from a kick in the
back from a two-year-old colt, and now too frail to ride, got about
the place driving a mule hitched to a buckboard, wearing a Mother
Hubbard dress and a sunbonnet. St. Blaise brought $2,500 a stand,
but his foals disappointed, and the $100,000 stallion ultimately was
sold for $5,000. The Reed’s closed down their place in Saratoga.
In 1902 Reed, now 75, had had enough, and “because of age and desire
for rest and quiet”, sold all his breeding stock and retired form
the horse game. His 127 brood mares and 11 stallions brought only
$76,650. His luck was no better with pigeons, which he tried the
next four years, turning the sale ring into a giant birdhouse and
importing 1,100 from Belgium. He also tried tobacco, as well as
Berkshire hogs, turning Isaac Franklin’s tomb and St. Blaise’s
stable into boar houses. The worms ate most of the tobacco, and the
investment in birds and Berkshires was short lived. The entire place
was sold in 1908 for $75,000, to local buyers who cut it into
tracts, which brought $150,000 within a year.
The Reed era at Fairview was over, but not Reed’s bad luck.
The Reeds returned to New York, to their society friends, many of
whom owed them old debts, the proceeds of which they expected to
live on. Instead, their wealth reduced, they were snubbed, and the
old debts were dishonored. As Margaret Warden relates the story,
“Remembering the kind people in Gallatin, they returned in a few
years, bringing several trunk loads of their last worldly finery.
They bought a modest frame house and about 40 acres on Long Hollow
Pike three miles from town. One payment was all the Reeds could
make. The payments were continued by W.Y.Allen who was one of the
five who had made a large profit on Fairview and the one who
remembered the Reeds in their hour of need, paying their burial
The adventurer who
said his religion was a sack of flour and a load of coal, died April
18, 1914, age 86. Anna Jane survived him nearly three years, cared
for by Maurice and Amelia Christy, a Negro maid who stayed with her
impoverished and ailing mistress out of loyalty and pity, whether
she was paid or not. …
When Maurice was evicted from the little house, he had nowhere to
go, and Mr. and Mrs. Will Witherspoon invited him to spend the night
at their home on Factory Street until he could decide what to do. He
stayed eight years, ‘too lazy to put more coal on the fire’ and
wearing dirty old clothes. He wore a pair of diamond cuff links
which he had Mrs. Witherspoon sew into his shirts. He never offered
to pay his board bill. At his death they (the cufflinks)
disappeared. As always he was an habitual beer drinker, but never
seen drunk. Even the Witherspoons remembered him kindly, as good
looking and gentlemanly, but without character.
So ends the story of Fairview’s picturesque riches to rags
St. Blaise, about 1891
Sources: In compiling this I have drawn heavily from Margaret
Lindsey Warner’s fine little book, The Saga of Fairvue, as well as
from the stories and personal recollections of her good friend and
mine, Ellen Stokes Wemyss, Mistress of Fairvue for the 63 years from
1939-2002. The photos are from her book, except the first of St.
Blaise, the winner of the English Derby, which is from A Pictorial
History of Sumner County, by Walter Durham and James Thomas,
published by The Sumner County Historical Society in 1986. The rest,
including the paintings, places and local lore are accumulated from
the many good days I have enjoyed at Fairvue, as well as from my
father, who grew up on St. Blaise Farm at Peytona.
Paintings: A limited number of unframed Giclee prints are available
of the paintings shown here, in the sizes shown. The oils are on
canvas, are damar varnished, and may be framed without glass, as any
original oil. The watercolors are on 140 lb. cold pressed watercolor
paper and should be framed under glass. Giclees are permanent works
of art and do not fade, as do ordinary prints. The watercolors may
be expected to be colorfast for 100 years, and the oils 25, if not
covered with glass.
Prices and delivery dates may be obtained by contacting Linda Martus,
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