German House

When John B. McEwen bought the Cary Harris property around 1842 the land surrounding the house consisted of some eleven acres which must have covered much of what is now Fair Street and spread into fields to the north. Most of the land lying on either side of the McEwen house was in lawns and gardens.

It was the custom of John B. and Cynthia Graham McEwen to give each of their children home as they married. Accordingly, when their daughter, Frances Adelicia, married Dr. Daniel German on January 14, 1869, they began to make plans for their bridal gift to her.

The new house, built on the east end of the McEwen's yard, was connected to the parents' home by a walk bordered with flowers and shrubs. This intervening space was shady and cool, with the fragrance of magnolias and old-time boxwood scenting the summer air. It was also hallowed ground, for one of two Confederate soldiers who died of wounds in the McEwen house after the battle of Franklin was buried here under a May apple tree.

The house was started soon after Dr. and Mrs. German married, but it was still unfinished on February 8, 1871, when it was deeded to Adelicia German by John B. McEwen out of means of his wife and at her request and for the natural love he and she have for their daughter, Addie… Mr. McEwen described the property as being on the following lots in the town of Franklin, near two acres on Fair Street, running "to the corner of the lot in which I live" and known in the plan of the town of Franklin as lots 39, 40, 46 and 47. It was to be valued when the improvements are completed at twelve thousand dollars. The property was to be Adelicia German's her lifetime and then, should she die before her husband, it was to be his while he lived and at his death, it would pass to their children.

Both Daniel and Adelicia German were descendants of pioneer families in Williamson County. The McEwens came here when the area was nothing but wilderness and the Germans came soon afterward. Dr. German, a son of Daniel and Elizabeth Rounsaville German, graduated in medicine from the University of Pennsylvania. He served in the Eleventh Tennessee Infantry in the Confederate army until he was transferred to Roddy's Division in the cavalry of North Carolina where he served as chief-surgeon. He returned to Franklin after the war and continued the practice of medicine until his death in 1911.

Adelicia German always enjoyed a lively interest in local history. She was a teenage girl in her father's home at the time of the battle of Franklin. The next morning in company with her sisters she walked over the battlefield while it was still untouched by burial details. The girls carried buckets of water to dip out to the wounded and toward this effort, Adelicia stooped down to offer a drink to a soldier who was sitting in a crouched position with his gun across his knees. She had the cup to his lips before she realized he was dead. For many weeks afterward Adelicia, her mother, her sisters, and the servants nursed sick and wounded soldiers in the McEwen home.

Mrs. German's recollections of Franklin in the war days are extremely valuable. Written under the name of 'Frances' they give a schoolgirl's viewpoint of those exciting times. Her writings later covered other subjects equally as interesting.

Mrs. German's concern with the preservation of local history covered many different phases. Some fifty years ago she and Mrs. Freeman Jordan Hyde located the graves and copied the inscriptions of many Revolutionary soldiers buried in Williamson County. These two ladies also made a careful listing of inscriptions on tombstones in Old City Cemetery and Rest Haven in Franklin. They found that many stones were broken or faded beyond reading even then. Of course, the damage is much more extensive now with new losses occurring every year. Graham German Webb inherited her mother's love of history. Her collection of material on the McEwen, Goff, and German families is a treasure of inestimable value.

The German house was built of brick in the sturdy Victorian style of post-war architecture, with the customary large rooms, high ceilings, and handsome stairway. At one time on the south side a porch, ornamented with banisters and arched trim, covered both the front door and the two front windows to the right of it. The east porch had banisters but otherwise appeared very similar to the way it looks today.

After Mr. and Mrs. McEwen died the beautiful lots between the two family homes were sold and the trees and shrubs were cut. Today several buildings occupy that space; the home of the late Dr. and Mrs. Richard German was sold and dismantled in 1976. The McEwen fields to the north are now all commercial property. The McEwen house is owned by Gilbert Merritt.

When Mrs. German died in 1942 her home, passed to her children - Dr. Dan German, Dr. Richard German, Alice G. Green, Graham G. Webb, and Horace German. After the latter's death in 1967, the German heirs sold the home place to the War Memorial Public Library on April 30, 1948. The house was used as a library from that time, but after twenty-five years increased growth in the use of the library, it was obvious the house could not continue many more years as the facility for which it had been purchased.

Through the dedicated efforts of numerous Friends of the Library, members of County Court were made aware of the great need for a new building and a resolution promising funds for such a purpose was voted at the July term of Court in 1976. The German house was then sold in November of that year to the Heritage Foundation of Franklin and Williamson County. In their continuing efforts to preserve local historic buildings members of the Foundation plan to restore the house and ensure its well being to future generations.

There are two plaques on the east wall of the German house. In 1910, a tablet honoring Commodore Matthew Fontaine Maury was placed on the front of the old Grammar School at Five Points by the Old Glory Chapter of the American Revolution. In 1911 a similar tablet honoring Bishop James H. Otey and the Reverend Gideon Blackburn was placed on the opposite side of the front door of the school by the DAR. When the Grammar School burned on January 13, 1962, the familiar plaques were saved and were placed on the wall of the Library building.

Virginia McDaniel Bowman
November 10, 1976