To know the history of Spring Haven is to know some of the roots of Tennessee and Sumner County. Let’s begin the story with the earliest settlers to the area.
Then a part of North Carolina, 640 acres of the land where Spring Haven is located was given in 1786 to Henry Turney, one of the very first settlers of Fort Nashborough in 1780.He did notbuild on the land. As the surrounding area was being settled, a surveyor named Daniel Smith (Rock Castle), assisted by James Sanders, were sent to this area to survey and they eventually defined the boundaries of Tennessee. This was a difficult job. Native American Indians were in the area, and the land was almost entirely undeveloped. As payment for their work, Smith and Sanders were given land in what is now Hendersonville, TN.
Once settled in the area, James Sanders became well known in what is now Sumner County. He was a wealthy landowner, a friend of Andrew Jackson, and founder of Sanders Ferry that would later bring cotton and tobacco across the river from the Hermitage. Several members of the Sanders family settled here at that time. James Sanders brother, Edward, purchased 200 acres from Henry Turney and was the first person who lived on the land now called Spring Haven.
In 1800, Edward Sanders married Lockey Trigg, the daughter of a wealthy banker. He purchased 240 acres of land, and it is presumed that the log cabin on the grounds of Spring Haven was built at that time. While living in the cabin, Edward was able to increase the land from 200 acres to 1365 acres by 1816. He purchased another tract of land from William Henderson in 1817 which included the town’s only store, post office and mill. He literally bought what is now the city of Hendersonville.
In 1818, Edward Sanders eldest daughter Mary “Polly” Mosley Sanders married a doctor John P. Wagnon. It is believed that Wagnon fell in love with Mary when her father was ill and Wagnon was caring for him. Once married, Wagnon purchased some of the land owned by Sanders and built the six-room structure that is now called “Spring Haven”. When the main house was built, there was a depression, so the property was called “Hard Times” until around 1855. That name can still be found in history books and on maps from that period.
John P. Wagnon was Andrew Jackson’s doctor and friend. There are stories about when Jackson spent time at Spring Haven. These stories include accounts of several items found on the grounds at Spring Haven including: pigeon notes written by Andrew to the doctor, and a poster introducing a political speech by Andrew Jackson on the grounds of Hard Times.
Many items in the house mimic the original structure and décor of the Hermitage. The two homes were built at virtually the same time. A large part of the trade business was done in New Orleans, and residents would have to travel for weeks to get items inthat area. This is true of the original structure of Spring Haven as well as many of the items purchased in the 1840’s. It would take weeks to get to New Orleans, so, it makes since that many of these items were purchased for several of the homes in the area and brought back at the same time.
By 1849, John Armfield was the owner of Spring Haven. Before purchasing the property he was partner with Isaac Franklin who owned Fairview, a nearby plantation. Both became very wealthy in the trade business, primarily the slave trading business. They gave up trading and became planters in the 1830’s when both men settled down with their wives. Armfield married Franklin’s niece and became a part of the family and Franklin married Adelicia Hays. Adelica would later move to Nashville, marry John Acklen and build Belmont Mansion.
When John Armfield purchased Hard Times in 1849, he made considerable improvements to the property including the springhouse, sheep house and a barn, once called the finest barn ever built. He occupied the estate for six years, working to settle the Franklin estate, closing all business dealings and debts and making certain that all lawsuits were settled.
At that time, Armfield discovered Beersheba Springs, TN and fell in love with the area. Apparently, the sulfur mineral water and cool mountain air offered him what he needed for comfort.
He bought that community and made it a prominent resort area bringing in skilled chefs and musicians from New Orleans. Armfield is also a significant figure in starting Sewanee.
Armfield sold Spring Haven to a Mr. Edwards while in Louisiana. He told him of the great climate and beautiful rolling hills. The Edwards family moved to Spring Havenand lived on the estate longer than any other family from 1855 to 1904. It is the Edwards family that survived the Civil War in the house. History tells of a troop of Union soldiers who were marching an older confederate man and prodding him with a bayonet in front of the house. A southern general was hiding inside the house and shot at a Union soldier. With that the Union troops rode through the house, hacking the lower half of the stair rail down and riding out the back door. There is a mark in the stair rail where it has been replaced sometime in the 1800’s.
It is believed that the Edwards family changed the name from Hard Times to Brook Haven sometime while living here, as there were two springs or brooks on the grounds.
We will conclude the history with the end of the 1800’s. But it is important to note that it was not until the 1920 that Spring Haven acquired its current name. The property has continued to have a rich history that we are happy to share with interested parties.