This selfie site begins with what we now know as Oaklands Mansions. What once started as a small two bedroom cabin, built by Dr. James Maney and his wife Sallie Hardy Murfree, quickly evolved into one of the largest plantations in Tennessee and is now the only historic house museum in Murfreesboro. We still have a lot to learn about the residents of this property, both black and white; however, the daily lives of the people who lived here are not the only things that intrigue historians. There is also great interest in discerning the history of the outbuildings and the evolution of the appearance of the house, both inside and out.
With the successful growth of Murfreesboro’s downtown market and residential districts, it is hard to imagine that the Oaklands Mansion once covered 1,500 acres. Oaklands Plantation began when Sallie Murfree Maney inherited 274 acres north of the town of Murfreesboro in 1815, which was named after her father, Colonel Hardee Murfree. To the west of the property was a large spring now known as Maney Spring, which remains a visible and essential part of the property to this day. It was next to this spring that Sallie and her spouse, Dr. James Maney, built their home. The original structure was a two-room brick house constructed circa 1818. The 274 acres originally inherited by Mrs. Maney became the heart of the expanding plantation that would eventually grow to 1,500 acres by the 1860s. The original two-room brick structure would mark the beginning of the elaborate house you see before you today. Over the years, several new additions helped accommodate the growing Maney family. Moreover, what is now Maney Avenue used to be the mansion’s formal driveway that connected the plantation with East Main Street. This amount of acreage provided the land necessary to support the families who lived at Oaklands with cotton, vegetables, and livestock essential to antebellum agriculture.
The Maneys were a prosperous and well-known family. They had political, economic, and social contacts in Tennessee as well as other states that were developing in the United States. James Maney was one of the first doctors in Rutherford County. He received his formal education at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and was a charter member of the Tennessee Medical Association, which was founded in 1830. Maney was a great supporter of education. He served on the Board of Trustees of Bradley Academy and Soule College, which was the first school for women in Rutherford County.
The Maneys focused most of their energy on land holdings and their farming operations. In 1830, they owned 79 slaves. This was a relatively large number for the time in Rutherford County. They relied on slave labor to produce cotton, tobacco, and livestock. These goods were prepared for market and sold. The slaves also tended to the family’s vegetable garden and daily needs.
Middle Tennessee was a prosperous area for plantation owners from 1830 to 1860. New methods for transporting goods allowed for faster movement of agricultural products in greater quantities. The railroad became the most effective and influential of all transportation means. The Maney family took advantage of these new economic tools. The Maney sons, Lewis, David, and Thomas, took advantage of opportunities in land speculation, economic enterprises, factories, and the internal slave trade.
Oaklands remains a pristine example of homes that profited from the slave labor economy of the Antebellum South, but by 1884, the Maneys had sold Oaklands. The last resident left in 1954 and the house subsequently fell into disrepair. After the house was scheduled for demolition, a group of concerned local women mobilized to save the mansion which opened to the public in 1959. 2015 marks the 200th anniversary of the inheritance of the land on which Oaklands was built. Oaklands is a testament to the work of historic preservationists in Murfreesboro. Their work has insured that future generations will be able to come and learn about the history of the plantation and the time in which it flourished.
The selfie site itself, the spring, is a marvelous example of multiple groups using the same landscape over time. Look behind you and you see the mansion. Look to your right (east) and you see where slave cabins, now covered with years of sediment and dirt (which, believe it or not, is the best protection for them) may have been. Look in front of you (north) and you see lands where Native Americans once used the stream as they lived and migrated through the area.
Want more information about Oaklands Mansion? Contact Mary Beth Nevills at firstname.lastname@example.org.
900 North Maney Avenue, Murfreesboro, Tennessee 37130
Phone: (615) 893-0022, Fax: (615) 893-0513
- Oaklands Mansion is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10AM to 4PM and Sundays 1PM to 4PM.
- Admission is $15.00 for adults, $12.00 for seniors and AAA, $6.00 for Children and Students. You can also call Oaklands Mansion for group rates.
For more information you can call (615) 893-0022 or find Oaklands Mansion on Facebook. You can also visit their website at www.oaklandsmuseum.org.