PHOTO: (From left to right) Kathy Follin, Jane Coble, Mary Follin Simonsen, Grace Follin, Will Coble (back) Royce Greenlaw Haiman of St. Petersburg, Florida (in green) and Bill Coble with portrait of Fannie Harrell Greenlaw looking over her French wedding China circa 1850s. / Photo courtesy of Rippavilla Plantation
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
Some of the descendants of Nathaniel Frances Cheairs IV – the original owner and resident of the Rippavilla Plantation – came to tour the property Monday after having donated a multitude of items to the historic building for years.
Completed in 1855, what is now known as the Rippavilla Mansion was built as a gift from Cheairs IV’s wife Susan McKissack’s father, William McKissack II. Born in 1818, Cheairs IV had courted and intended to marry McKissack, with one problem – the “Nathaniels” for generations had all married a woman named Sarah, with Cheairs IV’s father going as far as to offer his son $5,000 in gold to find a bride named Sarah.
Undeterred, Cheairs IV’s future was cemented after McKissack II offered to have a home built for the couple using his bricks and slave labor, to which the new couple accepted.
The descendants; Kathy Follin, Jane Coble, Mary Follin Simonsen, Grace Follin, Will Coble, Royce Greenlaw Haiman and Bill Coble, all have a long, storied history with the property, and were pleased to be able to see what the plantation’s staff had managed to do with their donations over the years.
“Rippavilla is a Maury County historical treasure, it merits the support of all who care about preserving the rich history of Middle Tennessee,” Haiman said. “I cherish my family connections to the Cheairs family: Nancy Rush Cheairs married my great-grandfather William Eugene Greenlaw, and Cynthia Cheairs married my great-uncle Alonzo Greenlaw. My cousins’ recent gifts enhance the interior of the home where I played during many visits when I was a child living in Columbia.”
Follin, who resides in Nashville, was also pleased with the condition of the property, and had donated, along with her sisters, numerous family portraits to the estate.
“Rippavilla is a gem among house museums,” Follin said. “My sisters and I are so pleased that our family portraits and decorative china are so beautifully displayed and have become a part of the Cheairs story. We are fully confident that Rippavilla will be a place of education and entertainment for many years and many visitors.”
Rippavilla’s Director of Development, Scott Smith, expressed his gratitude to the family for their continued support and interest in the property. Smith is an avid fan of all things history himself, and said he was more than thrilled to see the plantation’s historic collection continue to grow and be preserved.
“Rippavilla is so pleased to have such wonderful descendants who continue to be so generous to us,” Smith said. “We are so proud of their gifts which help us better illustrate the story of life here in the 19th century. Moreover, the tourists always enjoy learning about what is family in the home, and these breathtaking pieces have created quite a stir. In this particular instance, these family members actually purchased these estate items and donated them to us. We adore our new pieces, but also the steadfast relationship with the Cheairs family which we know will always be the real treasure for Rippavilla.”