Isaac Franklin (1789-1846)


Isaac Franklin, slave trader and planter, was born in Sumner County, Tennessee on May 26, 1789, the son of James and Mary Lauderdale Franklin.  James Franklin was a Revolutionary War soldier who had received a military land warrant in Tennessee. He was one of the first settlers of Sumner County.

Isaac Franklin served in the War of 1812, and at age eighteen, while working for his brother on a flatboat that ran from Gallatin to New Orleans, he conceived the idea of entering the slave trade. He formed a partnership with his nephew John Armfield to establish a slave trading business that soon came to be regarded as the largest in the South. The firm had offices in Alexandra, Virginia, New Orleans and Forks of the Road in Natchez, Mississippi.   Franklin retired from the business in 1835, but not before it had made him a wealthy man.


Thereafter, Franklin pursued the occupation of planter. He owned hundreds of enslaved people who worked six cotton plantations in West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana of approximately 8,700 acres in addition to Fairvue, a 2,000-acre plantation near Gallatin, Tennessee, where he raised tobacco, cattle, and thoroughbred horses. In 1839, at the age of fifty, the bachelor Franklin married Adelicia Hayes, daughter of Oliver Bliss Hayes, a Nashville Presbyterian minister, lawyer, and noted businessman.


The Franklins spent their summers at Fairvue, away from the oppressive heat and disease of the Deep South, returning to Louisiana when the weather cooled.   They had four children, one of whom died at birth. After seven years of marriage, Isaac died while on the plantation in Louisiana. According to his wishes, the body was returned to Fairvue for burial. His remains were preserved in alcohol for the riverboat trip back to Tennessee. Six weeks later, two of his children, Victoria and Adelicia, also died.  Their last surviving child Emma lived to the age of 11 before dying of Diphtheria at Belmont.    


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Belmont Blvd & Acklen Avenue 

Nashville, TN 37212


1900 Belmont Blvd

Nashville, TN 37212


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The architecture of Belmont Mansion makes it one of the most significant homes of 19th century Tennessee.

Sold by the Acklen family in 1887, the house went to a developer who began one of Nashville’s early suburbs.

It was then purchased by two women who in 1890 started a college which evolved into Belmont University. Today the Belmont Mansion Association, which was formed in 1972, owns the collection, runs the museum, and shares this unique story of 19th century Nashville with visitors from far and near.

Photos by Ed Houk