Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham is most often remembered as a socialite and owner of Belmont Mansion, however she also left a wide impact on the city of Nashville. Born to Oliver Bliss Hayes (1782-1858) and Sarah Hightower Hayes (1796-1871) on March 15, 1817, she was raised in downtown Nashville where she attended the Nashville Female Academy. When she was fifteen, her family moved to Rokeby Farm on the south side of Nashville. After graduation from the Academy she became engaged to Alfonso Gibbs (1813-1834) but he died shortly before their marriage. In 1839 Adelicia married Isaac Franklin (1789-1846) from Sumner County. He died after seven years of marriage leaving an estate worth over $900,000. In 1849 she married Joseph A. S. Acklen (1816-1863) from Huntsville, Alabama. Soon after their marriage they began constructing Belmont, designed to be a pleasure estate of 177 acres with ample gardens, greenhouses, an art gallery and a zoo. Belmont became the showplace of Nashville and was open to the public as a private park and zoo. In 1867 she married for the third time when she wed Nashville physician, Dr. William Archer Cheatham (1820-1900).
Adelicia began much of her charity work for Nashville in the years just before and during the Civil War. She was an initial investor in Nashville’s newest hotel by donating $2,000 to the Maxwell House Hotel. In 1861 she was elected Treasurer for the short lived Ladies Soldier’s Friend Society. Beginning in 1864 she served on the board of the Nashville Refugee Clothing Association, an organization established to support refugees of the war and assist Union women arriving in Nashville in search of their husbands and sons. In 1867 she gave a bell to First Presbyterian Church (now Downtown Presbyterian Church) and purchased $25,000 in city bonds for post-war city redevelopment. She began to work with Nashville’s orphans when was she was elected Vice President of the Davidson County Auxiliary of the Orphans Asylum in Clarksville. She gave a large donation to the Protestant Orphanage in Nashville and remained involved in raising money for orphanages throughout her life in Nashville. During the 1880s, Adelicia served on the Board of Directors for the Working Women Exchange, which helped women working outside the home who had no male family members to provide for them.
In addition to her charitable causes, Adelicia and Joseph were known for amassing Nashville’s first major art collection. She was generous in loaning her collection to various exhibitions including the Southern Industrial Exhibition in 1871; the Nashville Centennial in 1880; and the New Orleans World’s Fair, known as the Cotton Centennial, of 1884-1885. Recognized for her extensive knowledge and love of art, she was appointed by the Governor in 1875 to serve on a committee established to make selections for the Tennessee exhibit at the United States Centennial located in Philadelphia.
Adelicia and three of her adult children left Nashville for Florida in December of 1884 and by the following spring, they moved to Washington D.C. Adelicia lived in Washington until her death in May 1887.