Ghost of Adelicia at the Belmont Mansion

In the heart of Nashville, Tennessee sets the impressive architecture that is Belmont University. Completed in 1850, Belmont started out as the Italian villa home of one Adelicia Hayes Acklen, an aristocratic business woman with all the style and grace of a 19th century socialite. Today, the Belmont Mansion Historical Museum is the focal point of some of Tennessee’s most intriguing ghost haunts as Adelicia is said to continue looking over the employees and students of Belmont University.

Adelicia Hayes grew up in a prominent family and, at the age of 22, married Isaac Franklin, a much more wealthy man with numerous cotton plantations and slave trading to float his lavish accounts. They had four children together, none of which survived passed the age of 12. Adelicia had 6 children with Joseph, but two of them – twin girls – died of scarlet fever. When Mr. Franklin, at 28 years her senior, passed away after 7 years of marriage, Adelicia found herself with about $1 million worth of inheritance, including over 2,000 acres of farmland in Tennessee and 7 cotton plantations in Louisiana.

Three years later, Adelicia became Mrs. Acklen, marrying her second husband, Colonel Joseph A. S. Acklen, an Alabama lawyer (and yes, he signed a prenuptial). Construction began immediately on the Belmont Mansion in Nashville, TN, an antebellum villa that was gloriously adorned to Adelicia’s liking with a conservatory, acres of gardens, an aviary – anything she wanted. Nashville did not have a single park at that time, so she insisted her gardens be opened to the public.

Mr. Acklen fell victim to the raging civil war, and her cotton plantations were under threat. She made secret arrangements with both the Union and Confederate army to save her cotton, surreptitiously transporting the cotton to be sold in England for more than $900,000. Just 3 weeks after the Confederacy surrendered, Ms. Acklen and her 4 children traveled to London to claim the money from the sale.

Adelicia Hayes Acklen wanted to give back, and possessed more wealth than she could ever need, so she had a woman’s college built on the grounds of Belmont Mansion.

Adelicia would marry again in 1867 to Dr. William Archer Cheatham of Nashville (again, the pre-nuptial was signed). For nearly twenty years of marriage, they lived primarily at the Belmont Mansion before Adelicia left her husband and sold the antebellum home she so adored. She moved to Washington D.C. in 1886 with 3 of her four adult children.

When selling the Belmont Mansion, it was agreed that the college for women would continue. Adelicia left plenty of funding behind to ensure just that, and today Belmont Mansion is just one department of the extraordinary Belmont University. It is the largest Christian university and the second largest private school in all of Tennessee.

Adelicia died just one year after moving away from Belmont on a shopping trip to New York in 1887. The Belmont Mansion is now the university’s historical museum.

Today, the ghost of Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen Cheatham is said to walk the halls, guiding the employees and taking care of the students, and the Belmont Mansion.

The ghost of Adelicia has been seen in all parts of Belmont Mansion, roaming the halls and going about her business. Clad in an 1800’s antebellum gown, Adelicia is said to have appeared in full, solid form to a museum guide to inform them that the furniture in one of the bedrooms was not arranged properly. She sets of motion detectors in the museum at night on a fairly regular basis.

Many believe that Adelicia suffered so much loss in her lifetime – one fiance, two husbands and 6 children having passed before her – that she feels the need to take care of the Belmont and those who work within its walls.


  • Courtney Mroch

    SWEET! Now this one truly is smack dab in my neck of the woods. Maybe 20 minutes away. (If even that?) Funny you wrote about it. I was planning on heading over there to get some pics. I’ll be sure to ref your blog when I post about it.

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