John Armfield
Outfitted Co. A 35th Tennessee

Submitted by Greg Curtis

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1797-1871

     John Armfield,  descended from North Carolina Quakers who were Loyalists during the American Revolution. While still a boy, Armfield ran away from home, vowing not to return until he had acquired more wealth than his father, Nathan Armfield. In the 1830s, Armfield fulfilled his vow.

    In 1831 Armfield courted and married Franklin's niece, Martha Franklin. A rich man when he retired in 1845, Armfield soon acquired social acceptance and began investing in Tennessee real estate. About 1850 he visited Beersheba Springs, a resort on Broad Mountain in Grundy County. Taken by the beauty of the springs and the possibility for development, Armfield purchased several hundred acres in 1854 and began renovations on the hotel. With its neo-classical facade, two-story galleries, and white columns, the hotel opened in May 1856 and inaugurated the glorious era of Beersheba--and Armfield's success as host and entrepreneur. Armfield also erected a saw mill, a brick kiln, a grist mill, and a tannery, remnants of which survive. An Episcopal supporter of the proposed University of the South, Armfield built cottages at Beersheba for Bishops James H. Otey and Leonidas Polk in 1859. Both houses still stand, along with the hotel and twelve other structures. During the war  Armfield helped supply Co. A of the 35th Tennessee. His hotel and surrounding buildings were visited frequently by Union and Confederate soldiers.

    Armfield died childless in 1871, his fortune diminished by the Civil War. He is buried in the little private cemetery on Armfield Avenue across the road from his Beersheba home on the bluff.


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