Submitted by Greg
Outfitted Co. A 35th Tennessee
on photo for full image
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.
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
His hotel and surrounding buildings were visited frequently by Union
and Confederate soldiers.
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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