What Is the History of the Belle Meade Plantation?

The Belle Meade Plantation is one of Nashville’s best places to visit. It was founded in 1807 after John Harding secured a 250-acre purchase along the Old Natchez Road. At the time, it was about seven miles from the city.

Once Harding had the land, he built it into a 1,200-acre masterpiece. He sold farm products, dressed lumber, and blacksmith services from his property. It would also become one of the most important stud farms in the area.

After about 30 years of management, Harding’s son took over the plantation. He was a general in the state militia, overseeing the property from 1839 to 1883.

The Civil War Caused Changes to the Plantation

Harding “employed” slaves at Belle Meade, which led him to support the Confederacy when the Civil War broke out in the 1860s. Tennessee authorities would arrest him, sending him to jail for six months because of those public actions.

Harding’s wife would manage the estate during that time, which was one of the largest in the state. Belle Meade originally noted that she had 150 persons on the site, although most of them were slaves.

The plantation would become famous after the Civil War because of its Thoroughbred breeding program. Ironically enough, Harding’s son-in-law, Confederate Brigadier General William Hicks Jackson, was responsible for much of this growth.

It Passed Out of the Family in 1903

After General Jackson died in 1903, Belle Meade went outside of the family. After five decades of inattention, Tennessee decided to purchase the house and 24 acres to create a historic site.

The property deed is now under the supervision of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities.

This historical site now has a winery on the grounds. You can also tour the carriage house, see the original stable, and learn more about the slavery that happened at the plantation.

More information is available at