If you stand in front of stately home Cragfont in Castalian Springs today, it’s almost hard to imagine that the first structure brothers James and George Winchester built on this land in the 1780s was a frontier fort. Fort Tuckahoe became home to families as well as a mill, sawmill and distillery.
A garden based on the original is a highlight of the Cragfont grounds.
By the early 1800s, the grand limestone home that still stands today had been built and occupied, and guests were being entertained on a frequent basis.
The home was furnished with fine carpets and furniture crafted in the Eastern style found in the wealthy homes of Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia. Some of this cherry furniture remains to this day, more visual evidence of a bygone era.
But Cragfont is more than a house and furnishings, which is what many people think of when they think of historic homes.
The story of the people
Among the stories you may hear told at Cragfont are that George Winchester lost his life to the Native Americans he’d helped displace and against whom he warred as a member of the militia; James Winchester was a planner of and investor in cities such as Memphis and the now-gone Cairo; how James’ firstborn son, Marcus, became the first mayor of Memphis; and there’s a connection between Cragfont and nearby Wynnewood since Almira, the daughter of James and Susan Winchester, grew up at Cragfont and then was a wife and mother at Wynnewood.
More than a century and a half after Cragfont was built, the story turns to preservationist Ellen Stokes Wemyss. On Jan. 31, 1952, the Sumner County Chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities (APTA) was established. Under the leadership of Wemyss, the APTA started talking about taking on Cragfont as a project in June 1956 and the need for the Tennessee Historical Commission to purchase and save the property from further deterioration.