|Newsom’s Mill and Newsom Cemeteries
Newsom’s Mill and Newsom Station, a short distance from Bellevue off Highway 70, takes you back in time to the early settlement of Bellevue and treats you to the Mill’s rich history and Bellevue railroads. The historic site is part of six different sites of the Harpeth River State Park and is easily accessible. Guided tours with State Park officials can be reserved by calling 615-952-2099.
The original mill, which was one of the first in our country to have its mill works inside a housed structure, was built by William B. Newsom in the late 1700s. The original mill was destroyed by flood in 1808 and was rebuilt up-stream from the original location. William and his family came to America from England after“Conflict with the Church of England” and settled briefly in Virginia. At the time, America was encouraging immigrants and William Newsom was granted 550 acres in the western territories as a reward for bringing eleven family members to America. William’s son, Joseph M. Newsom, eventually assumed ownership of the mill and constructed the current turbine-powered grist mill in 1862 of hand-dressed limestone cut from Newsom’s Quarry, a mile south.
The Newsom’s were millers, millwrights, and farmers, and proceeded to build grist mills and saw mills for themselves and others on the Harpeth River and its tributaries. Eventually, their mechanical talents turned to quarrying limestone and selling dressed building stone and crushed rock. The side-shot water wheel was later replaced by two turbines. The mill soon became the hub of a busy community called Newsom’s Station and included the mill and farms of the Newsom family as well as a post office, commissary, distillery, and train depot.
While many opposed the coming of the railroad, Joseph Newsom recognized an opportunity and granted the Nashville & Northwestern Railroad right of way through his property. The Newsom family and Newsom’s Station prospered through the 1850s, but the Civil War took a huge toll on the family and the community. Joseph’s son fought for the Confederacy while Joseph was forced to sign an oath of allegiance to the Union. The Nashville and Northwestern Railroad was seized by Union forces and the Newsom family homes and properties were ransacked by Union troops. Joseph’s brother, Col. James Newsom died in 1863, followed by the death of Joseph and his younger brother, David Newsom, in 1864.
After the war, with the railroad on the brink of bankruptcy and Confederate bonds worthless, much of the Newsom property was sold to pay debts and finance rebuilding. In 1868, Dr. Bellefield Carter Newsom, the only son of Joseph’s brother Col. James Newsom, was shot and killed on the train from Nashville to Bellevue Station. Young Newsom had completed his medical training and opened an office in Bellevue Station only days before his death. Joseph’s widow, Martha, was able to maintain much of her husband’s property and lived at the homestead until her death in 1892.
The property, including the house, mill, and quarry, was purchased by James Ezell in 1905 and renovations were undertaken. Quarrying and selling limestone continued to be profitable throughout the early 1900s and the quarries provided so much of the stone used locally in buildings and bridges that the railroad ran special freight trains to pick up Newsom stone. About 1928, a fire destroyed the Ezell quarry’s buildings and equipment. James retired rather than rebuild and died a few years later and his widow moved away.
Three Newsom Cemeteries are being surveyed, preserved, and maintained as part of the Bellevue Cemetery Project, a project of the Bellevue History & Genealogy Group. The surnames of those buried in these three cemeteries are listed below. Call Bob Allen at 615-218-4580 if you would like to volunteer to help clean-up and maintain these cemeteries or other historic cemeteries in the greater Bellevue area.