The History of Hazel Path


Daniel Smith Donelson built Hazel Path Mansion in 1857. The brick was made on the site and stone was quarried nearby. The original home consisted of nine rooms in the main structure. The foundation and side steps are stone which were hand hewn. The fireplaces were coal burning and the large doors are painted to resemble mahogany. The downstairs floors are oak and the upstairs floors are poplar.

The crystal chandeliers were imported from Paris in 1850. The light fixtures, now converted to electricity, were gas burning. The other buildings on the property once housed the kitchen, well, smoke house, ice house and slave quarters. The massive front staircase was built in the 1890’s by the Pullman Company which made stage coaches and carriages.


Daniel Smith Donelson was the grandson of Daniel Smith who built Rock Castle and was one of the first settlers in this area. He was also the nephew of President Andrew Jackson. Daniel Smith Donelson was a graduate of West Point and attained the rank of brigadier general in the Tennessee Militia in 1829. In the Confederate Army he attained the rank of Major General. General Donelson selected the site of Fort Donelson in West Tennessee, but was not present at the battle for the fort. He died while in command of The Department of East Tennessee and is buried at the Presbyterian Cemetery located 600 meters west of Hazel Path on Gallatin Road.


Problems beset the Donelson family when General Donelson died in 1863 during Civil War. Hazel Path was confiscated by the Union Army and occupied during the period that Tennessee was placed under martial law and Andrew Johnson was designated as Governor. In 1865 after the Civil War had ended Mrs. Margaret Branch Donelson returned to find the farm occupied. Andrew Johnson remembered a kindness to a small boy many years ago from Governor Branch of North Carolina, the father of Mrs. Donelson. When President Johnson learned that Mrs. Donelson was the daughter of Governor Branch he ordered the Union troops to vacate Hazel Path and returned the home to the Donelson family. Margaret Branch died a few years later in 1871.

The house and 254 acres of land were sold to Judge John Kincaide in 1870 while Daniel's estate was being settled. Judge Kincaide lived at the plantation with his daughter Mary Ann Weisiger and her husband Joseph and their children. When he died in 1872 he left the property to his daughter in his will. 

In 1886 nearby Rock Castle was owned by Harry Smith, another grandson of General Daniel Smith and cousin of Daniel Smith Donelson. He lived at Rock Castle with his family which included his daughter Nannie Smith Berry, her husband, Horatio Berry, and their three children. Harry Smith purchased Hazel Path and 121 acres from the Weisiger family for his daughter, Nannie, and her family. 


After moving to Hazel Path, Horatio and Nannie Berry acquired adjacent land. Hazel Path became a large farm of more than 3,800 acres. Horatio Berry’s interests were mostly in livestock, mules, cattle and hogs. His operations were on a larger scale that many other farmers. At the turn of the century the plantation produced 2,000 hams per year as well as other farm products which were distributed throughout the country. Horatio Berry died on February 24, 1908 at the age of 57. The obituary in the Nashville Tennessean of the following day indicated that the Berrys had purchased a great deal of land making the plantation one of the largest in the state. At one point Horatio and Nannie Berry owned Hazel Path Mansion, Rock Castle, Tulip Grove Mansion and the Bradford-Berry House.


Nannie Smith Berry continued to reside at Hazel Path with some of her children. She died at the age of 100 in 1961. After her death, Hazel Path continued to be occupied by one or more of the Berry children until the death of Sarah Berry in 1978. Hazel Path and the surrounding property was then sold for commercial development.


Hazel Path was restored to its original condition in the early 1980’s by Harvey and Linda Gardner. The house is on the National Register of Historic Homes. Louis Oliver and James Fuqua, both local attorneys, purchased Hazel Path in 1992. The present owners are dedicated to preserving the historic structure as well as sharing this piece of Tennessee History with others. The mansion is available for weddings and other events.