The lovely old home where William Simmons and his family lived has been called several names by local historians. Located on Seventh Avenue West, it is referred to as the Cheatham House, the French House, and of course the Simmons House.
Richard Cheatham built the original section of the home. He was the descendent of early settlers Archer Cheatham, Jr., and Archer Cheatham, Sr.
In 1798, Archer Cheatham, Jr. had sold the city of Springfield 30 acres of land. Part of the town was laid out on this acreage. He and his father then bought several of the lots, each of which cost $8.
Richard Cheatham built his home on one of those town lots. In 1833, he moved into his new home. It stayed in the Cheatham family until 1878.
At that point, the home was bought by Mrs. Cornelia Benton from Richard Cheatham’s son, Hugh Lawson White Cheatham.
Four years later, the Female Institute and the Methodist Church across the street burned to the ground. The school was moved into the building owned by Mrs. Benton. She ran the school until 1888.
Then the property was purchased by Prof. J.W. Huey, who ran a school there until 1897. At that time, Springfield’s first true public school opened.
Anna Pearson McIntosh told in her journal of training at what she called Robertson County’s Teachers’ Institute. She had already taught in private homes as well as Simmons’ School near Cross Plains.
She described the building as “the Colonial brick residence erected by Colonel Richard Cheatham … surrounded by ancient maple and locust trees.”
A photograph of teachers and adult pupils in front of the Institute is sewn into the journal of Anna P. McIntosh. Included also are several certificates that she received as she was tested for certification to teach.
For example, in 1894, she was certified to teach third grade. She received 10’s (the highest score) in Orthography, English Grammar, Geography, and U.S. History. The certificate was signed by Superintendent J.E. Ruffin.
Sewn onto a journal page also is a letter of recommendation from Prof. Huey. It is dated August 5, 1893. The heading reads “Collegiate Institute/ Open to Both Sexes/ Primary, Secondary, and Collegiate Schools/ J.W. Huey Principal.”
Anna McIntosh wrote about teaching at Wells’ school in 1895-1896. She did not sign a contract for the next year because she married Farmer McIntosh.
She did return to teaching, however. She noted that in 1896-1897 school was not taught in Springfield in a public school format. Money was being used to build the new school on Main Street.
She taught the “Grammar grades at a subscription school.” She noted that Miss Callie Johnson taught the same grades in South Springfield. The high school was taught in Prof. Huey’s building.
William Simmons bought the house from Prof. Huey, who was a relative of Simmons’ wife.
Renovation was done. One wing, for example, was moved and became one of the houses on Seventh Avenue West.
Members of the Simmons family, including grandson J.W. French, enjoyed the home for many years.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.