(Above) Dr. Jonathan Bachman, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, at his desk.
My friend invited me to the Memorial Day celebrations at McCoy Farm & Gardens on Walden’s Ridge. I heard the home there has a storied history. Can you tell me more?
You’ve heard correctly! While the McCoy Farm & Gardens is now used for both public and private events, including the popular Memorial Day weekend, when more than 1,000 people gather together for a picnic and tribute to our veterans, the property was once a residence of Senator Nathan Lynn Bachman, his wife, Pearl, and his daughter, Martha McCoy. A more detailed history of the family and their estate dates back to the Civil War.
Dr. Jonathan Bachman of Sullivan County, Tennessee, entered the Civil War as a private in the 19th Tennessee, later serving under Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. In 1864, he became a chaplain, laying the foundation for his tenure as pastor of Chattanooga’s First Presbyterian Church. For over half a century, Dr. Bachman ministered to the masses, including the sick during the yellow fever epidemic of 1878 – the same year his son, Nathan, was born. When he died at age 86, just one year after being named pastor emeritus at First Presbyterian, the loss was felt throughout the community; 5,000 people attended his funeral.
A graduate of Baylor School, Nathan left Chattanooga around the turn of the century to earn his law degree from the University of Virginia, returning in 1903 to set up a law practice. He married Pearl McMannen Duke in 1904, and the couple had one daughter – Martha. The Bachmans acquired prime real estate on Walden’s Ridge in 1912 and built the distinctive and stately main house of the now-branded McCoy Farm & Gardens. The Bachmans filled the property with flower and vegetable gardens and shared the produce with neighbors. Martha, who was known to ride her horse all over the mountain, was especially fond of the property.
Nathan’s appointment to the United States Senate, which occurred in 1933, was the culmination of his prestigious law career. Although his job often took him to Washington, Senator Bachman continued to receive visitors at his mountain home whenever he was in town. Close friends of the family also helped to care for the property, particularly the gardens, in Senator Bachman’s absence. In 1937, Senator Bachman’s untimely death of a heart attack – he was 58 – was a shock to many. His funeral, held at First Presbyterian Church, was attended by influential senators, a future United States president, and mountain friends alike.
To care for her mother after the death of her father, Martha returned to the 38-acre homeplace with her husband, attorney Tom McCoy, and daughter, Sally. Martha lived there until her own death in 2004. Before her passing, she arranged for the historic home and grounds to be acquired by the Town of Walden, part by purchase and part by gift. Renovations to the main house, blacksmith shop, and carriage house have been made in the subsequent years. The property opened to the public in 2015.
Martha McCoy wanted her family home to benefit and be enjoyed by local residents, and thanks to her generosity, McCoy Farm & Gardens will continue to serve the Walden’s Ridge community for years to come.
Hope this helps!
Resident History Hound