About The Columns
The original house was a square brick structure built in the Colonial style and was comprised of eight rooms – four upstairs and four downstairs. It was built by Thomas R. Smith and work was completed on the house in late 1859/early 1860. Mr. Smith only lived in the home for a short time before moving back north (just prior to the outbreak of the war).
The house next became home to Dr. Archer Allen Coleman and his wife, Louisa Neely Coleman. Shortly after moving into the home, the town was occupied by the Union Army and this house was appropriated by the Union Army for use as a hospital. The Colemans lived in the house until 1868.
The house was owned by Albert McNeal (the street where the house sits was later named for him), John Ussery, and then by Dr. Thomas Moore. About 1909, Dr. Moore sold the home to the family with whom it is most closely associated – the George Ingram family. In 1909 George Thomas Ingram and his wife Priscilla bought the house and moved their large family of eight children into the house. Mr. Ingram was a well respected merchant and businessman and was one of the founders of the Bank of Bolivar. The Ingrams made many additions to the house, adding the southwest wing and also adding the beautiful English boxwood gardens.
Three of the Ingram children lived in this house all of their lives – three sisters, Miss Katherine, Miss Zerelda, and Miss Elizabeth. There were three very interesting, very independent, and very Southern ladies. Miss Zerelda was the banker in the family, following in her father’s footsteps. She was one of the first female officers of the bank and worked there for over 50 years, and she also managed the financial affairs for the house and for both of her sisters. She died in 1981 at the age of 94.
Miss Katherine was the educator in the family, and she was the first female superintendent of schools in Hardeman County and was later the first woman elected as president of the Tennessee Education Association. Miss Katherine died in 1983 at the age of 85.
The third sister, and the last surviving member of the Ingram family was Miss Elizabeth. After studying theater and music in New York City, she came back to Bolivar and eventually had a kindergarten in the basement of the house for many years, and taught dance and music. The Ingram School of Childhood taught children manners, morals, dance, art, and French. Miss Elizabeth’s annual recitals were much anticipated and always a highlight of the early summer. Miss Elizabeth was a violinist with the Jackson Symphony for over 40 years, retiring from the symphony at the age of 90. In order for her beloved home to be preserved for future generations, she established the Bolivar Historical and Community Foundation and left the house and property to the foundation at her death in 1995 at the age of 102. The Foundation, through Miss Elizabeth’s generosity, has restored the home and gardens and continues to operate the facility today.
Another sister, Mary, was married to Mr. Hugh Williams of Bolivar, who owned and published The Bolivar Bulletin newspaper for many years. Mary was the society writer for the paper.
The gardens were established by the Ingram family and carefully tended by Miss Elizabeth for many years. The boxwoods in the garden came from an old plantation in Mississippi that was being sold off – Miss Elizabeth and a couple of helpers drove to Mississippi to dig up and bring the boxwoods here to give them another life. Many of the boxwoods are over 100 years old. The arbor has jasmine growing on it and the rose garden has been replanted in the past few years to re-create what Miss Elizabeth had done. The barn and the small playhouse at the very back of the property all belonged to the Ingrams and are left where they would have been when the family lived here.
– Lisa Coleman