Emily Magid's check to AAHS

Alma McLemore holds the $1 million check that was presented by Emily Magid toward the Williams-Merrill project at 264 Natchez St. Standing to the left behind McLemore and Magid is Calvin Lewhew, who, along with his wife, Marilyn, donated $100,00 toward the project several weeks ago.

The campaign to raise funds toward the purchase and preservation of the historic Williams-Merrill home at 264 Natchez St. received a major boost Tuesday as longtime community advocate and philanthropist Emily Magid presented the project with a $1 million check.

Several people from the community were in attendance for the presentation hosted by the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County, which has partnered with the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County and other community entities to restore the home. Located at the corner of Natchez Street and 11th Avenue South in Franklin, the house was built by Moses Merrill, who had been an enslaved worker in town for more than 40 years.

As Magid handed over the check to Alma McLemore, president of the AAHS, the crowd erupted with applause and exclamations.

“It is to mend, tend and blend an important component of Franklin and Williamson County history,” Magid said of her gift, which came just a few weeks after longtime Franklin residents Calvin and Marilyn LeHew donated $100,000 toward the project.

“Everybody is a part of this,” McLemore said to the crowd. “Emily’s million dollars is going to go a long way. But so are the 25 dollars and the 100 dollars — this is a community effort. We are not stopping here. 

“It’s like a football game, and we are on a quest to win the Super Bowl of preservation on Natchez Street. This is a huge day today.”

In April, the AAHS entered into an option-to-purchase contract for a period of one year with sellers Wilbert and Cassandra Williams Taylor. The goal was to raise $610,000 by next May to purchase the home. The donations from Magid and the LeHews obviously helped the interested parties reach and surpass that amount, and plans are now to have the home restored and operated as a learning and interpretation center for the study of African American history in Middle Tennessee.

The Merrill-Williams house was built in 1881 by Merrill, who was owned by slave trader Charles Merrill of Franklin and Nashville. As Moses Merrill grew older and less able to maintain the residence, he sold it in 1891 to Tom Williams, the son of well-known African American businessman and preacher A.N.C. Williams. The property was listed for sale last fall.