The African American Heritage Society of Williamson County had a goal to raise $600,000 to purchase and preserve the historic Merrill-Williams home at 264 Natchez St. in Franklin. They hoped to reach that goal by May 2022, but thanks to the help of generous donors, they have already surpassed that goal.
Calvin Lehew kicked off the fundraiser with $100,000 donation when plans were first announced to buy and restore the home and on Tuesday, August 24, Emily Magid presented AAHS with a $1 million donation, ensuring the preservation of this historic home. The check was presented in front of the Merrill-Williams home on Natchez Street.
The Merrill-Williams home is one of the oldest historic homes on Natchez. After the Civil War, a former slave by the name of Moses Merrill bought the land and built the house. In 1891, the home was transferred to Tom Williams, a son of Franklin’s first Black business owner.
Now with the money raised, the AAHS has the funding to buy the home and continue with its plans to turn it into a heritage center.
Members of the community, AAHS members, and the Heritage Foundation gathered on Tuesday on the steps of the Merrill-Williams home at 264 Natchez St, which was decorated with a banner and balloons, to celebrate. Alma McLemore, the president of the AAHS, introduced and thanked many who have consistently been involved with the fundraising and preservation of the home.
As Emily Magid presented her check to AAHS, she said it was to “mend, tend and blend an important component of Franklin and Williamson County history.” She then proceeded to give McLemore a check for $1 million. The joy that erupted was indescribable, as all those present cheered happily and a few shed some tears.
“Praise God!” is all McLemore kept shouting as she waved her hands and check in the air, cheering along with the crowd.
“I’m about to pass out,” said McLemore. “I’ve never touched a $1 million check.”
“It’s time for partnership,” said Magid. She and McLemore both stressed that the project is a community effort and anyone can be involved to help make the restoration a success.
The ceremony concluded with the donors releasing balloons.
For more information on how to donate or volunteer, follow the African American Heritage Society page here.