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Mary Florence Drouillard

Born in Nashville on August 23, 1843, Mary Florence Kirkman Drouillard was the daughter of Hugh Kirkman and Eleanora C. Vanleer and granddaughter of ironmaster Anthony W. Vanleer and Rebecca Brady. Educated in local private schools, she completed her education at a finishing school in New York City, spending her summers in fashionable Newport, Rhode Island.

After her grandfather's death in 1863, she and her brother Vanleer Kirkman inherited property in Dickson County with assets over five hundred thousand dollars, including Cumberland Furnace and eighty-five slaves. On September 21, 1864, she married Union Captain James Pierre Drouillard, West Point class of 1861, a native of Ohio. The event sent shock waves through Nashville society. None of her friends or family, including her godparents, Aunt Rebecca and Uncle Andrew Jackson Polk, attended the wedding.

After the war the Drouillards moved to Dickson County to reopen the furnace. For Florence Drouillard, however, the old brick ironmaster home lacked grandeur. In 1870 the Drouillards built an Italianate-style residence designed after a similar house in Newport. The mansion was built for entertaining and included a three-story spiral stairway from which Mary Florence could make her grand entrances at the summer parties that brought guests from Nashville and as far away as New Orleans.

Drouillard bought her brother's share of the furnace in 1870 and turned her interest to improving the life of the villagers. She built St. James Episcopal church and a parish school for the white and black children.

In 1886 the Drouillards returned to Nashville, dividing their time between the city and Europe. Mary Florence was welcomed back into the city's society to become one of its most colorful social queens of the late nineteenth century. She died May 19, 1905, and is buried with her husband in the family plot in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Nashville.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » January 01, 2010