As a historic site known for its serene beauty and romantic charm, Cheekwood is a popular destination for couples. Recognized as one of Nashville’s best places for a wedding reception, the grounds and historic mansion frequently serve as backdrop for weddings, marriage proposals and dates. Love is all around! The beginning of the Cheekwood story is also one of love, dating to the late 19th century. Leslie Cheek and Mabel Wood, the namesakes and owners of Cheekwood, met on a Nashville-bound train from New York. Their love story is part of Cheekwood’s story, and we are fortunate to have an excerpt from Leslie Cheek, Jr., son of Leslie and Mabel, that provides a tale of two sweethearts destined to find love on a train.
“On a trip back from New York, Mabel Wood made a stop in Guthrie, KY, to see who she knew. There, at Guthrie, Leslie Cheek noticed Mabel and sought out to find her name and destination. He gave the conductor a box of cigars to find out who she was, which failed. Then Leslie met John Clemens, a friend of Mabel, who offered to introduce the two during the trip, but Leslie refused, saying he preferred to have it done at the lady’s house. Several days later, at her home in Clarksville, TN, Mabel watched from the upstairs window of her home as John Clemens and Leslie Cheek approached, and she was pleased with the size, appearance, and youth of Leslie Cheek. Clemens told of Leslie’s interest and of his trip from Nashville just for the occasion; so they went to church together. For eighteen months Leslie sent “Mitchell’s” candy every Tuesday, fruit or a book every Thursday, and flowers every Sunday. On October 3, 1896, Mabel Wood married Leslie Cheek at the Methodist Church in Clarksville, in a dress of ivory satin and with a bouquet of white rose buds and lilies of the valley.”
Paraphrased by Leslie Cheek, Jr. Excerpt from “Notes on the Warfield and Wood Families (Assembled by Leslie Cheek, Jr., April-May, 1982, in Richmond, Virginia)”
Following their nuptials, the new Mr. and Mrs. Cheek settled in Nashville. The family expanded with the birth of their two children, Leslie Jr., and Huldah, as well as many family pets. While Mabel spent much of her time raising the children and planning exotic family trips across the world, Leslie worked for his family company, C.T. Cheek & Sons—the largest wholesale grocery distribution conglomerate in the South East region of the United States. Another local Cheek family company, the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company, was having great success with their signature Maxwell House blend, and so Leslie Cheek later invested in the company. With the sale of Cheek-Neal to Postum in 1928, as an investor, Leslie’s fortune quickly expanded, likely also expanding the plans for what was to become Cheekwood. The rest, as they say, is history.