Harriett Virginia Overton

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Harriett Virginia Overton (Maxwell)

Birthdate: (68)
Birthplace: Nashville, TN
Death: Died in Nashville, TN, USA
Place of Burial: Mount Olivet Cemetery Nashville Davidson County Tennessee, USA
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Jesse Maxwell and Martha Ravenscroft Maxwell
Wife of John Overton, Jr.
Mother of Martha Dickinson; Jackson May Overton; Elizabeth Ewing and Jesse Maxwell Overton
Sister of Anne Armstrong Claiborne and Anne Armstrong Claiborne

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Harriett Virginia Overton

See: Courage for Living featuring Harriet Virginia Maxwell Overton by Thomas Lee Clark http://www.publishedbywestview.com/ClarkT.html

Maxwell House Coffee

If you're a Maxwell, how many times has it happened to you? You introduce yourself to someone and hear: “Are you related to the coffee people?” If you’ve wondered who those “coffee people” are, the answer might surprise you.

Maxwell House Coffee is actually named for a hotel, the Maxwell House, in Nashville, Tennessee. The hotel was named for Harriet Maxwell, wife of its builder, Colonel John Overton, Jr., and it was thought to be so opulant for a city of only 16,986 that it was popularly known as “Overton’s Folly” when construction began in 1856. Work on the hotel was halted by the Civil War, and Union forces used the unfinished building to house their prisoners.

During the Civil War, Harriet managed the plantation in her husband's absence. Given that she lived halfway between the Yankee lines (technically within them) and the Confederate lines, her life was difficult.

One can imagine how she felt:

"In 1895, the Overtons invited William Howard Taft of Ohio to dinner. Taft was a federal judge in the Sixth Circuit Court and often held court in Nashville. In the dining room he noticed a Confederate flag on the wall and, in jest, asked what country’s flag it was. Harriet Overton replied it was her country’s flag. After dinner, as Taft was leaving, Harriet handed him one of the many cannon balls found on the property after the Battle of Nashville and said, “You sent it to us hot; I return it to you cold.”

Nine years later, Taft was elected president of the United States.


After the war, the Maxwell House was completed and became one of the best known hotels in the United States, serving as a social mecca for more than 100 years. Presidents who stayed at the Maxwell House included Rutherford B. Hayes, William Henry Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. And the hotel’s celebrity guest list included countless other notables such as Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Caruso, Sarah Bernhardt, Buffalo Bill, and Tom Thumb.

While staying at the Maxwell House Hotel, President Theodore Roosevelt enjoyed the “house blend” of coffee so much that he raved about it being “good to the last drop.” The Check-Neal Company, which supplied the hotel’s coffee, wisely saw a good marketing opportunity. They began packaging and selling the hotel's house blend as Maxwell House Coffee, using President Roosevelt’s remark in its advertising. Both the coffee and the slogan caught on with the American public, and Maxwell House Coffee is still a standard on grocery shelves throughout the land.

The old hotel was destroyed by fire in 1961, though its name lives on in the Regal Maxwell House Hotel at a different location in Nashville. And, of course, the name lives on in Maxwell House Coffee, which is still advertised as “Good to the Last Drop.”

John and Harriet Maxwell Overton's home, Traveller's Rest, became the Headquarters for Confederate Army of Tennessee commanding General, John Bell Hood, prior to the battle of Nashville in Dec. 1864.

Maxwell House Hotel

From Wikipedia

The Maxwell House Hotel was a major hotel in downtown Nashville at which seven US Presidents and other prominent guests stayed. It was built by Colonel John Overton Jr. and named for his wife, Harriet Maxwell Overton. The architect was Isaiah Rogers.

Construction began in 1859 using slave labor.[2] During the Civil War, the unfinished building was used as a barracks, prison, and hospital.[1][2] In September 1863, several Confederate prisoners were killed when a staircase collapsed.[3] The hotel was also said to be haunted by a Southern belle and two brothers who had been assigned as guards during the war, one of whom had killed the other and the girl in a jealous rage and was then killed by the collapse of the staircase while transporting the bodies.[4] The first national meeting of the Ku Klux Klan took place at the hotel in April 1867.

What local citizens called "Overton's Folly"[3] finally opened in fall 1869; total costs were $500,000.[1] The Maxwell House was Nashville's largest hotel, with five stories and 240 rooms. It advertized steam heat, gas lighting, and a bath on every floor. Rooms cost $4 a day, including meals.[1] Located on the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue North and Church Street, the hotel had its front entrance, flanked by eight Corinthian columns, on Fourth Avenue in the "Men's Quarter" and a separate entrance for women on Church Street. The main lobby featured mahogany cabinetry, brass fixtures, gilded mirrors, and chandeliers. There were ladies' and men's parlors, billiard rooms, barrooms, shaving "saloons," and a grand staircase to the large ball or dining room.[1]

The hotel was at its height from the 1890s to the early twentieth century. Its Christmas dinner featuring calf's head, black bear, opossum, and other unusual delicacies became famous. Hotel guests included Jane Addams, Sarah Bernhardt, William Jennings Bryan, Enrico Caruso,[3] "Buffalo Bill" Cody, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Annie Oakley, William Sydney Porter (O. Henry),[7] General Tom Thumb, Cornelius Vanderbilt, George Westinghouse,[1] and Presidents Andrew Johnson, Rutherford Hayes, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson.[2] Roosevelt's comment that a cup of coffee he drank was "good to the last drop" was used as the advertising slogan for Maxwell House coffee, which was served at and named after the hotel.

After some years as a residential hotel, the Maxwell House Hotel was destroyed by fire on Christmas night 1961.


The Maxwell House Hotel, which once stood at the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue, North, and Church Street in downtown Nashville, was for years the center of Nashville's social and political life. Colonel John Overton Jr. built the hotel named for his wife, Harriet Maxwell Overton. Construction of the Maxwell House, designed by Isaiah Rogers, began in 1859 using slave labor. During the Civil War, the partially finished brick building served as both barracks and prison hospital for the occupying Union army.

After the war Overton resumed construction of what became Nashville's largest hotel, which local citizens initially called "Overton's Folly." Opening in the fall of 1869, the five-story, 240-room hotel cost five hundred thousand dollars. The Maxwell House advertised steam heat, gas-lighting, and a bath on every floor. Rooms were four dollars a day, meals included. The building fronted on Fourth Avenue and the infamous Men's Quarter; an entrance for women opened onto Church Street. Eight Corinthian columns flanked the main entrance; the elegant main lobby featured mahogany cabinetry, brass fixtures, gilded mirrors, and chandeliers. There were ladies' and men's parlors, billiard rooms, barrooms, shaving "saloons," and a grand staircase to the large ball or dining room.

The heyday of the Maxwell House Hotel was the 1890s to the early twentieth century. The hotel became famous for its Christmas dinner, which featured such delicacies as Calf's Head, Leg of Cumberland Black Bear, and Tennessee Opossum. Seven presidents stayed at the Maxwell House Hotel, including Theodore Roosevelt, whose comment that the coffee was "good to the last drop" launched the advertising slogan used for years to promote the nation's first blended coffee. Other visitors included Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, "Buffalo Bill" Cody, General Tom Thumb, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and George Westinghouse. The Maxwell House burned on Christmas night 1961.

Maxwell House Coffee was named for The Maxwell House, a Nashville hotel that served a special blend created by coffee salesman Joel Cheek starting in 1892.

• The coffee’s motto, according to legend, was credited to President Theodore Roosevelt, who was served a cup on a visit to Nashville in 1907 and said it was “good to the last drop.”

Maxwell House time line

1869 - The Maxwell House, a hotel built by Col. John Overton and named in honor of his wife, Harriet Maxwell, opens in Nashville.

1892 - Coffee salesman Joel Cheek creates and sells the hotel a special blend, becoming known as Maxwell House coffee.

1901 - Cheek and John Neal begin to make Maxwell House coffee in a Nashville plant. The company name soon becomes Cheek-Neal Coffee Co.

1907 - President Theodore Roosevelt, on a visit to Nashville, is served a cup of Maxwell House coffee and legend has it he says it is “good to the last drop.”

1910 - The Cheek-Neal Coffee Co. builds a plant along Bay Street in Jacksonville to produce up to 40,000 pounds of coffee a day. It employs about 30 people.

1924 - A new, larger plant is built near the original building, boosting output to about 70,000 pounds a day and employing about 70 people.

1928 - Postum Co., later named General Foods Corp., buys Cheek-Neal Coffee Co.

1937 - Maxwell House offers two grinds - regular and the new drip grind.

1946 - Instant Maxwell house coffee is introduced nationally.

1954 - A new soluble coffee facility is added to the Maxwell house plant in Jacksonville.

1955 - A 95-foot illuminated sign of “Instant Maxwell House” - with the cup and the drop - is erected out side the building, becoming the largest electrical sign in Jacksonville.

1959 - The iconic “perking pot” television advertising campaign begins.

1967 - A new building is added to the Jacksonville campus to produce its own cans.

1969 - The original 1910 building is demolished.

1989 - Kraft merges with General Foods.

1990 - Jacksonville is chosen over Hoboken, N.J., to consolidate East Coast operations as the community launches the “Keep Max in Jax!” campaign.

2010 - Maxwell House reaches its 100th anniversary in Jacksonville.


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Harriett Virginia Overton's Timeline

Nashville, TN
June 3, 1853
Age 22
Nashville, Davidson County, Tennessee, United States
Age 25
Age 29
July 25, 1863
Age 32
Tennessee, United States
Age 68
Nashville, TN, USA
Mount Olivet Cemetery Nashville Davidson County Tennessee, USA