A.N. Eshman, born near Mt. Pleasant, Tennessee, came to Nashville in 1905 from West Point, Mississippi. He was 40 years old, yet he had already served as Huntsville, Alabama’s superintendent of schools and as president of West Point’s Southern Female College. To the SFC campus in 1898 he had drawn a renowned speaker, William Jennings Bryan, who spoke to an audience of 5,000 there. In Nashville, Eshman bought 20 acres on the Nolensville Pike and built a 250-foot-long brick school building on a hill overlooking the pike. Like the SFC, it was a women’s school, which he named Radnor College.
Eshman was a Cumberland Presbyterian minister who, along with other dedicated leaders, fought to save the Cumberland Presbyterian Church from losing its identity after its 1906 merger with the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. Thanks to the efforts of these men, the C. P. Church survived, though greatly diminished in size. A casualty of the merger was the Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, which had operated for many years on Nashville’s Cherry Street (today’s Fourth Avenue). In 1913 the Federal District Court in Nashville granted control of the publishing house to the Presbyterians, U.S.A. At that point Eshman did the work of the C.P. publishing house in his own printing plant on the campus of Radnor College. Cumberland Presbyterian publishing continued there until 1924, on what came to be called “Radnor Terrace” on McClellan Avenue. Today the church building of the Radnor Church of Christ is thought to sit approximately where the old printing plant stood.
For reasons not fully understood today, Eshman closed Radnor College in 1914. No doubt a large factor was the death that May of his wife, Annie Bone Eshman, who had served as treasurer of the school. The rising popularity of co-education must also have contributed to the decision. Other local schools for females closed during this same era: Boscobel College in 1914, Buford College in 1920, Columbia’s Athenaeum college in 1907, and Franklin’s Tennessee Female College in 1913.
After closing the school Eshman converted the main building into apartments and subdivided the acreage into housing lots. He sold lot numbers 24 through 31 to the Board of Trustees of the Cumberland Presbyterian Theological Seminary, who were searching for a permanent location for a ministerial school. The Board did not use the site, however, and the C.P. Church continued to rely on its theological department at Bethel College in McKenzie, Tennessee. If fate had twisted in the other direction, we might today find imposing academic structures along McClellan Avenue and perhaps wrapping around onto Nolensville Pike.