This past weekend, while walking to the public library for a meeting of the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society, I passed a historical marker for Sarah Estelle.
The marker reads: “Sarah Estell, a free black woman in the slavery era, ran an ice cream parlor and sweet shop near here. She overcame the many hurdles faced by free persons of color, and her venture thrived. Her catering firm met the banquet needs of the city’s firemen, church socials, and political parties from 1840-1860.” It is located at 217 5th Avenue North in downtown Nashville.
I did some quick research about her and easily enough located her in the 1860 US Census where she is enumerated as having an “eating house.” Her census record also notes she is from NC – I wonder where from? I have research interests in NC so I’ll have to explore that further.
Searching newspaper records at Chronicling America, I found one article notes that General Brigadier Alfred Eugene Jackson paid her 2.00 for “eatables” in 1853
According to the TN State Library, she opened her shop in 1840 and historian Bobby Lovett notes in his book, The African American History of Nashville, TN, 1780-1930, that she “…served food for parties and balls of whites…” (p. 16). In the book Old Days of Nashville, author Jane Thomas notes that Sarah’s ice cream saloon was near McKendree Church, which is in fact right around the corner from the Sarah’s historical marker.
In the 1855 Nashville Business Directory her location is indicated as 39 N. Summer Street.
I’ll have to keep looking and see what else I can learn about Sarah.