Skip to main content


Special Collections Online at The University of Tennessee

Ellen McClung Berry Papers

Identifier: MS-1313

This collection consists of photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings, correspondence, and other materials relating to Ellen McClung Berry. The photograph albums depict her family’s houses, Belcaro, Fairfax, and Berrymount, as well as images from the McClung-Berry Wedding and from the McClung Tower dedication ceremony at the University of Tennessee. The collection includes several brochures, magazine articles, and photographs of several European countries and of historic American buildings. The correspondence features letters written to Berry from all over the world, including from the Monasterio de Santa Paula in Seville, Spain and from the cities of London and Paris. There are a wide variety of newspaper clippings ranging from topics like fashion and home decorating to travel to news about European nobility. Also included are invitations and publications from the Irish Georgian Society and some articles and other items pertaining to author James Reynolds. The collection dates between 1921 and 1985.


  • 1921 July 2-1986 December 25, undated

Conditions Governing Access

Collections are stored offsite, and a minimum of 2 business days are needed to retrieve these items for use. Researchers interested in consulting any of the collections are advised to contact Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in this collection remain with the creator. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library.


1 Linear Feet (1 box)


This collection consists of photographs, newspaper and magazine clippings, correspondence, and other materials relating to Ellen McClung Berry. The collection dates between 1921 and 1985.

Biographical/Historical Note

Ellen Lawson McClung was born to Judge Hugh Lawson and Ella (Gibbins) McClung on November 14, 1893 in Knoxville, Tennessee. She was educated at Charles Coffin Ross's school in Knoxville and later studied at the Ogantz School for Girls in Philadelphia. After being presented as a debutante in 1914, she traveled abroad extensively with her parents. She married coal magnate Thomas Huntingdon Berry on October 18, 1928 in the formal gardens of Belcaro, and the couple had one son, Hugh Lawson McClung Berry, on December 17, 1932.

After Hugh McClung died in 1936, Ellen and her family returned to Belcaro to care for her widowed mother. On February 28, 1951, while the family was taking its annual vacation to Palm Beach, Hugh Berry shot his grandmother (who died of her wounds on March 9, 1951) and father with a shotgun. He also shot a policeman while trying to escape. He was eventually captured, and after a medical examination was ruled insane. His mother believed that his problems had begun when he suffered a head injury three years earlier and agreed to have him committed to a mental health facility in Chicago. Hugh Berry was eventually released and died from pneumonia and complications on December 31, 1963 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

During the 1950s and 1960s, the Berrys involved themselves with a number of historic preservation causes. In late 1951, Ellen became the organizing chairman of the Upper East Tennessee Division of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities and helped to organize the Jefferson County branch of the organization in 1952. In the same year, she assisted the Knoxville chapter of the APTA in purchasing the crumbling Ramsey House. She and her husband also purchased and restored Fairfax (built by Major Lawson Franklin in about 1840). Ellen Berry also donated some of her property to the University of Tennessee in 1965 in order to build a plaza with a fountain and statuary.

In 1977, the Berrys built a smaller home, called Berrymount, to retire to. Ellen's last remaining family, Thomas Berry, died on March 13, 1978, and she retreated to Berrymount with her housekeeper and companion Dan Tondevold. Tondevold, who bore a remarkable resemblance to the Berrys' late son, claimed to be from Denmark and moved into Berrymount's guest house after Thomas Berry's death under the pretext of writing a book. He eventually took over the management of the estate and was granted power of attorney in April 1982. Using his position and influence, he stole the majority of Ellen's savings and belongings. A body believed to be his (but never positively identified) was found shortly after the crime was committed, but many believe that Tondevold is still living in Europe, the Caribbean, or South America. Ellen Berry moved into a small apartment in Jefferson City, where she lived modestly on the proceeds of the land she had donated to the University of Tennessee. She died on April 18, 1992 at 98 years of age.


This collection consists of a single box.

Acquisition Note

Ellen McClung Berry donated these papers to the University of Tennessee Libraries, Knoxville, Special Collections in 1985.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA