Thanks to The News-Examiner for permission to reprint this article!
Note: All spelling, punctuation, and omissions are as they appeared in the article in the newspaper.
The city of Gallatin, established in 1802, is situated on a
branch of Station Camp Creek about three miles north of the Cumberland River, James Trousdale
was the original owner of the land upon which Gallatin is located.
Other property owners around Gallatin at that time were John Edwards, Samuel Wilson, Benjamin Williams, John Hall, Benjamin Sheppard, Redmond Barry, and Col. Ned Given, one of the surviving colonels of the Revolution.
Sumner County at that time was infested with Indians who carried on their heaviest attacks on the white settlers from 1784 to 1789. Consequently most of the settlers lived in or near one of the forts in the county. Asher's Fort was about two and a half miles southeast of the then unestablished town of Gallatin.
The first permanent water mill for grinding grain was erected by George Winchester on Bledsoe Creek at the crossing of the Nashville and Carthage Turnpike. Soon after the year 1800, Hon. Redmon Barry erected a mill on Station Camp Creek about two or three miles southwest of Gallatin.
In the year 1800 Dr. Redmon Barry first introduced the celebrated Kentucky bluegrass and sowed it on his farm out from Gallatin on the Nashville turnpike. This property later became the property of James Alexander.
The General Assembly of the State of Tennessee by an act passed Nov. 6, 1801 appointed Samuel Wilson, Charles Donoho, and Thomas Murray, commissioners to purchase 40 acres of land and lay out a town for the seat of justice. This town was to be named for the illustrious Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin.
These commissioners were to superintended the sale of lots, the erection of public buildings, et cetera. The act also provided that all general elections should be held at the house of Capt. James Trousdale until the courthouse should be erected and accepted. Accordingly the aforesaid commissioners on the 25th day of February, 1802 purchased from James Trousdale for $490 the original site of the town of Gallatin containing 42 and a half acres including an acre reserved by the grantor and one and a half acres in the public square.
The town was surveyed and plotted and the sale of lots made in the spring of 1802. Andrew Jackson, John C. Hamilton, James Cage, William Montgomery, David Shelby, Robert Trousdale, William Sample, Peter Looney, John Brigance and George Dawson Blakemore were among the purchasers of lots.
Previous to this time Cairo, the largest town and most important shipping point on the Cumberland, made various efforts through the Legislature and otherwise to have Cairo designated as the county seat, and this contest continued for a number of years after the town of Gallatin was established Finally it was settled by an election, Gallatin winning by only one vote.
In 1809, the original site of the city was increased by the purchase of 29 acres of land adjoining it on the east.
The first courthouse was finished to the acceptance of the commissioners in 1803. The courtroom occupied the whole first story and the county offices the second story. This building stood until about 1837 when it was replaced by a larger building. In 1867 it was remodeled and rearranged and stood until replaced in 1940 by the third building, then considered a model structure.
The second court building was not very commanding or attractive by present standards but it was a most historic edifice. Five presidents, either before or after their election, entered its portals. They were Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, and Theodore Roosevelt and every governor of the state except Brownlow. Many others of national renown have visited this old building.
Gallatin is the only town in the state that boasts the honor of having furnished both speakers of the Tennessee Legislature at the same time. Senator William Cantrell Dismukes was speaker of the Senate and Hon. Julius A. Trousdale was speaker of the House.
Gallatin has another honor of which it is justly proud. It has furnished three ambassadors to foreign countries, Hon. William Trousdale to Brazil., Hon. Balie Peyton to Chile, and Hon. Edward Albright to Finland.
There is still another distinction of which the town is proud and one that should be admired by every Tennessean. It was at the time the home of Joseph Smith Fowler, whose vote of "No" in the U. S. Senate prevented the conviction and removal of Andrew Johnson as president of the United State. Who is not proud of Gallatin and old Sumner County?
The first jail was built about the same time and the first courthouse was erected. It stood about 100 yards north of the Female Academy between Main and Franklin Streets. It had a dungeon underneath where some prisoners were kept in total darkness. Mr. John Thomas was the keeper of the jail. It stood until sometime in the 1840s when it was abandoned and a second jail built. The old jail which stood on the location of the old Farmer's Market was the third jail.
It was used until the erection of the present courthouse, which was built with the jail on top. In 1975 the courthouse was again remodeled, and the present jail and court of general sessions have been built on South Water Street.
The town continued to be governed by the commissioners until it was first incorporated under the act of the Legislature passed Nov. 7, 1815. The early growth of the city was gradual so that in the year of 1830, namely three decades after its origin, it contained, according to the Tennessee Gazeteer, a good courthouse, jail and public offices, a large brick church used by all denominations, a Masonic Home, a printing office, 12 stores, two taverns, 11 lawyers, four physicians, one cabinet shop, one chair factory, three tailor shops, two shoemaker shops, two saddle shops, one wagon maker, one tan yard, one tinner and coppersmith, three blacksmith shops, one hatter, one male and two female academies, 666 inhabitants of which 234 were black, 35 log, 38 frame, and 27 brick houses.
The first secret society was King Solomon's Lodge F. A. M. No. 6. The first newspaper was published by William Barry in 1815. The Tennessean. Several newspapers were subsequently published and later in the 1840s a monthly magazine was published by D. C. Gaskill.
About 1828, the First Presbyterian Church of Gallatin was organized and the present building was completed in 1837. During the Civil War, the church was used as a hospital but was repaired and renovated by 1866 and has been in continuous use since then.
According to Walter Durham's book, "Old Sumner", 'the first Methodist Church was organized in 1829 in a one room log building'. The membership was increased from time to time by great revival meetings, known as 'camp meetings'. In 1843 the present sit on West Main Street was purchased, and the present building erected.
The townspeople also concerned themselves with educational as well as religious and civic affairs. Neophigen and Transmontania were among the earliest schools for boys. There have already been listed one male and two female academies in the town in 1830. Howard Female College was founded in 1837. It was among the oldest registered in the state for the higher education of young women.
Just after the Civil War, what was probably the first school approximating a hih school was taught by Prof. Cornelius W. Callendar and five other teachers in the old house now the residence of Mr. And Mrs. John Garrott on East Main Street in Gallatin.
Nothing progressed without its setbacks. In 1849, 1852-8 and 1873, the city had severe attacks of cholera which claimed a toll of death.
Then came the Civil War. The first Federal occupation took place in Feb. 1862, lasting until July of that year under Col. Boone who was later captured by Gen. Morgan of the Confederate army.
Gen. Rosecrans of the Federal forces returned to Tenn. In Nov. 1862 and Gen. Payne with his army again took possession of Gallatin. From that day until the close of the Civil War, Gallatin remained in the hands of the Union Army.
Here are a few excerpts from a personal letter written from Gallatin on April 9, 1863 which gives intimate glimpses of life during the occupation "I have been in this place nearly a year and have become prettywell acquainted. I find many friends here and am very pleased with the resident citizens. The war-like sojourners, of course we wish away. The country is in great measure devastated around here from the constant presence of troops of on or the other side. Fences are burned froj hundreds of acres and supplies of the county in a great measure consumed. Some farmers will put in little or no crop from the loss of the fences and hands. Many, many negroes are seeking freedom. Eight of Mr. Harper's have already left and I would not be surprised to hear of all going. Hub Saunders, Mrs. Sample and many others have lost valuable hands. Food and clothing are exceedingly high and scarce but no one is suffering that I know of.
"Gallatin will be occupied by troops as long as the war lasts and the difficulty of locomoting, corresponding and shopping will probably be increased. I hope to get this through on th assisstance of a Masonic friend.
"We have a very sprightly babe who has a few teeth and squeals femininely...Indeed there never was so much darning and patching and turning and reversing and remodeling ever heard of in Tennessee. Chill winter passed well enough about what to do for summer and next winter I ken not.
"War seems closing around us, We have no Sabbath here. No preaching since the first week in November. I have lost, I fear, everything but my trust in the blood of Jesus, and the ultimate success of the cause."
Whatever the vissitudes of war or peace, pioneer life in another era or modern progress in the atomic age, Gallatin has been here a long time and it continues to grow and change with the ver changing years. It still extends a cordial welcome to all who come within its gates and its hospitality, for which it has always been famous, still abounds.