Unlike Cairo, the town of Gallatin had been established without the direct proprietary interest of landowners or developers like James Winchester and William Cage, Jr. The site for the county seat town was chosen by a set of commissioners named by the Legislature, while a second set of commissioners was designated to lay out the town lots and arrange for their sale. None of the original commissioners owned any of the land selected for the site, and, as it was completely undeveloped, none had any business interests there. However, for Gallatin there was at least one encouraging prospect: county seat towns were usually built for permanence.
One of the first evidences of a developing community consciousness in Gallatin is seen in a petition addressed to the Legislature in 1803, two years after the first town lots were sold, from eighteen citizens of Gallatin who sought an enabling act to provide for an "Independent Company of Infantry" for the town. Legible signatures on the petition include the names of Edmund Crutcher, James S. Rawlings, J. Hutchings, Daniel Trigg, James Desha, John Cryer, Shadrack Nye, Harvey Lyon, John Reid, James Cryer, Jno. Barham, Jo. H. Conn, and James Cage. Committed to the state's militia system, the Legislature received the petition for a Gallatin infantry but let the request die by taking no action on it.
In 1806, the Legislature passed an act that set forth the legal basis for the government of the town of Gallatin. The law called for the election of five commissioners, each to serve a term of two years, and charged the commissioners with the responsibility of the town government. One of the five elected would be chosen as chairman of the group, which was directed to appoint a clerk and a treasurer. Section III of the act provided for a tax levy, and maximum rates were set: each town lot, the tax not to exceed 50 cents; each taxable white poll, not over 12-1/2 cents; each taxable slave, not over 25 cents. It was further stipulated that "all monies so collected, shall be appropriated to the express use of improving the town, and paying officers for transacting the business thereof, under the directions of the commissioners."
Once elected, the commissioners were also charged by the Legislature to "cause an accurate plan of the town aforesaid...to be made under their hand and seal, and recorded in the court of the county wherein such town is situated, and registered in the register's office of the same, and to designate the four corners of the public lot, by placing at each corner a stone, at least eighteen inches in the ground, and twelve inches above the surface, and to use their utmost care that the same by not removed or effaced." The map or plot of the town was completed and filed with the register, but it is one of the few items in the remarkably complete records of Sumner County to have disappeared from the files.
The commissioners were empowered to make rules, regulations and by-laws "which may be consistent with the interest of the town...and which are not repugnant to the constitution and laws of this state." The legislative act was very specific in its provision prohibiting encroachment on any of the streets, "Provided, that no cellar door shall be considered an encroachment, unless it extend more than six feet into the street."
The Legislature in 1806 also granted a charter to Transmontania Academy for boys, Gallatin's first chartered school. The trustees named in the act were James Winchester, David Shelby, Edward Douglass, Henry Bradford, and William Montgomery. The trustees represented the most heavily settled areas in the county: Winchester from Bledsoe's Lick, Shelby from Gallatin, Douglass from Station Camp Creek valley, Bradford from what is now Hendersonville, and Montgomery from Shackle Island and the upper Drake's Creek country. Transmontania was located on the northeast corner of what is now the intersection of East Main Street and Trigg Avenue in Gallatin. In 1806 the location was a few hundred yards east of the town's eastern boundary limits. Transmontania was one of twenty-seven academies in East and Middle Tennessee chartered simultaneously by act of the Legislature in 1806.
At the same session in another act, the Legislature chartered Cumberland College at Nashville in what was essentially a re-organization and expansion of Davidson Academy. Listed among its trustees were the indefatigable James Winchester, John K. Wynne , and Samuel P. Black, one of Sumner County's first school teachers.
A female academy was opened soon after Transmontania, and a Dr. Berry is reported to have taught there for several years. (This was probably Dr. Daniel Berry, a native of Andover, Massachusetts, and one-time president of Nashville Female Academy. After 1827, he operated his own Elmwood Academy at Nashville.) Could this have been the school attended by Louisa Winchester in Gallatin in 1822 when she boarded in the home of the family of N. Saunders?
In 1807 Gallatin fairly buzzed with political activity as Isaac Clark, educated in the law and classics, announced his candidacy for Congress, representing West (no middle) Tennessee. Clark's campaign was principally conducted by letter and circular, and he projected a very restrained and diffident attitude. His announcement read in parts:
It is not my wish to represent myself as a pre-eminent candidate, Statesman
or Ciceronian Orator, but if ever nature designed me for a Statesman, it
is full time that I should attempt to embark again into that vocation, as
I have devoted a considerable part of my time to the study of Politics in
general, and the particular juris-prudence of my own country, and believing
as I do, that my greatest talent lies on the side of Politics, I consider
it to be an indispensable duty I owe to myself and country, to make a tender
of my services in that way to the people. As characters are often canvassed
in times of election, I would mention that I have not been much in public
life, but when I was, I am induced to believe that I gave general satisfaction,
as I heard of no complaint against any public or official transaction of
mine, and as to a private citizen, I believe my reputation stands unimpeached,
which I am truly thankful and grateful for, as I am well convinced that many
whose merit and capacity transcendently surpassed mine in every degree, have
been shamefully traduced, and them set at naught by the vicious, which
circumstances leads me to make one remark, and that is: As the gentlemen
who are now in competition with me, have been and now remain in high esteem,
and their characters stand in the fairest point of view, I trust that the
sword of slander, the pernicious weapons of the licentious will remain undrawn,
or calumny lay dormant on the present occasion.
It is with much diffidence I offer myself for your suffrage for I am well
convinced that a person well qualified for a Representative is easier described
than found, as he ought to be a man of good sense, sagacity and unconquerable
integrity, and ought to be well acquainted with the general principles of
law and politics that he may be eminently capable of discharging the duty
of a Representative on the side of legislation in general and he should have
an extensive knowledge in matters of trade and finance, that our commercial
regulations might rest on the fair basis of reciprosity for all citizens
in the union and the revenue laws, to bear with equal weight, and have equitable
operation on the several classes of citizens throughout the states. Should
you be of opinion that my abilities & acquisitions are such as eminently
qualify me to perform the duty of a Representative in Federal legislation,
and I should possess your confidence and opinion so much as to be elected,
I should be truly happy in your confidence, & consider it to be my
indispensable duty to devote myself to the public service with the most
unremitted attention, and in all public transactions to act on the principles
of rectitude and in private life the same, and in all things to faithfully
discharge my duty with a sincere desire of giving general satisfaction.
But there are so many jaring interests among the several states and so many discordant passions among the different classes of citizens that to give universal satisfaction does not come within the pale of human prospects, for it would be as it were to go beyond the power of possibility, nevertheless, should I be so fortunate as to give universal satisfaction, I should be truly happy beyond every power of expression that belongs to me, and if I am not elected I shall know I am not the choice of the people for want of popularity and competency, or perhaps one or the other.
Gentlemen I am yours with
the greatest & highest esteem.
April the 1st, 1807.
On election day, the first Thursday in August, 1807, Clark made a short statement about British interference with American ships at sea. Referring to "the circumstance of the violent outrage that was committed against the American flag by a British armed vessel of War near the Capes of Virginia," Clark warned that "the time comes swiftly rolling on when Congress will have to decide on the all important question of peace or War." Warming to his subject, he declared: As for War I am against it while any honorable alternative is left, well knowing the inevitable consequence of War in the effusion of human blood, and the accumulation of burdensome taxes on the people, but when the last drop of the cup of moderation is dreaned, appealing to the sword in the denier resort becomes indispensable, and when War is once declared it highly becomes the nation to act if possible with that bravery, energy, and celerity that will so throw the burden of the storms of War on the aggressing power as to compell them to make an honorable peace."
Reasoned and humble appeals such as characterized Clark's campaign did not win elections on the hawkish frontier in 1807. When the votes were all counted, Isaac Clark had lost to Jesse Wharton, a Nashville attorney and later U. S. Senator from Tennessee.
In 1808, the first secret fraternal order in Gallatin was established: King Solomon Lodge, F.&.A.M., No. 6 in the state of Tennessee and fifty-second in the archives of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. The charter was issued by the Grand Lodge on December 9, 1808. The first officers and charter members were John Johnston, Andrew Buckham, and John Mitchel. Sometime later a Masonic Hall was erected by King Solomon Lodge on West Main Street near the present location of the Presbyterian Church. The masonic Hall was probably built in 1820 or 1821, as the Gallatin newspaper of 1820 printed information about a lottery to finance it. Under the heading, "A Scheme of a Lottery to Build a Masonic Hall Gallatin, for the use of King Solomon Lodge No. 6," lottery prizes were listed, including the grand prize of $10,000. The names of five members of the lodge were appended: Alfred H. Douglass, Anthony B. Shelby, Samuel Gwin, A. D. Bugg, and Daniel McAulay.
The Masonic hall, near the Presbyterian Church, has been identified as the building occupied in 1887 as a residence by John Clark. It was the building in which Balie Peyton, John H. Turner, and Thomas Barry studied law and was probably located on the west one-half of town lot #6 deeded to King Solomon Lodge #6, F.&A.M. in 1821 by Robert Desha. The deed called for a frontage of three rods and a depth of ten rods and referred to its location as being "in the southwest Square in Gallatin."
The commissioners of the town of Gallatin in 1809 purchased a tract of land containing twenty-nine acres and located adjacent to the eastern border of the town. Streets were extended into this first addition to the town of Gallatin, and town lots were subdivided and sold soon thereafter.
On November 16, 1809, the Legislature passed an act establishing the Circuit Court of Sumner County as a part of the Third Judicial District, which encompassed, in addition to Sumner, the counties of Franklin, Overton, Jackson, White, Smith, and Warren. Nathaniel W. Williams was named to the bench and John H. Bowen, a Gallatin lawyer, was made district attorney general.
Tobacco farmers in the county, irritated by the state's requirement that all tobacco leaving the state must first be inspected, petitioned the Legislature for relief from inspection September 2, 1809. The farmers claimed that nearly all out-of-state shipments were consigned to New Orleans, where it was inspected on arrival. They charged that this was a needless duplication of effort and expense and that, on many occasions, the tobacco suffered damage in transit downriver as the result of improper resealing of the hogshead after the Tennessee inspection. Among the legible signatures on the handwritten petition are those of William Crenshaw, John H. Dickason, Edward Bradley, Berry H. Brown, Reuben D. Brown, six Stubblefields, R. T. Brown, Jonathan White, Nathaniel Dickerson, Sr., Wm. Warmack, Robert Hanes, William Thompson, John Bradley, Abe Smith, John Goodall, Wm. Glasgow, Wm. Sanders, Thos. Donoho, William Campbell, Andrew Allison, and Washington C. Ballard. The petition was received, but no action was taken by the Legislature.
In 1810, Gallatin and Sumner County, awaiting the advent of their first newspaper then five years away, turned to the new Carthage Gazette, a weekly published at Carthage, Tennessee, by William Moore, for insertion of legal notices heretofore printed in the Nashville press. Notice of an executor's sale at Gallatin was printed in the edition of March 16, 1810, when there would be offered to the public "an invoice of Goods, well assorted, a parcel of likely, healthy Negroes, cows, hogs, house-hold furniture, etc." Other legal notices appeared in issues subsequently published in 1810, 1811, and 1814.
Most commercial notices were sent to a Nashville newspaper in much the same way that D. H. Whipple used to announce his new business in Gallatin in 1811. The Nashville Clarion published his announcement on April 2, 1811: "The subscriber having furnished himself with all the necessary apparatus for carrying on the Clock, Watch-making and Silver Smith business in Gallatin, is now ready to receive any business that he may be favored with."
In 1811, two lots "being at the North East part of the town of Gallatin" were purchased by the trustees of Transmontania Academy. It is supposed that the lots, the first purchased from Joseph Hodge and Samuel K. Blythe for $40.00 and the second from James Trousdale for $50.00, lay adjoining the site of the Academy. The deeds listed the following as trustees of Transmontania Academy: James Winchester, David Shelby, Edward Douglass, William Montgomery, Henry Bradford, Joseph Hodge, and Thomas Donnell.
Unsuccessful in his campaign for election to the Congress in 1807, Isaac Clark published an original volume entitled Miscellany in Prose and Verse in 1812. Printed by T. G. Bradford in Nashville, the book contained 120 pages and was a collection of the author's miscellaneous writings. While it was apparently the first book to be written in Sumner County by a Sumner Countian, it was also almost certain to be the smallest, as the dimensions of its pages were 3 inches wide by 5 inches high. Clark financed publishing the book by selling advance subscriptions. He listed the names of the subscribers in the book.
Clark's Miscellany is composed mostly of prose with a scattering of poems. The prose pieces include certain letters written during his unsuccessful political campaign in 1807, travel narratives pertaining to Tennessee, Georgia, and Arkansas, and various essays and descriptions. He mentions the prospect of a canal connecting the Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers, a far-sighted and as yet unrealized development.
In the wake of the earthquake of 1812, Clark wrote "A Poem on the Comet and Earthquake" and inserted it in his book shortly before it went to press. This, as well as his "A Description of a Voyage from Guinea with Slaves", also included, reflects the writings of a sensitive man of broad and varied interests. However, he will be remembered more for his determined effort to advance the cause of scholarship and letters on the frontier than for the literary quality of his work.
Much later, in 1823, Clark petitioned the state Legislature for financial aid. He represented himself as having been a citizen of Tennessee for twenty-seven years and as having served in the War of 1812 for a period of seven months as a volunteer private. He averred that "in the spring of 1819 or 20 he was at the house of Capt. William Bruce in the County of Sumner when a dispute took place between a man named Payton and one McCain, in which the former received a wound which at the time was considered mortal, or in fact, thought to be dead, from a pistol ball which was fired by McCain. Your petitioner conceived it to be his duty as an orderly citizen to arrest McCain who was endeavoring to make his escape. That whilst he had him in custody Payton recovered somewhat from his wound, fired his pistol at McCain; the ball from which passed through the arm of your petitioner, who has been so disabled since that he cannot support himself by any kind of manual labor. Your petitioner, believing that in arresting a man, who has attempted to commit murder, he was in the discharge of his duty to the county as much as if he had been in the field fighting her battles." Clark concluded by asking for financial support "during the remainder of his pilgrimage on earth". The petition was denied and marked "unreasonable".
One of Gallatin's earliest settlers was Robert B. Mitchell, who was also an early owner and developer of the Robertson Sulphur Springs located in Robertson County about two miles west of the yet-undeveloped site of Tyree Springs in Sumner. In 1812, Mitchell advertised his springs for sale, pointing out that he had lately erected new buildings and that the whole was in excellent condition. In the spring of 1813, news of Mitchell and the Robertson Sulphur Springs again appeared in a Nashville newspaper. Since no purchaser had come forward, Mitchell, identifying himself as "formerly of Gallatin, Sumner County", declared his intention of operating the place for another year. He solicited the public's support and attendance. Three months later Mitchell again advertised the springs for sale and printed several testimonials as to the curative effects of the waters. In November he disposed of his unsuccessful venture by selling Robertson Sulphur Springs at public auction.
In 1813, Attorney John H. Bowen of Gallatin became the first Sumner Countian to represent West Tennessee in the Congress of the United States. Bowen was born in 1779 and came to Sumner County with his parents, Captain and Mrs. William Bowen, when still a child. He lived with them on the east bank of Mansker's Creek near present-day Goodlettsville. When John was less than ten years old, he doubtless observed firsthand the slow process of his father's building the first brick house in Sumner County, and probably the first in Tennessee. Sometime after John Bowen's election to Congress he built a two-story brick house one block west of the public square in Gallatin. At his death in 1822, the property was acquired by William Trousdale, later a Governor of Tennessee. The home is known today as the Trousdale Place and is owned and maintained as a historical shrine by the Clark Chapter of The United Daughters of The Confederacy.
Like other leaders on the frontier, Bowen was militantly nationalistic. The press reported in April, 1814, that Bowen had spoken out strongly in Congress against British impressment of American seamen. He regarded the practice of impressment as intolerable and declared himself in favor of unremitting war against England until the high seas should be safe for American citizens.
When John Bowen completed his turn in Congress, Bennett H. Henderson, for whose father, Captain William Henderson, Hendersonville was later named, campaigned for and was elected to Congress as Representative of the Fourth Congressional District. His unsuccessful opponent was A. W. Overton, who polled only 70 votes in Sumner County to Henderson's 1,682 votes. Henderson served a single two-year term and was the last Sumner Countian to be elected to the Congress until 1827. Only attorney William Hadley of Sumner sought election in the intervening years, and he lost in 1819 to Robert Allen of Smith County.
Henderson was succeeded in Congress by Dr. Samuel Hogg of Lebanon, who had come to Sumner County from Halifax County, North Carolina, and had studied medicine at Gallatin about 1804. He had moved to Lebanon before 1812 and in 1828 relocated in Nashville. He served a single term in Congress, 1817-1819. Dr. Hogg had been appointed surgeon on the staff of Colonel William Hall's First Regiment, Tennessee Volunteers, on November 21, 1812, and had served with them on the Natchez expedition.
In 1821 the voters of Sumner County gave Governor-elect William Carroll 1,612 votes to 554 for Edward Ward of Nashville. Much of Carroll's support in Sumner, as elsewhere, came from veterans of the War of 1812 who had served with him in the field. His local popularity was due in part to the fact that his wife, Cecelia, was a Sumner Countian, daughter of Major Henry Bradford, whose farm home was near Hendersonville.
While Sumner County was the location of much of the religious activity associated with the "Great Revival" of 1801, there are remarkably few references to preaching and churches in the early years of Gallatin. This was due, at least in part, to the fact that before 1802 churches had been established in neighborhood locations throughout the southern part of the county and that both Methodist and Presbyterian churches were located within three miles of the new town. Perhaps the earliest reference that we have to preaching in Gallatin is a brief newspaper announcement on October 13, 1813, listing Gallatin as a stop on the schedule of Lorenzo Dow, popular frontier preacher.
A union church, open to the use of all Protestant Christian denominations, was erected during Gallatin's early existence on the north side of Bledsoe Street where it intersects Cemetery Street. According to tradition, the church was originally built of logs and rebuilt of brick prior to 1830.
After completion of construction of the courthouse and jail in 1804, there are but scanty records of additional building in Gallatin until the year 1814, when R. M. Boyers built a two-story log house on the south side of East Main Street which stands today adjacent to the west side of Genesco's shoe-manufacturing plant. While the building has been extensively remodeled by applying wood clapboard siding over the logs on the sides and rear and brick veneer along the front, the basic log structure is yet intact.
Other buildings were erected on or near the public square between 1804 and 1814, but details are scarce. Like the Boyers building, many of the first houses were built of logs, while others were framed of mill-sawn timber and sheathing. These were brick houses, too, but although more durable than those of wood, they were slower to build. Ironically, no known original brick structure on the public square has survived to take its place in history beside the log Boyers building.
James Cryer had a house in October, 1803, near enough to the new courthouse that a meeting of the Quarterly Court could be adjourned at his house and reconvened at the courthouse fifteen minutes later. In March, 1804, permits to keep ordinaries at their respective houses in Gallatin were given to John Orr and to Isaac Thurman by the Sumner Quarterly Court. In September, 1804, Robert B. Mitchell was licensed by the same body to keep tavern at his house in Gallatin.
The deed for town lot #5 to Andrew Jackson and John Hutchings was proved at the December session of Quarterly Court in Gallatin in 1804. Jackson and Hutchings soon thereafter erected a building there from whence Hutchings conducted a mercantile business. James Trousdale had built a house before 1805, when he was licensed to keep ordinary. In 1805 Dempsey Moore was living in a house near the public square, situated within the bounds of "the prison or gaol" property of Sumner County.
Gallatin and Cairo passed another milestone in their early histories in 1815 when the Legislature passed an act incorporating both. The act was entitled "An Act incorporating the towns of Cairo and Gallatin in the County of Sumner", and the text included only six lines: "Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Sate of Tennessee, that from and after the passage of this act, the towns of Cairo and Gallatin in the County of Sumner, be and the same are hereby declared incorporate, under the same rules, regulations, restrictions and privileges of the town of Franklin in this state".
In 1815 the Legislature also passed an act authorizing the commissioners of the town of Gallatin to sell "part of the north side of the public square laid off in said town, not exceeding four feet wide adjoining and in front of the different lots bounded by said square on the North, and said commissioners are authorized to make a deed or deeds of conveyance therefor to said Joseph Barron".
Such action must be presumed to have arisen from the unintentional encroachment on the public square by property owners along its north side. But who was Joseph Barron? Did he own all of the town lots on the north side? On these questions the act is silent, and one can only speculate.
The Legislature in 1815 also appointed six additional trustees for Transmontania Academy, chartered nine years earlier. Appointed to fill the newly created positions on the board of trustees were George Crocket, William Hall, William White, John H. Bowen, Samuel K. Blythe, and A. B. Shelby.
It is believed that the first newspaper to be published in Sumner County was called The Tennessean, which was printed and circulated at Gallatin as early as 1815. William L. Barry is thought to have been the publisher. The date of the earliest known copy of a Gallatin newspaper is February, 1820, which appears on pages of a paper preserved in the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The name of the paper does not appear on any of the pages that have been saved, but it is believed to be The Tennessean. Some of the notices in the newspaper have first insertion dates as early as December 1819.
A second newspaper, the Gallatin Columbian, was reprinted in the Nashville Whig, December 15, 1817, and was mentioned in the Knoville Register. No copies of this paper have been located, nor have any other records of its existence been discovered. A Third newspaper, the Gallatin Messenger, published its first issue on March 24, 1820, John Fleming, publisher. While there are no known copies of this paper in existence, the National Intelligencer of Washington, D.C., recorded in its edition of May 30, 1820, the receipt of the initial issue of the Gallatin Messenger. The National Intelligencer of October 28, 1820, noted that it had received "the initial issue of The Tennessean of Gallatin, Tennessee, of September 18, 1820, published by John L. and William V. McCullough". The reference to "the initial issue" in this case is thought to refer to the first issue from the new publishers, the McCulloughs, instead of the issue marking the founding of The Tennessean.
The Tennessean, in printing the minutes of the Baptist Concord Association meeting held in Smith County in 1821, listed only William V. McCullough as publisher. Two years later McCullough advertised his printing office for sale, although he made no mention of The Tennessean. We assume that he had sold the newspaper without the printing shop and was thus seeking to dispose of an assortment of type, composing sticks, a homemade press, type cabinets, and miscellaneous supplies. He noted, "This office may be had very low for cash". The absence of Gallatin newspaper files and records from 1821 to 1828 creates an information gap that is difficult to bridge. However, in 1828 we find that H. Strange and Company were publishing The Tennessean; and in 1830 the publishers, again changed, were Watlington and Word. The presence of a newspaper in Gallatin had been recognized by the State Legislature in 1817 when it passed an act providing that all publications to be made by Sheriffs or other public office-holders in Sumner County "may and shall be hereafter published in a Gallatin newspaper".
The government of the town of Gallatin was reorganized by legislative act in 1817. The Legislature, meeting at the state capital at Knoxville, passed "An Act to incorporate the inhabitants of the town of Gallatin, in the county of Sumner," which called for the election of seven aldermen, one of whom would be elected mayor by the others. The Legislature gave the aldermen authority to enact and pass such laws as necessary, among other things, "to establish night walks and patrols...to restrain and prohibit gaming...to regulate and restrain tippling houses...to provide for the sweeping of chimneys, to erect and regulate pumps on the public square, streets or alley...[and] to suppress vice and immorality".
The same session of the Legislature took favorable action on a petition to organize the first bank in Sumner County. The Gallatin Tennessee Bank was established with an authorized capitalization of $400,000. The original board of directors included: George Crocket, John H. Bowen, John Allen, John Hale, Samuel K. Blythe, William Hadley, Anthony B. Shelby, William Trigg, and Robert Desha. The bank was authorized in response to a petition signed by most of the leaders of the community. The petitioners pointed out that the nearest bank was located at Nashville and that Gallatin area citizens were in need of more convenient service than could be rendered at a distance of twenty-seven miles. The petition was concluded with this observation: "In a well regulated bank your petitioners can discover nothing dangerous to Society but perfect security to individual interest". Legible signatures appended to the petition included those of John Allen, John Mitchel, Joel Parris, J. H. Greene, A. H. Douglass, Wm. Shall, Jno. Wright, A. Donnell, J. J. White, Jos. P. Minnick, James Robb, R. M. Boyers, Thomas Scurry, Ashley Stanfield, Alfred Faulk, William Cantrell, Z. P. Cantrell, William Glover, B. Wright, Charley Lewis, James Dorris, John H. Bowen, Hugh H. Withers, Charles Morgan, James Trousdale, R. D. Barry, Joseph Hodge, Thos. Donnel, David Crocket, Clement McDaniel, William House, W. J. Johnson, James Armour, John Bell, Amost Goyne, and Henry W. Brigg.
A new fulling mill was in operation in 1817 near Gallatin under the advertised ownership of McOrkle and Anderson. The mill was operated by an unnamed man, who was described as "an approved workman from one of the very best fulling establishments in Virginia". The public was urged to leave cloth for fulling at Blythe and Brown's store with written instructions to the fuller. McOrkle and Anderson promised to pick up and return the cloth to the store to save their customers the necessity of driving out to the mill.
An eloquent announcement of the opening of the Gallatin Inn was published April 23, 1817. The inn was to be operated by Clement McDaniel in a large brick building located on the public square and owned by David Shelby. The Gallatin Inn seems to have been the first commercial hostelry in town, although some taverns had offered accommodations as early as 1807. The announcement said, in part:
Has opened a house of entertainment, in the town of Gallatin, in that spacious and elegant brick house, the property of David Shelby, Esq., at the corner of the Public Square and sign of the Gallatin Inn. This house is adjudged by many to be inferior to none in the state, in point of room and convenience, for the accommodation of customers; there is also an elegant new brick stable, fifty feet in length, with stalls, racks, and troughs in good order for the reception of horses; he regrets that his back buildings are not yet finished, but they are now in progression and will be completed as soon as is practicable, he does not like most publicans boast of his fit qualifications, long experience, etc.
Some of them too are like that of shearing the hog, make a great cry for a little wool; but the proof of the pudding is in the eating....
Gallatin, April 23, 1817.
*Some who of fitness boast
pursue till their good fame is lost;
Others who boast not at all,
Merit, and receive a general call.
William Trigg, active in the early development of Gallatin, had his general merchandise store open sometime before July 8, 1817. On that date the Trigg store is mentioned in a notice in a Nashville newspaper as the place in Gallatin to purchase a new law book, Tennessee Reports, Volume II, compiled and written by Judge John Overton.
Men's clothing was receiving attention in the Gallatin market by this time. John Bell advertised for "two journeyman tailors" in a Nashville newspaper and promised them plenty of work sewing men's coats and cloaks.
The importance of riverboat traffic was not lost on Gallatin's early businessmen. A landing for riverboats was located at the mouth of Elliott Branch on the Cumberland River, and a warehouse for shipping and receiving water-borne cargo was built there by R. M. Boyers. Although exact dates are not known, regular use of the landing is though to have begun prior to 1815.
A preview of the winter cotton and tobacco markets in New Orleans was provided
by Breedlove and Bradford, commission agents of that city, in a letter to
the Gallatin Columbian. Since most local produce was sold on the New
Orleans markets, both farmers and businessmen read the letter with
Gentlemen--The season is fast approaching when the produce of your country will be reading for sale or shipment, as this is the principle market for your country. We take the liberty to give you our ideas on the prospects before us.
Tobacco--of this article there remains but little of the last crop and that little is now in demand for 7-1/2 to 8 cents for prime lots. We are now under the impression that the present crop will open about seven cents. Early shipments will no doubt meet with the best prices.
Cotton, we are well convinced, will be high during the shipping season, owing to the crops on the Mississippi and present high price in Europe. A few parcels of the new crop have come to market and meet a ready sale at 30 cents.
Sugar will we hope be lower this season than since the war; the can crops are said to be fine; the planters are now cutting and grinding; and should the frost keep off, the quality will be very good.
From the number of vessels now in port, and the great number reported on the way, freights will be low and a great many purchasers of Western produce in our market.
We will give you due notice of any change that may occur in our market.
In 1818, John Hall was president of Transmontania Academy, where both boys and girls were being educated. He advertised in January, 1818, that "both boys and girls will be received" for the nest term. The tuition was $40.00 per year, and students twelve years of age or older would be accepted provided they could "read and write with facility". Hall promised rigid discipline.
Shortly after the Gallatin Bank was organized, a branch of the Nashville Bank was established in Gallatin, probably in early 1818. Stephen Cantrell, who had numerous relatives in Sumner County, was president of the Nashville Bank at this time. Details of the branch bank operation are scarce, but a stockholders' meeting is known to have been called by D. Fulton, the bank's cashier, on September 4, 1823.
The organization of the county's first banks at Gallatin was indicative of the growth of commercial business and trade in the area. By 1819, the local newspaper was crowded with advertisements and business notices. In December, 1819, J. Allen and D. McAulay inserted this notice in The Tennesseean:
Real estate promotion on a large scale first appeared in Gallatin in 1819. A group of men, composed of residents of both Gallatin and Nashville, acquired a tract of fifty acres located immediately south of Gallatin and announced their intention to subdivide it into residential and commercial lots. A detailed announcement of the sale was printed in the Nashville Whig, April 3, 1819:
It is proposed to lay off adjoining the Town of Gallatin in Sumner County acres of land to be divided into LOTS, streets and alleys of convenient size, which will constitute a part of said town. It will adjoin the present southern boundary of the town and is the most eligible site for an addition to said town. It is handsomely situated and well watered--It combines many advantages for private residence and business. The present main cross street of the town passes through this addition, from the termination of which a road is now opened to the mouth of Elliott's Branch on the Cumberland River, which must be the principle place from which the produce of the County of Sumner will be shipped. When it is considered that Gallatin is situated in one of the wealthiest counties in the state, that the adjoining lands to a great extent are of the first quality, that no place in the country is more remarkable for health, and that the seat of justice for the county is here permanently fixed, no doubt can be entertained, but that this addition to the town holds out the strongest inducements to Merchants, Mechanics and men of enterprise, to invest in its purchase a portion of their capital. To afford an opportunity for all who are desirous of becoming interested in said town, of doing so--the lots will be sold at public auction on the premises on the 18th day of May next, it being the second day of the Sumner County Court. Bonds with approved security will be required for the purchase money, one third payable on the first day of January next, one third on the first day of January, 1821, and the balance on the first day of January, 1822, the last two payments to be interest.
Signed: Willie Barrow Geo. Smith
Edmund Lanier Geo. Elliott
Jno. C. McLemore John W. Byrne
LaFayette Saunders Robert H. Adams
John J. White Andrew Hays
Samuel Gwin Felix Grundy
O. B. Hayes
This sale is thought to have been the first private development of town lots
in Gallatin. Earlier sales had been by duly appointed representatives of
While local folk seemed to accept the many changes inevitably associated with community growth, objection to changing the state constitution was registered when the question of calling a Constitutional Convention was raised in 1819. A meeting of delegates representing the militia companies of the Fifteenth Regiment (Sumner County) Militia was held in Gallatin to discuss the convention. By a vote of 25 to 1, the delegates voted to select a committee to campaign against the convention at the next election. The committee members were General William Hall, James Blackmore, William Bracken, James L. Martin, John Martin, Joseph Robb, and John Lauderdale.
By 1820, the town of Gallatin, as seen in the pages of its newspaper, was growing. Even the town barber, David Towpence, was moving into larger quarters. On the east side of the public square, Hugh Evans opened a "Windsor chair factory". His announcement noted that he also did all kinds of ornamental paintings, "Guilding, sign writing, etc.," and that he repaired gigs and carriages "and painted in the best stile, and on moderate terms." The same edition of the paper announced that P. H. Martin had moved his saddlery shop from Nashville to Gallatin and was open for business in "Mr. Samuel K. Blythe's Brick House, next door to Mr. Mitchel's Tavern." Martin had operated a saddlery shop located on "the north corner" of the public square in Nashville since February, 1817, and perhaps earlier. G. and W. Shall advertised that they had moved their merchandise store to Major Desha's new brick house east of Allen and McAulay's store. Attorney S. C. Tyree advertised for a runaway slave girl, Malsey, who belonged to John Allen, and Attorney Samuel Gwin gave notice that all accounts for "the late firm of Samuel K. Blythe and Company" should be paid to Gwin at Mitchel's Tavern. That the harsh manners of the frontier were in for refinement was strongly suggested in the following advertisements for dancing lessons:
Mr. Chapman informs the citizens of Gallatin and vicinity that
he will commence teaching the cotillians--From long experience in that line,
he feels himself capable of the task. Persons desirous of becoming subscribers,
will please give their names to Mr. Z. Cantrell or Mr. J. Mitchel--He will
commence on Monday the 14th inst. and occupy Capt. John Mitchel's Ball room.
The growth of business activity in Gallatin was not without its moments of financial anguish. In the early 1820's, even the mid-Cumberland frontier felt the effects of a national economic recession. William Cantrell & Company advertised for their customers "to pay us as no longer indulgence can be given." Thomas Scurry announced in the newspaper that his customers should "pay your debts without cost, or I will make you pay them with cost." John Mitchel inserted a prominently displayed notice to debtors. It reads, in its entirety:
The Subscriber requests all of those who have long-standing accounts with him, to come forward immediately, without fear or dismay, and settle them, as he cannot live well these times without some money. If money is so desirable a thing in the best of times, what must it be in these times of distress? When Sheriffs and Constables have as much if not more business than they can do; I have no wish to place any accounts in their hands for collection, but should necessity compel me, by their inattention to this advertisement, they can have no excuse by saying that I gave them no notice.
The financial panic of the period gave rise to a proposal, widely supported in Nashville, to suspend the collection of debts in the state. With such action about to be considered by the Legislature, the Sumner County Grand Jury published a "Presentment" opposing suspension of debt payment. The poor and the little man would not be aided, as proponents of the measure must have claimed, because their "little" had already been taken from them, the Grand Jury charged, and added that "the industrious and prudent have no need of legislative aid in complying with their contracts". Only the wealthy and the unscrupulous would be aided by suspending debt-collection, the presentment contended. The Grand Jury Foreman was Reuben Douglass, and its members were Joseph Robb, William Buntin, John White, Joseph Buntin, Jeremiah Belote, George Hall, Richard King, John Wright, James Wallace, Thomas Wilson, John Cryer, and Robert Hodge.
In 1823 the trustees of Cumberland College in Nashville sought to broaden the base of support for their floundering institution by taking a capital gifts campaign to the adjoining counties. The Nashville press supported the effort to strengthen the college, and one editor challenged each midstate county to develop a first-class academy as a preparatory school for Cumberland College. Good preparatory schools feeding their graduates into the college would accomplish the intent of the Act of Congress in 1806, it was claimed. To raise funds in Sumner County, the trustees appointed John J. White, Anthony Shelby, Robert M. Boyers, James Winchester, and William Hadley.
Infrequently at this time in Sumner's history a runaway slave or slaves would appear and be taken into custody by the sheriff. When such an event occurred, the sheriff inserted legal notice in the newspaper to advise the owner of the recovery of his slave. Sheriff A. H. Douglass published the following notice on June 21, 1820, in a Nashville newspaper:
was committed to the jail of Sumner County about the 20th of February last, who says his name is Dick, about 21 years of age, and says he belongs to Charles Briscoe, living in Maury County, Tennessee, and that he was purchased of Stanford Keen of Lexington, Kentucky. The owner is requested to come forward, pay charges, and take him away.
(Signed) A. H. Douglas, Sheriff
In 1821 John Hall left the presidency of Transmontania Academy but continued to teach. By September he was announcing his intention to "receive a few students in addition to the young gentlemen now under his care". His announcement, headed "Pericles Academy", promised that the school would be a "select" institution. Tuition for regular students was $50 per year. "No student under the age of fourteen years is desired nor will one whose capacity is much under mediocrity be retained. No more will be taken than can be attended to with perfect advantage to the student." Hall would accept law students at a tuition rate of $100 per year. All of his "senior students" would have access to his "circulating library", and all of his students would be male.
Hall was apparently succeeded at Transmontania by a teacher whose name was John R. Rain. Rain addressed the Academy's patrons the following April, explaining that "the business of the Academy" had been interrupted by failure to complete construction of additional classrooms and by mixing classical and English scholarship in the same courses. He promised that these problems would be overcome by completing the building and by hiring a "young man assistant", who would teach the English school "in a separate apartment". He concluded, "From the strict attention which will be paid both to the education and moral conduct of youth placed in this institution, it is hoped that general satisfaction will be given."
In the first three decades of the nineteenth century, many distinguished attorneys, including some of the most colorful public figures of the day, practiced law before the courts of Sumner County. Among their number were Redmond D. Barry, Balie Peyton, George A. Baskeville, Thomas Steward, Anthony B. Shelby, William M. Blackmore, John H. Bowen, William Trousdale, David M. Saunders, John H. Turner, William A. White, Axtianex A. Mills, William Hadley, George W. Parker, John J. White, Andrew Hayes, Josiah W. Baldridge, William Williams, Eastin Morris, Samuel Houston, C. P. McDaniel, Felix, Grundy, John C. Hamilton, John R. Chenault, Andrew Jackson, John G. Simms, Josephus Conn Guild, and Thomas Barry.
In 1823, Andrew Jackson was actively promoted as a candidate for President of the United States. Newspapers of the period in Tennessee and elsewhere were swamped with resolutions and letters of endorsement for the hero of 1812. In Sumner County not all the wounds opened by Jackson's accusations and charges against the Sumner volunteers during the Creek Campaign in 1813 had healed. To patch up the differences of the past, Jackson supporters called a public meeting at Gallatin on July 11, 1823, to adopt resolutions in support of Old Hickory. After General Winchester was elected chairman of the meeting and Elijah Boddie was named secretary, General William Hall made a strong statement in behalf of Jackson. A brief resolution of endorsement, affirming the belief of his friends and neighbors that he was qualified for the presidency, was adopted and ordered publishes in various local newspapers and the National Intelligencer at Washington. When the practice of the day was to draw loquacious resolutions of great length, the Gallatin resolutions for Jackson, by their restraint and brevity, must be judged cool indeed.
A small theater was opened in Gallatin sometime prior to 1824. The earliest recorded performance on its stage occurred in the early fall of 1823 and was presented by the Theatrical Corps of Nashville. A benefit show was staged and although the afternoon and evening were visited by heavy rainfall, the small theater "was full to overflowing". The name of the play--probably a melodrama--was not recorded.
A Nashville newspaper ad promised action to enliven Gallatin society in its edition of August 23, 1824. It read: "Mr. Muscarelli informs the ladies and gentlemen of Gallatin, Sumner County, and its vicinity, that he will give a concert and ball in that place on Wednesday evening, 1st September. Particulars in handbills." While the last of the handbills has long since disappeared, it must be presumed that the concert and ball were staged at the Gallatin Inn on the public square, perhaps the only place of adequate size in town at that time.
In 1825 Daniel and John Saffarans entered a co-partnership as tinners and coppersmiths. Their place of business was located in the northeast corner of the public square.
Horses and horse-racing continued to receive broad public interest. The Gallatin Jockey Club conducted three days of racing in the fall of 1825 over the Gallatin turf and held its spring program in 1826 over the course formerly owned by A. B. Shelby. Horsebreeding was actively promoted, and public notice was given in early 1826 that the stallions Stockholder and Hyatoga were standing at stud at Orville Shelby's stable and that the stallion Napoleon was at stud at George Elliott's stable.
In 1826, William A. White, a former Gallatin attorney who had moved his residence to the Dickerson Pike area of Nashville after service in the War of 1812 on Jackson's staff as adjutant general, was drawn into a red-hot controversy between Jackson and Clay over the vacant Nashville postmastership. John P. Erwin, Nashville publisher and a Clay man, won the appointment and sought to challenge Sam Houston to a duel over the attacks that Houston had registered against him in the Congress. When Houston's second refused to accept the challenge delivered by an out-of-state adventurer, White returned with Erwin's emissary and directed him to hand the written challenge directly to Houston, observing, "I reckon he will not deny having received it." Houston responded, "I have not received it and I do not know its contents....But I will receive one from you, General White, with pleasure". "I will receive one from you, General Houston," White retorted.
While White had no intention of engaging Houston in a duel, he was left holding the bag for Erwin. He was faced with backing down or shooting it out. "Knowing that a coward can not live except in disgrace and obscurity, I did not hesitate as to my course," White wrote to a friend. He drew up a challenge to Houston on an academic point of honor and carefully disavowed any feeling of personal animosity. Houston accepted the challenge. The weapons chosen were pistols at the unusually close distance of fifteen feet, set in deference to White's poor marksmanship.
The dueling ground near Sanford Duncan's tavern in Kentucky, a short distance north of Mitchell's Crossroads (now Old Mitchellville) in Sumner County, was selected for the meeting on September 22, 1826. Houston spent the night of September 21 at Sanford Duncan's and White is believed to have stayed with his party at Hiram Mitchell's in Sumner County.
The duelists met promptly at sunup on the twenty-second. Houston's first shot pierced White's groin, and he fell, thinking himself mortally wounded. He called weakly to Houston: "General, you have killed me." Houston is said to have replied, "I am very sorry. But you know it was forced upon me." "I know it and forgive you."
But White survived the severe wound and, after four months in bed, enjoyed a complete recovery. It is reported that Houston followed White's progress during convalescence with great relief and thereafter publicly declared his opposition to dueling, concluding with the observation, "Thank God, my adversary was injured no worse." White died a natural death in 1833.
The trappings of a civilized society were beginning to hang heavily over the heads of the citizens of Gallatin in 1827. The sixth issue of the new Gallatin Journal, dated September 21, 1827, bore news of the changing frontier society. A theatrical production called "The Heir at Law" was announced "for the benefit of The Academy." At the same time the annual meeting of the Cumberland Bible Society was called to be held "at the church in Gallatin," and the fall horse races conducted by the Gallatin Jockey Club was set by its president, Reuben Cage, to begin on Wednesday, September 25, and end on the 28th. Wholesale general merchandise operations were advertised by Boyers and Morris and by Reese and Desha, the latter firm located on the southwest corner of the public square.
Two miles west of Gallatin on the east fork of Station Camp Creek, Colonel George Elliott built a severely plain two story brick house that was completed in 1827 and named "Wall Spring" after a large spring nearby which had been a campsite for Indian hunters in prior years. "Wall Spring" was located near the east boundary of Elliott's land, where it joined the estate of his brother Charles, who had built "Walnut Grove," a two-story stone house, on a high bluff above the creek. North of the house, across Red River Road, was colonel Elliott's race track, where Andrew Jackson and other patrons of the turf gathered frequently to train and race their thoroughbreds. There, too, were the stables where some of the finest racing stock of the day were bred. Sometime before the house was completed, Elliott was standing the celebrated Pacolet at stud.
Local folk followed the elections of 1827 with enthusiasm. Sam Houston, well-known and well-liked in Gallatin and Sumner County in spite of his duel with General White the year before, was elected Governor of Tennessee. The election for congressman from the Fifth District (Sumner, Smith, and Wilson Counties) drew especial interest, as all three candidates were from Sumner, Robert Desha, son of a family which arrived in Sumner County during the first decade of settlement (1780-1790) and gallant veteran of service in the War of 1812, was elected with a vote of 4,509. John Hall, the educator and brother of General William Hall, polled 1,580 votes. William Trousdale, former pupil of Hall and himself a distinguished soldier in the War of 1812, received 1,291 votes. General Hall was elected to the Senate of the Tennessee General Assembly where he was chosen its speaker and thus placed first in line of succession to the Governor.