by Walter T. Durham
From Old Sumner, A History of Sumner County, Tennessee, From 1805 to 1861.
Reprinted with permission.
Settlers in the easternmost section of Sumner County selected a site for the town of Hartsville in 1817 on lands belonging to James HART in the west fork of Goose Creek. The original settlement of Hartsville was east of the town site and known as Damascus, but the few families there moved into the town soon after it was laid off. Cotton and tobacco were the principal crops of the surrounding country in these early years of the nineteenth century. Cotton farming, however, was hazardous, and cotton was soon abandoned in favor of corn and other grains.
Perhaps the most unusual commercial activity in this period was the quarrying and cutting of millstones. This important business was made possible by the discovery of a bed of millstone grit near the top of the ridge, a short distance north of Hartsville. The grit bed was six to eight feet deep at its thickest point. From it, many pairs of millstones were supplied to Middle Tennessee mills during the remainder of the century.
Captain William ALEXANDER, a Revolutionary War veteran who had come to Sumner County in 1796, and his son William Locke ALEXANDER operated a large plantation in the Hartsville area. Captain Alexander's daughter Mary BRANDON was married to General William HALL, and his daughter Jane to Redmond Dillion BARRY. It is said that six of Captain ALEXANDER's North Carolina kin signed the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.
The first church building at Hartsville was a union church for use by all denominations. Separate houses would come later.
Hartsvillians maintained a lively interest in politics during this time and lost no opportunity to demonstrate their support for Andrew JACKSON. When Old Hickory canvassed for President in 1828, eleven political friends staged a "Jackson Ball" at Captain DUFFY's on July 5, "in honor of General Andrew JACKSON." Invitations were signed by Z.G. GOODALL, Robert ROBINSON, James DUNN, John H. TURNER, Thomas BARRY, John W. HAMILTON, R.B. ALEXANDER, Spencer W. SCOTT, D.W. MENTLO, A.M. Debow, and Cyrus HART. Major Alexander ALLISON is said to have been the first merchant at Hartsville, and James HART was the first to operate a mill there. Hart also maintained a ferryboat on the nearby Cumberland River in 1819. The ferry had originally been the property of Thomas DONOHO.
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