Settlement and Organization--Boundaries--"The Ridge"--The Slope or Basin Part--Gallatin--Saundersville--"Old Cairo"--Castalian Springs and other Places--North of the Ridge, or the Rimlands--Mills--Statistics, Etc.
In the year 1772, Joseph Drake, Isaac Bledsoe and Casper Mansker traversed portions of Middle Tennessee, and discovered, in this county, the three noted licks which still bear the names of their respective discoverers, viz: "Bledsoe's Lick," "Mansker's Lick," and "Drake's Lick."
In 1775, Mansker renewed his visit and encamped at "Mansker's Lick," and with three other persons commenced hunting and trapping. In 1776, Thomas Sharp Spencer and others came to Middle Tennessee and built cabins. The greater portion of them returned, leaving Spencer and Holiday, who cleared a field at Bledsoe's Lick and planted it in corn in 1778, which was probably the first corn planted in Sumner county. Holiday returned in 1779, leaving Spencer, who remained at Bledsoe's Lick, living for a time in a hollow sycamore tree. Spencer broke his only knife in two pieces, and gave Holiday one part when he left.
In this year (1779) a number of families settled permanently at Bledsoe's and Mansker's Licks, and the news of the abundance of game and of the fertility of the soil, soon induced others to come, until in 1786 the population was sufficient to establish a county, which was named in honor of Colonel Jethro Sumner, a brave pioneer. In 1799 it was reduced to its constitutional limits, the State having in the meantime been admitted into the Union on the 6th day of June, 1796.
The first General Assembly of the State was convened at Knoxville on the 28th of March, 1796, in which James Winchester was Senator and Stephen Cantrell and Wilson Montgomery were Representatives. Winchester was elected Speaker of the Senate. The names of the three are still well preserved, and all of them have living descendants in the county.
Sumner county is bounded on the north by the counties of Simpson and Allen in Kentucky, on the east by the counties of Macon and Trousdale, on the south by the Cumberland River, which separates it from Wilson county, on the southwest by Mansker's creek, which is the line between Sumner and Davidson counties, and on the west by Robertson county. It is divided into nearly two equal parts by
which extends through the county in a direction nearly northeast and southwest, and which is a portion of the "Highland Rim" to the "Great Central Basin" of Middle Tennessee. The southern slope of the ridge is rather abrupt and the general height is about three hundred feet. A great number of finger-like spurs project southward from the main ridge, and the valleys or "hollows" between these spurs furnish the various springs from which flow the different creeks traversing
which descends from the ridge or escarpment of the Rim Highlands to the Cumberland river. This portion of the county lies in the Central Basin, and embraces a succession of minor valleys, separated by the prolongation of the finger-like spurs of the Rim, which are bold and rugged near the ridge, but run down to low hills near the river. The soil of this southern half of the county was once probably unsurpassed in fertility by any portion of the State. It is beautifully undulating, giving good drainage, while near the ridge the hills are too steep for cultivation, but afford the finest blue grass imaginable. Corn, wheat and cotton are the principle staples, and fine stock of all kinds, horses, mules, cattle, hogs and sheep are raised for market. Several farmers have made successful experiments with broom corn, and the sorghum or Chinese sugar cane is produced in quantities for home consumption. Hungarian millet and German millet grow well and yield large crops.
The average width from north to south of this part of the county is about eight miles, and its length from east to west is twenty-eight miles.
The principle streams south of the ridge are Bledsoe's Creek, Station Camp, including East, West and Big Creeks, Drake's Creek and Madison Creek. Some of the head branches of Bledsoe's Creek arise in Macon county east of the Rock House, and several others, as Rogue's Fork, Brushy Fork, Dry Fork and Desha's Fork have their sources at the ridge, and flow southeasterly till they all unite with the Rock House branch, when the general direction is southerly to the Cumberland river, about three-fourths of a mile above Cairo.
East Fork of Station Camp Creek rises at the ridge north of Gallatin, and flows southeasterly, gathering many small branches and the other "forks" on its way, and empties into the Cumberland four miles southwest of Gallatin.
Drake's Creek and its tributaries rise in the hills east of Tyree's Springs, and flow in a general southerly direction by the towns of Shackle Island and Hendersonville, and empties into the Cumberland southeast of the latter place.
Madison's Creek rises southeast of the Tyree's Springs, and flows southeasterly, emptying into Mansker's Creek below Goodlettsville.
The towns in the county south of the ridge are
the county seat, population over three thousand; has a fine court-house and jail, a female college, male school, over forty business houses, twenty lawyers, six regular doctors, Masonic hall and lodge, Odd Fellows hall and lodge, nine turnpike roads, one railroad (Louisville and Nashville railroad) and another in course of construction (the Cumberland and Ohio road), a woolen factory, foundry, and cotton factory building.
eight miles from Gallatin on the Nashville turnpike, is a flourishing village.
two miles southwest of Saundersville, is also a flourishing village with railroad depot.
a very old town five miles southeast of Gallatin, on the Cumberland, was once the centre of a large trade, and was a great shipping point, but is not much used now, and is considerably dilapidated.
also called Bledsoe's Lick, is a flourishing village in a beautiful and fertile section of country, has several stores and other business houses, and is noted for the mineral water, much resorted to by invalids and pleasure seekers, and "mounds" and other antiquities. It has a Masonic lodge.
ten miles northeast of Gallatin, on the Scottsville pike, a noted church, with store and blacksmith shop near it, is noted as being one of the places at which the religious revivals of seventy years ago were held. A concise account of the same can be found in "The Early Times in Middle Tennessee," by an old pioneer, John Carr, who lived and died near this place.
on or near Drake's Creek, has a Presbyterian church, Masonic hall, and two or three business houses near it. It was also one of the points where the great revival took place in early times.
on one branch of Station Camp, is about seven miles northwest from Gallatin, on the Red River Pike, and is in a good section of country.
North of the ridge are
which, in many respects, differ from the southern part. This half of the county belongs to that portion of the State commonly called the "Barrens," but with some exceptions this is, in this county, a misnomer. The uplands north of the ridge are generally thin but with careful cultivation can be made to produce good corn and wheat, and a remarkably fine quality of tobacco. Fruits of all varieties, in this climate, grow well, and herds grass will flourish on the poorest soil. The creek bottoms are richer, and there is a marked difference in the fertility of the north slopes and south slopes of the hills; the north slopes being very superior in timber and productiveness. Tobacco is the main staple. Sheep pay better than most other stock, but many are improving their breeds of hogs and cattle, and some of the best mules of the county are raised north of the ridge. The uplands between the creeks are sparsely inhabited, but the valleys are all occupied. All kinds of vegetables grow well, and from the nature of the soil, dry weather does not affect the crops so severely as in the limestone soils.
The new railroad now building through the northeast part of the county will afford market of immense amounts of timber which is otherwise a burden to the owners, who cut and burn thousands of cords yearly to get it off the ground.
Wild grapes grow profusely north of the ridge, and the cultivated varieties, so far as they have been tried, do well.
A few deer and wild turkey are still found occasionally, and the blating of the cock pheasant (grouse) can be heard on a still morning in spring almost everywhere among the hills.
The freestone water of this region is unsurpassed, and there are many springs of mineral water, but few of which have been tested. The
once a famous watering place, are near the Robertson county line, about twenty miles from Nashville, but the improvements were all destroyed by fire during the war.
Many of the streams afford pretty good waterpower, some of which have been applied to machinery.
Indications of iron ore are found in several places, but no specimens have been tested.
The people of this part of the county in general will compare in point of intelligence and general information with those in any part of the State, yet there are localities which stand really in need of good schools, which we hope soon to see in operation.
East Fork, Middle Fork, Cany Fork and other branches of North Drake's Creek (a tributary of Barren River), are streams running in a general northwest direction north of the ridge, with ridges or highlands between them. North Drake's Creek rises at the tunnel on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, and flows in a general northerly course eight miles, then northwesterly through Simpson county, Ky., to Barren River, above Bowling-green. West of this creek is some flat level country, widening in a northwesterly direction, which intervenes between Drake's Creek and the waters of Red River, which rise along the ridge, southwest from the tunnel and flow a general southwest direction, several of them uniting in Robertson county and forming Red River, which empties into the Cumberland near Clarksville.
There are many
in this county, both sawing and grist. The principal are Steele's steam saw mills on Sharpe's Creek, a tributary to Red River, in the west part of the country; Rodemer's steam saw mill, near the Tunnel; Hester's steam saw and grist mills, seven miles southeast of Mitchellville; Groves & Bryant's saw and grist mills, at Mitchellville; Ausbrook's steam saw and grist mills, ten miles northeast of Gallatin; Barbour's water saw and grist mills, four miles northeast of Fountainhead, a flourishing village on the railroad, twelve miles north of Gallatin; Duffer's water mill, eleven miles northeast of Fountainhead; Equel's steam saw mill, on the Scottsville pike, four miles from the Kentucky line; Nimm's steam flour and saw mills, near the Macon county line, four miles from the Kentucky line.
Near the last mill is a Masonic lodge and Methodist church; also a splendid high school, under the charge of efficient teachers where boarding can be had at from one and a half to two dollars per week. Churches of the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations are conveniently located in different parts of the country, and much interest awakening on the school question.
The south of the ridge has several fine mills, viz.: Green Harris' water-power saw and flour mills, on Bledsoe's Creek; Dr. Johnson's water flour mill and Branham's flour mill, on the same; Lyon's steam flour mill at Gallatin; Col. Peyton's fine water-power flour mill, four miles from Gallatin, where Station Camp Creek crosses the Nashville like; Davis' mill, on Big Station Camp, and others.
There are five churches in Gallatin, viz.: Methodist, Baptist, Catholic, Christian and Presbyterian, besides one Methodist and one Baptist belonging to the colored people. The latter have also two schools which are well attended.
There are in the county six Masonic lodges, one at Saundersville, one at Fountain Head. The other four have been mentioned.
There is an effort being made by the lodges to get the "Masonic Orphan's Home" established here, and our venerable brother, John Bell, of Gallatin, proposes to give his farm near Gallatin as a portion of the grounds.
The following were the productions of Sumner county in 1870, according to the Census Report. The part of Trousdale recently cut off was included in Sumner when the census was taken:
|Wheat, winter||163,074 bushels.|
|Wheat, spring||40 bushels.|
|Indian corn||1,155,914 bushels.|
|Irish potatoes||35,253 bushels.|
|Sweet potatoes||25,074 bushels.|
|Sorghum molasses||38,563 gallons.|
(A bound, original collection of the Rural Sun, dating from October, 1872, through December, 1879, is found in the Nashville Room of the Davidson County Public Library.)