Saturday, July 3, 2010

Historic Blue Grass Line 2

The Historic Blue Grass Line

A Review Of The History Of Davidson And Sumner Counties,
Together With Sketches of Places and Events
Along the Route Of The

By James Douglas Anderson
Nashville, Tennessee. 1913


The earliest hunters, explorers and settlers in this section were guided through the wilderness mostly by buffalo trails, which years - centuries, perhaps - of constant treading had made through this morass of cane. The desire to follow these trails led to the discovery of various salt licks, and their convenience as a way of travel determined the location of many stations. Historical and documentary evidence establishes the early existence of a buffalo trail between the French Lick and Mansker's, one between Mansker's and Bledsoe's via the present site of Gallatin, thus connecting or running contiguous to nearly all of the first eight forts built in Davidson and Sumner Counties.

In laying off his right of way the buffalo set the precedent for modern railway engineering and economy, by deviating from a straight line when necessary to save steam and accelerate speed. In laying off the earliest roads in this section the pioneers in many instances widened the buffalo trails or followed their general course to the several licks.

When, therefore, at the April term, 1785, of the Davidson County Court, "Capt." Mansker, George Mansker, Edward Hogan, Isaac Bledsoes, Ephraim Peyton, and "Capt." Blackmore were authorized to "clear out" a road from Dry Creekl at Edenwald to Bledsoe's Lick - the work being divided between them - they joined in the "good roads" movement of that period by taking advantage whenever possible of what the buffalo had done.

There is no record showing when the other part of the road from Dry Creek to Nashborough was "cleared out," but it must have been "cleared out' first.

Going north from Nashborough this road turned to the right at or near where the Inglewood school house now stands, went by Haysboro, turned again in a northwesterly direction, passed through the front yard of F. J. Pon's "Blue Grass Farm" and came into the present pike near the foot of the Dr. John Maxey hill north of Madison.

In the first thirty five years of its existence any veteran of the Revolutionary War, well settled on his bounty of 640 acres adjoining, might have sauntered down to this old highway, sat upon his rail fence and passed the time of day with the venerable Asbury, in his $30 chaise, which "tallied with his purse," or with McKendree on horseback, encircling the then entire Southwest: or with Grundy, or Bowen, or Houston or Trousdale going to court or with Elliott or Barry, or Greenberry Williams, or Jackson, varying between the Gallatin and Nashville races - by the Eternal.

Or he might have had his thin blood made hot again with the fire of King's Mountain, as with uplifted hat and warlike yell, he watched at different times, the martial tread of Conn's battalion of Sumner County boys on their way to avenge the massacre of Ft. Mims, and Hamilton's company going to help check the British at New Orleans.

As time went on the stage coach came - wonderful progress! Doubtless the Revolutionary veteran resented its coming because his father had done without it. And what could be better than the good times!

Through travel being largely changed from private conveyances he had to leave his rail fence beside the road and go to the nearest stage office for outside news, which was not near as bad as he thought it would be - in fact, he learned to like it pretty well.

In 1830 - how much sooner can not be definitely stated - there were three stage lines running out the Gallatin road by Haysboro to the then old William Donelson or Burton residence, from which one line went to Louisville, by way of Goodlettsville, Tyree Springs, Franklin, Bowling Greenm etc., and the other two via Hendersonville, Gallatin, Scottsville, etc., to Harrodsburg, thence one to Frankfort and one to Lexington. These two lines together gave Gallatin tri-weekly mails from North to South.

The gates on the Gallatin turnpike between Nashville and Gallatin were opened for travel February 10, 1839m and those from Gallatin to the Kentucky line January 1, 1840. The 49 and 1/2 miles cost $290,000, or $5,800 per mile, the State bearing half the expense. By concert of action a pike from the Tennessee line to Louisville was ready for business about the same time. The old stage coaches were painted over and new ones bought; the drivers put fresh crackers on their whips, the horses more speed into their heels; the bugle's notes had a strange thrill, a new meaning; the old Revolutionary soldier took to his bed and passed from the scene; a new day had dawned - Progress!

Thee was then a daily stage each way between Nashville and Louisville by the way of Gallatin. Later there were two. Carter, Thomas and Hough (Daniel F. Carter and Joseph H. Hough, of Nashville, and Samuel B. Thomas of Elizabethtown, Ky. - later Carter & Hough), operated this, as well as the other line by Tyree Springs, and for twenty years carried the mails, for which service their usual and successful bid was about $25,000 per year.

To please people, great speed was necessary in carrying the mails, as well as passengers, and the four horses pulling each stage always went in a gallop. Every ten or twelve mils four fresh horsed, harnessed and held in waiting by four men, wee quickly exchanged for the four wearied steeds. At first the coaches were small, but later were enlarged so as to carry 12 passengers inside and four or five on top. Baggage was carried in a "boot" behind. The time from Louisville to Nashville was two days and a night, and the "passage" about $12.

Stores, post-offices, taverns, villages sprung up in the wake of the Louisville and Nashville stage. It fixed the time for several communities to gather and discuss the events of the day, especially in times of war or great political excitement. The long drawn out notes of the bugle announce the approach of the United States mail, the people flock around the post-office door; the mail is opened; Henry Clay has been defeated and strong men weep. Again, the Mexican war is over and those of the Cheatham "Blues" and Blackmore's "Tenth Legion," still alive, will soon be home - hurrah for Zachary Taylor!

But a greater man than Zachary Taylor was the stage driver- so thought the small boy. With what wonderful skill could he handle the reins! What an artist with the whip! He could make the lash sound like a pistol shot. His bugle was his glory and his glory was his bugle. When in musical moods, in the starry silence, he could wake people far and near as he sped along, the unchallenged monarch of the highway. Is it nay wonder that every small boy wanted to be a stage driver? Or that every stage driver wished he was a small boy?

But not everybody made "through trips" in the stage coaches. Many who could afford it preferred to go in private conveyances with their servants, outriders and footmen. Thus they traveled from the Southern plantations to summer resorts here and further north, and gave the old pike a touch of gentility that seems strange in these plebian times.

This pike was also a great artery of commerce, connecting Northern and Southern markets. Large freight wagons, with huge sky-blue beds that carried many thousand pounds at a load, traversed its course. Two men accompanied each wagon and they traveled about four miles an hour. Each wagon carried food for horses and provisions for men. A camp-fire supper, a blanket on the ground, an early breakfast, a daylight start - such was the long haul of interstate commerce in the days of our grandfathers.

The natural results of this turnpike traffic were rate wars between the wagon owners and the steamboat lines operating between Nashville and Louisville. But in time this rivalry ceased - the railroad came and took the freight from both the wagons and the boats, and took the passengers from the stage. The old coach was pulled under the shed its last time; the bugler blew his horn no more; the tavern keeper closed his blinds and locked his doors forever. Only a part of the original pike - kept up by local patronage - is left to remind the traveler of its former glory as a national thoroughfare.

And it is worthy of note that in the same year the Nashville-Gallatin Interurban was commenced Sumner County should have voted for the issuance of bonds to end the 76 years active corporate existence of the Gallatin Turnpike Company. This result has since been accomplished by the purchase of the pike. Another new day had dawned - Progress!

Chapter III.
Content on this page was transcribed and published by Debie Cox. This book is in the public domain. The transcription and formatting of this page and all chapters of The Historic Blue Grass Line as published on are the property of Debie Cox.
Copyright © 2006, Debie Cox.

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