by Debie Oeser Cox
These books are not listed in any particular order. Not necessarily the most important books, just some that I use frequently or have enjoyed reading. Most are available for borrowing from the Nashville Public Library. Many of them may be purchased online or through local booksellers. Some are available, for free online, from Google Books in PDF format.
Seedtime on the Cumberland, Harriette Arnow (1960) - Flowering of the Cumberland, Harriette Arnow (1963) Author Harriette Simpson Arnow is better known for the many novels that she wrote, than for these two historical volumes of life on the Cumberland. Arnow certainly did her homework and research in preparation for the writing of these two books. Late 18th century pioneer life, in southern Kentucky and Middle Tennessee, related in detail by Arnow, is written in an easy to follow narrative style. These are among my favorites.
History of Nashville Tennessee, H. W. Crew, (1890) There were actually several authors of this book. Rev. Dr. E. E. Hoss, Vanderbilt professor wrote chapters 1-5. Judge William B. Reese, professor at Vanderbilt Law School, wrote chapters 6, 7 and 17. The majority of the book was written by John Wooldridge, with contributions of many others. The book is a comprehensive history of the City of Nashville from her creation in 1784 through 1890.
Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements, Paul Clements (2012) - This one is a tell all. One of those "all you ever wanted to know" books. Author Paul Clements has spent much of his life pursuing the history of Middle Tennessee and many years of direct research in the writing of the more than 750 pages including more than 200 pages of maps, and detailed endnotes. Spend some time walking through this website. The website is well worth a visit, and provides a view of a sample chapter of the book. Clements also published A Past Remembered: A Collection of Antebellum Houses in Davidson County, in 1987.
The Civil and Political History of Tennessee, Judge John Haywood (1823) - Judge John Haywood undertook the gathering of information to write this important book while serving as president of the Tennessee Antiquarian Society. You can read online or download this book at google books.
The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, Tennessee Historical Society (1998) - Have a question about a place or person in Tennessee? You may find the answer in this book.
Early Travels in the Tennessee Country, 1540-1800, Samuel Cole Williams (1928) - One of several books by Williams that I use as reference and research tools. Others titles by Williams include; History of the Lost State of Franklin (1924), Dawn of Tennessee Valley and Tennessee History (1937).
The African-American History of Nashville Tennessee, 1780-1930, Bobby L. Lovett (1999) - A history that deals with slavery and free blacks pre Civil War. Religion, culture, politics, business, education, civil rights are topics covered. This one is on my favored list. Lovett's other writings include The Civil Rights Movement in Tennessee: A Narrative History, (2005).
The Historic Blue Grass Line, James Douglas Anderson (1913) - A wonderful history of early Davidson and Sumner counties. Includes an account of events, places and persons along the Gallatin Pike from the Cumberland River at Nashville to Gallatin, Tennessee. Another favorite.
History of Middle Tennessee, Albigence Waldo Putnam (1859) - A. W. Putnam was president of the Tennessee Historical Society at the time of publication. The author's collection on deposit at the Tennessee State Library and Archives includes Putnam's Civil War diary. The diary provides a firsthand account of the battles at Murfreesboro, Franklin, and Nashville, Tennessee.
Nashville in the 1890s, William Waller (1970), Nashville, 1900 1910, William Waller (1972) - These are fun books with lots of photos and a timeline of event by date in the back.
Eastin Morris' Tennessee Gazetteer, 1834, and Matthew Rhea's Map of the State of Tennessee, 1832. This gazetteer was republished in 1971 by Robert M. McBride. Tennessee towns, cities, counties, river, creeks and other geographical features can be found within the pages, between a brief history of the state, census data, the Tennessee Constitution and an appendix of lists of government officers. Rhea's map is tucked in a pocket at the back.
Centennial Cook Book (1952) - Nashville's Food Heritage, (1958, 1976) - These books are part of a community study series began by the Home Economics Department of Nashville City Schools and continued by Metropolitan Public Schools of Nashville. I don't suppose they will be found on many lists but I think they are fun books with tidbits of local history not found elsewhere. The books feature recipes and much more. Tucked among the recipes are historical sketches of homes, restaurants, hotels and other businesses, and Nashville events. Reference only at Nashville Public Library. Look in used book stores around town. Also available online.
Many books have been written concerning the history of Nashville. Some are very broad while others have a specific time period or subject. There are many community histories, West Nashville, Its People and Environs by Kelley; Donelson, Tennessee, Its History and Landmarks by Aiken, and North Edgefield Remembered by McKee, are a few. Arcadia Publishing has books on Nashville Baseball, Brewing and Broadcasting; East Nashville, Inglewood and Sylvan Park; and another half dozen books about various Nashville topics. George Zepp retired writer (Learn Nashville) and editor for the Tennessean; and Ridley Wills II, are two of my favorite current Nashville authors. They make learning fun while teaching us about Nashville.
And last but not least is Nashville fiction. Alfred Leland Crabb wrote historical novels and many of them were set in Nashville. Crabb was an educator, retiring from Peabody College at Nashville in 1949. Other than a Tennessee history course in elementary school, Crabb was my introduction to Nashville history. I don't remember what book I read first, but soon I had read everything in the school library with his name on it. I read them again as a young adult and again later to my children. Yes they are fiction, but Crabb knew his history and there is a lot of fact mixed in with the fiction. Journey to Nashville, Lodging at the Saint Cloud, Home to the Hermitage, Breakfast at the Hermitage, Dinner at Belmont and Supper at the Maxwell House are all available through the Nashville Public Library. They can be purchased online at Amazon and other booksellers. Most of Crabb's books were written in the 1940's and 50's. Some were reprinted in the early 1970's. I am amazed and delighted that they are still available.
If you have not used Google Books, I encourage you to try it out. There are many books in the public domain that are available to read online or download to your computer.
Books for the Nashville and Tennessee History Bibliophile by Debie Oeser Cox is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.