Davidson County was created in 1783, when Tennessee was still part of North Carolina.  Nashville was the center of a large and productive agricultural area, with some slave-owning plantations, such as Belle Meade, but many more smaller diversified farms, producing not just cotton, tobacco, and corn, but hay, wheat, rye, peas, beans, molasses, honey, beef and dairy cattle, hogs and sheep.

Originally known as White’s Bend, after a 1789 3840-acre Revolutionary War land grant to James White, the area became known as Bells Bend when Montgomery Bell, a wealthy iron producer, bought more than 6000 acres, which were subsequently divided and sold.

Hydes Ferry Turnpike connected the Bend to Nashville (now paralleled by Highway 12), and Tom Scott’s original store was near the intersection of Sulphur Creek, Bells Bend Road (now Old Hickory Blvd), and Hydes Ferry, and gave the name Scottsboro to the small community at the crossroads.

David Lipscomb, preacher, editor, and founder of the Church of Christ, built a log cabin on his property in McCord Hollow.  He went on to found the Nashville Bible School, which became Lipscomb University.

Lipscomb’s log house and property were bought by the McCord family.  Young George Graves, coming out to the Bend to preach his first sermon, met Katherine, one of the McCord daughters,  and the couple soon married and, after a few years away, returned to the farm.  Mr. Graves headed the Bells Bend Church of Christ for many years.

His son, George W. Graves Jr., married Ann Walker, a neighbor, and raised 13 children in the old Lipscomb house, several of whom still live on the home property, raising gardens, corn, hay, and cattle.  Jerry Graves manages a large sod farm in the Bend, and Eddie and his sons have a well-equipped yard maintenance business.

The Clees brothers, seven Bavarian emigrants, moved to the bend in 1869, starting a farm and timber and sawmill business.  They also established the ferry in the 1880’s, which continued to carry people, produce and cars across the river until the Judge Hickman, the last 8-car ferry, was shut down in 1990.  The landing is still used for launching boats and is often known as “Cleece’s Ferry”, a popular misspelling of the original name.

The Barnes family has also lived in the Bend since the mid-1870’s, and have extended family still in the area.  Wesley Barnes, now in his 80’s, built many of the barns and fences in northwest Davidson county, and is well-known for the fine quality of his work.

The Buchanans were another large landowning family, who successfully farmed about 2000 acres and ran crews that operated their threshing machines throughout the county.   The Buchanan property was eventually sold to Eastman Kodak and was the site for the defeated dump/landfill proposal.  It is now BellsBendPark.

Many other families farmed or owned property in the Bend, and have contributed prominently to its history.  This brief summary cannot do justice to them all.

Though the Bend was fertile and prosperous, floods periodically inundated the fields.  In the floods of 1926 the Cumberland covered thousands of acres, drowning hundreds of cows and ruining barns and farm equipment.  Roads and the railroad were damaged and impassable for weeks.

In contrast to the large-scale flood-plain farming in the Bend, the rocky hills of northern Scottsboro were mostly settled by small scale farmers and loggers.  During Prohibition (1920-1933)  these wooded hollows were known for the quantity and quality of moonshine, and Hydes Ferry Pike was called “bootlegger’s pike”.  Debris from old stills is still found occasionally back in the hills and in the Beaman Park area.

There used to be a yearly sorghum festival near the old sorghum mill at Back Creek Road (now Pecan Valley Road) and Old Hickory, and, until the 1980’s,  local residents still slaughtered and processed their own hogs each winter.

In the early 20th century, in an attempt to modernize farming, the U.S. Department of Agriculture started 4-H clubs and co-ops, and, for the wives, community clubs. There were originally 25 community clubs in Davidson County, of which 6 remain.  The Scottsboro Community Club is still active,  hosting potlucks and dances in its small block building, and its legendary fall barbecue, which attracts enthusiasts from all over the county, as well as far-flung residents who come back home for the event.

Now, in the twenty-first century, there are still many connections with this history.  Scott’s Store eventually became a gas station, and is now closed.  Across the street, the Lewis Country Store is in full swing, with gas, a diner, a long porch (sometimes you can hear George West playing his fiddle there), and basic gift and food items, owned by local resident Jimmy Lewis and his family.  Wesley Barnes still lives down in the Bend.  Many landowners run a few cows, and several small organic farms have sprung up, bringing a new generation of farmers, and cooks to the area.  A small hops project has been working with Yazoo brewery, and there are plans for a new orchard, and a little blueberry farm.  Square dancing is back, and the sounds of banjo and fiddle are again floating through the hollows and hills.

For more information see Chapter 4 - People and the Land pages 25-58 in Beaman Park to Bells Bend: A Community Conservation Project

Links to Archaeology Articles in the Corridor






Native Americans In Beaman to Bells Bend

The banks of the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee include some of the richest prehistoric archaeological deposits in the Southeast. While many sites in the vicinity of Nashville have been destroyed by modern development over the past century, the natural setting of Bells Bend has resulted in widespread archaeological preservation. The Bend is home to at least 60 recorded sites that span more than 14,000 years of human history. Numerous unrecorded sites are also present throughout the area, as attested to by the abundant artifacts which continue to be uncovered in farms and gardens.  .

What may be some of the oldest inhabitants of North America, the Paleoindians, settled along the Cumberland River sometime before 10,000 B.C., near the end of the last ice age. . These first Americans left many spear points and stone artifacts scattered around Tennessee and the Southeast. However, archaeologists know relatively little about the daily lives of the Paleoindians, because intact archaeological sites of that age are not typically preserved.  Bells Bend is one of those rare areas with the potential for continuous prehistoric settlement stretching back to the Paleoindian period, and, as such, may be one of the most important archaeological regions in the southeastern United States.  Archaeologists and Paleoindian researchers from the University of Tennessee and the University of Arizona conducted a field study in the summer of 2010, with about 30 archaeology students living and working for a month at Bells Bend Park.

The last ice age ended by approximately 8000 B.C., and as the glaciers retreated northward, large game species such mastodon became extinct, and were replaced by modern faunal and floral species. Over the following millennia, ancient Native Americans living on Bells Bend and throughout the Southeast adapted to rely on smaller game mammals, including white-tailed deer, turkey, and various aquatic species. The bank of the Cumberland River along Bells Bend includes several large shell deposits, which include the remains of thousands of freshwater mussels and snails harvested and consumed by prehistoric people. By around 1000 B.C. cultures of the Woodland period had settled in permanent villages and begun making pottery, developing horticulture, and were constructing earthen mounds. These practices all laid the groundwork for the emergence of the Mississippian culture around 1000 A.D.

Mississippian populations were substantial, and centered in permanent villages and mound centers oriented along the major waterways of the Southeast. These settlements relied on floodplain agriculture and the cultivation of crops including maize, beans, and squash, as well as a variety of wild plants and animals. In Middle Tennessee, larger Mississippian towns were often planned around a central plaza and included both platform and burial mounds. Large villages and individual family farmsteads spread out from these main centers and were controlled politically by the inhabitants of the mound sites.

Bells Bend was home to at least one Mississippian mound center, which included a flat-topped platform mound and a large cemetery. That site was excavated by the Harvard Peabody Museum in 1877, and unfortunately its exact location is unknown. There are also several large Mississippian village sites on the Bend, one of which was excavated and reported in the archives of the Tennessee Archaeological Society in 1972.

Although Bells Bend is known to be a archaeologically-rich setting, there has been no comprehensive survey of the area. Instead, over the past decades the archaeological resources of the Bend have gained attention mostly when threatened by planned development. In the late 1980s the prospect of a dump and landfill disturbing ancient burial sites brought many Native Americans to protest, and these concerns helped to defeat the landfill proposal—voices speaking down through thousands of years to the present.

Illicit looting of ancient Native American gravesites and artifacts has been a serious problem in Middle Tennessee for many years, despite state laws prohibiting the disturbance of human burials. Looting along the Middle Cumberland and on Bells Bend escalated in 2010 following catastrophic flooding which uncovered many new sites. .  We hope the public can begin to understand that these objects are windows into our past, and provide much more information if they can be studied in their original location, exactly as they were left thousands of years ago.

Eric Wooldridge, an avid amateur prehistorian who manages an organic farm in Scottsboro, said, after finding another spear point:  “It is a truly profound feeling to know that the last person to make and use this stone tool lived in this area, just as I have my entire life, while relying on the area for food, water, and other resources, just as we have. The maker of this tool has left a small yet remarkable footprint on this rich land, and I am the first person to hold it in over 5,000 years.”

For more information see Chapter 4 - People and the Land pages 25-58 in Beaman Park to Bells Bend: A Community Conservation Project

Links to Archaeology Articles in the Corridor