Buchanan’s Station and Cemetery

by Mike Slate.

Buchanan’s Station was a fortified settlement established about 1784 during the pioneer era of Nashville, Tennessee. Located on a bluff overlooking Mill Creek in today’s Donelson, the homestead was founded by Major John Buchanan who lived there with his family and other settlers until his death in 1832.1 The station is best known as the site of the famous Battle of Buchanan’s Station, which occurred on September 30, 1792.2

In addition to being situated along one of Nashville’s earliest roads, originally called the Lower Trace3 and later described as the road to Buchanan’s Mill,4 the fort was also near the old Nickajack Trail5 as well as what has been called the First Holston Road.6 Eventually the road by Buchanan’s Station became the southern artery to Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage estate and, by about 1869, the approximate route of the old Tennessee & Pacific Railroad.7

Young reenactor at a 2012 Buchanan’s Station Cemetery event. The orange flags near her mark recently identified graves. (NHN photo)

The fort is known to have been positioned precisely at the northwest corner of today’s Elm Hill Pike and Massman Drive, and a state historical plaque marks the spot.8 A large commercial building now covers the site. Not seen from Elm Hill Pike but clearly visible from Massman Drive is the extant Buchanan’s Station Cemetery, the only vestige of the original settlement and one of the oldest pioneer graveyards in Middle Tennessee. Buried here are Major John Buchanan (1759-1832) and his wife Sarah “Sally” Ridley Buchanan (1774-1831), along with about 65 other family members, affiliated settlers, and possibly slaves. Many graves are marked only by anonymous fieldstones.9 Notably, historical circumstances indicate that at least five frontiersmen who were killed by Indians are probably buried in the cemetery: Samuel Buchanan,10 Cornelius Riddle,11 John Buchanan Sr.,12 William Mulherrin,13 and John Blackburn.14

Largely because it was the venue of the remarkable 1792 Indian attack, Buchanan’s Station has been frequently mentioned or discussed by both amateur and professional historians for well over two centuries.15 Buchanan’s Station was, and continues to be, an archetypal intersection of pioneer culture, involving migration dynamics, settlement formation, land acquisition, conflict with Native Americans, and integration into the developing American West.

1 According to author Laurence Trabue, Richard Buchanan (a son of Major John Buchanan) sold the Buchanan’s Station location to Ralph Smith in 1841. Thus, the station remained with the Buchanan family until that year. I use the 1832 date in order to delineate the years that John Buchanan himself lived there. See Laurence O. Trabue, “Early Nashville Homes, 1780-1830,” in Graham, Eleanor, and Mary Glenn Hearne, Nashville Families & Homes: Paragraphs from Nashville History Lecture Series, 1979-81 (Nashville: The Nashville Public Library, 1983), 111.

2 See the “Battle of Buchanan’s Station” article.

3 Buchanan’s Station was situated on North Carolina land grant #83. The survey warrant for that grant located the land “on Mill Creek Where the Lower Trace Leading to Stones River Crosses Sd Creek.” Apparently, today’s Elm Hill Pike, or a portion thereof, was originally known as “the Lower Trace,” indicating an old buffalo trail. The warrant is transcribed in Drake, Masters, & Puryear, Data Supplement 1 for Founding of the Cumberland Settlements: The First Atlas, 1779-1804 (Gallatin TN: Warioto Press, 2009), 136-137.

4 See the “Major John Buchanan” article, note 7.

5 The Nickajack Trail, which was a segment of the old Cisca and St. Augustine Indian Trail, ran from Chickamauga Indian country near today’s Chattanooga northwest to Nashville. The Indians who attacked Buchanan’s Station in 1792 probably approached the station via this trail, or portions thereof. Today’s Murfreesboro Road may follow the original route of the Nickajack. As the trail entered Nashville it came very close to Buchanan’s Station. Regarding the Nickajack and other trails, see William E. Meyer, Indian Trails of the Southeast (Davenport IA: Gustav’s Library, 2009, reprint from the “Forty-second Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology” 1924-25), especially page 848 and the included maps.

6 The term “First Holston Road” is used in Masters & Puryear, Thoroughfare for Freedom: The Second Atlas of the Cumberland Settlements, 1779-1804 (Gallatin TN: Warioto Press, 2011), especially pages 96-97. Created in the spring of 1788, this was the first trail blazed from Nashville across the Cumberland Plateau to Knoxville. It preceded the Cumberland Road (also called Avery’s Trace) that was soon afterwards built on the north side of the Cumberland River. The First Holston Road proceeded from Nashville “via Buchanan’s Station” according to pioneer William Martin’s account in Paul Clements, Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements (Nashville: self- published, 2012), 288.

7 The southern or lower road to the Hermitage appears on Matthew Rhea’s 1832 map of Tennessee, and the route of the Tennessee & Pacific Railroad appears on Wilbur Foster’s 1871 map of Davidson County, Tennessee.

19th century house on the site of Buchanan’s Station, Elm Hill Pike at Massman Drive. The log building (right) is a remnant of the original 1780 fort. These structures were later demolished and replaced by an industrial park. (1936 photo courtesy of TN State Library & Archives)

8 Several sources nicely align to present almost incontrovertible proof of the precise location of the Buchanan’s Station main structure. One of the most important is Roberta Brandau, ed., History of Homes and Gardens of Tennessee (Nashville: Parthenon Press, 1964 edition of the 1936 original), 142-144. In the entry therein titled “Buchanan Station,” Ralph Smith’s “Mansion House” is pictured and captioned as “on the site of the original Buchanan structure.” Smith’s mansion became the Knapp Farm Clubhouse (owned by George Peabody College), the exact location of which is known to many contemporary Nashvillians since it was not torn down until shortly after 1980. Brandau aligns with Trabue, 111.

9 See archeologist Dan Allen’s report: Dan S. Allen, “Archaeological Survey of the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery” (Murfreesboro: Dan S. Allen & Associates, 2013), 31.

10 Samuel was the second of Major John Buchanan’s brothers to be killed by Indians (the first was Alexander during the “Battle of the Bluff”). Harriette Simpson Arnow reports that Samuel was killed on May 8, 1786, while out ploughing in the field near the creek, apparently at Buchanan’s Station. See Harriette Simpson Arnow, Flowering of the Cumberland (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1996, new edition of the 1963 original), 241-242. Samuel may have been the first person to be buried in the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery.

11 Cornelius Riddle was killed in November 1786 near Buchanan’s Station while hunting turkeys. See Clements, 249. Harriette Simpson Arnow speaks of Riddle (she calls him “Ruddle”) as living at Buchanan’s Station with his wife (the former Jane Mulherrin), and Arnow goes so far as to describe the couple’s cabin at the station. See Harriette Simpson Arnow, Seedtime on the Cumberland (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995, new edition of the 1960 original), 366.

12 John Buchanan Sr. was hacked to death with a tomahawk, in the presence of his wife (Jane Trindle Buchanan), inside Buchanan’s Station in 1787. See Arnow, Flowering of the Cumberland, 6. The foremost account of this tragedy is in G.W. Featherstonaugh, Excursion through the Slave States, Vol. I (London: John Murray, 1844), 205. John Sr. and his wife Jane are believed to be buried in the rocked-in plot in the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery.

The two large stones at center front mark the graves of Major John and Sally Buchanan. John Buchanan Sr. and his wife Jane are believed to be buried in the rocked-in plot on the right. (Photo by Tim Slate)

13 William Mulherrin was killed at Buchanan’s Station during the same 1787 incident in which John Buchanan Sr. was killed. See pioneer Robert Weakley’s account in Clements, 244.

14 John Haywood reports that John Blackburn was killed in 1789 at Buchanan’s Station. The Indians left a spear sticking in his body. See John Haywood, The Civil and Political History of the State of Tennessee (Knoxville: Tenase Company, 1969, reprint of the 1891 edition which was itself a reprint of the original 1823 edition), 257.

15 See the “Battle of Buchanan’s Station” article.


Allen, Dan S. “Archaeological Survey of the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery.” Murfreesboro, Dan S. Allen and Associates, 2013.

Arnow, Harriette Simpson. Flowering of the Cumberland. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1996 edition of the 1963 original.

Arnow, Harriette Simpson. Seedtime on the Cumberland. Lincoln, University of Nebraska Press, 1995 edition of the 1960 original.

Clements, Paul. Chronicles of the Cumberland Settlements. Nashville, self-published, 2012.

Drake, Masters, & Puryear. Founding of the Cumberland Settlements: The First Atlas, 1779-1804. Gallatin TN, Warioto Press, 2009.

Haywood, John. The Civil and Political History of the State of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tenase Company, 1969 edition of the 1823 original.

Masters & Puryear. Thoroughfare for Freedom: The Second Atlas of the Cumberland Settlements, 1779-1804. Gallatin TN, Warioto Press, 2011.

Preserving Nashville’s Pioneer Legacy, Part II: The Role of John and Sally Buchanan in Nashville History

from the files of the Nashville Historical Newsletter.

This account was written by Mike Slate in 2011 as part of his campaign to save Buchanan’s Station Cemetery from being lost in a flurry of industrial development.

Early map of the Cumberland River (Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2013591467)

John Buchanan (1759-1832) and his group of settlers arrived at the French Lick (future Nashville, Tennessee) in the winter of 1779-80. In his book Tennessee during the Revolutionary War, historian Samuel Cole Williams states that “Some South Carolinians on the move to the West overtook the Robertson party; and, being smaller in number and less encumbered, reached French Lick first, crossed the Cumberland on ice, and began the building of cabins. The South Carolinians included John Buchanan and his brother, Alexander; Daniel and Sampson Williams, brothers; James and John Mulherrin, and Thomas Thompson.” If this account is accurate, John Buchanan was one of the very first pioneers to call Nashville home. Today John (often called “Major John”) lies buried at the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery.

John Buchanan was the son of John Buchanan Sr., one of Nashville’s first heroes. In the April 2, 1781,Battle of the Bluffs” near Fort Nashborough, John Sr. famously saved Edward Swanson from being killed by a Native American attacker, but Buchanan lost his son Alexander during this battle. Several years later John Sr. was himself murdered at Buchanan’s Station by Indians; an account of this event is preserved by George W. Featherstonhaugh in his Excursion through the Slave States. Samuel Buchanan, another brother of Major John, was also killed by Indians at the station. For an evocative account of Samuel’s death see the article, “The Buchanans of Buchanan’s Station” in the Chicago Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3, 1857. Buchanan Sr., his wife Jane, and their son Samuel are likely buried in the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery in unmarked graves. Though he lost his father and two brothers to Indian warfare, Major John, unlike many others who attempted to settle in Nashville but moved on, persevered here for the remainder of his life.

John Buchanan’s Book of Arithmetic (courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives)

John Buchanan wrote Nashville’s first book. Apparently in a systematic effort to learn the mathematics of land surveying, Major John created John Buchanan’s Book of Arithmetic, and dated it June 20, 1781. He did indeed pursue land surveying, and his name is listed on many early Nashville surveys. In the course of his public career, Buchanan himself amassed many hundreds of acres, becoming quite prosperous. Today, Buchanan’s book is a Nashville and Tennessee artifact that is carefully preserved in the Tennessee State Library and Archives. Ironically, Tennessee has treasured the book but not the grave of the man who produced it.

After living approximately four years at Fort Nashborough, Buchanan and his family moved a few miles east and established Buchanan’s Station on Mill Creek, near today’s Elm Hill Pike and Massman Drive. In addition to a stockaded fort with blockhouses, Major John built a grist mill, and some authorities believe his mill is the one that gave Mill Creek its name. In about 1786 John married Margaret Kennedy, who died after giving birth to their first and only child, John Buchanan II (technically John III), born on May 15, 1787. Little is known about Margaret, who may be buried in an unmarked grave at the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery. Descendants of John Buchanan II include Tennessee Governor John Price Buchanan, Nobel Prize winner James M. Buchanan, and Nashville attorney Alexander Buchanan.

John Buchanan was the commander of the fort on the fateful night of September 30, 1792, when several hundred Indians attacked it as part of a grand plan to destroy the Cumberland settlements. In this “Battle of Buchanan’s Station,” roughly 20 riflemen in the station repulsed the horde, killing several Indian leaders, without the loss of a single settler. Historian J.G.M. Ramsey called the victory “a feat of bravery which has scarcely been surpassed in all the annals of border warfare.” James Phelan offered a similar assessment: “This is one of the most remarkable incidents in the early border warfare of the Southwest. So wonderful, indeed, that even some of the pioneers believed in the direct interposition of Providence.” Not surprisingly, the story of the Battle has been recounted in many volumes of history, including Theodore Roosevelt’s The Winning of the West.

Frontier wedding (photo courtesy of Living History farms)

Perhaps the wisest decision John Buchanan ever made was to marry Sarah “Sally” Ridley (1773-1831). Sally was one of the first white females born in what would eventually become the state of Tennessee. Along with her father, Revolutionary War veteran Captain George Ridley, she arrived in the Cumberland settlements about 1790. Her family established Ridley’s Station in the area of today’s Nolensville Road and Glenrose Avenue. Sally, a large woman with a large personality, was destined to become a legend in much of the eastern half of the United States.

Throughout the Battle of Buchanan’s Station, Sally, nine months pregnant with the couple’s first child, was the heroic voice of victory. She encouraged the riflemen at every turn, molded bullets when the supply ran low (reportedly by melting her dinnerware), blocked another woman in the station from surrendering herself and her children to almost certain death, and helped fool the Indians by a “showing of hats.” Sally’s uncommon spunk was extolled by biographer Elizabeth Ellet in her 1856 volume, The Women of the American Revolution, which referred to her as “the greatest heroine of the West.” Periodicals from as far away as Boston immortalized Sarah, some fancifully, and she was listed in at least two national encyclopedias of biography (Appleton’s and Herringshaw’s).

John and Sarah Buchanan had thirteen children: George, Alexander, Elizabeth, Samuel, William, Jane T., James B., Moses R., Sarah V., Charles B., Richard G., Henry R., and Nancy M. The Buchanan children and grandchildren intermarried with members of other settlements around Buchanan’s Station, their families becoming important not only to Davidson County history but also to that of neighboring Rutherford and Williamson counties. Eventually the Buchanan descendants spread to all parts of the United States, and accounts of their accomplishments and contributions to the nation could fill volumes.

A reenactor portraying Cherokee Chief John Watts shares historical information with visitors to the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery, 2012.

Buchanan’s Station also has significant associations with local Native American history. It was a confederacy of Creeks, Cherokees, and Shawnees that attacked the Station in 1792. During the battle, Chiachattalla (also known as Kiachatalee, Tsiagatali, Kittegiska, and Tom Tunbridge’s son), an especially dauntless warrior, was shot near the fort. As he lay dying, he reportedly continued his efforts to set the structure ablaze by fanning the flames with his last breaths. Also killed in the battle were “the Shawnee Warrior” (Cheeseekau, a brother of the great Tecumseh) and White Owl’s Son, brother of Dragging Canoe. The great Chickamauga chief John Watts was shot through both thighs but was removed from the battleground in a litter and later recovered. For a partial list of Indian casualties at the Battle of Buchanan’s Station see American State Papers: Indian Affairs 4-331.

Today John and Sarah Buchanan are almost forgotten. Very few citizens know that their graves, with the original headstones, survive in Buchanan’s Station Cemetery, the last vestige of the pioneer settlement. The educational and inspirational lessons of their lives have been largely squandered, and the story of the Battle of Buchanan’s Station has been all but lost. Believing that the Buchanans are an integral part of early Nashville history – see the first chapter in Harriette Simpson Arnow’s Flowering of the Cumberland – a number of concerned Nashville-area citizens have formed the Friends of the Buchanan’s Station Cemetery, with the goals of remedying years of neglect of this historic site and of restoring one of Nashville’s founding families to its proper place in our historical consciousness. (2011)

John and Sally Buchanan’s gravestones in Buchanan’s Station Cemetery

Preserving Nashville’s Pioneer Legacy, Part I: Paving over Our Past

from the files of the Nashville Historical Newsletter.

Mike Slate wrote this press release in early 2012, hoping to stimulate public interest in rescuing one of early Nashville’s most important historical sites, which was about to be swallowed up by industrial development.

On a rocky bluff above a bubbling Mill Creek, under a canopy of trees that include American elm, black cherry, and sassafras, a group of pioneers – some of the architects of Nashville’s “can do” spirit – lie buried and forgotten. Two of them are especially significant.

Twenty-year-old John Buchanan (later called “Major John”) and his family arrived at the future Nashville during the unusually cold winter of 1779-1780—perhaps even ahead of James Robertson’s founding party—with nothing but a few necessities on pack horses. Unlike many other early settlers, Major John persevered here for the remainder of his life.

After losing his brother Alexander at Ft. Nashborough’s 1781 “Battle of the Bluffs” and writing Nashville’s first book, John Buchanan’s Book of Arithmetic, the young land surveyor and his extended family established Buchanan’s Station at Mill Creek, near today’s Elm Hill Pike at Massman Drive in what is now Donelson. Additional sorrows soon followed as John lost his father, John Buchanan Sr., and another brother, Samuel, in continuing Indian assaults.

The Chickamauga War reached its climax at Buchanan’s Station on September 30, 1792, when only about twenty defenders held off several hundred Native Americans whose goal was to destroy all the Cumberland settlements. Buchanan and his friends stopped them there, saving Nashville without the loss of a single stationer. Nineteenth-century historian J.G.M. Ramsey called this victory “a feat of bravery which has scarcely been surpassed in all the annals of border warfare.”

It was during this nighttime “Battle of Buchanan’s Station” that Major John’s eighteen-year-old wife, Sarah (“Sally”) Ridley Buchanan, in her ninth month of pregnancy with the first of their thirteen children, earned national fame. She encouraged the men, reassured the women and children, molded much-needed ammunition reportedly by melting down her dinnerware, and provided the voice of victory throughout the seemingly hopeless pandemonium. For her uncommon spunk, biographer Elizabeth Ellet referred to her as “the greatest heroine of the West,” and she was heralded in magazines and newspapers from as far away as Boston.

Unfortunately, the Buchanan Station story, as celebrated as it once was, has become lost to contemporary Nashville. Today the dilapidated Buchanan’s Station Cemetery, where Major John and Sarah Buchanan lie buried, is wedged anonymously into a Massman Drive industrial park, where hundreds of workers drive past twice a day, completely unaware of the graveyard’s historical import. (2011)

All photos of Buchanan Station’s Cemetery by Mike Slate, 2011.

Plowing for the Future: Peabody’s Knapp Farm Adventure

by Mike Slate.

George Peabody College’s Knapp Farm and its sister institution, the Seaman A. Knapp School of Country Life, began operations on Elm Hill Pike in 1915. Financed by a $250,000 philanthropic endowment and other funds raised throughout the South, the farm and its associated agricultural school was a memorial to Seaman Knapp, an agronomist and leader in farm demonstration work. Eventually the farm grew to 315 acres and became nationally known for putting modern agricultural theory into practice. Many of its pioneering practices were at first ridiculed as “college ideas” but later became accepted as standard techniques. One source of pride was the farm’s outstanding herd of registered Holstein cattle, perhaps the first to graze in the pastures of the South.

The farm was situated in a bend in the Mill Creek along the old Chicken Pike/Mud Tavern pioneer route. The farmland included the site of historic Buchanan’s Station, one of the original Cumberland settlements where a handful of settlers withstood one of the last great Indian onslaughts in Nashville’s history. Today, the Buchanan’s Station historical marker and the cemetery where Major Buchanan and his wife are buried have survived the industrialization of the area.

Buchanan’s Station Cemetery prior to its renovation. (NHN photo)

In 1923 Peabody established its Knapp Farm Club House on the exact site of the old Buchanan stockade. This stately colonial mansion was a social center for the college for about forty years, and its bucolic setting along with the hypnotic sounds of the rushing Mill Creek enchanted thousands of students, faculty, and other visitors over the years.

Despite the disapproval and counter proposals of some alumni and faculty, the Peabody Board of Trustees sold the farm and its club house for one million dollars in 1965. Today, many important commercial facilities—including those of Standard Candy Company and Gibson Guitar—are located along Massman Drive, which cuts through the heart of the once-great farm.

Since no vestige of Knapp Farm remains today, Nashvillians are generally unaware of its existence. One way to ensure the future recognition of the Knapp Farm adventure would be to erect a suitable historical marker along Elm Hill Pike or Massman Drive. (1997)

The Trail of Tears through Nashville

Musings by Mike Slate.

Has our country ever engendered a more merciless single act of racism than that known as the Trail of Tears, the 1838-1839 government-enforced removal of the Cherokees from their eastern homelands? Of the approximately 16,000 expelled Indians, as many as 4,000 died in the process of being interned and then relocated – by foot, wagon, horse, and river – to Indian Territory in today’s Oklahoma.

Trail of Tears map, courtesy of the National Park Service.

The primary artery of exodus, called the Northern Route, included passage through Nashville. During the fall of 1838 the group was composed of about nine different contingents of Cherokees. Surprisingly, very little is known about their exact route through the area, the events that transpired as they passed, or the reactions of Nashvillians to the emigrants.

Richard Taylor led one of the Northern route detachments, which included several hundred Native Americans as well as an intrepid white Christian missionary couple, Rev. Daniel S. Butrick and his wife. Fortunately, Butrick kept a journal of events along the way, the Nashville-related section of which (pages 46-47) is quoted verbatim below by permission of the Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association, publishers of the journal. (Note: Journal entries are in italics. The brackets within the entries are not mine; they are transcribed exactly as found in the published journal.)

My comments that follow various entries are often informed by the views of Benjamin Nance from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and by the Division’s 2001 report titled The Trail of Tears in Tennessee: A Study of the Routes Used During the Cherokee Removal of 1838, cited below as TTOT. Bound volumes of both the report and the journal can be found in the Tennessee State Library and Archives. I am also indebted to Deborah Rodriguez of the Tennessee Trail of Tears Association for sharing her research with me. My hope is that this presentation of Butrick’s journal combined with my questions, guesses, and musings will encourage others to continue researching the Nashville portion of the Trail of Tears.

Monday. [November 19th]
The detachment started early and proceeded through Murphy’s borough, on the road towards Nashville 20 miles. Some of the ox teams did not get up till after dark.

Although some of the groups appear to have bypassed Murfreesboro – by going through the old town of Jefferson, now flooded by Percy Priest Lake – others, apparently including Taylor’s, approached Nashville through Murfreesboro and out what is now called Old Nashville Pike (see TTOT, pp. 30-31). For most of the 1980s I lived near Old Nashville Pike in Rutherford County without realizing that my home was not far from the Trail of Tears. We are often slow to recognize that history is right under our feet.

Tuesday. [November 20th]
We travelled ten miles and camped within four miles of Nashville. Our tent stood on the side of a Cedar hill, “The Cedars of Lebanon bow at his feet”, “And the air is perfumed with his breath”, often passed in my mind.

Only a few 1838 Nashville newspaper articles reference the route of the Trail of Tears through Nashville. One article, published by the Nashville Whig on Monday, October 15, includes these alarming details: “The second detachment of the emigrating Cherokees passed through Nashville Monday on their way to the ‘Far West.’ They lay encamped near Foster’s mill on the Murfreesboro’ [sic] Turnpike for several days, and while there were visited by many of our citizens. We had no opportunity of seeing this miserable remnant of a warlike race, in camp; but a worthy subscriber residing in the country, writes that he was present several times, and regrets to say that many of the Indians appeared extremely needy in apparel. Barefooted and badly clad, they cannot all hope to withstand the fatigues of travel and the inclemency of the season. Disease and perhaps death must be the portion of scores of their number before they reach the Western frontier. Indeed, four or five were buried near town, and not less than 50 were on the sick list when they passed through on Monday.”

Another newspaper report, from the November 30 edition of the Nashville Union, informed its readers that “the last detachment of the emigrating Cherokees, numbering 1,700 or 1,800 persons, is now at Mill Creek, about four miles from this city.” Although the writer is probably referring to Peter Hildebrand’s group, which followed Taylor’s, this report gives us a lead as to where Taylor may have camped, since various contingents of the exodus seemed to have bivouacked at the same locations along the way and both Hildebrand’s and Taylor’s groups stopped about four miles from Nashville. We will guess that the camping location referred to by Butrick is where Mill Creek crosses Murfreesboro Pike, a location about the right distance from Nashville. Additional support for this location is the Whig‘s reference to Foster’s mill, which was situated also at Mill Creek and Murfreesboro Pike (see Clayton, History of Davidson County, Tennessee, p. 72).

About two-tenths of a mile toward Nashville from Mill Creek, at Murfreesboro Pike and Foothill Drive, the Vultee Church of Christ sits atop a hill. Could this be the cedar hill of which Butrick speaks?

Keep in mind also that a little farther down Mill Creek, on an old pioneer road now called Elm Hill Pike (which runs roughly parallel with Murfreesboro Pike), was Buchanan Station, an original Cumberland settlement. Some of the Cherokee contingents, particularly those who came by way of Jefferson instead of Murfreesboro, could have camped there.

Wednesday. [November 21st]
Early in the morning a gentleman by the name of Bryant, his wife & two other ladies called at the camps, and enquired for us. They had visited other detachments, & been informed of our coming. They now invited us to take lodgings at their house while the detachment might remain in this place. We were thankful for this expression of kindness, though as our tent was pitched, we concluded to remain with our dear Cherokee friends.

Mrs. Bryant and the other ladies had brought clothing to give to the needy Cherokees, though they said they found none needy in this detachment, compared with other companies that had gone on. We agreed to visit this kind family on Friday.

As next Sabbath is the regular time for the holy communion in Brainard church, I proposed holding a sacramental meeting in this place if we could obtain ministerial assistance from Nashville.  Mr. Bryant therefore agreed to accompany me to Nashville tomorrow.

A careful study of census and deeds records might reveal who the Bryants were and where they lived. Foster’s 1871 map of Davidson County shows an L. Bryant living on McCrory’s Creek, a few miles farther out of Nashville than the location we have posited above. Perhaps there was some kinship between the 1838 Bryants and those of 1871.

Thursday. [November 22nd]
Rode 5 miles to Mr. Bryant’s. Here I saw the effects of true religion. This family appears as we might expect true christians to appear towards the suffering Cherokees, and missionaries accompanying. I partook with them of a kind repast, and then accompanied Mr. Bryant to Nashville, 3 1/2 miles.

This is a beautiful city.  I have seen no such place in my view since I left Boston.  Here are iron works, a college, penitentiary, female academy, court house and several very handsome meeting houses, and many very elegant buildings.

But what especially adds a beauty to the prospect is the cedars which grow naturally in all part of the coven.

But my object was to find a minister to assist me at the contemplated sacramental meeting.

I was first introduced to a young Methodist minister. But his city dress and appearance, together with his having both hands full of other business, discouraged me at once, & I relinquished the idea of obtaining aid, & said to Mr. Bryant that I would seek for no other minister in the city, but return to the camps.

Just as we were preparing to leave, however, a very dear minister, by the name of Lapsley, passed that way. His health was poor, yet he expressed a strong desire to be with us on the Holy Sabbath.  I accordingly appointed the meeting for Brainard & Hawels churches, at the camps, & returned.

Again, careful study of old records could help map out the triangulation of campsite, five miles to Bryant’s house, and then three and a half miles to Nashville. It is interesting that from Murfreesboro Pike at Mill Creek to L. Bryant’s, mentioned above, might be reasonably close to a distance of five miles, but then Nashville would be considerable farther away from there than three and a half miles. Of course, we are assuming that Butrick’s mileage statements are at least approximately accurate.

Butrick’s description of 1838 Nashville is heartening to all who take pride in Nashville, and it confirms the sophistication of our city even before it was designated as Tennessee’s permanent capital.

Dr. R. A. Lapsley was a principal of the Nashville Female Academy (see Wooldridge, History of Nashville, Tennessee, p. 404). Perhaps he is the Lapsley of whom Butrick speaks.

Friday. [November 23rd]
My dear wife and two Cherokee girls accompanied me to the house of our dear friend Bryant, where we spent the day delightfully with that dear family.

Saturday. [November 24th]
Our dear Cherokee brethren prepared seats on one side of the camp ground, where we held a meeting in the afternoon. Our dear brethren Lapsley & Greene preached.

The weather was cold, & rather uncomfortable as we were out doors.  At candlelight we held a prayer meeting in our tents.

[November 25th]
While we were contemplating the unpleasantness of holding meeting in the cold open air, an aged man, whose head had blossomed for the grave
[turned his thoughts and deeds towards the after-life.], called at our tent and offered us the use of his meeting house, about half a mile distant.

He was a Baptist elder, and said he was a missionary in spirit.  We gladly accepted his offer, and found a large brick house, well finished, and furnished with two stoves.

Our dear br. Lapsley preached, and Mr. Taylor interpreted, and our dear br. Stringfield assisted in administering the Holy Supper. The whole was delightful, & will not soon be forgotten by us.

O how kind was our Heavenly Father in providing for us such a meeting house, & such kind friends, just at the time they were so much needed.

The large brick Baptist church building is the most consequential landmark mentioned in this section of Butrick’s journal. The church that comes immediately to mind is the historic Mill Creek Baptist Church, which met in a brick building thought to have been erected in 1810. If this is the correct church building, it increases the likelihood that the campground was near Mill Creek and Murfreesboro Pike, since the Mill Creek Church was only a short distance upstream from the pike. The church building no longer exists, but the Mill Creek Church cemetery is situated along today’s Old Glenrose Avenue.

Another possible candidate might be the McCrory Creek Baptist Church building, located, we assume, in the vicinity of L. Bryant. But this researcher has been able to determine neither the exact location of the old church building nor whether it was of brick.

Monday. [November 26th]
The detachment being supplied with tents etc., proceeded on their journey. Mrs. B. & myself dined with our kind friend Mr. Lapsley. We traveled but about four miles from Nashville & camped.

As the fires began to be kindled, an aged Cherokee, who had been sick all the way, lay down by the fire, when his clothes caught fire, and he sprang up, but before he could be relieved, was burnt nearly to death.

Here Mrs. Butrick received from our kind friend Mr. Lapsley a valuable cloak, bonnet, shawl, and a pair of shoes, send on by a waggon which passed through Nashville after we left.

Apparently, Taylor’s contingent camped four miles short of Nashville for a total of five full days, arriving on the 20th and departing on the 26th. They then proceeded through Nashville, and the Butricks stopped at Lapsley’s for dinner.

By what route did the Cherokees pass through Nashville? The Tennessee Division of Archaeology report suggests they probably proceeded up Market Street (today’s Second Avenue), crossed the Cumberland bridge (the original covered bridge) at the Square, and then north via White’s Creek Pike and through today’s Joelton area (see TTOT, pp. 31-32). The theoretical Market Street route, though logical, is as yet undocumented. We do know for certain, however, that some Cherokees lingered at the Square. An account in the November 14 edition of the Nashville Whig includes this sentence: “While traveling through or loitering about the public square, the Indians have exhibited the utmost quiet and good order, and not half a score we venture to say, of the thousands who have passed on to the west, gave evidence of intoxication while here.”

Groups of Native Americans trudging through the city would have been quite a spectacle for the Nashville population (then about 6,000 persons), providing fascinating fodder for news reporters. Why did the local newspapers fail to report this news thoroughly, and why are details about the Trail of Tears through Nashville virtually non-existent in local history books? Much more research needs to be done, not only in 1838 Nashville newspapers but also in personal diaries and other records.

On this day the Taylor group made their way through Nashville and four miles farther north, probably stopping somewhere near where White’s Creek intersects with Highway 431. It was here that the old Cherokee man was tragically burned in a campground accident. The White’s Creek at 431 camping location is supported by the fact that an earlier contingent held up there, as reported by the Nashville Union on November 5: “Another detachment of the emigrating Cherokees, twelve or thirteen hundred strong, passed through this city yesterday afternoon, and encamped at White’s Creek.”

Saturday Dec. 1.
Camped on a branch of Red River, in Kentucky, having travelled during the week about 60 miles.

The poor old man who was burnt, was left at a house to be taken care of, but died in a few days.

On Wednesday night of this week, sister Ooskoone gave birth to a son, and on Thursday two children, one a daughter of our dear sister Ashhopper, were called into eternity.  They had been long sick.

No doubt excruciating pain accompanied the burn victim into Kentucky where death finally relieved him of his agonies. In addition to a birth, Butrick reports the deaths of two children, tragedies that were all too common among the very young and the very old on the approximately 1,200-mile Trail of Tears, an unnecessary tribulation born of political impatience.