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fieldmarshaldj

Old Jefferson (Rutherford County)

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I've been doing some research for future trips and was on the topic of county seats and courthouses (which I'm a big nut about visiting, having seen around 600+ across the country). A number of counties current seats were not necessarily the first, and Rutherford County was amongst those. When it was first created in 1803, the original county seat was located at the town of Jefferson (later called "Old Jefferson") where it remained only a scant 7 years prior to being relocated to Cannonsburg (renamed Murfreesboro). Apparently the town and the old courthouse remained for some time afterwards, but was never of much importance and became a backwater, situated at the confluence of the east and west forks of the Stones River.

When the plans for the Percy Priest Lake project were drawn up in the '50s, the town was scheduled to be submerged and was levelled. Growing up here in Antioch, less than about 10 miles away as the crow flies from Old Jefferson, I occasionally heard the stories about the old lost town. It wasn't until today that I actually attempted to set out to use maps to find its precise location. Given what I heard about its location, I always presumed it to be in the extreme northern corner of Rutherford County under a dozen or so feet of water. Imagine my surprise when I pulled out an old 1960-era Rutherford County map and located it not at the extreme corner, where the lake is, but just a short distance east of the Smyrna Airport.

Using the Google maps hybrid function, I followed it over to where the townsite should be, and lo and behold, where the town used to be, it is all appears clearly on land and not terribly different to the pre-Lake maps. The only difference today is that there are no longer any roads that reach through the area, but if you follow along with your finger across Old Jefferson Pike and straight across the west branch of the Stones River and straight east, you'll make out the old road that was the main street through the town, even to the point where the old town square once stood.

My query for anyone who may know, if all of the townsite is still there, why are there no roads allowed in leading from the east to mark this historically significant area ? The courthouse that was there, it is said, the legendary Missouri U.S. Senator, Thomas Hart Benton (whom had previously served in the TN State legislature) argued his very first case before the court here (and also, allegedly, that the State Legislature briefly convened a session at the building). Is it that the area is now so prone to flooding that restoring the paved road that ran through there is highly unfeasible ? If it is feasible, I would think some enterprising sort could buy up the land of the town site to recreate the historical village and courthouse and put in a museum related to Senator Benton and early Middle TN history. That could be a great tourist draw for the area to dovetail with the Stones River Battlefield.

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Very interesting information! I cannot help on your query, but I hope somebody can. One would think that such a historical site would be capitalized on to some degree by county government for tourism and historical preservation.

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This might help:

http://janus.mtsu.edu/jefferson_springs/jefferson.htm

I can't find that location on Google Maps, and I'm not a native of the area. Can you include the picture on here? If there's no road, then I would love to drive back there and check it out!

I looked up that page this morning, but it didn't have much in the way of online resources. Everything that I've read claims that the entire site is underwater, but a quick look on the Google Maps shows that simply isn't true. I wish I knew how to link to the exact spot so folks can see the area where I'm talking about, but the best I can do is this: http://maps.google.com/maps?oi=map&q=Smyrna,+TN

To look in the exact spot, look just to the right of the Nissan location, locate where the river is just north-east above it, and where the two forks of the river converge it appears like a "gun" you'd make with your hand pointing west. Where the "barrel" of the pointing finger is, that's the spot of land where Old Jefferson was located and zoom in with the hybrid map. Once you get into that spot of land, you'll note it's completely devoid of anything beyond stands of trees and open fields. At the spot right below where the forks converge, a short distance below it, you'll note a straight line running east and west (not perfectly, but nearly horizontal). This once used to be Old Jefferson Road and there was a bridge that ran across to what remains of that same road on the opposite side of the river and ran towards Central Valley Road to the east. CV Road is the only one that comes close to the old townsite, and a dirt path that leads right up to the eastern fork of the Stones River.

If you compare that map with this one: http://www.tngenweb.org/rutherford/jefferson/ it should help you pinpoint the exact location of where the townsite was.

Hope that helps in the "Hunt for Old Jefferson" !

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Go to the State Archives and Library on 7th Ave North. There are a lot of old maps there and they would have any information on the previous county seat. All you have to do is get a card at the door and the people there are more than willing to help you find what you need.

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Go to the State Archives and Library on 7th Ave North. There are a lot of old maps there and they would have any information on the previous county seat. All you have to do is get a card at the door and the people there are more than willing to help you find what you need.

Thanks, although what I'm looking for is more current information on why the old townsite and area is undeveloped and have no access roads leading in (whereas over 40 years ago, there were several roads and at least two bridges were present) and if this is all due to potential flooding (i.e. what is it currently zoned as). I'd presume that would be something someone in planning in Rutherford County would know about.

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Here's what I got based on your description...

oldjeffersonTN.jpg

Basically the area between Old Jefferson Pike & Central Valley Rd. The double yellow to the right is 840.

This is so cool! I wonder if there's anything still there... I wanna go explore :) Google earth just shows trees, fields, and a dirt road. But maybe there's somethin hidden under all those trees?? :unsure:

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Here's what I got based on your description...

Basically the area between Old Jefferson Pike & Central Valley Rd. The double yellow to the right is 840.

This is so cool! I wonder if there's anything still there... I wanna go explore :) Google earth just shows trees, fields, and a dirt road. But maybe there's somethin hidden under all those trees?? :unsure:

Yes ! This is exactly the area I'm talking about, thank you. If you take a look at my second link in a prior post, http://www.tngenweb.org/rutherford/jefferson/ you can see precisely where the town was located in relation to the Google map. All I can surmise is that Stones River may be several feet higher than it once was in this location, rendering the entire site unusable beyond light farming due to the likelihood of flooding. If there is the chance that that isn't the case, and given its proximity to 840 and US 41, it could be made into a potential historic destination. As it stands, I'd imagine the only thing left there are foundations (besides the old courthouse, many old homes and some businesses were there, and one or two churches).

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That's what I can't figure out. There's absolutely no sign that a town was ever there, no buildings, and the roads are obviously overgrown. Aren't buildings normally left intact when an area is designated for flooding? If this happened in 1950, where did everything go?

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Man I love stuff like this. Comparing the old map to the new one you can see where the roads once were. Using the maps and the dots im sure if you went to the area you could find remnants of the old city. It would be something I would do for sure if I lived in the area. Thats pretty neat.

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That's what I can't figure out. There's absolutely no sign that a town was ever there, no buildings, and the roads are obviously overgrown. Aren't buildings normally left intact when an area is designated for flooding? If this happened in 1950, where did everything go?

From a 1966 General Highway Map of Rutherford County, it showed the entire Old Jefferson area still intact, including roads and buildings (though it is possible they were cleared sometime prior to that in preparation for the creation of Percy Priest Lake). The construction began on the lake (dam ?) in 1963 and was completed in 1967 and the actual creation (impounding of the lake) was in 1968. But as you can see, the lake itself doesn't extend down that far (and I do wonder how much wider the Stones River is now than what it was pre-Lake, because according to the '66 map, it looks virtually unchanged in shape, perhaps only very modestly wider). From what I understand, when they clear an area for flooding, everything goes, roads are broken up, buildings reduced to the foundations, cemetaries dug up for reinterrment (you don't want bodies floating up a la "Deliverance").

What remains a puzzlement to me are all the descriptions of people saying the townsite was flooded over, leaving just a small rise of land. If that's the case, then why the heck is all that land that the town sat on still all right there, plain as day ?

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Man I love stuff like this. Comparing the old map to the new one you can see where the roads once were. Using the maps and the dots im sure if you went to the area you could find remnants of the old city. It would be something I would do for sure if I lived in the area. Thats pretty neat.

I'd just be worried the land belongs to some old farmer and I wouldn't want to sneak into the area and get some buckshot up the backside. :blink:

Maybe we could have some shiny "UP" badges made up and all go charging out there saying we're investigators looking for the "lost city." :lol:

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Do you think there is an old topgraphical map of the area? The map above most certainly was not to scale, so maybe the city was right on stones river, and water only had to rise a few feet to cover the city?

As far as property typically being destroyed before lake impoundment, I can say that's not the case in GA. When they built Lake Lanier, they didn't tear down the structures and scuba divers still go down to see the now decaying remains. And I know a personally know a friend in Griffin, GA where they impounded a lake and he said his house wasn't torn down. That may not be the same in Tennessee, but I'd sure like to find out first hand!

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Do you think there is an old topgraphical map of the area? The map above most certainly was not to scale, so maybe the city was right on stones river, and water only had to rise a few feet to cover the city?

As far as property typically being destroyed before lake impoundment, I can say that's not the case in GA. When they built Lake Lanier, they didn't tear down the structures and scuba divers still go down to see the now decaying remains. And I know a personally know a friend in Griffin, GA where they impounded a lake and he said his house wasn't torn down. That may not be the same in Tennessee, but I'd sure like to find out first hand!

I have a topographical map from '66 showing the area, and judging from the Google map, you can see the remains of the Old Jefferson Pike, so the buildings were along either side of it. If the structures weren't all demolished, you'd still be able to see buildings in the recent map. It's possible some ended up under the river, however. I wish someone had some definitive knowledge on the subject.

That's interesting about Lake Lanier, I went through that area last year around this time. As I said regarding Percy Priest Lake, from what I understand, I do believe they demolished all the structures that would be submerged (including toppling the trees, too).

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That's interesting about Lake Lanier, I went through that area last year around this time. As I said regarding Percy Priest Lake, from what I understand, I do believe they demolished all the structures that would be submerged (including toppling the trees, too).

Actually this is incorrect. True for bldgs and trees on the upper end, but for middle and lower portions of the lake you can find submerged houses, barns; even get hung in trees 60 feet deep! Fishing maps mark a lot of these structures/trees starting below Fate Sanders while only showing stump beds above FS

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Actually this is incorrect. True for bldgs and trees on the upper end, but for middle and lower portions of the lake you can find submerged houses, barns; even get hung in trees 60 feet deep! Fishing maps mark a lot of these structures/trees starting below Fate Sanders while only showing stump beds above FS

Ah, OK, thanks for the info. :thumbsup:

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i know no one has posted here in 3 years, but i thought someone might stumble across it like i did. i, too, have noticed the plot of land that once was old jefferson. i know there is nothing in the area any longer except pieces of foundations and brickbats. the roads and bridges were destroyed before the inundation of the lake because the original corps surveys placed the lake at higher levels. ive seen an old newspaper article grieving the "dynamiting of the jefferson bridges" and the loss of the old resort jefferson springs. you can enter the area during daylight hours anytime of year on foot. the land is owned by the army corps of engineers and maintained by the tennessee wildlife resourses agency and is a wildlife management area. so the only buckshot ull get is from hunters in the area. i would stay out during deer and spring turkey seasons. also, the highly visible dirt roads are not the oringal town roads, but twra trails for maintaining the area. the original road beds are barely visible anymore and the "square" is actually in the woods in the central upper right. heres a link to a map made from an 1878 map.

http://www.tngenweb.org/rutherford/jefferson/

you can BARELY make out those road beds on google maps, hope this helps anyone looking for historic old jefferson. oh...and a side note, old jefferson was considered for state capitol at one time, so the area definately deserves an historical maker at the least.

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