Old Jefferson
Dedicated to the Memory of James Everett Waller (1908-1999)
 
 
 

                                          “Moving County Seat Quieted Village” 
                                         The Nashville Tennessean, 20 June 1984

                                  Old Jefferson -- The summer quiet of this rural
                               community was broken only by two youngsters bicycling by
                               the church.old gaunt cedars shade the ante-bellum homes
                               from the dust of the road, where newer homes stand. But
                               according to a least one native, Old Jefferson wasn’t
                               always this peaceful-or this ‘old.’ “There was a saloon on
                               every corner of the square,” Everett Waller recalled.
                               “Jefferson was a lively place.” Now covered by the waters
                               of Percy Priest Lake, the town of Jefferson was the first
                               county seat of Rutherford County, with the first County
                               Court meeting in 1804 in the home of Thomas Rucker.
                               Situated at the confluence of the east and west forks of
                               the Stones River, the village became a coach stop and
                               trading post on the Georgia Road. The first store was
                               established there in 1803 by Waller’s ancestor, William
                               Nash. COL Robert Weakley, and several fellow veterans of
                               the Revolutionary War, claimed government grants along
                               the river around the turn of the 19th century. Waller
                               proudly displayed a copy of the town plat, marked with the
                               1804 land prices. “This lot listed fir $30.75 was about two
                               acres. The first houses were log cabin,but many were later
                               expanded into large homes.” Some historians list Jefferson
                               as an important river port, but Waller suspects this may
                               be an exaggeration. “My grandmother remembered rafts
                               taking loads of timber to Nashville, but it was too shallow
                               upriver to float very much.”  

                                  When the County Court convened in 1811 to select a
                               permanent county seat, the contenders were Jefferson,
                               Readyville, and Murphree’s Spring, later renamed
                               Murfreesboro. “Readyville is nearly to the county line to
                               the east, we were far to the west, but Murphree’s Spring
                               was centrally located,” Waller explained. “That’s how we
                               lost out. The river used to flood here too, and that could
                               have had something to do with it.” With the seat of
                               government moved to Murfreesboro, Jefferson’s
                               courthouse became Jefferson Seminary of Learning.
                               Education was also available at a combination
                               schoolhouse/church, used for services by different
                               denominations.  

                                  “I grew up on the square, in an old two-story house with
                               lots of porches,” Waller recalled. “There were about three
                               stores then, a blacksmith shop, and a church. My father ran
                               a grocery store. There were about 150 people living in the
                               village-big families, and we all lived close together.”
                               Waller’s grandfather, Ephriam Waller, and three of his
                               brothers, rode in Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate
                               cavalry,” Waller said. “Here’s a picture of grandfather.
                               See his white goatee? I remember he always referred to
                               Wheeler as ‘Little Joe.’”  

                                  Cotton was the main crop for Jefferson farmers until
                               well into this century, Waller said. “There was a large
                               black population who worked the cotton, but they gradually
                               moved away and the economy changed.” Farmers “quit
                               cotton” and went into the dairy business. “We sold out (of
                               the grocery business) and went into farming, on Sharp
                               Spring Road,” Waller said.“It’s mostly covered by the lake
                               now.” At some time, which Waller could not recall, the
                               village acquired the sobriquet “old.” “There was a place
                               called Jefferson Springs that became a resort. It wasn’t
                               the same place as Jefferson. Maybe that’s how it got
                               people started saying Old Jefferson.”When Priest Lake
                               changed the Rutherford County landscape, it was necessary
                               for many families to move. The Church of Christ relocated
                               in a modern building on Old Jefferson Pike, and, according
                               to church member Evelyn Maynard, several families who
                               once lived in the village still attend. A photo of the
                               original, one-room white church is kept lovingly in the
                               vestibule of the new building. Everett Waller and his wife,
                               Christine, live near the church-out of sight of the village,
                               which, for them, is still alive in memory. He remembers the
                               excitement of living on the square, on the low banks of two
                               rivers that flowed together into one. “There’s many a story
                               that could be told about Old Jefferson,” he said, “It was
                               the center of business for this end of the county. There
                               wasn’t no Smyrna then.” 
 


 
Jefferson Square
Late 1800s
Jefferson School
1922
Ephraim Waller's Home
Late 1880s
Ephraim Waller's Home
Thanksgiving 
1913
Old Jefferson
Ghost Town
Memories of
Everett Waller
Stores Around Jefferson
Thoughts by Everett Waller
Eli C. Mitchell
1810-1889
Thoughts by Everett Waller
William and Elizabeth Waller
circa 1850
Petition of 1806
to build a bridge

 
The 1878 DeBeers Map of Old Jefferson with names