“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.”


Jane Colmenares - County Coordinator
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Old Jefferson
Dedicated to the Memory of James Everett Waller (1908-1999)