Part One- Settlers Take Up Grants, Build Cottontown
The Gallatin News-Examiner

Wednesday, April 11, 1979. By David Collier.

Thanks to David Collier for persmission to reprint this article!

Note: Thanks to Nathan Knight for contributing this article. Comments by Nathan appear in brackets.

     In the late 1700s, after Tennessee had become the 16th state, being separated from North Carolina and having such boundaries as state, county and district as we know them today, there came new settlers west from across the mountains to take up land grants as rewards for service in the Revolutionary War. Most of the settlers who came still have descendants in Cottontown today. These first settlers had the names of COTTON, SUTTON, BRIGGANCE, COOLEY, STROTHER, HASSELL and KING.
      It took intestinal fortitude for the people to turn their backs on the security of home and to carve a new world, covered with timber, with only creek beds as roads to reach the interior, with springs and branches for their water supply.
      We have these hardy settlers to thank for Cottontown as we know it today. I want to thank my friends I have talked with, whose names will be mentioned, with facts, dates and memories that make this history of Cottontown a reality.
      If I have erred in any way in compiling this history or have left anyone out who should have been mentioned, I apologize and stand to be corrected.


      In 1748, Capt. THOMAS COTTON was born in Halifax, North Carolina. In 1795 or 1796, he moved his family and possessions to within 13 miles of the Kentucky line on a land grant, part of which is now owned by Mrs. EUELL MITCHELL. [In 1785, The State of North Carolina granted 640 acres of land "in Davidson County on the south side of Cumberland and waters of Stones River," to THOMAS COTTON, a resident of Hertford County, North Carolina. Two years later, even though THOMAS was still a resident of Hertford County, North Carolina, he purchased an additional 640 acres in Davidson County "on the waters of the Little Harpeth River." In 1794, THOMAS COTTON purchased 317 acres in Sumner County, of which deed records that he was a resident of Sumner County--note added by Nathan Knight.] His home was brick, but it later burned.


      The log home that stands on the west bank of the creek is called the Bride's House [Bridal House], built around 1835. Perhaps built by MOORE COTTON for his daughter, who married an apprentice who worked in Mr. COTTON'S blacksmith shop.
      Legend has it that the logs were pulled from Bug Hollow by oxen on two wide-wheeled wagons lashed together. The logs were four feet in diameter. A man named BRIGHAM from ZEIGLER'S Station was hired to hew the logs. The house was completed in 15 months.
      MOORE COTTON was born December 27, 1771, died December 13, 1836, and is buried in grave in DON STONE'S yard.

(To view a photo of the Bridal House click here. You will need to use your back option to return to this page.)


      The log home of Mr. and Mrs. THOMAS GREER is the oldest known home in the community, being built by a Mr. KING in 1798.
      Mr. KING married CAROLINE HASSELL on Christmas Day of 1798. After the wedding, they came to this house, which possibly had one room at the time. A spring close by was used for water.


      This information was furnished by Mrs. JIM COTTON GLOVER (fifth generation removed from Captain THOMAS COTTON) on DON STONE'S residence:
      This house has the most history of any of the old homes, as it was the home of three magistrates. ALEX PARHAM served from 1894 to 1902. From 1920 to 1945 his son, GEORGE PARHAM served. From 1945 to 1972, DON STONE served. Magistrates in the early days, squires as they were called, took care of the legal matters of the district, disputes were settled, deeds recorded and marriages were performed. Magistrates did not have the right to sentence.
      Many court battles were fought here, in the summer in the front yard under the shade trees, and inside the house in winter.
      This house is supposed to have been built by Captain THOMAS COTTON for his son, MOORE.
      This house is not as old as some think. According to insurance papers that Mrs. LELA MITCHELL DONOHO has, the house was insured in 1889 by ALEC PARHAM. At this time, he stated the house was 33 years old, making the building date 1856.
      The reason for the confusion is this: a portion of the house, or summer kitchen, long since removed, was built much earlier and used as dwelling until the main house was built. The bricks for house were made on farm.


      The home of FRANK CUNNINGHAM and his wife, GLADYS STROTHER CUNNINGHAM, is the oldest frame house in the community. [GLADYS’ great grandfather GEORGE W. STROTHER (1812-1889) once lived at this home.] Plank for the dwelling were hand-hewn. Building date is unknown.
      The upstairs room of this house was used as a prep or tutoring school for boys in earlier years.


      The homeplace of JIM BARRETTE is presently owned by his grandson, ERVIN DORRIS. This home has one log room which is probably as old as any residence in Cottontown. More was added on later.


      Another old place is owned by SHELTON SPURLOCK. The log room which has port holes has been added to.


      The house where the CUTRERS live was built in 1877 by DAVID A. RASCOE. There is a spring on this property that was used by one of the earliest churches as a water supply.


      This house is located on Nolan Lane, lately known as the SAM STROTHER home. The information on this property was given by FRANK SHAW and Mrs. GAYNELL SPURLOCK.
      This home was an original HASSELL grant, and in 1861, the SHAWs bought it.
      The parents of Mrs. GAYNELL SPURLOCK and FRANK SHAW married October 23, 1898 and came to live at this place with their grandmother Mrs. SARAH SHAW.


      This two-story log house is owned by the ELLIS STROTHER family. There are no building dates, but on one of the logs is carved “1813.”


      GLADYS STROTHER CUNNINGHAM furnished the data for the post offices in Cottontown.
      First post office remembered was in the store of RUFE BRIGGANCE, which stood on the west bank of the creek. It had a few cubby holes where mail was kept. ERVIN DORRIS' daddy, JIM DORRIS, carried a star route to this store and later to the PITT--REID post office from Gallatin.
      In 1904, Mrs. MAGGIE PITT was appointed postmaster.
      This post office stands today in ASTER DRAPER'S yard. At a later date, SCOTT REID married Mrs. PITT, and at a still later date, Mr. REID was appointed postmaster.
      In 1904, the first rural mail routes, leaving this office, were started. LUVELLAN SHAW and HENRY PITT (Mrs. MAGGIE PITT'S son by a previous marriage) became the first rural letter carriers, by horseback during the winter and high water, and by buggy during good weather.
      At Mr. REID'S death, his second wife, LAURA (BRAZIER) REID, finished out the remaining six months of his term, which expired April 1, 1942. At this date, GLADYS STROTHER CUNNINGHAM was appointed postmaster and used the REID post office for six months, later building a frame building near where the brick post office now stands. When the need for a larger building arose in 1961, the present brick building was erected.
      Mrs. CUNNINGHAM'S term expired July 31, 1970.


      On November 17, 1843, HUGH COTTON sold a piece of property containing 1 and 1/2 acres of land for $15 for the purpose of a school. It was named the DUKE School, located where the TRAVIS BURTON farm is today. At the time, Cottontown was located in the 10th District. Prof. STEVENS was one of the first teachers.
      At a later date, July 18, 1887, WILLIAM STONE and wife, ELIZABETH, sold five acres of land to the school district for $150 for the school ground as we know it today. A two-room school was built and used until 1908, when the present school house was built.
      There never was a COOLEY School, as some have thought. The first school building to be erected on this five-acre plot was two rooms; when a large building was needed, this two-room school was sold to Mr. COOLEY and he moved the building up Bug Hollow to his plot of ground and used it for a dwelling. According to ROBERT CUNNINGHAM, the building was moved by a steam engine in 1908.
      A two-year high school was started in 1914. One of the teachers was "WHIZ" CUMMINGS, who taught school and organized the first basketball team. Poles for the goals were cut on the O'RYAN place. This basketball team became recognized as one of the best in the county.
      Another teacher was HERBERT GREGORY. In 1923, HERBERT GREGORY and his wife ANNIE moved here from Sengtown in a two-horse wagon and rented a house from CHESTER LINK for $5 per month. He was to be the principal of the two-year high school at a salary of $135 per month. He taught 8th, 9th and 10th grades. He was 31 years of age at the time. His wife was a substitute teacher. They both were graduates of Western University in Kentucky. He owned a 1918 T Model Ford. ALMA KIRK and GERTRUDE FITZGERALD were the lower grade teachers. Miss LELA MITCHELL taught music at this time. Mrs. JOYCE HARRIS taught music later.


      According to Miss RUTH LANGFORD, in 1930 the road as it is now, running from Cottontown to DOUGLASS Chapel, was changed from the creek bank as the old road turned down the creed beside the old log house. In 1934, the bridge across the creek at Cottontown was built. Before the bridge was installed, a swinging bridge was used for people walking. One pillar of this bridge still stands in the corner of ASTER DRAPER'S yard. The road from Cottontown to Gallatin was blacktopped the same year.
      In 1935, the construction was started on the electric power line from Gallatin to Cottontown.
      In the late 1890s, the first telephone was installed, probably in MITCHELL'S Store.


      As far back as Mrs. MERCEDES BRIGGANCE CARR can remember, her grandfather, NATHANIEL SUTTON, whose wife had been ANNE COOLEY, was the first magistrate she can remember. He took care of the legal matters of the 8th district. Others who remember Uncle NAT say he was a very smart, witty man. Also, a Mr. COOLEY was a magistrate, no dates known.
      ALEC PARHAM was elected 1894 and served until his death in 1902. GEORGE MITCHELL (ALEC PARHAM'S son-in-law) served from 1902 to 1920. He held court in the back of his store, which stood in right-hand corner of his front yard. His daughter, Mrs. LELA MITCHELL DONOHO, remembers as a small child being allowed to sit in on some of the trials. T. TOMMY CUTRER now owns the property. GEORGE PARHAM served from 1920 to 1945. DON STONE served from 1945 to 1972. In the 1950s, JIM DURHAM was elected, and FRANK LANGFORD followed him and served with DON STONE.


      My good friend E. A. GREEN of Portland passed this information along to me.
      MILES HASSELL owned the turnpike (don't know date started -- HASSELL died in 1897). ["The Red River Turnpike Company was authorized to issue $50,000 in capital stock for construction of a road from Gallatin toward Springfield and Clarksville."--from WALTER T. DURHAM'S Old Sumner , p. 162] The toll road started one-half mile west of Cottontown and ended at city limits of Gallatin. Farmers who furnished gravel for the road got a free pass. Charges per head: one cent per head for cattle, hogs, horses or mules in droves; five cents for every four-horse loaded wagon; 15 cents for buggies, surries and two-horse carriages; one-horse buggies, five cents. No charge was made for persons attending funerals, religious worship or going to or returning from elections, or on military duty. No charge was made going to or returning from a grist mill, on horseback with grain for family use. No charge was made for persons traveling on foot. A fee of 25 cents was charged for horseless carriages. If any "devious" person passed through the gate without paying the fee, he had to forfeit a $5 fine before a justice of the peace for abusing the right of the company. Gates closed after 9 p.m.
      After HASSELL'S death, a company bought the road and ran it for a number of years.
      Sumner County bought the road in 1912 for $4,000, and the gates were thrown open to public August 9, 1913.

Go to Part Two - Cottontownians Start Businesses, Churches

Go to Part Three - Remembering Past, Looking Toward Future

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