Franklin is full of history. Even if you’ve lived here your whole life, you may not know these 10 interesting facts.
1. Franklin was almost called Marthasville, and it used to be in North Carolina
When the land that would become Williamson County and Franklin was officially ceded to the United States by the Cherokees and Chickasaws in 1785 and 1786, Fort Nashborough and a spattering of smaller fort-like settlements made up the bulk of the non-native population. The land, which was part of North Carolina, had been first settled in a bend on the western bank of the Cumberland River with the founding of Fort Nashborough in February, 1780.
Over the next 20 years, settlers increased from a few hundred to a few thousand. Land was cheap, and there was much of it for sale by various speculators and companies. It was also wild and dangerous. Tennessee was broken off by North Carolina in 1790 and given to federal government as the Southwest Territory, before gaining statehood in 1796. Three years later, in the third session ever of the Tennessee General Assembly, the state broke off from Davidson County to form Williamson County on October 26, 1799, as the state’s 16th county.
On the same day, the Assembly also passed an act to establish a town about 20 miles south of what had become the growing town of Nashville, which by 1800 had 345 residents, including 136 African American slaves and 14 free blacks.
Abram Maury had bought 640-acres of land from a Major Anthony Sharp in a bend of the Harpeth River, and he had the idea of erecting a town on it. (After the Revolutionary War, cash poor but land rich, many colonies paid off their debts owed in wages to soldiers with land grants.) Only one settler, Ewen Cameron, a 30-year old Scotsman from Virginia, currently lived on the land, in a log home on what is now Second Avenue South.
Maury (1766-1825) came to this area from Virginia in 1797. In 1798, he drew out a plan for a town named Marthasville, after his wife, on 109 of his acres. The plan can be seen above. Maury, who became a prosperous planter, surveyor and state senator, donated the lands for a public square, streets, and a Methodist Church.
However, Martha, perhaps less enthusiastic about the town’s prospects, demurred. As his second choice, Maury decided to dub the town Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin.
The plan he drew still, more or less, stands today. There were 16 square blocks, five streets each running north-south and east-west, a public square in the center, and 12 half-acre lots on a block.
The street names, also, were the same– except for the numbered avenues. They were East and West Margin Streets, Indigo Street and Cameron Street.
He began selling lots at $10 each. About a quarter of the 192 lots sold by 1800.
By 1806 he had helped build the historic courthouse still standing in the square today, as the seat of the county.
By 1813 the city would have nearly 1,500 residents and be growing quickly as a regional hub of commerce and agriculture.