3. A Monday Drive Today, A Death-Defying Pass Then
When the first settlers came down from the Nashville-area, just getting here meant putting your life and limb at risk. Today, many might use Franklin Road to work and back. But in the beginning, the barely-noticed today pass through the hills on what is Franklin Road near Moores Lane, was a real barrier to settlement.
It was called Holly Tree Gap, and it was on the main of the three trails south from the Nashville area. The pass through the hills, just north of Moores Lane and Franklin Road today. The first settlers to the area, starting in the Nashville area in 1783 when North Carolina decided to repay Revolutionary vets with land, were not exactly welcomed by the current Native American inhabitants. They competed for the fertile land both wanted. As settlers increased in number and ranged farther south from their fort that became Nashville on the banks of the Cumberland River, the only road south to the area was through Holly Tree Gap.
A story from 1794 in Murder on the Wilson Pike, a collection of historic Williamson County stories, recounts one such treacherous passing.
A party of four, a man named John Brown and a Tinnon and Graham or Tenan and Grimes, and an African American servant– unclear is his status as a slave or simply servant– and their dog Iola were headed to a land grant one of them had in the Thompson’s Station area. While cooking up and eating a bear they had shot in Holly Tree Gap, a party of Native Americans fell upon them, killed and scalped all four, sparing only the dog.
That was a how a search party later found them, with Iola guarding the bodies of his former friends.
The road remained a risk even after the area became better settled. In the 1800s, robbers, highwaymen and “wagon-jackers” were known to lurk in the gap.