In our continuing series celebrating Brentwood’s 50th anniversary, today we are sharing the story of Primm Farm.
Brentwood has a long history of being a farm community with tracts owned by gentleman farmers who had large plantations and farms here and in other states, like Virginia, the Carolinas, and Louisiana. One such family is the Primms. They were one of the first families to settle in the area along with the Odens, Nobles, McGavocks, Crocketts, and Holts, along with 17 other families.
In 1845, Thomas Perkins Primm expanded a log cabin built by physician Jabez Owen in 1806. The cabin, which became known as the Owen-Primm House, was converted into the white Greek–Revival style plantation home that still stands tall on Moores Lane.
The home and the land surrounding it have experienced all the actions of days gone by, from the early settlers, to slavery, through the Civil War, reconstruction, two world wars, and the struggles of the depression to the current modern growth. Once a vast piece of property with acres of fields, it has since been turned into housing developments, a park, and it holds rich treasures of the past — both good and bad – like slave cabins that stand behind the home, the Red Boiling Academy building, and ancient Indian mounds from the Mississippian era between 900 and 1450 AD.
Behind the home, the slave cabins still stand today. They date back to around 1845. Much controversy about how to save them for posterity began in 2017. A developer was looking at part of the more than 40 acres making up the Primm property to turn into a small subdivision on the west side of the house. While there were no plans to convert the land containing the historic home, slave quarters, barn, and spring house into part of the development, fear of future encroachment on property that became part of the Registry of Historic Landmarks in the 1980s brought things to a head when a vote was called before the city council. Eventually, an agreement was reached between the city and developers to preserve the home and outbuildings.
In one of the many stories about the development, Katheryn Cowan, a member of the historic commission said that, “This decision is not just about Brentwood today, it’s about the future of Brentwood and the preservation of this historically significant structure.” The two log slave quarters have a very unique design in that they share a chimney.
Members of the Primm family still owned much of the land until Charlie Primm, owner of a local dairy farm, passed away in 2011. Yet, previous to that, the home stood deserted for years, and members of the family, including the late Edgar Wilson Primm, presented a large tract of the land to the city for a historic park. Another large piece of the property was sold and turned into Montclair in 2003.
Wilson Primm’s first ancestors came to Brentwood in 1802, and he was the sixth consecutive generation to participate in the Tennessee Methodist Congregation. It was the strong faith in the community, and their demand for their members and clergy to be able to read and write that made education so important in the Brentwood area, and the whole of Middle Tennessee. This brought about the creation of schools like Boiling Spring Academy.
Boiling Spring Academy, now located on the Primm Park grounds, began in 1833 as a private school. Students paid eight dollars a semester to participate in basic education classes, and ten dollars if they wanted to add English grammar and geography to their studies. Today, the school is part of a program for second grade students who come for a day to see what it used to be like. They write on slate tablets, sit in wood desks, and learn “reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatec.” Retired county teachers present the program dressed in period clothing.
Also on the park grounds is the Fewkes Site, the remains of a Native American village from between 1290 and 1450 AD. Five mounds stand in the place of the village. In the 1920s, the site was excavated by the Smithsonian Institute and artifacts from that dig are now housed there.
The lands that once encompassed the Primm farm now nurture many family homes and the preservation of Brentwood’s rich history that is routinely shared with local school children. The love of home, land, education and history felt by members of the Primm family, like Edgar Wilson Primm, live on in their donation of land, and the hard work of the historical society and county commissioners to ensure future generations share their pride in Brentwood.