Brentwood Historians and Hardscuffle Community

Brentwood, TN has a rich history and has grown rapidly since the 1950s.

On Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 14:24

When Mayes Waters was just a kid growing up in Brentwood, the community was quite different from the upscale suburban area it is today.

"I lived in Brentwood on Hardscuffle Road from the time I was 4 until the late '60s," Waters recalls. "Hardscuffle was the corridor that's now East Church Street from Franklin Pike to Edmondson Pike. At the time I lived there, there were maybe 50 African-American families on both sides of the road."

After Interstate 65 came through, the Hardscuffle community was dismantled as families began selling their properties and moving elsewhere. Waters is one of several people preserving Brentwood's oral history in an era of rapid growth and development.

His account of Hardscuffle is included in the fifth-grade curriculum in Williamson County Schools. The curriculum was developed by Leadership Brentwood, a program of the Brentwood Cool Springs Chamber of Commerce that is working to ensure the community's history is not forgotten as the city moves forward.

Long before Brentwood became a nationally recognized, wealthy place with attractive office parks and million-dollar homes – and way before Hardscuffle's heyday – the area was a shared hunting ground used by several Indian tribes. Later, it played roles in the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

"During the War of 1812, Andrew Jackson came through Brentwood and bought guns and gun powder here, and that was his only source of ammunition until he got to New Orleans," says Tom Bain, a Williamson County commissioner who spends a lot of time researching Brentwood's history.

"Brentwood was also a very strategic area during the Civil War because it was right between Franklin and Nashville. The Union army moved supplies back and forth through Brentwood."

The morning after the Battle of Franklin, the Confederate generals ate breakfast at Brentwood's Ruth Moore mansion.

"There were skirmishes in Holly Tree Gap and out on Wilson Pike, and after the Battle of Nashville, General Hood's tent was camped in Brentwood where Murray Lane dead ends into Franklin Road," Bain says.

"So many things happened here that people don't know about. I could tell you stories you wouldn't believe."

Bain moved to Brentwood in 1972 and served as mayor in the late '70s and early '80s.

"When I came, Brentwood had 4,000 people," he says. "It's grown to about 35,000. We knew it would grow, but I had no idea it would grow as much as it did."

Mike Huff is another longtime Brentwood resident and unofficial historian. He moved to Brentwood in 1959 at age 2 after his father, Glenn, bought a grocery store. It was called Huff's Food Town and was one of the only groceries in the area at the time.

"I grew up working in my father's store, and we had a wonderful cross-section of customers who were very loyal," Huff recalls. "We had customers who lived from food stamp to food stamp, and others who could buy the whole city with one check."

Huff's Food Town was located on Wilson Pike where Inside Out Home Furnishings is now. "I ran the grocery with my dad from 1975 until 1993, when we sold the business,"Huff says.

Like Waters and Bain, Huff remembers a Brentwood much different from the one that exists today.

"I remember our first fire and police departments, our first city hall, and when the city was incorporated in 1969," Huff says.

"I've seen it grow from a tiny community to an unbelievable area. I never dreamed as a kid I'd see all the traffic that's here today."

Back on Hardscuffle Road, Waters can still picture many an Easter Sunday morning when all the kids would walk to church sporting their new dresses and suits. "It was like an Easter parade," he says with a laugh.

"Everyone was kind of proud." Waters also remembers working the soda fountain at Dukoney's restaurant (where Walgreens is now) and caddying on weekends at the Brentwood Country Club to earn a little cash.

"There was also an old steam locomotive that would come through, and whenever we'd see the puffs of smoke coming from the train, we'd have to run outside and bring all of Mama's wash in, or it'd be covered with soot," Waters says, chuckling.

"Those were good times. There was a carefree spirit. We didn't have a lot of worries."

Despite the city's many changes, Brentwood still has a special charisma that draws people from all walks of life. Just ask Huff.

"People love the beautiful hills and the quaintness," he says. "My father used to say anybody who wore out one pair of shoes in Brentwood would come back again."

Read more about living in Brentwood, TN.