We are visiting Hartsville’s Main Street and looking at the history of the old buildings that line both sides of the street.
As we saw in last week’s article, every building in the historic downtown burned in a particularly devastating fire in 1904. The only buildings to survive the inferno were at the edge of the fire zone and this week we look at two of them — the oldest buildings in town!
Standing at the corner of Main Street and Church Street is a two-story pair of brick buildings. Today they house the Total Image beauty shop and the tax preparation business of Regina White.
But they have a considerable bit of history!
The road that the buildings front is the original Avery Trace, or Immigrant Trail, which was the first road to connect East Tennessee to Middle Tennessee and Nashville. The road was cut by Peter Avery in 1787 and utilized existing trails and paths when feasible.
The path used by the woodland buffalo to visit the natural salt lick, at what is now Castalian Springs, is the same as that used by Avery.
Tradition states that the animal trail crossed a path used by Native Americans right at the junction of what are now Main and Church streets!
That means if you stand at the corner of those two streets, you are standing at a crossroads that dates back 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. Think of the many feet that have trod those pathways in the intervening years!
James Hart laid out the streets for Hartsville between 1800 and 1807, when Hartsville was granted a Post Office by the Federal Government. We were recognized as an “established town” by the Tennessee State Legislature in 1817.
We don’t know what buildings or log homes may have originally stood at the junction of Main Street and Church Street, but we do know that in 1838, the two buildings we see there today were constructed by Gideon Gifford and Enos Locke.
The two men were business partners and brothers-in-law, having married sisters, the daughters of Abraham Goodall, another early Hartsville businessman.
One of the two buildings was used by the Blue Ridge Dispensary, a drug store and possibly Hartsville’s first such establishment. The upstairs were likely used as residences.
At some time, one of the upstairs rooms was used as the printing office of Hartsville’s first newspaper, “The Hartsville Plaindealer.”
It was from that same print shop that the first issue of “The Hartsville Vidette” was printed during the Civil War, when Confederate raider John Hunt Morgan and his men occupied town.
When Union troops took the town in late 1862, the upstairs of the buildings was used as a hospital for sick soldiers. It is also where wounded men were taken, following the Dec. 7, 1862 Battle of Hartsville.
It is said that during the battle when Confederate troops entered town, a Union soldier fired at them from one of the upstairs windows of the building. The Rebels returned fire, and the soldier in blue fell dead!
After the war the buildings were used by brothers Peter White Hager and William Vantrese Hager. The men were pharmacists.
Over the next 100 years, the building on the right was Hager’s Drug Store. The business was well known throughout Middle Tennessee for the medicines that the Hager brothers manufactured themselves.
One of Hager’s best-selling items was “Hager’s Harmless Headache Healers”, selling at 10 pills for 10 cents!
The drug store closed in the 1950s.
The building on the left was a hardware store, also run by a Hager.
At one time an entry was cut between the two businesses so people could easily pass from one to the other. In later years, a dispute between a Hager uncle and his Hager nephew ended up with the entry bricked back up.
Since then the buildings have also seen use as a gift shop, TV repair shop, a beauty shop, an upholstery business and a nail salon.
If any buildings in town could tell tales, it would be these two. If only walls could talk!
NOTE: The Trousdale County Historical Society will have its first post-pandemic meeting on Saturday, June 12, at 2 p.m. at the County Archives building, 328 Broadway. All meetings are open to the public.