Hundreds of years before Europeans settled in what was to become Williamson County the area was home to at least five prehistoric cultures. Over many centuries these occupants of the Harpeth Valley progressed from a nomadic existence to a settled lifestyle in fortified villages along the Big Harpeth River and its tributaries. One such prehistoric culture site exists along the Harpeth River near College Grove. When the first white scouts and long hunters ventured onto the land, tribes of Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks, and Shawnees were sharing its bounty in a migratory fashion.
From the time these European settlers, mostly Scottish, Irish and English, began the attempt to wrest the area from the Indians, they were determined to have the rich, well-watered meadows and forests at any costs. They paid dearly for their desire to settle this region prior to treaties being signed, and several lost their lives to the tomahawks and arrows of those first Williamson Countians who were only defending their hunting grounds.
By 1798 a few white settlers were permanently established in the area. In 1799 Major Anthony Sharp sold 640 acres of his enormous military grant to Abram Maury, who laid out the county seat of Franklin, named for Benjamin Franklin, on 109 acres of this property in 1800. The little village with its huddle of log cabins was half-circled by the Big Harpeth River. Both the city of Franklin and Williamson County were created by the Tennessee General Assembly on October 26, 1799. Carved from neighboring Davidson, the new county was named for Dr. Hugh Williamson, a Revolutionary patriot and distinguished statesman from North Carolina.
Many of the early settlers came to claim grants awarded to them for their Revolutionary War service. Others bought land from those who chose not to settle here. Soon representatives of every honorable profession were calling the county home. Possibly its fame could be laid in part to its fine schools dotting the countryside. Franklin and Triune (5 miles north of College Grove) were noted for their male and female academies. At this same time College Grove was being settled by early families such as Allison, Ogilvie, Demonbreum, Hughes, Rogers, Cannon, Covington, Gentry, Page, *Scales, and Webb.
Once known as Harpeth and then Poplar Grove, the name was changed for the last time in 1861 to College Grove when a post office was established and it was discovered that another Poplar Grove already existed in Tennessee. The name College Grove was chosen in honor of a boy’s school and a female seminary in the community.
Prior to 1861 Williamson County was the third wealthiest county in Tennessee. Its riches were derived from its productive soil, timber, and livestock. Almost wholly loyal to the South, Franklin and its surrounding communities suffered extreme hardships during Union army occupation from 1862-65. The battle of Franklin was a bloody conflict fought on November 30, 1864, between the forces of Confederate General John B. Hood and those of Union General John M. Schofield.
There were many encampments of both Union and Confederate soldiers in the College Grove area resulting in numerous skirmishes throughout this area.
The extent of destruction associated with the war, the collapse of slavery, and the political upheaval associated with Reconstruction produced years of uncertainty before recovery began for the citizens of the county and College Grove.
Up until recent years Williamson was a rural, agriculture-based county with very little manufacturing. The town of College Grove is no different. Even though development is quickly moving in with new communities such as Laurel Cove, which will boast a Greg Norman golf course, College Grove still retains is small-town country charm.
From 1980 to 2000 businesses became more diversified and Williamson became one of the fastest growing counties in the state, with major development taking place in residential, retail, office, and manufacturing properties. Williamson County's population boomed like no other county in the state between 1990 and 2000. The county grew to 126,638 residents an increase of 56.3 percent in ten years.
Such rapid growth and the construction of new highways, schools and malls in rural areas, hitherto untouched by progress, have created enormous stress in many places. These developments have resulted in the loss of private homes, historic landmarks, cemeteries, springs, and open spaces. However, in the face of all this change College Grove still retains it’s small town charm. Visit the best kept secret in Williamson County.
* Note from the Host: Scales is my mother’s maiden name. My great, great, great, great grandfather, Absalom Scales, settled in the College Grove area in1798, moving his family from Rockingham County, North Carolina. I currently reside in a pre-Civil War house built by my great, great grandfather (also Absalom Scales) on a portion of the original land grant that remains in our family to this day.