The ruins of an incredible historic find, a Native American village dating from the mid-1400s, lie just across Old Hickory Boulevard from Forest Hills City Hall. It is the largest late-prehistoric town remaining in Davidson County, and one of the few intact towns of its era in the region.
The village is called Kellytown in honor of the family who owned the property at the time of the discovery.
The Friends of Kellytown group raised $400,000 to help Metro buy, maintain, and develop the property. The contribution included $100,000 from the City of Forest Hills. The Board of Commissioners advocated that the Kellytown site be protected from commercial development and preserved as open space. In 2014 Metro Nashville purchased the property, which will be a Metro park.
The discovery of Kellytown came about as a result of a proposal by Tennessee Department of Transportation to build a turn lane onto Old Hickory Boulevard for northbound traffic on Hillsboro Pike. State archeologists reported that historic graves from the Mississippian Period (about A.D. 900 to 1500) might be present, and required more extensive investigation before construction could begin.
The results were astounding. In just 30 feet of right-of-way along Hillsboro Pike, TDOT’s exploration in 1999 found evidence of the following:
The presence and distribution of the palisades, structures, and other items provide explicit proof that intact archaeological features are present underground, state archeologist Michael Moore said. This part of Middle Tennessee was heavily populated in villages during the Mississippian Period, centuries before Europeans began exploring the region, making it potentially rich in archeological resources, but evidence of almost all these villages has been lost to commercial and housing development.
What was life like in Kellytown? The town was well established, with probably sixty or so families who had been there for decades. They hunt, fish, and farm the land, living in homes built of wattle-and-daub. They created community buildings for storing food and supplies, and constructed palisade fortifications to keep their livestock in and intruders or wild animals out.
No one may ever know definitively what happened, but something traumatic occurred around 1450 that caused the villagers to leave suddenly. Maybe a fire burned out of control, or hostile invaders attacked. For whatever reason, the townspeople quickly evacuated, leaving behind their homes, cooking utensils, possessions, all they had.
This conceptualization by Joe Hodgson of Hodgson and Douglas Landscape Architects provides an idea of how the Kellytown property could be utilized as part of the greenway system.
The City of Forest Hills commissioned the design, which features a small park with re-creations of the original palisade and a structure.
The park includes a pavilion and a walking path that could eventually connect to the Brentwood Greenways as well as possible future walking paths at Congregation Micah.
Expanded plans include a network of walking trails and an overlook along nearby Harpeth River.