Seven wall hangings created by Lynne Bachleda and Fletch Coke describe the colorful history of the Forest Hills area. The panels made their debut at the opening of City Hall and remain on display.
Click any image to enlarge.
Images courtesy of Tennessee Department of Transportation’s Archaeology Section. Gary Barker and Gerald Kline, authors of the forthcoming publication Kellytown: A Mississippian Period Thruston Phase Fortified Village in Tennessee’s Harpeth River.
Edward and Bill Kelly grew up on Forest Hills’ City Hall site. “Our uncle, in the mid-1980s, was in his garden and actually tilled up a skull. . . . It’s the tip of the iceberg of what’s throughout that entire area,” they said, finishing each other’s sentence.
The land south and east of the City Hall intersection has the working name of “Kellytown” among area archaeologists. Tennessee Department of Transportation experts confirm it is capable “of yielding important information about Mississippian adaptations in the Central Basin.”
Hand and mechanical excavations between 1998 and 2004 yielded evidence of not only broad Mississippian culture habitation including defensive palisades, but also evidence of Archaic and Woodland Period use. Looking south from City Hall, you can picture an exceptional undisturbed treasure of potentially 6,000 years of human habitation.
As Forest Hills' City Hall neared completion in 2011, its neighbor near the intersection of Old Hickory Boulevard and Hillsboro Pike celebrated its 200th anniversary. Gideon Blackburn established the church during 1811, and then went on to found First Presbyterian in Nashville. Harpeth Presbyterian's meeting house was the first institutional structure to serve the local community known then as Beechville.
Samuel McCutcheon gave the acreage for Harpeth Presbyterian from the 640-acre land grant for his Revolutionary War service at King's Mountain. The extensive McCutchen family was a mainstay in early church efforts. Worship began in a log cabin with early pastors W. Lapsley and O.B. Hayes, father of Adelicia Acklen of Belmont Mansion.
A core of the present church building dates back to an 1836 brick structure. In 1948 the congregation employed its first full-time minister, Priestly Miller, who fueled the church’s growth during his twenty-one year tenure. Harpeth Presbyterian continues to thrive and serve.
This 1920s map predates the formation of the City of Forest Hills in 1957. Although a topographic representation would reveal few if any differences, Forest Hills is now much more densely inhabited with a population of roughly 4,800 in 2010. This represents a substantial increase from the roughly forty family dwellings, or approximately 160 residents, depicted here.
Of special interest to Forest Hills City Hall is the designation of "Scruggs Road" that runs nearly parallel to the southern boundary of Forest Hills. It intersects another Forest Hills boundary, Hillsboro Pike. Forest Hills City Hall is located in the northeast corner of this intersection.
Often called "Brentwood Lane," Scruggs Road attests to the extensive land holdings and dwellings of the Scruggs family in this area. Scruggs Road was eventually straightened and re-named Old Hickory Boulevard. A portion of the old road lies twenty-five yards north of City Hall's front door.
To improve traffic flow, in 1997 the Tennessee Department of Transportation proposed adding turn lanes at the Forest Hills City Hall intersection. Following regulations for prior archeological assessment, preliminary findings included Mississippian period pottery, particles of daub, burned clay, flecks of charred wood, and evidence of tool production.
These substantial findings triggered further excavations that ultimately revealed a minimum of twelve Mississippian structures — one with an intact floor — two palisades with bastions, pit features, and a total of seven adolescent child burials. A heated controversy arose over whether to leave the burial remains in place or the remove them to safer ground.
After a lengthy court battle and, some say, according to Native spiritual tradition, the graves were kept in place and offered extensive protection so that those souls could continue their journey with the earth where their journey originally began.
Some Scruggs family descendants freely admit that their ancestry has some dark passages. One of these included a murder at the intersection of Hillsboro Pike and Otter Creek Road (Lane).
The following paragraphs are from an articles by Walter Stokes, Jr., for the Tennessee Historical Society October 13, 1964. The title was "Hillsboro Pike and Something Personal." It also appeared in the Tennessee Historical Quarterly of Spring 1965 on page twenty.
Descendants Edward Kelly, Jr., and his brother William (Bill) Kelly relish the story and maintain its essential truth. They assert, however, that Willy (William) was gone for about twenty years, and that the inciting incident was that blacksmith Brooks had accused Willy of stealing tools from him.
Some time after Willy returned from self-imposed exile, he and his brother Ned (Edward G. Scruggs, Jr.) got into a heated argument about the dispersal of Scruggs family land. Ned killed his brother with a shot in the back at the foot of the stairs at the Victorian house at 6251 Hillsboro Pike. Although Ned turned himself in, charges were not pressed. Some family members assess that the authorities perceived that in Willy's death justice had been served.
In his will William Scruggs specified, "I wish to be buried on the South side of my wife in the same kind of coffin & in the black clothes I have on hand at the time of my death. . . . I wish my Executor to keep an eye on the place not forgetting my bones be there."
The small cemetery at "Scruggsland," the home William Scruggs built, is situated under a large cedar tree on the east side of Hillsboro Pike just beyond Old Hickory Boulevard. Tombstones mark the graves of William Scruggs, his wife Sarah, their great-niece Sarah Scruggs, and neighbor Mrs. Rachel Waldron.
Family members remember the location of the Scruggs slave graveyard nearby. All these remains join those of the countless Native Americans who also rest close.
The City of Forest Hills rented office and meeting space in Green Hills from 1961 until 2011. By 2000 this space was inadequate. City commissioners, in 2010, approved a ninety-nine year lease with Nashville Electric Service for eight acres on the northeast corner of Hillsboro Pike and Old Hickory Boulevard for $250 per year.
Edward Kelly, son of Alice Scruggs Kelly, purchased the property on August 21, 1959. He sold it to Four Squared Corporation on April 27, 1994, for $375,000. The corporation in turn conveyed it to the Church of Latter Day Saints on July 18, 1996 for $820,000. Metro Government, by and through Nashville Electric Service, acquired the property through eminent domain in 2005 for $1,375,000.
Implementation of Allard Ward Architects' design for City Hall began in January 2011. The total construction cost was $1,642,923. This was within the range of projections approved in August 2010 by the City of Forest Hills Board of Commissioners.