When the first white men passed through what is now Brentwood in the early 1700s, the area’s lush, rolling hills served as hunting grounds for several nomadic Native American tribes.
Not surprisingly, white settlers were not the first to call the area home.
While little is known about the earliest inhabitants, the Boiling Springs mounds that sit along Moores Lane, as well as artifacts uncovered in the Meadowlake subdivision and the burial grounds that were discovered as recently as the 1990s on land where the Brentwood library now sits, provide clues about early life.
It is believed that roughly 240 years ago — and several decades after the first white expeditions — the Mayfields became the first white family to settle in the area. According to historic texts, they made their home on land acquired through a Revolutionary War land grant.
Family members claimed their property — which sits in what is now the Old Smyrna Road/Wilson Pike area — in the 1780s and built a fort to protect themselves and their stock from potential threats of all kinds.
According to “Historic Brentwood” by the late T. Vance Little, a 1789 raid by a Native American tribe claimed the lives of two members of the Mayfield family and a farm hand. Historic accounts claim that George Mayfield was kidnapped and held captive for 12 years before he was able to escape. He would later become a guide for Andrew Jackson during the War of 1812.
By 1795, with numerous white pioneers moving into the area, attacks subsided and newcomers prospered.
Records show John Frost purchased the Mayfield family property and renamed it Cottonport. By 1829, Frost had built a business area complete with a general store, grist mill and post office on Cottonport.
Around the same time, as other plantations and small farms sprang up, the McGavock family built Midway plantation “on the road to Franklin.”
The community continued to expand, and churches and schools were built. Along Moores Lane, Boiling Springs Academy, circa 1834, is one of those schools.
Called Mayfield Station for many years, that area would evolve into the original village of Brentwood in 1846, when Frances Pecantet and J.H.M. Hall purchased 103 acres along a planned railroad route from Boyd M. Sims.
However, their plan to develop a town called Brentwood was slow to evolve.
Adkinson Gap, between Franklin and Wilson turnpikes, provided a natural route for the railroad, which, in the early 1850s, continued on to Birmingham, Alabama.
Mayfield Station would become a stop for wood to fuel the steam engine, and with the development of the railroad, so, too, came opportunities, more people and businesses, including a railroad-owned store and depot. Good Spring Post Office, which had been established along Franklin Road, moved to Mayfield Station.
According to Brentwood native John Oden, who is author of “The Brentwood I Remember,” Mayfield Station was renamed Brentwood when the post office was relocated.
Three theories regarding the origin of the name exist, but according to Oden, who has done much research on his birthplace, the town was named for Brentwood, Maryland, from where many early settlers came. Likewise, the Maryland town’s name originated from Brentwood, England.
Oden says “Brentwood” is a derivative of “burnt wood,” which refers to the burning of wood to create charcoal, a main occupation linked to the area during 1700s. The Brentwood, Tennessee, crest seems to reinforce that theory.
The United Methodist Church, possibly drawn by a Pecantet-Hall advertisement in 1850 that read “Come to Brentwood — cheap homes, cheap lots,” arrived to plant Brentwood United Methodist Church.
Civil War years
During most of the Civil War, Brentwood was spared from becoming a battlefield; however, area homes and farms saw their resources depleted by constant raids from not only the Union Army, which occupied Nashville and guarded the railroad in Brentwood, but also the Confederate Army, which continually sparked skirmishes in the area.
“My grandfather farmed a 450-acre farm during the Civil War,” Oden said. “His farm was so accessible to the Union troops, they took everything they could move.”
Records provide some details about a noteworthy skirmish in Brentwood that took place on March 25, 1863. Approximately 400 Union soldiers had been guarding the railroad from atop the hill that is at the corner of what is now Maryland Way and Franklin Road. However, Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest and 300 Confederate soldiers would force Lt. Col. Edward Bloodgood and his Union troops to surrender.
After the Civil War, the Mayfield Station area was rebuilt by freed blacks and became known as Hardscuffle. To read more about the community built by those once enslaved, see HARDSCUFFLE. However, it was lost in the 1960s, when Interstate 65 was built and its path went right through the center of the community.
By 1886, the area’s population had reached 300. Tobacco became the cash crop largely responsible for stabilizing the area, but it took decades before Brentwood returned to a bustling community.
During the Great Depression, Brentwood’s location — on the border of two counties — made it a prime spot for night clubs, casinos and honky-tonks, many of which flourished through the 1960s.
In the late 1930s and into the 1940s, the economy slowly stabilized. The small village — surrounded by farmland, large horse farms and small crop farms — began to flourish when mass production of the automobile and an interurban railway from Nashville to Franklin brought mobility, better enabling residents to travel to Nashville or Franklin for work and entertainment.
Successful people rediscovered, purchased and restored several abandoned plantation homes, some of which had been used as barns.
Oden, who was born in 1932 and spent his first 10 years on the 100 acres remaining of his grandparents’ farm along Old Smyrna Road, recalls that his grandparents gave a portion of their land for a road from Wilson Pike to Franklin Road.
After World War II, the GI Bill helped pave the way for a surge in new home building and new businesses. And with that, the community of Brentwood began growing along with the rest of Williamson County.
The rest, as they say, is history.