Many Brentwood residents may not know much, if anything, about Hardscuffle, but the former community with an odd name holds a key place in the city’s history.
According to stories told by former residents of the long-gone community, the name refers to the bumpy bedrock and gravel main road that passed through the community. It was said to be “a hard scuffle to travel on.”
John Oden, who grew up on a farm near the Hardscuffle community, said, “You could drive a car (on the road) but you had to go real slow.”
The community got its start shortly after the end of the Civil War. Emancipated slaves who had worked area plantations began working and saving money to purchase property in the northeast section of Brentwood near the railroad tracks along Wilson Pike and what is now Wilson Pike Circle.
The first four lots were purchased in 1865. When the community, which crossed Old Hickory Boulevard into Davidson County, was settled, 56 families lived there. Three churches, four schools — two private and two public county schools — a restaurant, the Log Cabin Inn and Tumble Down Shack night club provided services to the community.
“I used to ride with my father (delivering mail) on rural routes and Hardscuffle was the last stop,” said Oden, who often played with black children in Hardscuffle, even though it was a segregated community. Oden says one of their hangouts was the powerhouse that supplied the power that ran the street cars.
Fueled by faith
Mount Lebanon Missionary Baptist Church was the first church in the area. The Rev. Larry Thompson, a Baptist preacher, met with a group of men “under a large sugar maple tree on Hardscuffle Road” in 1863 to organize the church. They built a frame church near that meeting place. In 1890, the church was moved to Oak Street, now Frierson Street, where it remained until 2004, when the church and land was sold and the congregation moved to Nashville.
Land for Brooks Chapel Methodist Church on Franklin Pike, now Franklin Pike Circle, was purchased from Thomas Holt in 1866. The property was in Davidson County, but it was still considered a part of Brentwood and the Hardscuffle community.
County borders weren’t considered real important during that time. The church was renamed Brooks Memorial United Methodist Church in 1879, after it joined the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church and received a loan to build a church. In the late 1930s, the church relocated to Frierson Street, where a new church was built.
In 1858, land was purchased near what is now Pewitt Drive for First Baptist Church, also known as Primitive Baptist Church. In 1890, the church moved to Hardscuffle Road, now Church Street East, near the Hilton Suites.
Many residents of Hardscuffle knew that education and hard work were the keys to success. They instilled those pursuits in their children and made sure they were well-schooled. As a result, many from the area went on to have careers in ministry, education, music, health care, government and business. Some became successful farmers and others had long careers in the military.
Twins Ben and Reuben Tucker were among those who did well.
Ben became a renowned bass violinist and a keen businessman. According to Oden, Ben worked at a radio station that wasn’t doing well and transformed it into one of the best stations in the area. Tragically, Ben, who traveled the country playing his violin, was hit by a car and killed in South Carolina.
Reuben joined the Air Force and enjoyed a career working with a helicopter fleet in New England, where he retired.
When Interstate 65 in was built in 1966, the highway cut right through the community. And while Hardscuffle has disappeared, memories of it remain among the people who grew up there.