A close friend introduced a poem to me a few years ago that seems especially appropriate today. The words of Genevieve Steele, penned in the 1960s, express an emotion that permeates the heart of anyone who stays in Williamson County for an extended period.
Miss Genevieve, a beloved local elementary school teacher, had a lifelong passion for this county, and especially Grassland. Here are a few lines from the final stanzas of The Harpeth Hills.
For there’s magic in the hill tops,And there’s contentment where
The little homes are waiting
In the valley, green and fair.
And no matter where they wander
Or how far they chance to roam.
The blue veiled Hills of Harpeth
Will call her children home.
It is with great pride that the staff of the Herald introduces a very special community to our readers. The voices, thoughts, feelings and memories of many people contributed to making this special section about Grassland a keepsake. Carol Robinson, Kerri Bartlett, along with the eloquent words of Franklin writer John McBryde, have created a kaleidoscope of stories and pictures that our entire team hopes touches on the day-to-day spirit of this inviting community.
We have surely only scratched the surface. I hesitate to use words like capture, encapsulate or reflect because our efforts truly do not tell the whole story. To do that would require a book of more than one volume, but we hope to have taken a snapshot. To all who allowed us to shadow or interview them, thank you for participating in this worthwhile project.
The days leading up to this have been challenging. You never have enough hours to take on the extra required, but I can say we have tried to be tenacious. For those that were not included, but most definitely are an integral part of the landscape of this area…we will be back.
Thank goodness that lifelong learning does not require money, just time. The conversations all of us have had furthered our knowledge about this highly traveled and deeply loved village.
The popularity of the Hillsboro Road corridor is only a recent phenomenon, in that for generations, folks depended on what we call Old Hillsboro Road before the state of Tennessee redesigned the highway to its present location. Of course, this was before the state route 96West, which locals still refer to as “new 96”.
Sneed Road, according to longtime resident Freda Garrett was dirt before it was gravel. The road, lined only with a few sprawling farms of pastureland, was not fit for an automobile until the late fifties.
Use your minds eye for a moment to produce a makeshift movie set.
The scene opens inside the county’s old antebellum courthouse on our Public Square. The oldest men of our community, whose wisdom is measured by the color of their hair, are meeting in a wood-paneled courtroom. Two gentlemen approach the governing body with differing opinions about what to do about a rough, country road on the northwest side of the county.
One gentleman asserts that the dirt road should remain untouched. The other testifies that the need for a safe and reliable road for cars gives rise to alter the idyllic setting.
This meeting predates the 1967 establishment of the Williamson County Regional Planning Commission or the state-mandated Highway Commission. There are no other decision makers to settle the question.
Mr. Ray Garrett received the requisite votes he needed during was then called the Quarterly Court, today our Williamson County Commission. Mr. Garrett had moved his family from Madison to the Harpeth Valley in the 1950s. At that time, the only commercial business was a country store on then Hillsboro Road, today the site of the old Pepper Patch business, now Grassland Dance Studio, on Old Hillsboro road.
This predated the state of Tennessee’s decision to construct a brand new highway.
Eventually, Mr. Garrett chose the property frequented today by residents and visitors morning, noon and until sunset. This landmark building distinguished by its green metal shed-style roof is just one of the popular hubs of activity in the Grassland village.
Freda remains the owner of the property her father developed, and the Sneed Road that he passionately “carried water for” from the hills of the Harpeth Valley to the Public Square of Franklin now carries 10,000 automobiles daily.
The change has not been overnight, rather it seems that it has evolved as the community has shown an interest in seeing it grow. A small retail shopping center came decades later and the popular CY Market that Freda’s aunt and uncle, Charlie and Marie Franks, operated for several years gave way to a series of new mom and pop businesses that have thrived over the past decade beginning with Steve McClellan’s Garden Delights, then The Good Cup and now the Perfect Setting. Through the years, The Garrett Company, Originally a Ray Garrett endeavor, the retail operation has been in the hands of Freda and her son Gavin Moon, a Williamson County native.
If you ask Gavin what comes to mind when you say Grassland he immediately responds:
“CY Market, and follows with sausage and biscuits.”
Editor’s note: Genevieve Steele’s poems can be found in a single volume entitled The Harpeth Hills and other poems. It is a rare publication and can be found in the Special Collections Room of the Williamson County Public Library.