11,000 B.C.


Paleoindians – the earliest well-documented indigenous peoples of the Americas – arrive at the Harpeth River near Old Town.
1050 A.D.

Cahokia Mounds

Mississippian culture emerges at Cahokia Mounds in southern Illinois – the largest Precolumbian city north of Mexico, and one of America’s World Heritage Sites recognized by the United Nations.
1100 A.D.

Mississippian Culture

Mississippian culture develops in Middle Tennessee – and possibly the beginnings of the native settlement at Old Town.
1200 A.D.

Stone-Box Grave

Nashville’s Mississippian peoples created a unique form of grave to house their honored dead – the stone-box grave. Since the first historic settlement of Nashville in 1779, literally tens of thousands of stone-box graves have been uncovered by plowing, construction, and “digging”.
1300s A.D. – 1400s A.D.


Middle Tennessee region experienced a series of megadroughts ‐‐ documented through tree rings.
1450 A.D.

Old Town Abandoned

Old Town abandoned by Mississippians native peoples, driven out by the social and political disruptions following the megadroughts. The Mississippian way of life continues well into the 1600s in places like East Tennessee and with the Natchez in Mississippi into the early 1700s.

Nashville Settled

Nashville is settled by James Robertson, John Donelson, and a party of Overmountain Men on Christmas Day, 1779. It was named for Francis Nash, the American Revolutionary War hero.

John Donelson, Sr. Receives “Old Town” Land Grant

In 1780 John Donelson, Sr. became one of more than 200 settlers to sign the “Cumberland Compact,” and was granted a land tract that included the Old Town plantation.

John Donelson, Jr. Inherits Old Town Tract

John Donelson, Jr. inherits the Old Town tract after his father’s death.

Tennessee Becomes State

Tennessee becomes the 16th state admitted to the United States on June 1, 1796, giving Tennesseans their own government. New treaties and new roads bring more people into Middle Tennessee.

Thomas Brown is Born

Thomas Brown (1800-1870), the son of Joseph and Catherine Browne, was born in Brentsville in Prince William County, Virginia, and moved to Williamson County with his younger brothers and sisters soon after his father’s death in 1822 (Historic Williamson County, Virginia McDaniel Bowman).

Old Natchez Trace

U.S. Congress passes legislation to establish a major post road between Nashville and Natchez, Mississippi.  Following a treaty on October 24, 1801 with first the Chickasaw Indians and then a few weeks later the Choctaws, substantial road improvements and construction of dry stacked stone bridges began and were completed in 1802. 

1801 Bridge

U.S. military constructs dry-stacked stone bridge crossing Brown’s Creek to facilitate passage along the Natchez Trace. 

“Old Town”

Earliest known written use of the term “Old Town” comes from a land warrant issued on February 15, 1803 — which reads in part “on big Harpeth adjoining John Donelson’s tract of 640 (that includes a part of the old town).”

City of Nashville

The City of Nashville is incorporated by the state’s General Assembly.

Andrew Jackson & Old Town Bridge

Andrew Jackson and his troops crossed the Old Town Bridge on the way back from the Battle of New Orleans.

Thomas Harden Perkins Purchases Old Town

Thomas Harden Perkins purchases Old Town from John Donelson, Jr.

Nicholas and Polly Perkins Move Into “Log Dwellings” at Old Town


Thomas Brown Moves to Tennessee

Thomas Brown moves to Williamson County, Tennessee from Virginia.

Trail of Tears – Indian Removal Act

In 1830, Congress passed President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act, authorizing the President to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living in the eastern United States. The Cherokee Nation resisted and fought back to no avail. By 1838 the last group of Cherokees left Tennessee by steamboat on the Hiwassee River.

Thomas Brown Marries

Brown marries Margaret Smith Bennett Hunter following the death that year of his first wife, Nancy Allison (1810-1838), who left behind their two young sons.

John Thomas Brown

Birth of Thomas and Margaret Brown’s first of six children, John Thomas Brown (1839 – 1907).

Brown Purchases Old Town Property

Brown purchases Old Town from William O’Neal Perkins.

Greek Revival-Style Home

Brown constructs Greek Revival-style home at Old Town site, using contractor Pryor Lillie.


Battle of Franklin

Battle of Franklin – the Browns at Old Town could hear the booming cannons and the rattle of musketry, while wounded and straggling troops passed along the Natchez Trace through their front yard.

Oath of Allegiance

Thomas Brown refuses to sign the Oath of Allegiance after Nashville fell to the Union army and was subsequently imprisoned.

Bethenia Brown Marries

Thomas and Margaret Brown’s daughter Bethenia marries John A. Miller.

First Archaeological Excavation by Joseph Jones

First archaeological excavation at Old Town conducted by Dr. Joseph Jones, the first City Health Officer for Nashville. Jones recorded the site consisted of two “pyramidal” mounds, a circular “burial” mound, and an additional mound in which the mansion was constructed. 

Jennie Brown Marries

Thomas and Margaret Brown’s daughter Jennie marries Joe H. Bowman.

Thomas Brown Dies

Thomas Brown dies, owning 546 acres of land including Old Town homeplace.  Before he died, Mr. Brown divided his property into tracts which were written on pieces of paper and drawn from a hat by his surviving four children (Jennie, Bethenia, John Thomas, and Maggie)..  His son John Thomas drew the homeplace but because his work was in Nashville, he swapped tracts with his sister Bethenia Brown Miller.

Investigation at Old Town

Franklin explorer Dr. William Martin Clark investigated Old Town on behalf of the Smithsonian Institution to help gather evidence to dispel the myth of the “Tennessee pygmies” and to gather collections for the United States Centennial celebration.

Edwin Curtiss Explores Old Town

Edwin Curtiss, working for the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University, conducted a brief exploration at Old Town in October of 1878. After uncovering six stone-box graves along the side of the road, he stopped noting the graves had been damaged by wagon traffic. The only artifact recovered was a ceramic earspool. 

Maggie Brown Marries

Thomas and Margaret Brown’s daughter Maggie marries and moves to Franklin with her husband; Margaret moves with her.

Margaret S. Brown dies


1801 Bridge is Replaced

Old Town Bridge of 1801 goes out of use, replaced by nearby newer construction.

Jesse Walter Fewkes Visits Old Town

Jesse Walter Fewkes, chief of the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian, visited Old Town on his tour of local archaeological sites.

Luther McCall Explores Old Town

Franklin relic collector Luther McCall conducted a nearly year-long exploration of a cemetery at Old Town with state archaeologist Parmenio E. Cox.

William Glass Polk Examines Graves

William Glass Polk examines approximately 80 stone-box graves from a cemetery located near the junction of the Harpeth River and Donelson’s Creek (Brown’s Creek). Polk describes several funerary offerings and a variety of burials, including one particularly large stone-box burial measuring 7×2.5 feet containing two bodies, one male and one female. 

Major Flood

Major flood in region that washed out nearby Union Covered Bridge at Ash Grove.


Virginia Goodpasture plants daffodils (buttercups) along the Old Natchez Trace and in the Old Town yard. 


1801 Bridge is Back

Contemporary Old Natchez Trace bridge collapses under the weight of a huge oil truck, and while it is being rebuilt the 155-year-old Old Town bridge bears the burden of traffic again. 

1801 Bridge is Washed Out

Old Town Bridge of 1801 washed out by major flood, but stone bulwarks remain. Exact date is unknown, but it likely happened in 1975 when the Harpeth River reached 33.7′, which was 12.7′ above the flood stage at that time. 

The Coopers purchase Old Town

The Goodpastures sell Old Town to Patrick and Catherine Cooper.

William Glass Polk’s Collection Donated

Franklin resident William Glass Polk’s collection of over 30,000 artifacts are donated to the Tennessee State Museum by his widow Mary, many of which are likely from Old Town but no inventory exists at time of donation.

New Archaeological Findings

During installation of a waterline within the road right-of-way at the entrance to Old Town, a number of stone-box graves and portions of a burned Mississippian structure were documented by archaeologists from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology.

National Register of Historic Places

Old Town Bridge and the Thomas Brown House listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NHRP reference #88000325 & #88000324).

“Old Town Archaeological Site”

Pre-historic archaeological site including the temple mounds at Old Town listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NHRP reference #89000159, listed as “Old Town Archaeological Site”).

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Jimmy Buffett Purchases Old Town

The Coopers sell Old Town to Jimmy and Jane Buffett.

Thomas Brown House Renovations

During renovations to the rear of the Thomas Brown House by Jimmy Buffett, archaeologists from the Tennessee Division of Archaeology documented a large Mississippian pit feature and one stone-box grave. This salvage archaeology project yielded the only current radiocarbon date from the prehistoric site – about A.D. 1250.

Kim Carnes purchases Old Town

The Buffetts sell Old Town to Kim Carnes and Dave Ellington.

The Cromlings purchase Old Town

Carnes and Ellington sell Old Town to Bill and Maureen Cromling.

Nashville Flood

Catastrophic Nashville flood that saw a record 13.57 inches of rain fall during a 36-hour period. The combined two-day rain fall total doubled the previous 48-hour rainfall record in Nashville.

1801 Bridge Restoration

The Cromlings bring in the Dry Stone Conservancy to restore the north abutment of the 1801 Bridge.


Old Town Heritage Project

Tracy and Bill Frist begin the Old Town Heritage Project in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and Professor Kevin Smith to add to the limited body of knowledge of what is today known about ancient civilizations in Middle Tennessee.

Thomas Brown House Restoration

The Frists restore the Thomas Brown House with careful attention to historic accuracy.

Geophysical Survey Conducted at Old Town

New South Associates, Inc. conducted extensive ground penetrating radar (GPR) of 7 acres of Old Town, documenting presence of thousands of stone box graves, multiple temple structures, and numerous structures and fire pits.

Old Town Arboretum is Created & Certified

In July 2020, Old Town welcomed the Tennessee Urban Forestry Council (TUFC) as they inspected and certified over 40 different species of trees throughout the property, hence the creation of the Old Town Arboretum.