History Overview

Over 700 years ago, Old Town was an active 12-acre village and town center, fortified by steep earthworks and encircled by a high palisade wall.  A sophisticated and highly structured society of indigenous people occupied the civic and ceremonial village center from 1050 to between 1350 and 1450 AD.  Today, two large original pyramidal, earthen temple mounds and two smaller circular burial mounds lie undisturbed adjacent to the Thomas Brown House. 

Constructed by Virginian Thomas Brown in 1846, the Greek Revival-styled home stands serenely at the juncture of the Big Harpeth River and Donelson Creek (now called Brown’s Creek) with the original, well-travelled Natchez Trace just east of the house.  The Old Town Bridge, built by federal soldiers in 1801 for the passage of mail and troops, is one of the oldest surviving bridges in Tennessee.

The Civil War touched Old Town with the nearby Battle of Franklin in 1864.  The eldest son of Thomas Brown, the original owner, served in the First Tennessee Regiment and later in Coleman’s Scouts. Mr. Brown refused to take the oath after the war and was imprisoned in Nashville for a time.

Several archaeological excavations, the first in 1868 by physician Joseph Jones with findings published by the Smithsonian Institution in 1876, have documented the rich history of the Mississippian culture who lived at Old Town for hundreds of years. 

In 1989, Old Town joined the National Register of Historical Places as “Old Town Archaeological Site.”  It includes the Thomas Brown House, Old Town Bridge and the Temple Mounds.