They say you find the best stories when you get off the main road and take the two-lane. That couldn’t be any truer as you wind through both the curves of the highway and the history along the Old Tennessee Settlers to Soldiers Trail. While traversing only 84 miles, you’ll find yourself immersed in centuries of tales and historical moments at the 99 stops of the Old Tennessee Settlers to Soldiers Trail.
Here are a few can’t-miss spots along the way that witnessed Tennessee’s storied history firsthand and molded it into the beautiful place we know today.
The only designated Great American Main Street in the state runs through the heart of historic downtown Franklin. Park the car and step back into a simpler time with a stroll through the locally-owned shops and restaurants that line the iconic street. Be sure to savor your moment as a star standing under the lights at the 1930s era Franklin Theatre, or grab a bite at Gray’s On Main which spent its first 70 years as the local pharmacy.
You can’t leave Franklin without a visit to the Civil War sites that witnessed The Battle of Franklin. Stops at Carnton Plantation, Carter House and Lotz House will walk you through the events of that Nov. 30, 1864 night, from the perspective of three different families and the effects it had on them and the city for many years that followed.
Lose the suit and show up in boots. That’s the mantra of this unique village, generously described as a “wide spot in the road” by locals. But don’t let the quaint size fool you. In Leiper’s Fork, you will find restaurants like Country Boy and Puckett’s Restaurant and Grocery, which fill you with music and history just as well as they satisfy your appetite with biscuits and barbecue.
Music fans, do not leave Leiper’s Fork until you step inside Serenite Maison. Their famed pickin’ corner sports jewels like a 1944 D-28 Martin guitar, an 1863 Everly Brothers guitar, a 1934 A-4 Gibson Mandolin, and many more just waiting for you to pick them up and strum. Leave your wallet in the car though as they aren’t for sale, rather there for any and all to enjoy.
Those lush rolling hills that surround Leiper’s Fork also mark the first parcels in the state preserved by the Land Trust for Tennessee, ensuring those incredible views will never be disturbed or developed. If you are looking for a great photo opportunity along the trail, this is one of many not to be passed up. Fly Community Store & Spout Spring. There is just something special about pulling off the two-lane road and into a country store for a “real coke in a glass bottle.” The Fly Community Store is just what you would expect from a place that’s been around since 1906; quaint, full of friendly faces and loaded with local knowledge and history. Grab that real Coca-Cola and drink it down quick, you’re going to need that bottle again.
The fanciest bottled water you’ve ever paid way too much for doesn’t even compare to taking a drink from a natural spring. Not far down the trail on Hwy 7 keep an eye out to your left for Spout Spring. It was once the water source for the Middle Tennessee Railroad when it ran through the area, but today it’s a hidden gem waiting for you. After you’ve had all you can savor, fill up that bottle you saved. As you get further down the trail, you’re going to want another sip from the spring.
This agricultural community is packed full of history from the Civil War, the industrial revolution, and even the Grand Ole Opry. Make sure to stop into the Mt. Pleasant Grille for a bite while you’re passing through. During the 1930s and 1940s, Opry legends like Eddy Arnold, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff and Little Jimmy Dickens would ride the train down from Nashville to perform in this gem on Main Street.
The town is widely known for its annual Mule Day each spring, which has been an important community event since the 1840s. At that time Columbia was home to the world’s largest mule market. Columbia was also home to the United States 11th President, James K. Polk. Throughout the town, you’ll find notable sites from the President’s life, including the site of his boyhood home.
Civil War history buffs won’t want to miss Rippavilla Plantation. The mansion was built by Frances Cheairs IV, the man who eventually carried the surrender flag at Fort Donelson. The Spring Hill Battlefield is 110 acres and was the site of “The Spring Hill Incident” that led Confederate General John Bell Hood to later strike in the Battle of Franklin.
End your drive at the Battle of Thompson’s Station battlefield which was home to the second largest Civil War battle in Williamson County and where Union Colonel John Coburn was captured. Sitting on the battlefield today, you’ll find a replica of the Thompson’s Station Railroad Depot and H. Clark Distillery, which was opened in 2014 as the first legal distillery in Williamson County in more than 100 years. Grab a tour and a taste inside the former grain storage house, while owner Heath Clark shares the story of how he helped change Tennessee law to make distilling legal across the state.