Recognizing History

Dan Whittle, The Murfreesboro Post, June 19, 2011

Bryant’s Grove area of Rutherford County is named for Sherrod Bryant.

Significant Tennessee history was unveiled Saturday, June 18, when Friends of Long Hunter State Park held a ceremony to unveil a Tennessee State Historical Marker honoring the life of pre-Civil War free black Sherrod Bryant, namesake of Bryant’s Grove who owned slaves.

Bryant’s Grove is the segment of Long Hunter Park that’s located in Rutherford County along the banks of J. Percy Priest Lake. The marker was recently relocated inside the park from Couchville Pike, where it had limited visibility to the public.

The ceremony was held to announce the historical marker’s presence inside Long Hunter State Park’s Bryant’s Grove area named for Sherrod Bryant.

Few people, including historians, know the unique history of Bryants Grove where a “free black man” from North Carolina came to Tennessee and prospered to the point of owning multiple properties in downtown Nashville and a plantation with more than 20 slaves. The pre-Civil War plantation sprawled into Wilson and Rutherford counties.

“Sherrod Bryant was born in 1781 in Virginia, and grew up in Granville County, N.C.,” noted Dan Whittle, president of Friends of Long Hunter, a nonprofit group that promotes youth nature tourism. “He’s an important figure in Middle Tennessee history.”

In 1806, after receiving official documents certifying his own freedom from slavery, Sherrod Bryant came to Middle Tennessee where he began purchasing large tracts of farm land, including 300 acres along the McCrory Creek in the historic Donelson region of Davidson County.

In 1830, his holdings included a downtown Nashville building lot purchased from Thomas L. Loving.

His plantation-owning era came in 1844-45 when he purchased 300 acres in Rutherford County from Thomas and Henry Lantern. The property is known today as “Bryant’s Grove.”

Very little information has been published about this historic figure, but descendants Carl Bryant, of Nashville, and Caressa Bryant Hamby, of Michigan, met last summer (2010) in Middle Tennessee where numerous Sherrod Bryant’s descendants still reside.

“We traced our family legacy back to Tennessee, and points beyond on Great Great Great Grandfather Sherrod’s limb of the family tree,” noted Caressa. “I’m a descendant of Henderson Bryant, one of Sherrod’s sons who moved to Michican after the War Between the States.”

“Sherrod Bryant was successful as a farmer and plantation owner,” shared Carl Bryant, a retired Air Force career man. “By 1850, Sherrod Bryant was one of the richest, if not the richest black men in the State of Tennessee.”

Sherrod Bryant died in 1854, and is buried in the “Bryant Town Family Cemetery” in the Donelson area.

This significant Tennessee history has now been “preserved” and is showcased at the park’s main office 2910 Hobson Pike (between Interstates 24 and 40) in Davidson County.

“We welcome visitors to Long Hunter Park where the Friends of Long Hunter have researched and created a permanent display of history,” Long Hunter Park Chief Ranger Thurman Mullins credited. “It’s important, but largely untold Volunteer State history that is available to students and the public.”

Further information can be obtained by calling 885-2422.

Carl Bryant and Whittle are available to speak at schools, history and civic groups.

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