In the Shadow of the Knob

March/April, 2019 Froe Chips, Pettus Read

This 1977 photo displays the prominence of Versailles Knob, standing more than 1,250 feet above sea level.

Located on the Bicentennial Capitol Mall in Nashville, you will find a huge 200-foot granite walk-upon map detailing the state of Tennessee. As your foot steps cover the state outlined in the Tennessee carved stone, you will find yourself crossing rivers, large cities, small towns and the three grand divisions of our state without the need of GPS or even the glove compartment of your automobile. All that will be needed is an interest to locate where you have been, where you live, and hopes of places to visit in the future in a larger than life scale than the screen of our Smartphones.

Maps have always been the source of mankind’s direction to finding new lands and determining the starting point of where this County of Rutherford got its beginning. Located on that large granite map in Nashville you will find a community listed in Rutherford County that many today, which actually live here, doesn’t even know existed. The community of Versailles located approximately 11 miles southwest of Murfreesboro is that place and could be one of the oldest settlements in the area. French explorers and trappers, some it is told being from Canada, began entering the area as early as 1710. It is thought that is where the town’s name got it’s beginning. Versailles is pronounced by the locals as “Ver sals” and not by the French terminology giving the community it’s own personally.

In The History Of Versailles The Tenth District And Its People the overall location was the old Tenth District of Rutherford County. The Tenth District included the area adjoining the Eight District in the extreme southwestern part of Rutherford County. This old Tenth District area was shared between Versailles and later Rockvale when it came into being after 1870. Today, that area is combined into the Eight District making up most of southwest Rutherford County.

The Versailles Store, c1950 (courtesy Pettus Read)

In its early begins it was located in a remote area of the county and somewhat secluded as well as inaccessible, but the community contained all the necessities of early farm life. It had a large blacksmith shop, shingle factory, cotton gin, sawmills, post office, one room school and the Versailles Store/Trading Post was the heart of the community. They were located one mile northwest of the actual beginning or head of the Harpeth River Valley and a few hundred yards south of the Harpeth River Valley Creek, which further on becomes Harpeth River. In The History Of Versailles it says that the creek was the boundary line between Rutherford and Williamson Counties until the Tenth District formed. This would have made Versailles in Williamson County until about 1840.

The Old Versailles Store still claims the nucleus for the Versailles community. Just recently the Nance family, who’s family have been involved with its operation since the early 1900s, has given the old structure a total remodeling with it becoming a family/community gathering place for special occasions. They have turned the interior into a local museum giving a look back into days gone by. The location of the store was the organizing spot for Company A, 24th Infantry of the CSA that was involved in the battles of Shiloh, Stones River, Chickamauga and Atlanta. Many descendants of this regiment still live in the Versailles area.

Versailles still resembles much as it did years ago. Across the road from the store at the four ways stop, in a small field containing one tree, every spring you will find what we call “The Buttercup Field,” being an area full of yellow daffodils. You will see mothers unloading minivans containing children’s table and chairs for that Kodak Moment of their little ones knee deep in Buttercups at a tea party in the middle of Versailles. No one really knows how the flowers got there, but everyone protects them for future generations and the opportunity for another photograph.

I guess the remoteness preserved this spot that still contains the older white plank homes of the antebellum day among newer construction. The farmland, rolling valleys and the Versailles Knob that reaches a height of almost 1300 feet is the landscape’s centerpiece during nature’s changes of season. It is often said by the locals, “If you ever live in the shadow of the Knob, you will always return no matter where you go to make this your home.” I did and glad I’m there. – Pettus L. Read

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