LaVergne – An Early History and Name Origin

From Shirlie Runnels Chaney via

Early History

Buchanan land: That is what the first settlement was called that later became La Vergne. It was originally located in what was later to become Davidson County and Rutherford County, but in the beginning of the city, it was just a part of the Hurricane Creek and Stones River waterways.

Samuel and John Buchanan settled the French Lick Station after traveling with the Robertson Party to reach this part of “wild” Tennessee. The brothers were noted frontiersmen and had come to the area to seek their fortunes. Unfortunately, Sam was killed by Indians between 1783 and 1788 – records are unclear – in the “half moon” tactic. Sam had been plowing a field when Indians fired upon him. He ran from the 12-member attack party who pursued him in a half moon pattern. When he came to a bluff next to a creek, he jumped down it, but was quickly overtaken and killed. His brother John then became the patriarch of the family.

Early post office records show that James B. Buchanan was postmaster at Buchananville on January 26, 1837.
Some of the earliest family names that are affiliated with La Vergne include:

  • Buchanan
  • Castleman
  • Cartwright
  • Catron
  • Daugherty
  • Espy
  • Geioch (Gooch)
  • Goodloe
  • Hamilton
  • Hodge
  • Johns
  • Mason
  • Mitchell
  • Montgomery
  • Moore
  • Morton
  • Mulherrin (Mullins)
  • Phelps
  • Pope
  • Riddle
  • Thomas
  • White
  • Williams

Francois Lenard Gregoire de Roulhac de La Vergne

Francis Roulhac, who was born March 17, 1767 in Limoges, France, left France to go to the West Indies in the spring of 1787. He spent nearly 5 years there as a plantation manager for M. Guybert of St. Marks. Francis returned to France just as the French Revolution was beginning, so quickly left again heading to the West Indies. During the voyage, his ship was captured by two French privateers who sent the ship to America.

At that point, Roulhac made the decision to stay with his brother in Norfolk, Virginia. There he studied law and became an attorney at the age of 34 – a profession he never practiced. He also anglicized his name from Francois Lenard Gregoire de Roulhac de La Vergne to Francis Roulhac. He met Margaret Gray of Guilford County, North Carolina, but studied medicine and became a doctor prior to their marriage on December 6, 1804.

Margaret had a sister who had married “a Butler.” Her husband had apparently served in the Tennessee Militia with Andrew Jackson, but was killed in the Battle of New Orleans. She had been promised 100 acres of property in Rutherford County, so asked her sister and brother-in-law (Margaret and Francis Roulhac) to go with her to claim it. Although the couple did not immediately choose Rutherford County as their home (they lived in Robertson and Montgomery counties first), they eventually settled here.

Francis Roulhac died on August 23, 1852 at the age of 85 and was buried next to his wife in the Roulhac-Hill Cemetery on top of a hill facing “Old Butler Lane.” This is the cemetery on Waldron Road next to a couple of fast food restaurants. Roulhac often spoke on behalf of having a post office in the city he called “Buchananville” and “Mountain View,” so on the day of his death, the postmaster named us “La Vergne.”

A large, flat headstone on the Roulhac grave says, “Affection placed here this stone. Let no unfriendly and unfeeling hand remove.”

The Name La Vergne

While many old-timers say La Vergne means “The Green” because of how the city greens during the spring with cedars, the lush lawns of summer, and green pastures across the area, that the town got its name on the day Francois Lenard Gregoire de Roulhac de La Vergne died is probably the most likely explanation. Another possibility is the city was named after a tree that is native to France called “La Vergne.” The tree – in English – is the Alder tree and it thrives along waterways. It is a rugged tree that might have been inspiration for the first boat as a hollowed Alder fell into a stream on the banks where it grew.

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