The First Residents of Historic Travellers Rest

From as early as 1270-1316 A.D., more than 500 years before John Overton purchased the land which would later be known as Travellers Rest, the area was occupied by prehistoric Native Americans during what archaeologists call the Mississippian period (circa 1000-1450 A.D.). Based on written accounts of Dr. Rush Nutt from 1805, the prehistoric Native American site is thought to have included an earthen mound and palisade or earthwork wall for protection. The site is speculated to have been as large as 10-12 acres, but due to the landscape changes that have occurred over time, it is difficult to say if the exact boundaries of the site will ever be clearly defined. While exploring Middle Tennessee in 1920 for the Bureau of American Ethnology, William Edward Myer was contracted make a map of the Travellers Rest archaeological site which supports Dr. Rush Nutt’s description from more than 100 years earlier.

There are certain cultural elements of the Mississippian period which are unique to the Cumberland River Valley in Middle Tennessee. In the area surrounding what is now Nashville, Native Americans often interred the deceased in stone boxes or limestone coffins. Because of the burials previously uncovered on the site and the laws protecting these burials, Travellers Rest currently refrains from undertaking any unnecessary ground-breaking activities.

Filleted, notched rim prehistoric ceramic bowl , filled with burned freshwater snail shells.  Image, Travellers Rest Historic House Museum archaeological collection.
Excavation of clay hearth by the Southeastern Indian Antiquities Survey. Image courtesy of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology.
Indian Village at Travelers Rest - “I have examined the boundary of this fortification. It seems to be nearly round or at least the corners or where they might be are wanting. Its on a declivity & on the east where the creek runs it appears as if the earth was dug perpendicularly down & thrown off so that a compleat & empentrable wall was left…” Jennings, Jesse D., ed. “Nutt’s Trip to the Chickasaw Country.” Journal of Mississippi History Vol. 9 (1947): 57-58. Print. Image courtesy of, National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution, MS 21688.

clay effigy
Clay effigy excavated by the Southeastern Indian Antiquities Survey in 1967.  Image by Ben Crim, Travellers Rest Historic House Museum Collection.

Help Preserve the Past for the Future

Your tax-deductible contribution today will help preserve and maintain Travellers Rest Historic House Museum as a premier resource for history in Nashville and Middle Tennessee for generations to come.