Flashback Frank - Smyrna's Hart Spring

Dec 02, 2021 at 06:00 am by Dalton Barrett

Big Hart’s Spring is one mile west of Smyrna, just off Sam Ridley Parkway, and carries a beautiful history within our county.



Hart’s Spring is on the west side of Stones River and was once a fishing hole for crayfish and minnows and a haven for swimming. Wildlife inhabited these waters, and baptisms were common in this branch. When David Lipscomb, yes THAT David Lipcomb, held a gospel meeting at Smyrna Church of Christ, five baptisms occurred in these waters. In the early 1900’s, wagons, with barrels and buckets, carried the clear water from the stream for schools, homes and work sites. Children even skated on the ice-covered waters in the winter.


The branch was named for Captain Nathaniel Hart, who was born February 24, 1744 in Hanover County, Virginia. Daniel Boone’s magnificent descriptions of the area in the 1759s strongly influenced Nathaniel and brothers Thomas and David Hart to explore further.


Later in 1774, the Hart brothers discovered the big spring branch flowing into Stewart’s Creek, Stones River and eventually the Cumberland River. The Hart brothers immediately realized the future value of the surrounding land. In 1775, the Hart brothers became land speculators and made a treaty with the Cherokees. The deed included Stones River, Stewart’s Creek, Harts Branch, and Harts Spring on Taylor’s Trace.


Nathaniel Hart was a man who seemed to be everywhere. He never lived at Hart’s Spring; he maintained a home in Boonesboro, Kentucky. Nonetheless, he claimed Hart’s Spring as a land grant.


The Hart family played a prominent role in the Revolutionary War. Captain Nathaniel Hart served with the North Carolina Rangers. His brother Captain David Hart was in the Battle of Alamance in 1771. Moreover, his brother John Hart was a Captain in the 5th North Carolina Continental Line, and brother Thomas Hart was a Captain Commissary of the same regiment.


In July of 1782, Nathaniel Hart was killed by Indians in eastern Kentucky near his home. Nathaniel was only 38-years-old.


In 1801, well-known Rutherford County pioneers Mary Overall and husband James Espey purchased over 1,100 acres on Harts Branch.


Robert Weakley surveyed Hart’s land in 1789 after Nathaniel’s death. Nathaniel Hart’s 640 acres in Rutherford County on Hart’s Branch was divided among his nine children. Big Hart’s Spring was later owned by the heirs of magistrate George Washington Gwynn, who operated a saw mill, grist mill and blacksmith shop on the branch. Legend has it that Gwynn’s had a work horse to drown in this spring.


The flowing water have also been identified as ‘Blue Spring’, ‘Big Spring’ and ‘Gwyn Spring’ over time; yet the namesake of Hart’s Spring has permanence of the branch that are so vital to our local history.


Enjoy this story and 2,000 other stories concerning Rutherford County history by visiting www.rutherfordtnhistory.org

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