Whittle: Community names parallel history
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By DAN WHITTLE

AUBURNTOWN - What's in a name?

More specifically, how did the region's earliest villages get named.

More specifically, how did the region's earliest villages get named. Many village names go back to individual family names, such as Gassaway. Historians advise place names and family names are primary historical markers of advancing civilization.

Many village names go back to individual family names, such as Gassaway. Historians advise place names and family names are primary historical markers of advancing civilization.Regionally-respected historians Joe Davenport, president of the Cannon County Historical Society, and Bobby Dutton, president of the Auburntown Historical Society, readily share how Cannon County's only two incorporated communities,

Regionally-respected historians Joe Davenport, president of the Cannon County Historical Society, and Bobby Dutton, president of the Auburntown Historical Society, readily share how Cannon County's only two incorporated communities, Auburntown and Woodbury, were named.
An entire historical society of folks are working to verify which names - Auburntown, Auburn, Poplar Bluff, Poplar Stand and Sander's Fork - fit and in what eras?

Present-name of Auburntown goes back to around 1900, when the post office was first located there. Before that, it was called Auburn.
"Because of other states, maybe Alabama and Kentucky also having towns named Auburn, the post office came up with the name Auburntown to eliminate confusion in mailing addresses," historian Dutton confirmed.But, do you know what Auburntown went by before 1900?

But, do you know what Auburntown went by before 1900?"As a historical society, off and on for the past two years, we've been researching the various names of Auburntown," Mr. Dutton shared. "One theory is that the name 'Auburn' may have come from a Presbyterian minister who attended a seminary or school named Auburn in New York."

"As a historical society, off and on for the past two years, we've been researching the various names of Auburntown," Mr. Dutton shared. "One theory is that the name 'Auburn' may have come from a Presbyterian minister who attended a seminary or school named Auburn in New York."
But, Auburn was not the first name of the northern-most "city" in Cannon County. Yes, Auburntown is the "only city" in Cannon County.
"In fact, since 1948 when we chartered, Auburntown has been the 'largest city' in Cannon County," bragged longtime Auburntown Mayor Roger Turney. "Woodbury is chartered as a town. We thought about moving the county seat to

"Woodbury is chartered as a town. We thought about moving the county seat to Auburntown, but decided we didn't need all those politicians up here," he added in jest.With a population of 252 residents, according to the last census, Auburntown technically remains the "largest and only city" in Cannon County. Plus, it wasn't always a part of Cannon County.

With a population of 252 residents, according to the last census, Auburntown technically remains the "largest and only city" in Cannon County. Plus, it wasn't always a part of Cannon County."Auburn, in fact, sat in Wilson County before it became a part of Cannon County in the 1830s," historian Dutton traced back in time. "One theory goes back to when the village first started as Sander's Fork, which is the name of the creek that runs through Auburntown today. There's a variation of the spelling here, including Saunders and Sanders, the latter being the most accepted."

"Auburn, in fact, sat in Wilson County before it became a part of Cannon County in the 1830s," historian Dutton traced back in time. "One theory goes back to when the village first started as Sander's Fork, which is the name of the creek that runs through Auburntown today. There's a variation of the spelling here, including Saunders and Sanders, the latter being the most accepted."However, there's a nearby bridge outside Auburntown city limits, that's named "Saunder's Bridge."

However, there's a nearby bridge outside Auburntown city limits, that's named "Saunder's Bridge."After the original community name of "Sander's Fork,'' there were two other possible names for the community.

After the original community name of "Sander's Fork,'' there were two other possible names for the community."Poplar Stand was one name, and I've heard the name Poplar Bluff," Mr. Dutton clarified. "From checking old property deeds, we think Poplar Stand was the most accepted earlier name for Auburntown, rather than Poplar Bluff."

"Poplar Stand was one name, and I've heard the name Poplar Bluff," Mr. Dutton clarified. "From checking old property deeds, we think Poplar Stand was the most accepted earlier name for Auburntown, rather than Poplar Bluff."However, the part of Highway 96 that runs through the heart of Auburntown is officially named "Poplar Bluff Road," Mayor Turney verified. Go figure.

However, the part of Highway 96 that runs through the heart of Auburntown is officially named "Poplar Bluff Road," Mayor Turney verified. Go figure.
Woodbury, the town, was named after a famous politician from Andrew Jackson's era."Various annals of history confirm that Woodbury was named after Levi Woodbury," confirmed Davenport, a former superintendent of Cannon County Schools. "Woodbury was named after Secretary of War Levi Woodbury who served in the initial part of President Andrew Jackson's first term."

"Various annals of history confirm that Woodbury was named after Levi Woodbury," confirmed Davenport, a former superintendent of Cannon County Schools. "Woodbury was named after Secretary of War Levi Woodbury who served in the initial part of President Andrew Jackson's first term."
However, "Danville" was a name for the community before Woodbury was adopted.Although Davenport is a prominent historic name in Cannon annals there's no village named today after the Davenports.

Although Davenport is a prominent historic name in Cannon annals there's no village named today after the Davenports. However, the community of Wood is named after historian Davenport's ancestors on the Wood side of the family ledger, including today's on-going Wood Church of Christ and Cemetery located on State Route 146 on the road leading up from Woodbury to Short Mountain.

However, the community of Wood is named after historian Davenport's ancestors on the Wood side of the family ledger, including today's on-going Wood Church of Christ and Cemetery located on State Route 146 on the road leading up from Woodbury to Short Mountain.

"John Wood was one of the original settlers of Cannon County in the 1807-era, and the first postmaster of Cannon County," Mr. Davenport confirmed. "William 'Billy' Wood, John Wood's grandson, was the man who donated the land for the Wood Cemetery that's still active in front the Wood Church of Christ that is still going strong today. Many of my Wood ancestors are buried in the oldest front part of Wood Cemetery located nearest Route 146. The community of Woodville no longer exists."Historian Davenport commented, jokingly, he wouldn't mind Woodbury being renamed "Woodville."

Historian Davenport commented, jokingly, he wouldn't mind Woodbury being renamed "Woodville."However, Mr. Davenport said he has no claim to today's Woodland School located on Highway 53 in southern Cannon County.

However, Mr. Davenport said he has no claim to today's Woodland School located on Highway 53 in southern Cannon County.
"The name Woodland was chosen for the school, after schools were consolidated, that had been serving the families and children from the Ivy Bluff, Hollis Springs and Smith's Grove communities," historian Davenport recorded back in time. "We think Woodland School was chosen as the schools' new name as a compromise not to hurt feelings from folks from the original community schools."Porterfield to the west of Auburntown, was named after Arn Porterfield, one of the earliest settlers in the area of what is now northeast Cannon County not far from Rutherford County's boundary on Halls Hill Pike.

Porterfield to the west of Auburntown, was named after Arn Porterfield, one of the earliest settlers in the area of what is now northeast Cannon County not far from Rutherford County's boundary on Halls Hill Pike. Perhaps Porterfield's biggest claim to fame is the legend President Andrew Jackson frequently passed through the community while going back and forth to Washington, D.C.

Perhaps Porterfield's biggest claim to fame is the legend President Andrew Jackson frequently passed through the community while going back and forth to Washington, D.C. As part of research for an earlier newspaper story, this writer spent the night in that ancient cabin, today located on property owned by Gary Raines.

As part of research for an earlier newspaper story, this writer spent the night in that ancient cabin, today located on property owned by Gary Raines.
In its storied history, that cabin has sat in three states, North Carolina, State of Franklin and Tennessee, plus four different counties, according to the late Sterling Spurlock Brown, in his 1936 book "History of Woodbury and Cannon County, Tennessee," loaned for this forum by Bobby Womack."The house erected by the elder Alexander McKnight (father of Granville and Amsie McKnight) was a large log structure," historian author Brown accounted. "When it was being built, Andrew Jackson passed through that neighborhood, and helped to place one of the top plates (logs)."

"The house erected by the elder Alexander McKnight (father of Granville and Amsie McKnight) was a large log structure," historian author Brown accounted. "When it was being built, Andrew Jackson passed through that neighborhood, and helped to place one of the top plates (logs)."
The log structure still stands near what was formerly Porterfield Store.According to author Brown, Porterfield was named for Arn Porterfield, one of the early settlers with neighbors by the names of Paschall, Northcutt, Goodloe, Knox, Ready and Alexander, to name a few.

According to author Brown, Porterfield was named for Arn Porterfield, one of the early settlers with neighbors by the names of Paschall, Northcutt, Goodloe, Knox, Ready and Alexander, to name a few.
"Alexander McKnight (was) the first coroner of Cannon County," author Brown validated.The community of Burt was named after Burtgen Shelton, a country store merchant in what was once called Carson's Ford on the road leading toward Parker Hill and Hollow Springs, historian Davenport verified.

The community of Burt was named after Burtgen Shelton, a country store merchant in what was once called Carson's Ford on the road leading toward Parker Hill and Hollow Springs, historian Davenport verified.Now it's time for that immortal question "who put the gas in Gassaway" that sits quietly in the valley over-shadowed by majestic Short Mountain, Middle Tennessee's highest elevation point.

Now it's time for that immortal question "who put the gas in Gassaway" that sits quietly in the valley over-shadowed by majestic Short Mountain, Middle Tennessee's highest elevation point."Those settling along the valley in around the present site of Gassaway were Benjamin Gassaway, for whom the village was named," historian Brown confirmed. "Benjamin was also the father of Charley Gassaway, the first merchant of Gassaway, and James R. Gassaway, a Mexican War soldier."

"Those settling along the valley in around the present site of Gassaway were Benjamin Gassaway, for whom the village was named," historian Brown confirmed. "Benjamin was also the father of Charley Gassaway, the first merchant of Gassaway, and James R. Gassaway, a Mexican War soldier."
In the early 1900s, Gassaway featured a bank and multiple businesses.

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