By Heather Mullinix
In 1799, a group of pioneers made their way from North Carolina to the Cumberland River in what would eventually become Jackson County, TN.
Through the years, the settlement grew and was soon a popular riverboat town, with 40 or more paddle wheelers traveling from Nashville to Burnside, KY.
Progress brought change to the community, and as roads improved and rivers were dammed to make lakes, Granville became a busy recreation and vacation center. But pieces of that grand past remain and are preserved by the Granville Museum and Sutton General Store. The Granville Museum began as the Granville Christian Church in 1873, later serving as the Granville Church of Christ until it closed in 1987. It reopened as the Granville Museum in 1999.
Visitors to Historic Granville can enjoy a walking tour past 20 historic structures and sites, including the Sutton Homestead, one of the oldest homes in Granville. It features a living room, dining room, two bedrooms, a library, sewing room and kitchen. The displays at the home are changed quarterly, so past visitors are sure to find something new and interesting.
"You're always seeing something new," said Randall Clemons, executive director of Historic Granville. "It's a great place to step back in time to remember your own past or to just have a great day of family fun regardless of age."
Homestead displays planned this year include "Hats Off to Our Past" through June 30; "Sweet Tea and Front Porches" July 4 through Sept. 30; and A Victorian Christmas in Granville Nov. 8 thorugh Dec. 31. Museum exhibits include Bonnets and Headscarves currently displayed; Aprons July 4 through Sept. 30; and Christmas Stockings Nov. 8 through Dec. 31.
"Right now we have 'Hats off to our Past' featuring a collection of hats from all over the world," said Clemons. "Ladies can have fun dressing up and we have men's hats, as well."
The home was purchased by Dr. B.L. Simmons in 1894. A strong believer in education, Simmons established the Granville Private School and later founded the Cumberland Valley Preparatory School on the street behind his homestead, which brought music, art, public speaking and sports to the rural community.
Also on the grounds of the Sutton Homestead is the pioneer village that includes log structures, a transportation museum, the Eller's Grist Mill, Sutton's Blacksmith Shop and Granville Weave Shop.
The walking tour also includes the Granville United Methodist Church, built in 1896; the office of Dr. William Page, serving patients from the late 1800s to 1941; John Cannady Cooper Cemetery; the site of Granvill Private School; Granville Presbyterian Church, built in 1924 to replace an older, frame building; the Fox Home, built in the early 1900s; site of the Duke Hotel and Blacksmith Shop; Granville Veterans Park; Williamson Home, which once served as the post office and the old Granville Delivery Stable; Dr. William B. Holmes Cemetery; F.A. Kelly Home, built in the 1800s; the John Hargis home, which moved to Granville when Cordell Hull Lake was formed; Granville Bed and Breakfast, built in the 1800s; Granville Post Office, serving the community from the early 1950s to 1972; Security Bank and Trust building, today housing an antique store; Dr. A.E. Ferrell Home, built in the 1800s; the Dr. Luther M. Freeman Office, open from 1906 to 1973; and the T.B. Sutton Store, another centerpiece of the community.
The T.B. Sutton General Store building was purchased at a chancery court sale in 1880 for $100. For the next 45 years, the store held many names, but continued to serve the residents with groceries, furniture, clothing, hardware, toys, sewing machines and more.
The store closed in the early 1970s and remained closed for 25 years, falling into a state of disrepair. In 2000, Harold and Beverly Sutton visited the annual Heritage Day Festival and discovered the old store that bore Harold's father's name. They purchased the building and contents and began work restoring the building.
The cards were stacked against them. The feed room house had nearly collapsed and Sutton had to raise the structure 37 and 1/2 inches to repair the foundation and wood siding. Through it all, he strived to maintain the character and charm of the old clapboard building.
"That was a turning point for us," Clemons said of efforts to preserve the community. It's a unique structure, with a two-story interior with a balcony, a design not often seen in old general stores.
The Sutton General Store was ready for business at the next Heritage Day event, selling gifts, ice cream, chips and drinks and hosting the Saturday night Bluegrass music. Lunch is served Wednesday through Saturday at the back restaurant counter, and a delicious dinner is offered Saturday nights.
Historic Granville offers its walking tour Wednesday through Saturday, but it can also help personalize tours and activities for groups.
"We can design a special lunch and we've got enough to keep groups busy from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.," Clemons said, adding there were three unique gift shops in Granville, walking trails and a lake all offering recreation opportunities. Those wishing to extend their stay overnight can find lodging in the bed and breakfasts or camping at the nearby marina.
In 2007, the Suttons donated the store to the Granville Museum on the condition it remain open to the public and offer a music hour. The Sutton Ole Time Music Hour was born. The live radio show records on Saturday nights in front of a live audience and is engineered to sound like the early days of the Grand Old Opry. It's broadcast on several stations and to U.S. armed forces worldwide.
The music hour begins at 6 p.m., with recording at 7 p.m. for the following week. Guests can enjoy a Southern meal, with a reservation, and listen to toe-tapping, old country, bluegrass and gospel music. Dinner is served at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the Sutton General Store.
The Sutton General Store is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Call (931) 653-4151 for reservations. Those just wishing to listen to the music and not enjoy dinner are welcome, with no admission.
Upcoming performers include the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band April 27, Flatheads May 4, Mike Webb and Friends May 11 and Bluegrass Solutions on May 18. The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band will have a special Friday night performance May 24, followed by Jerry Butler and Blue Jays May 25.
The Sutton General Store will also host a gospel concert series the second Friday in May and June, with dinner starting at 6 p.m. and music at 7.
May 25 will also be the annual Granville Heritage Day and the grand opening of the Granville Historic Saloon.
"In the riverboat days, boats would be there for about a day unloading their cargo," Clemons explained. "There was a hotel and there was a saloon in town."
Through the years, the saloon served as an ice cream parlor, but it was torn down several years ago. This year, a building similar to it has been recreated at the original site. It will include memorabilia from Hop Lee, a famous, or infamous, moonshiner from the area that went to Nashville and ran a successful liquor store on Broad Street.
During the Heritage Day event, there will be storytelling and people dressed in period costumes along with lots of entertainment.
There will be craft booths, an arts festival, Civil War living history demonstrations, craftsmen demonstrations, a parade, food and children's rides.
"It's just a fun day to be in Granville," Clemons said.
The museum will also be hosting a traveling exhibit from the Tennessee State Museum on the War of 1812 from May 25 through July.
Other upcoming events include the Granville Genealogy Festival, offering help for those seeking their roots; and the Fall Festival will be Oct. 5. There will also be a Scarecrow Walk of Granville Oct. 5-31, and a Ghost Walk Oct. 25 and 26.
Granville Country Christmas will be Dec. 14, with a Christmas dinner play Dec. 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13. A Christmas bluegrass dinner is planned Dec. 7, 14, and 21.
The Granville Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, March through December, from noon to 3 p.m.
Take Interstate 40 west to Exit 268 and turn right onto Hwy. 70. Turn right to Chestnut Mound and turn right onto Hwy. 53, traveling five miles to Granville. The Sutton General Store is one block on the left.
To learn more:
Customized tours are available by calling (931) 653-4151.