Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Belle Meade Plantation - The Natchez Trace

Marker ID:  
Location: on the grounds of the Belle Meade Plantation, 5025 Harding Road (Entrance to the Plantation), Nashville TN
County: Davidson
Coordinates: N 36° 6.412    W 086° 51.953
  36.10686666    -86.86588333
Waymark: None


In 1742 a European settler recorded his travel and the conditions of the path which was known as the Natchez Trace. This is the earliest known recording of the trace, a portion of which was located on the site of Belle Meade Plantation. The trace, or trail, was a well-worn foot path created by bison as they travelled north to the Nashville area in search of the salt licks located there. Native Americans would follow this trail thus creating a trace roughly 440 miles from Nashville, Tennessee to Natchez, Mississippi. The Natchez Trace linked the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers and quickly became the main road settlers followed to travel south from Nashville to sell their goods. The trace was used by several Native American tribes such as the Choctaw, Cherokee, and the Chickasaw, who were known to follow the trace into Nashville to sell and trade their furs, pelts, and other goods. Today travelers can still use the “Old Trace” which is 444 mile road known as the Natchez Trace Parkway. The Parkway follows the approximate path of the old trace where original sections, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, remain accessible.

(photo, lower left) The “Old Dunham’s Station” which had been part of a 640-acre preemption grant may by North Carolina to Daniel Dunham in 1786 would later become Belle Meade Plantation. In 1788, Indians scalped, killed, and “chopped” Mr. Dunham and later burned his cabin. His son rebuilt the cabin and the family remained in residence until they sold the farm to John Harding in 1807. The property was considered a well-watered tract of land with Richland creek flowing through the middle of the property. The creek bed made up a section of the Natchez trace and the constant flow of travelers along the Natchez Trace meant a steady flow of business for John Harding, at Belle Meade.

(photos, center) You are standing on the original site of the Blacksmith shop.---John Harding’s saw mill and blacksmith shop were valuable sources of income. Ben, the blacksmith, was an enslaved worker purchased by John Harding in Richmond in 1806 and the only documented run-away slave owned by the Harding family.

(photo, lower right) In 1814, troops under General John Coffee stopped at Harding’s blacksmith shop to have their horses shod, on the way to aid General Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812. John Harding’s son, William Giles said that his most memorable childhood recollection occurred in 1815 when he was six years old and sat by his family’s cabin and watched General Andrew Jackson ride by leading his men back from the Battle of New Orleans. William said that he “got a good luck at the General” leading his victorious soldiers.