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Belfast, Tennessee 200 Years Ago

A Step Back In Time

Allow us to take you back in time . . . to put into perspective what it was like 200 years ago when the Andrew Jackson Tavern sat at the heart of the crossroads in Belfast, Tennessee – the original Belfast, Tennessee.

Original Tavern in Belfast TN

The 200-year-old building that Colonel rescued dates back to when Tennessee had been a state for about a decade and when a small village called Belfast was just beginning to bloom. It was a mere 35 years or so from when the colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. The population was fighting against the American Indians, and it was nearly six decades before the Civil War would break out.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, western expansion brought many settlers from North Carolina to Tennessee. This was formerly the Southwest Territory, and it was in 1796 that this land was given up by North Carolina as payment for federal obligations and Tennessee became the 16th state. Much of the land claimed by new owners was obtained through land grants given to soldiers as payment for their time served in the Revolutionary War.

This was an area of dense wilderness, originally inhabited by Indians and wildlife. It was among the rich forests of cedar trees and cane that pioneers cut out their building sites, and where new towns would grow. When clearing cane, short stalks were hazardous so it required skill in cutting the cane down below the root. Plentiful springs in the area provided pure, clear drinking water.


Belfast was a village that sprung up in the first decade of the 1800s, a rural spot in southern Middle Tennessee (what is now Marshall County).

Sixty miles north was Nashville, with a population of just 345 in 1800, that incorporated as a city in 1806.

Many new residents were of Irish-Scottish descent, hence the town’s name for Belfast, Ireland. Belfast became a thriving community, with a general store, harness maker, cabinet maker and other businesses that took care of the needs of local farmers. At the crossroads of Old Farmington Rd (part of Fishing Ford Rd) and Finley-Beech Rd stood the ADAMS INN AND TAVERN, named for owner Robert Adams, one of the early settlers of the area.

Map of Belfast TNLeft is a diagram of Belfast and the old Adams Inn and Tavern after 1829 when it was home to the Williams family. This was researched and created by Joel Tate, a Williams’ descendent, and published in Tate’s book, “Tennessee Plain Folk: Mainstream Life In A Southern Village and Country Store, 1878-1986.”

The main house, or inn, was to the left and included a dogtrot that attached to the “Yonder” house on the right. This was the kitchen and slave quarters, and formerly the tavern.

These buildings reflected the time period,when a house was built from the lumber of your own land, added on to by a dogtrot and other quarters. Inns and taverns existed in areas along major routes where riders on horseback and carriages could stop to rest.

The tavern building became the last remaining piece of the Adams Inn and Tavern to still stand nearly 200 years later. That same building was rescued by Colonel Littleton and is now undergoing a restoration.


William Williams was one of the earliest settlers of this area. Born in 1774 in North Carolina, he migrated to the area of Round Hill, which he founded. He then moved to Belfast, where he built the first store; he traveled to Nashville for his stock of goods and hauled it home in a one-horse cart. His ledger revealed prices like Coffee 56 ¼ cents per pound, sugar 25 cents, “Batemans drops” 25 cents per bottle. This was a thriving family business for many years. Williams also played an essential role in the organization of Marshall County and the founding of Lewisburg, the county seat, named for explorer Meriwether Lewis and incorporated in 1837. Williams would end up purchasing the Adams Inn and Tavern. 


Fishing Ford Rd was a main road through the middle section of Tennessee and through Belfast, with important historical significance in the settling and development of the state. It was a primitive thoroughfare that became one of the oldest traveled roads in Tennessee. It was originally a trail carved by Indians and wildlife, a path animals traveled to find pasture and water. Indians tribes used it for hunting and trade between the tribes.


Camp BlountIn 1813, a call for troops went out and the war on the Creek nation began (The CREEK WAR is often referred to as a sub-conflict of the War of 1812). Thousands of Tennessee soldiers began to convene and it was the fearless, hard-nosed Andrew Jackson that lead the crusade. Jackson traveled the only known route between Nashville and Huntsville which was Fishing Ford Rd, and that brought Jackson right through Belfast. The road couldn’t handle the caravan over the Elk Ridge pass, so Jackson would stop here, believed to be for three weeks, and muster troops while the road was being cleared. South of Belfast, wagons couldn’t make it over the pass, so parallel to the main road, along the valleys, a road was dug out for the wagons and artillery. It would become known as Dug Hill Rd.

As the story goes, Belfast and the Adams Inn and Tavern served as a resting spot for Andrew Jackson. There was a large oak tree that marked a camping spot for soldiers, and a nearby spring where they got their water known as Glen Springs. That oak tree is no longer standing, though the spring is known to still run year-round.

Once Jackson and his troops moved on, they arrived at Camp Blount (Fayetteville, Lincoln County, Tenn.) where they joined forces with the Army of West Tennessee. Davy Crockett and Sam Houston joined him as well. This hefty army led to the destruction of the Red Stick forces at Horseshoe Bend in March 1814. Jackson and his army then went on to the Battle of New Orleans.

Tennessee earned its moniker “Volunteer State,” during the War of 1812 because of the prominent role volunteer soldiers from Tennessee played, especially during the Battle of New Orleans.

Robert WilliamsIn 1829, following the death of Robert Adams, William Williams purchased the inn and tavern from the Adams’ heirs. That was the same year that Andrew Jackson became the16th President of the United States.William’s son, Robert, moved in to the former inn and tavern after he married Julia Endsley in 1830 and ran the family store. The home would stay in the Williams family for the next one hundred years.

* * * * * * *

Marshall County Historical Quarterly, Vol. II, Fall 1971, No. III
Marshall County Historical Quarterly Vol. III, Winter 1973. No. IV
Marshall County Gazette, “Fishing Ford Rd,” Feb 6, 1973 by William N. Lloyd
Marshall County, Tennessee, “A Sesquicentennial History,” published by Marshall County Historical Society 1986
Goodspeeds’s History of TN: Marshall County,