Main Street in downtown Dickson is thriving these days. It seems like every few weeks a new business opens. If you’re looking for a good cup of coffee, some lunch, or dinner at a five star restaurant, Main Street has you covered. There’s a jewelry store, a spa, a pizza place, and even a skateboard shop. Whatever you are looking for, downtown Dickson probably has it. Main Street is the heart of Dickson and it always has been.
There’s a very interesting story about how the town of Dickson got started. Over the years I’ve tried to piece it together and here’s what I’ve learned.
On December 3rd, 1860, William Crutcher purchased 533 acres on credit in the southern part of Dickson County. The land he bought had previously belonged to the owners of a nearby iron furnace.
In the early days, people came to Dickson County looking for iron ore. They would mine the ore out of the ground and melt it down in their ‘iron furnaces’ to make it usable for things like tools and weapons. To keep the furnace hot, a lot of wood was needed. The owners of an iron furnace would buy up all of the land around the furnace to cut trees to fuel the fire, but once the iron ore had been mined out, there was little use for the land. There were several iron furnaces in Dickson County and the ‘iron masters’ who owned the furnaces became very wealthy.
After Crutcher purchased the land from the furnace owners, he built the first building in what would become the town of Dickson. It was a small 144 square foot cabin that was probably built on the present day site of the Bank of Dickson.
A few months after William Crutcher built his cabin, the Civil War started. During the war, which lasted from 1861 to 1865, a railroad traveling east to west was completed in the southern part of Dickson County going through Crutcher’s land, passing right by his cabin.
Andrew Johnson, who was named military Governor of Tennessee by Abraham Lincoln after Tennessee seceded, had ordered the railroad to be built to help the Union Army win the war. It’s purpose was to carry supplies and troops from boats on the Tennessee River by railroad to Union occupied Nashville.
When the railroad was completed, the first official train traveling through Dickson County carried Governor Johnson to the Tennessee River. The point where the railroad met the river was named ‘Johnsonville’ in his honor. Johnson would go on to become Abraham Lincoln's Vice President a few years later and then President of the United States after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865.
After its completion, Union soldiers remained stationed along the railroad to protect the bridges from Confederate attacks. Union troops arrived on Crutcher’s land and took over his cabin. The area became known as ‘Mile Post 42,’ because of the mile marker that was nearby indicating it was forty two miles west of Nashville.
Some say that the Union Army camped on the hill where the Dickson Middle School sits today and used the nearby springs and creeks west of Mathis Drive for water while they were here building and then guarding the railroad, but this has never been confirmed.
By 1866, the Civil War had ended and soldiers had left the area. William Crutcher started a general store around this time, but before he could develop the area, he defaulted on his loan and lost his land. It was auctioned off and sold to Conrad Berringer from Pennsylvania who wanted to turn the area into a town. He planned out Main Street and had the land around it divided into streets and lots that were for sale. The lots were put on the real estate market and sold quickly. Homes and businesses began to be built and a town started to form on this once empty land.
The area which had originally been known as ‘Mile Post 42’ was renamed Smeedsville in honor of railroad engineer E.C. Smeed, but there was some confusion between Smeedsville in Dickson County and Sneedville in Hancock County. Due to the confusion, the name was later changed to Dickson.
By the 1870’s this new community had grown enough to be incorporated. On January 6, 1873 a petition was filed in Charlotte requesting a charter for the new town of Dickson. On June 10th an election was held and on December 2, 1873, the first charter of the town of Dickson was granted.