Rutherford County

Nissan’s groundbreaking
PHOTO: TN State Library & Archives


Let’s talk about something big that happened in Rutherford County, followed by something big that nearly happened in Rutherford County.

In 1980, after months of looking at sites all over the country, Nissan announced that it was building an automobile assembly plant in Smyrna. It was the first foreign-owned car assembly plant in the South, and one of the greatest industrial recruitments of all time for Tennessee. The early success of the Nissan plant also helped the state recruit General Motors’ Saturn plant to Maury County a few years later.

In the “nearly” category, Rutherford County almost became Tennessee’s permanent capital

The obelisk that marks the geographic center of Tennessee

Murfreesboro was the state capital from 1819 through 1826. In 1843, the legislature spent its first few weeks in session arguing about where to put the permanent capital. After a long debate and several contested votes, Murfreesboro came in second behind Nashville.

One of the reasons that Murfreesboro claimed it should be chosen is because it (not Nashville) was the geographic center of the state. (In fact, the state had recently hired a mathematician and geographer who had proved this; today there is a historic marker at the place he identified as the center of Tennessee!) However, the House and Senate eventually chose Nashville.

A reenactment at Stones River

Tennessee has more Civil War battlefields than any other state except Virginia. In Murfreesboro you will find Stones River National Military Park. A three-day long battle took place at Stones River starting on December 31, 1862 and ending on January 2, 1863. Twenty-five thousand Americans were killed, missing or wounded in this battle — the highest percentage of casualties of any major battle in the Civil War.

In a way, Stones River was similar to Shiloh. The Confederates won the first day of the battle; the Union eventually prevailed, and both sides had horrible casualty counts.

The best time to visit Stones River is on the anniversary of the battle.

Rutherford County has been the fastest growing county in Tennessee (population wise) for the last quarter century. People move to Rutherford County with such frequency that it seems as if the county has to build a new school every year!

Rutherford County is also one of several counties of Tennessee that doesn’t have the same county seat it once had. For the first eight or so years of Rutherford County’s existence–from 1803 until 1811–the county seat was at a place called Jefferson. Jefferson isn’t really on the map anymore, but you can see it on this 1832 map made by Matthew Rhea (on the left; click on it to make it larger)

A photo of folks vacationing in Jefferson Springs, around 1920 (Middle TN State University collection)



There aren’t many people in Rutherford County who remember Jefferson, but there are some who remember Jefferson SPRINGS, which was near there, and was where some people used to vacation.



Finally, here is the Rutherford County Courthouse — which you can see better in the winter than you can in the summer!