Nashville Rock City

So, I’m doing some research on East Nashville, just to get a more insightful insight into the area when I read this (pdf).

Today, Rock City Street connects Ann Street and Litton Street in South Inglewood.  It is the site of the original Rock City area that was settled by approximately forty African American families in the early to mid-1900s.  It was know to be a close-knit, caring community.  Its residents were primarily homeowners and upstanding citizens. Many of Rock City’s residents were employed as housekeeper and farm laborers in the neighboring communities.

Well, of course, I’m immediately like “Hey, I want to know about this ‘Rock City’.”  So, first I google the street.  And then I google the city.  And I find “In April 1861, in response to the growing secession crisis in the South, the Nashville, Tennessee militia—the Rock City Guards—was expanded from one company to three.”  And at first, I’m all “How could a small black community north of Nashville have three companies of men?” 

But then I find this.

So much for the first negro company in the Rock City. The editors of the Union and American, King Isham’s organ, were evidently chuckling over the prospect of seeing the bloods of the “Rock City Guards” followed by nigger Jim Dunge’s Rock City–Black Guards, all bearing the Stars and Bars, playing Dixie and huzzahing for King Isham and Jeff. Davis at the top of their lungs.

So, clearly, the Rock City Guards were white dudes.  And Rock City was Nashville in general (you can even march around to the music, if you want).  Here’s a history of Rock City Construction, which also gives Nashville’s nickname as Rock City.

And so, I’ve discovered that Nashville used to be called Rock City, but I discovered nothing about any small community near Nashville called Rock City.

So, there’s that.

6 thoughts on “Nashville Rock City

  1. Here’s a blurb about Sampson Keeble, who was an African-American barber in Rock City and served as a Reconstruction legislator. I’m very skeptical of the claim that he “fought” for the Rebs. I can imagine that he might have acted as a bodyservant, maybe, or did ditchwork, or even burying the thousands of dead, but it’s unlikely he was soldiering in the early part of the war and Tennessee was occupied by Union troops before Confederate officials moved to think about enrolling black troops for combat. Life’s peculiar, of course, and maybe he’s a real anomaly, but I personally won’t believe it until I see his muster roll, pension record, or other empirical evidence of his soldiering. (Buzz off, neo-Confederates. Put up with his particular records or hold your yap about the great outpouring of black support for Dixie.)

    I might also try the work of John Cimprich.

  2. Yeah, a bit more research on him indicates that he was a contraband who came into the city during the Union occupation. Nothing in his bio or service suggests that he was down with the Confederate cause — I think that exhibit is some embarassing warmed over Lost Cause-ism.

    Three other guys who might be people worth investigating are Daniel Wadkins and the Lowry father/son combo (Peter and Samuel). They ran a school for free blacks in the 1840s and 1850s (the one described to hypnotic effect in Andrew Ward’s Dark Midnight When I Rise, about Fisk’s Jubilee Singers…incidentally, did you know that Fisk was built right over the main slave yard in Nashville?) After the war, they created an independent Manual Labor College for freedmen that tanked in the early 1870s.

    SInce I don’t know where anything is in Nashville (other than I’ve heard you talk about Murfreesboro Road), I have no idea if this is the area you’re looking for, but it is interesting that you can still drive around to all these street addresses. That’s not possible where I live.

  3. There was a rock quarry there?! Now, that’s an interesting claim. I’ve seen nothing in my brief searches to cooberate that. It might be worth a trip to the Nashville room at the downtown Library to look into it. It just seems that a quarry, even an old one, would leave a mark on the landscape and isn’t the South Inglewood Park on the top of a hill? I don’t recall seeing any part that seemed carved out in any way.

  4. You’re absolutely right – it doesn’t look anything like a quarry to me either. The community center is at the top of a hill, and its a nice sloping, green hill. I’ve not noticed much cut stone around here…

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