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Portland Grows Up: Celebrating 100 Years as a City from 1905 to 2005.
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Condensed from an article by Pat Meguiar, Historian, as published in the Portland Leader. Reproduced with permission of Byron Edwards, Editor, the Portland Leader.
The greater Portland area is located on the Highland Rim in extreme northern Middle Tennessee. The region has long been known for its excellent agricultural soils, a superb wildlife environment and a hospitable climate.
Historically, land speculation and dark air-cured tobacco attracted individuals from the tobacco belt in Virginia and the Carolinas to the Highland Rim. Climate and soil conditions here provided ideal growing conditions for dark tobacco. This profitable crop increased land values - greatly benefiting land speculators. These speculators moved away to attempt profits elsewhere, and the farmers remained.
Fountain Head, located a couple of miles south of Portland, is the oldest local settlement. It was founded in 1792 by the James Gwin family. Within a century, it had grown to include a grist mill, tobacco factory, post office, Louisville & Nashville railroad depot and a number of retail stores.
In 1846 near Shun Pike (Jackson Road) in what is now Portland, William Nolan built a school, and the community started to grow.
Portland was originally called Richland. In 1859, the L&N Railroad opened the Nashville-Bowling Green route through Portland. A train depot was built in Richland along the Louisville & Nashville railroad in 1859 on land owned by Thomas Buntin. Buntin became the depot’s first agent and Richland’s first postmaster. The very existence of the City of Portland is due to the site of the L&N depot. The community developed around the depot.
Richland grew during its first year (1859-1860) with the opening of a store built by James Goostree. The Moore, McGlothlin and Payne families contributed greatly to Richland’s early growth.
The seminary in Richland had its beginning in 1874. It was the forerunner of Sumner County High School. Sumner County High School opened in Portland in 1915 and was the first public high school in Sumner County.
In 1887, there were two Richland’s in Tennessee. This caused some concern on the part of the L&N railroad that a telegraph mix-up might result in a train wreck. There was also the inconvenience to postal customers in that mail was frequently misdirected between the two Richlands. Railroad administrators, with the cooperation of postal authorities, decided that Richland would become Portland. The new name was activated on April 10, 1888. In April 1904, the Tennessee Assembly enacted legislation incorporating Portland.
In the 1920s, strawberries became a booming Portland business. The growth of strawberries as a Portland export crop resulted in a growth of industry. Crate businesses were formed. The processing and transporting of strawberries also became major businesses. Beginning in 1941 and continuing through the years to the present, Portland has hosted an annual Strawberry festival to celebrate and remember the importance of the strawberry industry to its heritage.
Some of Portland's Businesses have been around for awhile! (Photo courtesy of Don Roney.)
Today, Portland is an industrial leader with employment figures that exceed its population. It has many assets that other communities its size may not possess. It has an excellent Parks and Recreation system, a superb library, a local newspaper, a local radio station, a local hospital, a complete airport, extremely active civic organizations, a full-service Chamber of Commerce, a wide variety of churches, professional police and fire departments and may community-minded, neighborly people.
Sumner County Archives
155 East Main Street
Gallatin, TN 37066
(615) 452-0037 (Voice)
Hours: Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The Sumner County Archives is a unique collection of documents relating to Sumner County from 1786 onwards. The documents have all been organized and indexed and are available for your searches. This is a partial list of the types of records available:
- Census Indexes and Microfilms
- Family and Subject Files
- Marriages 1786-1985
- Cemetery Books
- Court Records from 1786
- DAR Records
- Mormon Resources (IGI & GLC)
- Funeral Records
- Deed Abstracts
- Local History Books
- State History Books
- LDS (Mormon) Family Search Records
Send a self addressed stamped envelope to the address above for an information sheet for beginning genealogists.
The archives is administered by the Sumner County Historical Society under the direction of the Sumner County Public Records Commission.
Sumner County Museum
183 West Main Street
Gallatin, TN 37066
(615) 451-3738 (Voice)
If you haven't visited the Sumner County Museum yet, you are missing a great deal: a 1925 Model T, an American LeFrance fire engine, an 18th century knot dolls, quilt making dating back to 1769, a clock/sundial/compass from the Civil War, Civil War mourning dress and bonnets, a gold Medal of Honor given to a Gallatin soldier by the Emperor of China during the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900, etc., etc.
The museum is open April through October. The hours are:
Wednesday - Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Sunday: 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Group tours by appointment.
The museum is on the grounds of Trousdale Place. You can see Trousdale Place from Main Street, and the museum is behind Trousdale Place.
Admission is $3.00 for adults and $1.00 for children 12 and under.