The Legend of Granny White

The Legend of Granny White

The 'Inns of Granny White' is named in honor of Lucinda "Granny" White and the tavern she operated at this location two hundred years ago. As one of Nashville's first pioneers, her story is one of ingenuity, perseverance, and entrepreneurial spirit. She has become one of Nashville's near-mythical legends and her fascinating history and legacy still live on today ...

Lucinda Wilson was born in 1743 somewhere in North Carolina. She was never sure whether it was Stokes or Surry County. At the age of seventeen, she married Zachariah White, a pioneer schoolteacher and member of the local militia. In 1781, he was killed by Chickamauga Cherokee indians when they attacked the French Lick establishment in the Battle of the Bluff, near Nashville, Tennessee.

Thirty eight years old, a widow and penniless, Lucy White struggled to raise two orphaned grandchildren. For the next eighteen years, she endured a life of virtual poverty in North Carolina.  

Although short in stature, Lucy was long on personal willpower. She possessed a larger-than-life personality, was an accomplished cook, and combined a gentle nature with a terrific wit. She was determined to forge her own destiny.

In 1800, dirt poor and with nothing to lose, the plucky sixty-year-old white-haired grandmother and Uncle Zachary (an old slave) loaded the children, Willis and Thomas, into an ox cart and began an eight hundred mile journey over the Appalachian Mountains to the Cumberland Territory. Twice along the way, she stopped to set up bakery stands to make ends meet, selling bread and Ginger Cakes. Each time, packing up and moving on when she made enough money to continue. It gradually occurred to her that with all the wagons headed westward, there may be a long-term opportunity in all of this.

Finally, after three years of traveling, Lucy arrived in Nashville, Tennessee. She acquired fifty acres of land tucked in the Overton Hills for the price of three hundred dollars. The property was located on an old spring and beside an old buffalo trail known as the Middle Franklin TurnpikeLucy quickly established gardens and orchards.  With the proceeds, she obtained bed linens and fabricated other textiles by hand using her old spinning wheel.

In 1812, she opened an inn that became an essential stagecoach stop between Louisville and New Orleans. On the front porch of her establishment, she kept baskets full of pumpkins, gourds and apples, all polished to perfection. Exhausted travelers, having made the long and dangerous trek up the Natchez Trace, could finally relax and enjoy "Granny's" fabulous cooking and baked goods ... and especially the outstanding brandy and applejack that she distilled behind the tavern. 

In later years, guests could stay the night in one of the well-kept rooms adjacent to the tavern. According to historian John Trottwood Moore, "Granny White's Inn became the best inn west of the mountains and north of New Orleans, and many well-known, distinguished people enjoyed her hospitality." Among those guests were Sam Houston, John Bell, Edmund Dillahunty, James K. Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas Hart Benton. 

The only known photograph of 
Granny White's Inn 
(Tennessee State Library)

By the time of her death in 1816 at the age of 73, Granny White had achieved her destiny. From a hardscrabble beginning, Lucy had attained both incredible financial success as well as the respect of many. Thomas Hart Benton praised her during a speech to the U.S. Senate. In 1849, the Tennessee State Legislature renamed the road in front of her old tavern the Granny White Pike.

Granny White Pike - 1939
(Tennessee State Library)

In 1940, hikers discovered Granny White's grave on a nearby overgrown hillside and the Daughters of the American Revolution relocated the grave to its current location, near the site of her original tavern, and what would be the entrance to the Inns of Granny White neighborhood. The Nashville Metropolitan Historical Commission placed a marker recognizing her achievements at her grave in 1970.

Photographs of Granny White grave during the development of the Inns of Granny White neighborhood (circa 1985).


Enjoy "Granny White Special" by legendary bluegrass musician Mark O'Connor ...

(Courtesy of the Mark O'Connor YouTube Channel and the Warner Music Group)