City History

Located on the Highland Rim in northeastern Sumner County, Westmoreland is a community with a largely undocumented, but surprisingly rich history.

Settlement in the area is generally thought to have begun in the early 1800's, with the majority of the early settlers arriving between the years 1805 to 1820. Many of these early pioneers came from Virginia and North Carolina in search of new land, while others, such as Dance Brown and James Gilliam, came as a result of having received land grants of various types.

In 1810, Peter Staley built a tavern and stagecoach inn at a sharp curve south of present-day Westmoreland on what later would be called Andrew Jackson Highway or Old 31-E This tavern came to be called the "Rock House Tavern", taking its name from the unusual home of the Zeb Davis family. Several years before the tavern's opening, this family made their home in the bluffs immediately behind the site of the tavern, thus the name, "Rock House".

During its long history, the Rock House Tavern served as an important stop along this route, counting among its one Andrew Jackson as he slowly made his way to Washington while serving as President. During the War Between the States, the tavern witnessed the passing by of the Union Army division of Gen. Ebenezer Dumont as it returned from the Perryville campaign in Kentucky. Among their number was future President Benjamin Harrison, Colonel of the 70th Indiana Volunteer Regiment.

Unfortunately, the tavern was completely destroyed by fire in 1967. A few miles north of the tavern, another community was growing along the same highway. It was named Coates Town. The community apparently took its name from a cabinet maker, James Coates and his large family, who moved to this location between 1838 and 1840. In 1860, Coates Town was quite small, consisting of a store and post office and a few scattered residences. The store and post office were both in the same building which was located on the corner of present-day Old Hwy. 31-E and Hwy. 52.

In 1886, the area began to change rapidly with the completion of die Chesapeake and Nashville Railroad. Instead of locating along the highway at Coates Town, the tracks ran about a half-mile east of the community. There, the company purchased a large tract of land from Dr. J. L. Davis for purposes of constructing a village. This tract of land was described as being an old run-down farm.

The Railroad Company retained a strip of land, running through the present-day downtown business district, about 300 ft. wide, for a right-of-way, freight yards, parks, and two streets, one on each side of the railroad and parallel to the tracks.

Jake Rodemore served as a land agent for the C&N Railroad. Under his direction, the company constructed a depot, hotel, and two storehouses, one on each side of the tracks. A few houses were constructed for employees of the railroad. Much of this property, along with other lots, was later sold at public auction for businesses and residences. The two streets came to be called Park St. and Epperson St.

Shortly thereafter, the question arose as to what to name the new community. A teacher in the area, Mrs. Mallie Summers, suggested naming the town for a wealthy lumberman from North Carolina who had recently visited the area, apparently laying the groundwork for what would later become the profitable lumber business here. This gentleman's name was Westmoreland. Her proposal was accepted and recognized by the railroad. This seems to be the most reliable of the several stories dealing with the origin of the town's name. On April 21, 1888, the post office was moved from Coates Town to Westmoreland, and its name was officially changed from the former to the latter.

Many of the passengers coming to Westmoreland on the railroad, which had been purchased by the L&N Railroad in 1906, came as tourists. Located just across the Macon County line, about 3 miles northeast of Westmoreland was their destination, the Epperson Springs Hotel and Resort. The supposed medicinal value of the various sulfur waters found there made it a popular spot until the mid 1920's. The hotel contained about 170 rooms along with a grand ballroom, two large dining rooms, billiard room, barber shop, and a bowling alley. Guests usually arrived at the depot in Westmoreland and then traveled by hack, which ran twice a day, out Epperson Springs Road to the hotel.

In 1901, Westmoreland became an incorporated town. Its first mayor was Dr. G. A. Barlow, and S. W. Brown became city judge. The town lost its corporate status in the early 1930's due to the Great Depression, but was re-incorporated in 1951.

The first mayor under this new charter was Virgil D Williams, and the council members were H. H. Harrison, H. G. Kirby, D. B. Upton, Joe McKinney, and James Brown.

Beginning in 1930, Westmoreland became the site of the East Sumner Fair. The fair soon became the largest in the county, attracting visitors numbering into the thousands. The fair was sponsored by the Vocational-Agricultural Department of the Westmoreland High School and was held annually until the beginning of World War 11.

On Dec. 10, 1976, the L&N Railroad closed the tracks running from Gallatin to Westmoreland, ending this avenue of transportation to the town. The depot and the picturesque parks around which the town was built are, like so many of those early community landmarks, but a memory now, having been destroyed to make way for parking spaces in the early 1970's.

The famed "Little Tunnel", the shortest railroad tunnel in the world, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, lies just south of town. It is currently being restored in a
multi-phase project for public viewing.

- Submitted by John F. Creasy

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