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Where Do Towns Get Their Names? Why is Granville Called 'Tennessee's Mayberry Town'?

A Castle, a Spring, or a Mound

Early settlers to America often used names from their home country. The U.K. had many towns that ended in “chester”. The town of Manchester may come to mind for those from middle Tennessee, actually there are many towns in the U.S. that end in “chester”. The ending is Latin meaning “fort” or “castle.” Someone built a fort or castle in a nice location. As it became more and more well known, people settled around it, eventually that became the name of the town.

Guess what! Most towns in the South do not have their beginnings from the building of a romantic castle. Most of our towns/communities are named for a prominent citizen or geographic features. For example, the community near the spring in the fork of the road was called Spring Fork. Chestnut Mound was built on a mound, a high place, surrounded by Chestnut trees.

Nameless, Difficult and Defeated

There are exceptions to every rule. Nameless is that exception. My children always wanted a tee-shirt from Nameless to wear to school on tee-shirt day. They thought no one would believe there was a place called Nameless. According to the Nameless local historian, Davis Watts, Nameless got its name when the community was in disagreement on what to name the community. They filled out the application for a post office and sent it to Washington without a name. Washington stamped it “nameless” and sent it back.

Growing up in the Granville area, near Nameless; I never thought that name so strange. But I was intrigued by two Smith County community names, Defeated and Difficult. According to Smith County history, Defeated is named for the events that took place in the late 18th century along the banks of Defeated Creek. John Peyton, one of the earliest settlers and explorers of Smith County, and his surveying party were camped along the creek when they were attacked by a group of Cherokee and driven out of the area, defeated. Difficult, is just too difficult to explain. These are exceptions to the rule.

How did Granville get its name?

Like many places, there are multiple stories surrounding the naming of Granville. I’ve heard from the store porch that the name came from an early settler named Granville Williamson. Another store porch theory; Col James Webb Smith, a land grant early settler to the area had a son named Granville who was a prominent politician and the town was named for him.

The theory that is most widely accepted was printed in Granville, TN: Once a Riverboat Town by Carl F. Ledbetter. “The founding of Granville started shortly after 1800. Colonel James Webb Smith built a huge brick house on a hillside in what is now Holliman Bend and called it Beech Hill. (We can only guess how it got that name.) Colonel Smith was from Granville County, North Carolina. Nine families soon followed from Granville County, NC to settle in Beech Hill. In 1829 the area was a wilderness. In that year the Acts of Legislature authorized Augustine Shephard to lay off a town on his land. The area was named Shepherdsville. Named for the county they had left; the name was changed to Granville. In 1837 Granville was incorporated.”

The Riverboat Whistle or Laughter on the Porch

Granville has a rich heritage; the citizens of Granville have adapted through growth and decline. Once a booming riverboat town, a prosperous farming community, a ghost town, and a successful historic destination. Throughout the decades, whether it was the sound of the steam boat whistle, the sound of the plow on the rocky hillside, no sound at all, or the sound of laughter on the store porch; the people have made the difference. It has always been the people who made the town!

It Sounds Like Mayberry

I was born after the steamboat days of Granville during the farming years. There were many houses in Granville good for a glass of milk or sweet tea and cookies. Everyone watched out for you. (That means they corrected you and then told your parents if you misbehaved.) As kids, we played kick-the-can and hide and go seek in the streets. After dark, we could be seen catching lightening bugs and putting them in a jar. On hot summer days, we’d go to the swimming hole in the creek. As I grew older and left the lovely hills of Granville, I’d mention things about growing up. Someone would always say, “That sounds like Mayberry.” But I thought everyone went to Grandma’s house on Sunday for dinner!

Sitting on the Porch or Helping Neighbors

Granville was a place where people gathered on porches to talk, share stories, and shell peas. People always had time for you. If a neighbor was sick, farmers took their equipment and put up his hay or cut his tobacco, whatever needed to be done. The ladies would go to the home and prepare the noon meal for the farm workers. Neighbors were like family.

Granville: Tennessee’s Mayberry Town

I think Granville has always been a Mayberry like town and that suits me, just fine! Several things occurred that caused Granville to be officially referred to as Tennessee’s Mayberry Town.

Granville started performing Mayberry plays as a way to pay the winter utility bills. The Mayberry plays became so popular, they were sold out months in advance. People referred to Granville as a Mayberry town.

Walk down Clover Street in Granville and you’ll think you are on Main Street in Mayberry. Step back in time and enjoy the quieter pleasures of small-town America. The Andy Griffith Show wasn’t about a time or an era but more about a ‘feel of an earlier time’. The local buildings, museums, and artifacts in Granville provide that same Mayberry feel. The Mayberry and I love Lucy Museum brought Mayberry fans to Granville to experience the Mayberry like feeling.

But it’s more than that!

Everyone knows everyone in town, neighbors still help neighbors, it a simpler life, a slower pace, and we have time for you! We enjoy the large community dining table in Sutton Store. You can find locals there visiting on Wednesday at lunch. It’s not uncommon to see individuals bring fresh sausage, vegetables from their gardens, fresh eggs, or homemade pickles to share. Locals include people who have moved here from New York, Boston, California, or other places from afar. But now they are all from Granville and help make this a Mayberry like town.

Where else but a Mayberry type town could you find enough volunteers to operate the town? Yes, we are a town operated by volunteers. We love Granville and its rich history and would never want to change the name, just enhance our presence. We are Granville: Tennessee’s Mayberry Town honoring our past and appreciating or present.

Reservations are now being taken for the Valentine Mayberry Dinner Theatre. April 9 will be Mayberry and I Love Lucy Day, check our website for details for these events.

Historic Granville is open Wednesday- Friday 11AM-3PM and Saturday 11AM-5PM.

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Aug 14, 2022

As a descendant of Col. James Webb Smith, and a Jackson County Tennessee native, I have always wondered how life for he, and other family members back in the time when they lived ( and died ) in and around the Granville area must have been like. No doubt Beech Hill Plantation was a sight to be seen.


Granville is such a sweet town full of friendly folks.

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