HISTORY OF BURNS
Burns was first known as Grade 42. In 1862, after the fall of Fort Donelson and Union forces controlling Nashville, the northern government ordered a railroad constructed to Johnsonville on the Tennessee River. After the railroad was completed through the settlement now known as Burns, it became known as Grade 42. In 1866 the name was changed from Grade 42 to Burns Station. The name Burns Station was in honor of Captain Burns, who had commanded a detachment encamped at Grade 42 during the Civil War. In 1882 the Government deleted the word “Station” and the settlement became known as Burns.
The first pioneer settler to make his home in what is now Burns area was Billy Austin and his family. Austin came to Burns in 1803 and built a cabin on Beaver Dam Creek. The earliest families settling at or near Burns were the following: Austin, Alspaugh, Baker, Carr, Daniels, Davidson, Hall, Johnson, Loggins, Myatt, Richardson, Stuart, Tidwell and Walp. Burns Station’s first Post Office was located south of the railroad track near the intersection of Highway 47 and Buddy Road. Joseph Hendricks was the first postmaster. The Post Office reopened in 1866 and was located south of the railroad near the intersection of Highway 47 and Herschel Street. In 1903 Lafayette Chandler became the first rural mail carrier from the Burns Post Office. In 1919 the Post Office was located on the south side of Main Street in a building that later became the residence of Darcey and Lois Gentry. In 1940 the Post Office moved across Main Street into a building formerly occupied by Burns Bank and Trust Company. Other postmasters thru the years: John Phillips, Alex Meek, W. E. Alspaugh, Greer Tidwell, Charles Dysinger, Elsie Hall, Jessie Walp, Sam Spencer and John Proctor. The Post Office moved to its present location on Highway 96 in 1982.
Burns Bank and Trust Company was organized in 1919. The Bank was located on the north side of Main Street approximately fifty yards from Highway 47. W. D. Buttrey was the President of the Bank and Hick Tidwell served as its first Cashier. Roy Gentry followed Tidwell as Cashier. Burns Bank and Trust Company ceased operation in 1940.
The largest employer in Burns was “The Lime Kiln.” The production of lime began in 1875 and continued until 1951. The “The Lime Kiln” was located southwest of Burns on Beaver Dam Creek. Limestone rock was mined calcined into one of the purest types of lime to be found in North America. The lime operation was operated by several owners: Wright Lime Company, Hardison-Coleman Lime Company, Allen and Porter Lime Company, Jesse Allen Lime Company and Southland Lime Company. In 1928 Mark Wade purchased the company and operated as the Jesse Allen Lime Company until 1951. In 1889 a spur track was built from the kiln to the main line of the railroad. The engine that pulled the rail cars on this spur track was known as the “Dinky.”
In 1925 farmers living in and near Burns formed a cooperative for the marketing of sweet potatoes. Two large buildings were constructed for the storage of sweet potatoes, locally known as “the potato houses.” These buildings were located south of the railroad on Main Street at the Holland Street railroad crossing. The cooperative ceased operation in 1937. One of these buildings remains and for many years housed Spencer Amusement Company.
Burns has had one newspaper The New Idea, which was operated by J. E. Reeder. The New Idea was published from 1905 to 1937. The New Idea had a circulation of two thousand weekly copies in 1937.
Many general merchandise stores have operated over the years in Burns. W. D. Buttrey and Lloyd Buttrey operated the largest and best known of these stores. W. D. Buttrey and Son operated from 1901 to 1966. A portion of the store building still remains south of Main Street across from the N, C & StL depot site. Other operators of stores thru the years: Joseph Hendricks, William Wadkins, Neely and Stephens, J. C. Donegan, J. A. Myatt, Alma Reeder, Joseph Hendricks, Joe S. Clifton Alspaugh, W. M. Groves, James Eli Tidwell, John Campbell Tidwell, Burns Mercantile Company (a stock company), W. E. Alspaugh, J. C. Berry, Lula Berry Smith, Mrs. Elsie Stuart, Silas T. Oliphant, Ocie Adcock, George Gross, C. T. Brown, J. W. Richardson, J. E. Reeder, A. J. Pendergrass, Ray Dillingham, Jewel Richardson, W. H. Ladd, J. T. LeRoy, Homer J. Tidwell, R. J. Montgomery, M. O. Stuart, Haston Brown, Carl Bishop, J. A. Wyatt, John William Brown, Ella McCutcheon, Maudie Cathey, Flora Cathey, O. L. Lankford, Robert Reeder, Sr. and Sam Bradford. Romey Reeder opened Burns Motor Company in 1920. Burns Motor Company was Burns’ first garage. Burns Motor Company was a Chevrolet automobile dealership for a time. The business was sold to Alma Reeder in 1926. Burns Motor Company during its operation also sold appliances, televisions, gasoline, and performed automobile repair. Robert Reeder operated the business after the death of Alma Reeder.
Dr. J. H. L. Reeder was the first physician to practice at Burns. Dr. Reeder practiced here before the Civil War. He served in the Confederate Army under General John B. Hood. Dr. Reeder returned to Burns after the Civil War concluded. Dr. George Anderson located his practice in Burns in 1866. Dr. J. E. Mathis practiced in Burns and served in the Tennessee General Assembly from 1915 thru 1917. Dr. John L. Sledge and Dr. H. P. Spencer also had medical practices in Burns.
There have been two inns operated in Burns. Moses Tidwell operated an inn before and during the Civil War. Tidwell’s Log Inn was located east of Highway 47 in the vicinity of The Berry House. The Berry House was a boarding house operated by J. C. Berry and wife Maggie Stuart Berry. The Berry House is the present residence of the Jack Garton family and is located east of Highway 47 across from the Public Well.
Burns was furnished electricity by Tennessee Electric Power and Light Company prior to the formation of the Tennessee Valley Authority. The generator was located in a building, locally known as “the power house,” at the intersection of Highway 47 and Main Street. The building remains today and was formerly used as Dob Bradford’s barber shop.
The Public Well, a well known landmark in Burns, was drilled in 1910 by Flay Bibb. The Well is 103 feet deep and is located at the intersection of Highway 47 and Main Street. The Public Well has served two main purposes thru the years: (1) Furnish residents of Burns with a water supply and (2) A place for people to congregate and converse.
The Amanda Richardson House is the oldest existing building in Burns. The Richardson House is located at the Intersection of Highway 47 and Meek Avenue. The house is located just west of the abandoned Lime Kiln spur track. Ralph Richardson was born in this house. Dr. Lance McClure presently resides in the Richardson House.
The first school serving the residents of Burns was a log building located near Beaver Dam Creek on property that became part of the Lime Kiln. The teacher in this school was Miss Ann (Aunt Ann) Alspaugh. In 1902, a school building was built on College Street, the present location of the Town of Burns Community Center. In 1909 a second room was added to the school building and in 1913 a third room. In 1923 a fourth classroom was added to the building. Green Davidson, a bachelor who lived on Beaver Dam Creek, left a large portion of his estate to Burns School. This four classroom building burned in April 1940. A new brick school building, consisting of five classrooms, a cafeteria, and auditorium was ready for occupancy in late September 1940. Carney Nicks was the first principal in the new building. The building was renovated in 1963. A gymnasium and additional classrooms were built. Aline Stuart began teaching at Burns School in 1934 and she became principal in 1942. Miss Aline continued to serve as principal until her retirement in 1973.
A building was completed in 1866 which became known as the “Union Meeting House.” The Union Meeting House was used by various denominations as a place to hold worship services. As these denominations became stronger numerically and financially, they would build their own church building.
The Burns United Methodist Church had its origin in 1830 in a building located on Beaver Dam Creek belonging to Sarah Davidson. In 1900 the church was moved to Burns and held services in the Union Meeting House. In 1906 the present building was erected where the Burns United Methodist Church is still located. The first marriage ceremony was held in this building in 1912; Ama Meek and Percy Easley were married.
The Grassy Springs Primitive Baptist Church, located on Jones Creek, moved to Burns in 1875. Church services were held in the Union Meeting House. In 1922 a new building was constructed on the south side of Highway 47, near the intersection with Highway 96. The Primitive Baptist Church continues to meet in this building.
The Burns Church of Christ began, after the Civil War in a log school building located on Beaver Dam Creek. The first preacher was A. J. Luther. Around 1900 the congregation moved its worship services to the Union Meeting House. A new church building was completed in 1911. The building was located at the intersection of Church Street and College Street. Lafayette Chandler donated the lot on which the building was constructed. The first full-time minister was employed in 1946. The present site of the Burns Church of Christ includes the original lot, an adjoining lot once containing a residence occupied by the Adcock Family and later the Johnson Family, and a third lot, which contained the residence of Lafayette Chandler.
The Burns Church of God of Prophecy was organized in 1950. The church building is located on Highway 47 approximately one half mile east of the Buddy Road intersection. D. L. Welch was the first church’s first pastor. The building was renovated and expanded in 1975. Burns was incorporated in 1953 by an act of the Tennessee General Assembly. Eugene Lampley served as the first Mayor. Members of the first Commission were: Herschel Bishop, Charles Dysinger, Marshall Stuart and Homer Tidwell. E. H. Meek, Sr. served as the first Recorder. The N, C & StL Depot was used as the first City Hall. In 1961 a new City Hall was built on College Street and in 1987 the City Hall moved to its present location on Church Street.
The following have served as Mayor of the Town of Burns: Marshall Stuart, Carl Bishop, James B. Lankford, Joe Daugherty, Edgar Grove and Jack Garton, the present Mayor. The following have served on the Town of Burns Commission: Mark Wade, Sam Bradford, C. T. Hargrove, Ben Bishop, William E. Lankford, William R. Spencer, Ralph Richardson, Melvin Gentry, Terry Bone, Arthur Reynolds, Jack Choate. J. V. McDonough, James Buhler, James Daugherty, James A. Story, Glen Choate, Michael Dan Bishop, Donald Richardson, Billy O. Williams, Wayne Bishop, Sidney Pullum, Kenny Gibbs, David Mathis, Juanita Price, Sandra Sanker, Glenn Hill, Bobby Barnett, Casey Grove, Don Hill, Bobby Stokes. The present Commissioners are Jeff Bishop, Lewis Orcutt, Chris Holland and Tim White.
The history of Burns would not be complete without discussing the importance of the railroad. The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railroad and later the Louisville and Nashville Railroad employed many people from Burns. It was said no town of equal population along the Nashville to Memphis line had given more men to the railroad services than Burns. These men worked in various capacities for the railroad: train crew (engineer, fireman, brakeman, and conductor), track construction and maintenance (this brought the submitter of the article’s grandfather, Brady Fielder, and family to Burns in early 1932), telegraph and telephone construction and maintenance, depot staff and engine and train car repair, known as “The Shops,” located in Nashville. In 1922 the depot located north of the railroad in the vicinity of the Holland Street crossing burned. A new depot was constructed on the south side of the railroad across Main Street from W. D. Buttrey and Son’s store. The depot closed December 31, 1949. E. H. Meek, Sr. was the last station agent.
Courtesy of the Heritage Book of Dickson County 1803-2006