Middle Tennessee: Rutherford County Courthouse and Rutherford County Museum, Murfreesboro
by Philip Staffelli
There are so many cool and exciting places in Tennessee. So many, that you might not know about them all. That’s what Go See Tennessee is all about. We’re here to tell you about places we think are neat and that you might want to visit too. It might be helpful to make a “Go and See” list, and whenever you read about a place that sounds cool, write it down, to help you remember it for the future. Ready for this week’s place? Let’s go!
Tennessee Girl Scouts Troop Number 747, TSM Collection.
Rutherford County, Tennessee was formed in 1804. The county’s first courthouse was built in 1813. It was here that Murfreesboro served as state capitol from 1818-1826. Sadly, the first courthouse burned down in 1822. The second courthouse served as county and state government until the current building was built.
Do you know that in Rutherford County they have one of six antebellum courthouses in Tennessee? What does antebellum mean? It means before the American Civil War. This courthouse was built in 1859! It has seen a lot of things over the years, including action in the Civil War.
Rutherford County Courthouse under Union Occupation, TSM Collection.
During the Civil War, the grounds of the courthouse were under occupation by Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest from July 1862 until after the Battle of Stones River in January of 1863. From then on, the courthouse served as headquarters for Union forces until the end of the Civil War. In 1913, it was nearly destroyed by a tornado, but was saved from destruction.
The courthouse building houses the Rutherford County’s executive government and county museum. When you visit the museum, you will learn about the history of the courthouse and Rutherford County. The museum just opened up in November of 2021! Tennessee State Historian, Dr. Carroll Van West, and John Lodl, the county archivist, worked on creating it. An archivist is a person who saves written documents for the future. I even worked on the first phase of the museum! It is so cool. As you walk around you will see artifacts ranging from the early 1800s to the modern era. So, go out there, visit, learn, and most importantly have some fun!!!
Philip Staffelli is an Educator at the Tennessee State Museum.