Allen Nelson Crutcher Williams opened the first African American business in downtown Franklin in 1863, while still enslaved, operating a shoe repair business on the square to fix the boots of occupying Union soldiers. Aft er attaining his freedom in 1865, he purchased a lot on Second Avenue in 1867 and then another lot here where he constructed a building and opened a general merchandise store circa 1870. Williams operated his store for sixty-four years, openly catering to both black and white patrons despite Jim Crow laws and segregation. The store held the distinction as the longest continually operating business on Main Street. About 1870, Williams founded Franklin’s first church for former slaves by a former slave, and became its preacher. He was literate, a rarity for a former slave, and occasionally preached sermons to a white congregation in town.