Old Williamson County Courthouse – Public Square
Court was first held in a tavern, then in a little log building in the middle of the square. By 1809, a more permanent building arose in the same location that served until 1858 when the courthouse on the southeast corner of the square was built. Classic in appearance with a triangular pediment and four cast-iron columns, the courthouse served until 2004, when the Williamson County Judicial Center opened for business. After conviction for a crime, the punishment was usually carried out immediately in the courtyard. Punishments were physical and included whippings, brandings and confinement in the stocks. The death penalty was carried out by hanging from the courthouse balcony. At one hanging there wasn’t a lawful execution. In 1888 the Ku Klux Klan lynched a black man by hanging him from the balcony just as his trial began on charges of assaulting a white woman. Before the Civil War, slave auctions also took place in the courtyard. On July 6, 1867, the courthouse square was the site of a riot when Franklin’s Colored Union League marched through Franklin’s square to protest speeches by two congressional candidates. Black merchant and preacher A.N.C. Williams attempted to avoid violence by communicating the League’s desire to march peaceably to the assembled white attendees. Events escalated and shots were fired on both sides, but Williams proved instrumental in calming tensions between blacks and whites and working for a peaceful solution to the conflict on the square.