Franklin’s public square was part of a 1-acre plot of land donated by Abram Maury in 1799, the year Franklin was founded and has been the site of numerous historic events and structures in Franklin’s history. Not all of the events that took place on the public square would be considered acceptable in modern society, however, they can not be overlooked as events that did happen on Franklin’s historic square and must be remembered so they will not be repeated.
By 1800 the public square was home to the city’s first courthouse, a log building that stood for 31 years, alongside a nearby market house where human beings were bought and sold as slaves. After a neoclassical-style courthouse was erected nearby, the square sat vacant of any structures until after the Civil War.
In 1867 following a delayed Independence Day parade in downtown Franklin, a race riot broke out on the public square injuring several people and killing one person. In the decades following the Civil War, several Franklin women founded a chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, eventually raising funds for the purchase of a monument to the soldiers who died in the Battle of Franklin. The monument was dedicated November 30, 1899—the 35th anniversary of the Battle of Franklin. The statue itself is a generic mold set to represent all soldiers, and not any specific individual, and is the same mold as atop similar statues in the United States. The statue in Franklin’s public square was damaged during installation, falling and creating the chip in the side of the soldier’s hat.
Years after the monument was erected, in March 1909, four original bronze Federal Model 1841 6-pounder field guns, cast for the Union Army in Massachusetts between 1847 and 1861, were added encircling the base with the help of the Interurban Railroad Company. The railroad company for its efforts to help was allowed to erect four poles on the public square to make a circuit around the square for their trolly cars that ran through town. Later in 2015, the cannons were placed in National Park-quality reproduction No. 1 field carriages on wheels to better represent what the cannons looked like in the 1860s.
As roads and automobiles evolved in the early-mid 1900s, trolly cars no longer circled the square, and city officials decided to raise the level of the ground around the statue about two feet and create the roundabout you see today.
In 2019 additional markers were added around the public square to share the “Fuller Story” of Franklin and share the African American history that happened on Franklin’s public square. The markers on the public square share the story of the market house that sold slaves and explain the Battle of Franklin. (The public square markers coincide with markers nearby at the historic courthouse talking about reconstruction, U.S. Colored Troops, and the Franklin riot of 1867.)
Although Franklin cannot change its rather ugly history, this community has always shown itself to be a welcoming, accepting, supportive community...a place that does not wash over events of the past, but learns from them, changes, and moves forward.