I remember my first visit to Cannonsburgh village. I was around 8 years old and deeply in love with all things Little House on the Prairie, so a visit to a pioneer village was kind of a dream. The historic homes and sites in the village made an impression on me, mainly for their size and lack of air-conditioning. I bought a red sunbonnet from gift shop as a souvenir, so I could look like Laura Ingalls. My mom found a milk bottle at the museum from my great-grandfather's dairy farm.
I continued to visit Cannonsburgh over the years, making the annual summer pilgrimage for Uncle Dave Macon Days, attending weddings of friends at the historic chapel, visiting the Murfreesboro Art League, and other special events. But even now when I return and bring my own children, I'm amazed at all I still have to learn about it.
For the uninitiated, Cannonsburgh was the original name for Murfreesboro, and the recreated village represents early Tennessee life from roughly 1830-1930. Cannonsburgh Village was built as Murfreesboro's chief Bicentennial project in 1976, brought about by the late Mayor W.H. Westbrooks and Dr. James K. Huhta of MTSU's Historic Preservation program. Its buildings and museums hold a myriad of genuine local artifacts as well as recreations and depictions of the early days of Rutherford County.
The "little pioneer village off-Broad Street" might be something we locals often take for granted, but it's an essential part of our city's history, and therefore one well worth sharing with our children.
And it's a lot of fun, too.
Check out my six things to know about Cannonsburgh Village.
1. It's Free.
This outdoor museum experience is free and the benefits are immense. Have your phone ready to scan QR codes to hear more about each of the 25 building site and the museums. Picturesque Lytle Creek trickles next to the village, perfect for wading and picnicking. Clean public restrooms are available next to the adorable gift shop, while covered areas, benches, and picturesque settings invite guests to stay and relax a while.
Plus, given that all attractions (aside from the Haynes Museum and Visitor Center) are outdoors, it's a perfect Covid-era fieldtrip.
2. It has Tractors.
If you have a 3-year-old son, as I do, then chances are high that cars, trucks, tractors are a big deal in your household. My son now asks to visit "that tractor shed" -- Cannonsburgh's Rawlins Tractor Shed -- filled with a small boy's dream of huge antique tractors. Curated by under the direction of Dr. Omri Rawlins, Professor of Agribusiness at MTSU, the designs featured show the types of tractors used on Tennessee farms from 1920-1950.
3. The Williamson Chapel is Just That Beautiful
On a recent visit to the village the kids and I were able to peek in and get a view of Williamson Chapel all to ourselves. "It's so pretty," gasped my 5-year-old. The stained-glass windows capture an increasingly magical light until sunset, making it worth a visit all by itself. No wonder so many couples still choose spot this as their wedding location.
4. The L & N Caboose is for Train Lovers
Railroad enthusiasts like mine can gleefully enjoy getting up close to a real caboose. Donated to the village by CSX Transportation in the '80s, the car is a nod to when the "Iron Horse' dominated overland transportation, and it's still a sure way to fire up some imagination.
5. Yes, the World's Largest Cedar Bucket is Still Here
Cannonsburgh Village is still home to the World's Largest Cedar Bucket, and people come from all over the country to see it. While the original bucket, created by a local factory in 1887 was destroyed by fire in 2005, it was rebuilt by the Rutherford County Blacksmith's Association and reinstalled at Cannonsburgh in 2011. According to Cannonsburgh program coordinator Shelia Hodges, Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation staff are in the process of getting the cedar bucket submitted into The Guinness Book of World Records. Stay tuned to see where the next chapter of the cedar bucket will lead!
6. It's More Than a Museum
As a part of the Murfreesboro Parks and Recreation system Cannonsburgh Village plays host to a number of festivals, events and educational workshops for all ages throughout the year-- from stenciling (on March 17) to gardening to bird feeders to live plays to guided tours. This year from April- October the village will host Food Truck Fridays starting at 5 p.m. every Friday.
Keep an eye on the Cannonsburgh Facebook page for upcoming events.
Ready to visit? Cannonsburgh is located at 312 S. Front St. Murfreesboro. Summer hours for the Grounds and Visitor Center are from April 1 – October 1, Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m., Saturday, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Sunday, 1:00-4:00 p.m. For more information call 615-890-0355 or visit murfreesborotn.gov/164/Cannonsburgh-Village.
Enjoy Cannonsburgh along with a literary twist this spring! The Books from Birth Storybook Breakfast will be held at Cannonsburgh on April 17, 2021, featuring photo opps with favorite children's storybook characters, storytime, take-and-make crafts, and breakfast from Chick-fil-A and Dunkin' Donuts. Get tickets at yourlocaluw.org/storybook.