The earliest inhabitants of the area comprising the City of Oak Hill were nomadic hunter-gatherers, attracted to the region by abundant fresh water and rich countryside filled with ample wild game. Paleo-Indians descended from them, followed by Archaic Indians, Woodland Indians, and Early Mississippians. Ultimately, the Cherokees became the predominant tribe in the region.

European explorers visited the area in the mid-sixteenth century, including Hernando de Soto, who traveled most of the Southeast in search of gold. French explorers like Marquette, Joliet, and la Salle came quickly on the heels of the Spanish, followed soon by the English.

Founding of Nashville

James Robertson established a settlement he called Nashborough in 1779, and his friend John Donelson brought about 60 families to join him in 1780. The early settlers in southern Davidson County relied on Fort Nashborough for protection from attacks and for supplies delivered via the Cumberland River.

Travellers Rest

John Overton came to the area in 1789 and named his horse-breeding farm in the Oak Hill area Travellers Rest. His thoroughbred, Morgan, trotting, and saddle horses became famous for their high quality. The original Travellers Rest farm stayed in the Overton family until 1938. In 1814, Overton’s law partner General Andrew Jackson is said to have marched his militia right through Oak Hill on their way to the Natchez Trace and the Battle of New Orleans.

Lucinda White, better known as Granny White, was famous for her hospitality. For several decades, she offered food, brandy, and comfortable beds to travelers. She died in 1815, and her grave stands near Granny White Pike in Oak Hill.

The Civil War

During the Civil War, many well-known conflicts during the Battle of Nashville took place in Oak Hill, as evidenced by historical markers throughout the City. Thousands of soldiers—from both sides—spilled their blood into the soil of Oak Hill, from Peach Orchard Hill at the intersection of Franklin Pike and Battery Lane to the stone wall between Lealand Lane and Sewanee to the Brentwood hills. The Glen Leven home built in 1857, located on Franklin Pike south of Thompson Lane, was used as a field hospital during the battle.

Glendale Park

In 1887, the region’s first amusement park with mechanical rides opened in Oak Hill under the name Woodstock Park. Its name changed in 1890 to Glendale Park, and it remained open near the corner of Lealand Lane and Caldwell Lane until 1932. The rail line to the park was electrified in 1893, and in 1903, a person could ride to the park from anywhere in Nashville for a nickel. In 1912 Percy Warner (for whom the Nashville park was named) opened a expansive zoo at Glendale.

Radnor Lake

Oak Hill's Radnor Lake traces its beginnings to 1913, when the L&N Railroad bought a thousand-acre tract in the Overton Hills to build an earthen reservoir to supply water for steam engines and livestock in Radnor Yards, as well as private hunting and fishing grounds for company officials and guest.
A white house in the winter covered by snow.
A black and white photo showing the Union line during the Civil War.
A sign with information about Glendale Park
L&N took the first step toward preserving Radnor Lake as a nature area in 1923, when an executive stopped all hunting and fishing on the site and declared it a wildlife sanctuary. When the land was purchased by a developer in 1962 who intended to develop the site for housing, a grassroots preservation movement began trying to save it, and in 1974, nearly 750 acres were named Tennessee’s first natural area and protected ecosystem. Today the park encompasses 1,200 acres.

Founding of the City of Oak Hill

After World War II, Oak Hill—like other Nashville neighborhoods—saw an influx of new residents and a boom in new home construction. The City of Oak Hill was incorporated in 1952 as a step to maintain its residential character. Its zoning regulations state that no businesses are to operate within the City limits, and all churches and schools function under “conditional use permits” granted by the Board of Zoning Appeals.

In the early 1960s, the City government of Nashville and the county government of Davidson County merged to become the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County. At that time, the six “satellite” cities, including the City of Oak Hill, that were incorporated inside Davidson County retained many of their governmental functions while consolidating other services into the metropolitan infrastructure.