“Stand” is a word used like the word “ordinary.” They had similar meanings but have become obsolete over the years.
One of the most intriguing stories in Robertson County includes a stand, however – Cheek’s Stand.
The inn was built near an old trail used by the Indians as they traveled the area that became Tennessee and Kentucky.
Located on the L&N (Louisville and Nashville) Pike, the inn was built by Elisha Cheek soon after his arrival in Tennessee in 1797.
According to “Historic Robertson County,” written by Jean Durrett and Catherine Holman, he bought 630 acres of land at a sheriff’s sale. His cost was only $10 for back taxes and court costs.
Cheek also built a distillery and a grist mill.
Neighbors were always suspicious of Cheek. He was dark-skinned but claimed to be from Minorca, an island in the Mediterranean belonging to Spain. He was not believed and there were plenty of tales about Cheek and his wife.
One story told that frequently travelers were robbed, murdered and thrown into a cave behind the stand.
Francois Michaux, the French naturalist, was at Cheek’s Stand and wrote in his diary in 1802: “Fearing that I should witness some murdering scene…I quickly took my leave and put up at an inn about three miles further on….” (This turned out to be the inn where the Duke of Orleans stayed when he toured Tennessee, according to Durrett and Holman.)
Cheek died in 1818.
Deborah K. Henderson in “Robertson County’s Heritage of Homes” shared that Abram Young was the next owner. He operated the inn for 29 years and did well with the stagecoach business. The inn became respectable. He even asked to be buried near the stables, and his request was granted.
Daniel F. Carter bought the inn in 1847. He received a 20-year contract to carry the U.S. mail. Pay would be $25,000 annually. The Pony Express had carried the mail before that.
The stage line operated from Franklin to Nashville until 1858, when the L&N railroad began. Before that, the double arch stone bridge had been built near the inn by a man from Scotland. No mortar was used because the stones fit so perfectly together.
After Cheek’s Stand burned, a 1 ½ story house had been built. It was called Rock Rest by the Carter family. A three-story stagecoach barn was built in 1847.
And Elisha Cheek? At some point, the cave was examined for proof of the murders. A few bones and some small pieces of jewelry were all that were found.
Tickets for Evening at Elmwood, set for June 1, are available now at the History Museum. The cost is $20.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.