All information on this website is brought to you exclusively by a Sullivan Farms expert having lived in Sullivan Farms for 12 years:
office: (615) 778-1818
mobile: (615) 406-1314
fax: (615) 690-8963
9175 Carothers Pkwy
Franklin, TN 37067
Your Neighborhood Realtor, Susan Salazar
Susan Salazar and her family lived in Sullivan Farms (the Chase section) for twelve years. Her two sons, Drew and Sidney, attended Winstead Elementary and now attend Page Middle School. Susan has served on the neighborhood Welcome and Social Committee. If you are considering buying a home or selling a home in Sullivan Farms, contact Susan Salazar to assist you in your real estate needs. No one knows Sullivan Farms better than the neighborhood expert!
History of Sullivan Farms
The following is a history beginning in the 1960's of the Sullivan Family and Sullivan Farms as written by its matriarch Lyn Sullivan.
Thirty years ago, as Lewisburg Pike, Highway 431 wound its way past Franklin and onto Lewisburg, Tennessee, it was a rural road, following the Harpeth River for a few miles past the Franklin city limits, then winding through the gently rolling hills that mark Middle Tennessee.
Around our 357 acre farm there were no subdivisions. The property of Hugh and Sarah Dallas (now Dallas Downs) was on the North, Joe Bowman’s (now Oakwood) farm lay on the Southside, on the East side Marjorie and Horace Edgmon had a modest homesite, (now Redwing Farms) while our property went all the way to the railroad tracks on the west.
Prior to moving to what we loving called “Paupers Paradise”, the Russel Sullivan family were like Williamson County gypsies. We moved to this area from Fort Dodge, Iowa with Russel driving a 1960 Nash Rambler, pulling a U-Haul trailer with all our worldly possessions, and Lyn traveling by plane with Jim (18 monts) and Mike (3 months). Russel was a native of Williamson County but following a stint in the the Marine Corps and the University of Tennessee, he settled in the Midwest as a livestock buyer for Hormel Packing Company of Austin, Minnesota. Lyn, a native a Minneapolis, Minnesota, met Russel in Austin, where she worked for a local radio station. Two years and two children later, they headed south.
The first summer, we lived in historic Cool Springs when it was owned by Dr. C.S. Robinson, a chemistry professor at Vanderbilt who spent his summers in Michigan. Russel worked for his father, the late Gilbert Sullivan and in October 1962, we lived with his parents after the Robinson’s returned to reclaim their home. In December, we moved into a small home on Old Hickory Blvd that had no storm windows, no central heat and in January, it hit 15 below zero. Russel worked in Knoxville and Lyn relearned her Girl Scout skills in firebuilding.
Early in 1964 Russel learned that the “Andrews place” - the farm belonging to the late Jess Andrews and his wife, Martha Andrews Kidwell was for sale. It was mired in legal entanglements that only a lawyer and former Sheriff Gilbert Sullivan seemed to be able to untangle, but Russel made arrangements with Mrs. Kidwell to rent the farm for the first year with an option to purchase all 357 acres the following year. This was a major undertaking for the family. We took out a 30-year mortgage, and pledged the first year’s wheat crop to make the initial payments.
February, 1964 saw the family, with Lyn pregnant with a third child moving into the large farm house. The house had been fairly well maintained. The Andrews had added a master bathroom and closets and decorated the home with wallpaper suitable to the 1930’s and ‘40s.
In addition to a large home, we acquired a gentle mix-breed collie dog named Comet, a good swing set for the children, and a welcome addition for Russel, two black gentlemen, Preston and Leo who worked for the Andrews. Preston and his wife Laura lived in a small house that had been moved to the property from Jackson Lake when their home had burned in the late ‘50s or early ‘60s. Preston’s last name was Hodge and it was always assumed it was taken from the name of the original owners, Bob Hodge.
Leo (I was never sure of his last name) lived in a pre-Civil War slave cabin situated toward the old tobacco barn just above the creek. It was a two room cabin with a front porch which had several reincarnations (once as a pig barn) and it was also cleaned up, furnished with fashionable country antiques and used in the forgettable movie “W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings” starring Burt Reynolds. (More on Burt, Dinah and Jerry Reed later.)
Russel Sullivan always said “farming’s a great way of life but a poor way to make a living.” He once remarked that he would have to make $12,000 before he could put a loaf of bread on the table. This called for long hours in the field, on the tractor, sometimes plowing the fields until midnight. He made good use of the children as they were growing up. When the eldest Jim turned eight, he decided it was time to help feed the livestock. He picked the coldest day in January to take Jim with him, in mom’s cast off winter jacket to feed the cattle and hogs.
We started our farming career raising hogs, cattle, wheat, corn, tobacco and soybeans. Hogs were known to help pay off mortgages, three months, three weeks and three days from birth to the market. Russel had some cattle which his father had pastured for him then he purchased more from a local buyer. He had been assured the cattle had been properly vaccinated for brucellosis but when the cattle began to get sick, this proved not to be true. He had to get rid of most of his first herd of cattle and take a major loss. Not a good way to start your farming career.
There were also lots of old bandy chickens and roosters in the barnyard. In 1964, Lewisburg Pike was quiet and rural, with minimal traffic and the cackling chickens would wake up the children from their naps each afternoon.
The children (Jim, Mike, Pat and Kate) had a wonderful, giant playground in the large yard and the creek that wound around the farm. The boys would play games using the creek on one side of the driveway as “base one”, another as “base two”. They also made the shade of a 150 year old pecan tree in the north side of the yard an oversized sandbox. They dug a pit for their dump trucks and toy tractors and hung a huge rubber tire swing from a lower branch. When a fierce storm leveled the tree in 1973 it took two tractors and every member of the family, plus a few neighbors to haul away the limbs.
Hollywood comes to Middle Tennessee
Early in 1974, we learned from realtor friends that a movie company was looking for a country location to film a movie starring none other than Burt Reynolds! They were looking for a spot where they could film in a 360 degree angle and not see modern homes. The movie moguls had checked out several locations but none was suitable.
On short notice, I learned they were coming here to discuss the possiblility of using our farm. As luck would have it, the kids had left a coke bottle on the coffee table, peanut butter cracker crumbs on the couch and a stray sock was peeking out from under a chair. Housekeeping was not a strong point in my life. They offered Russel $500.00 for the privilege of using our farm for a week's worth of filming. Russel politely said “thanks, but no thanks” and sent them on their way.
By this time they were getting desperate. They came back with a counter offer of repairing our front driveway, fixing a bridge across the creek in the front and money enough to help pay for Russel’s bright red new grain truck parked in the granary. They also promised that all the clutter would be picked up by the company before they left town.
In early April, things began to take shape. Gravel trucks put new gravel on the driveway from the front entrance to the tobacco barn.
Carpenters began reconstructing Leo’s House (he no longer lived there, he was working at Gilbert Sullivan’s farm on Mallory Lane) making it look like the home of a scrap dealer in Mississippi. They put newspapers on a small room behind the main living area, and knocked out the walls between the two rooms, hanging country style quilts between them. This was so they could put a camera in either room and film from any angle. The cabin was furnished with country antiques from Franklin antique dealers and it looked quite elegant for a scrap dealers home. The yard was littered with the scrap, including barrels full of rusty parts and an old Nash car parked in the front yard.
Filming started a few weeks later. The first night they hoped to film a shot of a 1955 Oldsmobile going up in flames as the sun was going down. It was a nice idea. We had gone out to dinner with friends that night, came back and they were still working to get the shot. As we watched, they would set up a scene, the director shouted “action” and one of our dogs would start howling. “Cut” - and try it again. We witnessed a grade A, supersized temper tantrum from the star when the shot didn’t go as planned. He was supposed to strike a match to his belt buckle and set fire to the car. The car had been doused with enough gasoline to travel from here to Memphis. When the car didn’t go up in flames, Burt began shouting, swearing and throwing whatever was close at hand. The director, John Avildsen put his arm around his shoulder and tried to placate the star. He finally settled down, but those witnessing the shot realized Burt knew he could have been seriously burned by the conflagration if it was not done properly. It was quiet on the set and they managed to finish filming about midnight and this was only day one.
Friends and relations wanted to come see Burt and company. We learned that the Metro Nashville Police Department was stationed at the front entrance and if people wanted to come, they had to tell us when they were coming, how many and what kind of car they were driving.
That didn’t deter the teenagers. One brave soul had her mother drop her off on Bowman Lane. She and her dog marched down the southside hill, and when I met her at the gate she said she wanted to see Burt Reynolds. I told her she was trespassing and that I had three big dogs on the property. She was unphased. She headed off to meet her hero and I later saw her mom pick her up at the front entrance. Years later I found out three teenage boys climbed over a back fence and got onto the movie set, no hassle!
Union rules says actors eat on set every six hours. Meals were served all hours of the day and night by Mickey Chonos from his portable kitchen. Hearty meals, not just sandwiches were served to cast and crew and a few Sullivans managed to bribe Mickey into feeding them as well.
Burt Reynolds, Art Carney, Jerry Reed and Connie Van Dyke were on the farm for a week. After the last truck had left the scene, Russel made a thorough check of the entire movie set to see if, as promised, the place would be cleaner than they found it. To his surprise, it was. All he found was one paper detailing the “Crew Call” for the day - who was supposed to be on the set. Its in the family scrapbook.
At the time, Burt Reynolds was dating Tennessee native Dinah Shore and everyone hoped she'd come to the farm. Rumors were rampant that Dinah, a far bigger star than Burt, would be there. She never came.
This marks the end of Mrs. Sullivan’s account of the history of the Sullivan Farm from the time they arrived. I would like to thank Kate Sullivan Watkins for getting me the Sullivan Family / Sullivan Farms History. She was so nice to have her Mom provide me with lots of information. -- Susan Salazar