"Bucket of Blood" Neighborhood
The downtown area bordered by the Harpeth River, the tracks of the Louisville and Nashville railroad, and historic Main and Church (originally called Cameron) Streets, currently houses restored homes, shops, and offices. After the Civil War, African Americans sought out this neighborhood as a place to rebuild their lives following generations of enslavement. For the next century, residents worked as teachers, carpenters, railroad porters and laborers, gardeners, shoemakers, cooks, nurses and laundresses. The nearby Lillie Mills flour plant provided jobs for many African Americans and established the area as an industrial center. In the early 1900s, two rows of company houses for African American mill workers were built around the plant. The neighborhood was nicknamed “Bucket of Blood.” One story about the name points to murder around 1900 in which the victim was said to have bled so much it filled a bucket. However, the story may be apocryphal, as there was also a significant livestock barn in the neighborhood where slaughters often took place.
Backstory and Context
By 1910, African American laborers working at nearby Lillie Mills were living in factory-owned houses known as the “Bucket of Blood.”
Local African American landowners included African American Civil War US Army veteran Freeman Thomas, Rev. William Perkins, Andrew Patton, Clifton Baugh, Robert German, Sam and Cal Hunter, Amanda Glass, Sister Kelley, and W.H. West.
From the 1870s until the 1960s, many of its residents worked at the Lilly Flour Mill. When the mill closed in the ’60s many people lost their jobs and began moving away.
Thelma Battle, a local African-American historian, wrote about the neighborhood for the Franklin Review-Appeal newspaper in the summer of 2003. She said this:
"I would like to enlighten the public about the “Forgotten Settlement,” a phrase I personally coined for this particular neighborhood . . .Long ago, African-Americans from all walks of life owned and rented homes in the area known as First Avenue, Second Avenue and Church Street in Franklin. Some of those African-American residents were not only the sons and daughters of ex-slaves, but sons and daughters of their slave masters, as well."
The “Bucket” was a made up of a wide, dead-end dirt alley, just off First Avenue.
Six homes comprised the bucket- three double-tenement homes stood facing one another on either side of the dead-end dirt alleyway. In this portion of the forgotten settlement, 12 families resided.
At the far end of the alley was a livestock loading dock. When livestock sales were held, horses and cattle were unloaded at the entrance to the Bucket and driven them through the middle of the street and onto the loading dock ramp. Every evening during those sales mothers and children would go out at night to clean up the manure the animals had left behind.
He only managed to escape after convincing a livestock driver helping his captor to help him leave.
Thomas, born in 1929, died in 2003.