Elder Jasper G. Hatcher Sr., inset photo, may have been one of the best known members of a Pioneer Family honored Feb. 4 by the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County during its Black Tie Affair, an annual fundraiser for projects including renovation of the Merrill-Williams House that’s to become a heritage center. File photo

By Clint Confehr

FRANKLIN, TN — The African-American Heritage Society of Williamson County started celebrating Black History Month with its annual Black Tie Affair on Saturday when it honored a family with deep roots in the county.

The Hatcher family from the Arno-College Grove area on Owen Hill Road is the pioneer family honored this year at the society’s 22nd annual banquet. Pioneer families are honored after genealogical research verifies ancestors born before 1860.

“This family has many descendants from the formerly enslaved Hatchers,” AAHS President Alma Hatcher said. “They are successful people who’ve been in the community for a long time.”

The Hatchers have more living relatives compared to other pioneer families, McLemore said, calling that “amazing” because enslaved family members “were separated and taken to different plantations. This brings people together. Some may not have realized they were related until this.”

For nearly a decade, demand for Black-Tie Gala tickets exceeded capacity in the Embassy Suites largest ballroom here. Nearly 750 guests attended the banquet. Event tickets and sponsors support the society’s McLemore House Museum and the Merrill-Williams House that’s being restored to be a heritage center in its historically Black neighborhood.

Recognition of the Hatcher family includes the memory of Elder Jasper Garrrett Hatcher Sr. who pastored several Middle Tennessee churches for 33 years until he retired at Locust Ridge Primitive Baptist Church in Arrington. At age 91, he passed on Sept. 25, 2020. In March 2022, Tennessee’s Senate named part of State Route 96 in Williamson County as Jasper G. Hatcher Sr. Memorial Highway. It was dedicated on Sept. 3.

“What a great accomplishment and tribute to add to the Hatcher legacy and their rich history in Williamson County,” McLemore told the Tribune. “Elder Hatcher was well-known and well-loved by all who met him and was a true servant of God to his church, his family and to his community.”

The family matriarch is Annie Marie Hatcher Butler, 94, of Franklin, according to Thelma Battle, a founder of the AAHS. She’s a genealogist and historian for Blacks here.

“The earliest known white settler with the name Hatcher to Williamson County was a slave owner, William Hatcher, born in 1793,” Battle said. He migrated with his wife, Lucy Rucker, in 1819 from Bedford County, Va., to the Arno Community near Franklin. They had 12 children. Their son, John R. Hatcher, named 14 slaves in his will. The enslaved people included Elder Hatcher’s great grandfather, Ned Hatcher.

In the 1920s, descendants of people owned by William Hatcher “paid $25,000 for their land,” Battle said. “They had to borrow some of the money, but they paid it off.”

During her research, Battle interviewed Mrs. Butler who spoke of her many relatives. “Those people were hard-working folks [who] lived off the land and they worked together,” Battle said, quoting Butler. “She and … Hatcher bought some of the others out,” Battle said. “His family still owns probably 100 acres there.”

A public reception was held on Sunday, Feb. 5, in the Williamson County Public Library on Columbia Avenue where members of the Hatcher family received visitors interested in their family and African American history. The library established the Pioneer Family designation and standards for it nearly a decade ago.

Nissan is the Black Tie Affair’s presenting sponsor. Major sponsors are Mars Petcare, Justice Loves Mercy Fund, Aubrey & Michele Preston, Buerger Moseley & Carson, the Dorothy Cate & Thomas Frist Foundation, First Horizon, 906 Studio, Vanderbilt University, Vulcan Materials, Williamson Medical, Crowder Trucking, Williamson Real Estate, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pinnacle Bank, RNM Management, Williamson County Republican Party, Battle Ground Academy, Mary Mills, Carbine & Associates & BrandMETTLE.

Donations to AAHS may be made at at aahswc.org and to African American Heritage Society, P. O. Box 1053, Franklin, TN 37065. Donations are tax-deductible.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...