Elvis Presley’s got Graceland; Willie Nelson’s got Luck Ranch; and Dolly Parton’s got Dollywood. What you might not know is that Loretta Lynn’s estate, known simply as the Loretta Lynn Ranch, has also been converted to a tourist park. Affectionately dubbed “The Seventh Largest Attraction in Tennessee,” it is a delightfully quirky destination.
Loretta purchased the now-3,500-acre estate in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, about 75 miles outside Nashville, in 1966. She and husband Doolittle Lynn were traveling the area looking for a new home. The pair got lost and stumbled upon the massive, three-story plantation house that was built in 1876. Loretta, thinking that it reminded her of Gone With the Wind, fell in love with it. “I never pictured myself as Scarlett O’Hara, not hardly,” she wrote in Coal Miner’s Daughter, “but I could picture myself in that house.”
Transforming the Property
The property came with its own area code, as it constituted the entirety of the unincorporated settlement of Hurricane Mills. It was only after they bought it that they discovered how badly in disrepair the property was. Doolittle set about renovating the place while Loretta was on tour. It was only in 1967 that the family was able to move in.
Having taken part in some rodeo riding while they lived in Washington and then having started a rodeo at their previous ranch in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, Doolittle continued the tradition in Hurricane Mills by setting up a horse ranch that he maintained until his health began to fail. In fact, in 1969, the couple hosted a summer-long rodeo series at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. It ran from May to September and included weekly concerts by Loretta.
The ranch was featured prominently in scenes from Coal Miner’s Daughter. By the ’80s, it had turned into a popular tourist attraction. Over the years, it grew considerably. When they first purchased the property, it was only 1,450 acres. Doolittle was responsible for much of that expansion. “I’d come home, and he’d have 300 or 400 more acres bought,” Loretta said. “Now somebody’s gotta pay for that, right?”
As the estate grew, some new buildings were added and others renovated. Today, the ranch includes a one-room schoolhouse, a post office and general store, a 19th century stone mill along Hurricane Creek, a dam, and two bridges. It was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1999. Though Loretta and Doolittle lived for several years in the plantation house, they eventually moved out in the late ’80s after all their children had grown up. They moved instead to a smaller cabin on the property.
Visiting the Ranch
In addition to the historic buildings, there’s a detailed recreation of the star’s childhood home from Butcher Hollow, Kentucky. Additionally, there’s a replica of a coal mine like the one her daddy Ted Webb worked in, and an 18,000-square-foot museum. There’s also an Old West town that features activities like horseback riding, a Native American Artifact Museum dedicated to her Cherokee heritage, several gift shops, and a restaurant. If that’s not enough, the ranch hosts several annual music festivals and the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, an off-road motorcycle invitational that’s been held on the horse ranch since 1982.
There are 300 powered campsites that allow fans to spend the night just a stone’s throw from Loretta’s one-bedroom window. Visitors may well do so at their own risk. Stories abound in Hurricane Mills that Loretta’s longtime home is haunted. In fact, the ranch does have a checkered past. The land once belonged to a slave owner, and slaves were forced into labor there. It was also the scene of a battle during the Civil War. Reportedly, 19 Confederate soldiers are buried on the property. If Loretta is to be believed, their spirits haven’t left. When her son Jack was little, he was allegedly awakened one morning by the ghost of a soldier.
“He saw someone pulling at his boots. And he could feel it trying to take his boots off,” ranch manager Will Rourke told WKRN-TV. Afterward, Jack and his brother, Ernest, refused to sleep in the room. It’s now also off-limits to visitors, the only room in the house where outsiders aren’t allowed to go.
Other apparitions have been spotted on the house’s balcony. One was the ghost of a woman who lived there more than 100 years ago, but lost one of her children at a young age. She’s been seen wandering the graveyard in mourning, as well. “[Loretta] said when she started seeing the woman in white on a regular basis, she knew it was time to leave,” joked her grandson, Anthony Brutto. “The house wasn’t big enough for two women!” Loretta once held a seance with some of her friends and came into contact with the ghost of James Anderson, who built the estate. Tales of these hauntings became so well-known that the Travel Channel sent a TV crew out to the property to investigate.
In August 2021, an estimated 17 inches of precipitation rained down on the ranch and the surrounding Humphreys County area, causing heavy floods that killed 22 people. Among those casualties was 70-year-old ranch foreman Wayne Spears, and an 18-year employee of Loretta’s who was swept away in the flooding. The ranch has since returned to its normally operating state.
A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine Loretta Lynn.
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