Public Spring - It's always been here; was here when I was born Willie Binum
said. And Miss Sallie Edmunds wrote in 1928 for readers a century later,
"I hope the Public Spring is still with you. To date it has never failed".
The Public Spring flows on for us today, eternally, little changed from
the days of our forefathers.
In the early days the Public Spring was the all important center of activity. Later as the town grew, some cisterns and wells were dug for household water. But in dry seasons there was still the Public Spring., Its' refreshing cold water flowing steadily from the base of a steep hill, surrounded by large oak and elm trees. It was a favorite place for young people to gather and have a good time on Sunday afternoons. Mrs. Annice Morgan remembers how girls and their beaus courted, laughed and talked at the Spring. Miss Thelma Griggs, is one of those who remembers playing there as a child. Mr. Levi Soules relates carrying many a gallon of water after midnight to help bathe someone after they passed on to their reward.
Elderly citizens today have many stories to tell of life and happenings in the olde days around the Public Spring, some humorous, some tragic. We would like to pass on to you some of these stories acquired by probing the still clear minds of these dear residents who keenly observed life around them.
Early history records the fact that the present site for the county seat was chosen "because of the large spring there, which early settlers had found never diminished its flow of water even in the driest season of the year". The present site was one of several considered when the first officials appointed by Governor Isaac Shelby met on April 10, 1815 at the house of Willis Mitchell, near the Old Bald Field, four miles northwest of Scottsville on the Bowling Green Road, and presented their commissions as Justices of the Peace.
The Mitchell house was on the Old State Road, one of the oldest surveyed roads in Kentucky and a major stagecoach route between Louisville and Nashville. The barn on the Mitchell homestead was on the site where D. R. Gardner operated a store, now the Oliver Boucher home. Albert Smith now owns the Mitchell property. Mr. Mitchell bought the land with sheep. Mitchell descendants Marshall Roberts and Mrs. Roy Smith still live near their grandfather's property.
The quaint sounding Old Bald Field got its name from the Bald family, early settlers in the area, who moved away and abandoned their land. Posey Justice, grandfather of Scottsville residents Dorothy and Lorene Dodson acquired the land after it was sold for unpaid taxes, paying the taxes on it for 20 years.
This mostly level land is around the intersection of the Old State Road and the Bowling Green Road and is part of the New Bethel Church property, the Ben Downing, C. E. Guy Sr., Leo Spears and Thurman Gardner farms. The Mitchell house, torn down in 1945, was on the Guy farm as was a good spring, another reason why the Old Bald Field was runner-up in the town site choices.
In the booklet, "A Souvenir of Allen County Homecoming, August 3, 4, 5, 6, 1915" is the statement, "Some wanted it on the lands of Willis Mitchell where the court first met because it was the center of the county. But the location was finally determined by the two magnificent springs four miles southeast of that point, on the ridge between which the town was platted. Which one of the other springs in Scottsville could be called magnificent along with the Public Spring? For the answer we turn again to the writings of Miss Sallie Edmunds who glowingly tells us of another landmark near what is now North Cemetery Street, the Cal Turner property and Baptist Hollow. She writes. "A short distance from the present N. S. Guy property we find a spring, also another landmark, now the home of Patterson Welch. Our picnic ground was here and many times we invited noted speakers and enjoyed a full day. The one occasion that stands out with greatest prominence in my mind was given in honor of our soldier boys at the close of the Civil War". These picnic grounds were known as Pat's Hollow, and two of our senior citizens, Mrs. Daisy Patton 92, and Mrs. Emma Johnson, 88 attended functions there as girls. Miss Emma can remember the striking figure Miss Daisy cut in a red organdy dress and red parasol at Pats' Hollow one day, and vowed to have a red organdy dress herself. The spring there, however, did not prove to be the everlasting full flowing stream as its counterpart, the Pubic Spring. On the ridge between them though is the central city. Scottsville prospered and grew as time passed the population of the county in 1840 was 7,327 and much of the growth centered around the Public Spring. One of the earliest businesses near the Spring was the blacksmith shop, built and run by Grover Milton in 1847.
To the remarkable Miss Sallie Edmunds, Scottsville's first librarian, we are indebted for information about Civil War events in the city. She tells us that a residence stood on the north side of Maple Street, where the Church of Christ now stands during the Civil War and was used for a hospital, ''and a large number of soldiers answered the last call." This was later the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sarver. One can only speculate that the Public Spring water figured in the hospital location.
At age 73, on May 24, 1928, Miss Edmunds wrote an historical account of early Scottsville street by street, named dwellings and businesses. She was born December 10, 1854, and lived more than 70 years in Scottsville. Her history was sealed in a jar, placed in the cornerstone of the New Masonic Hall on the second story of the Dr. Johnson Building to remain for 100 years. This lady lived a short distance above the Public Spring, on Maple Street, where the Allen County School Superintendent's office is now. She recorded all births and deaths in the city and opened a library with books donated by town's people and her own periodicals. She was active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union and was both feared and admired by residents.
There are three other homes of the long ago near the Public Spring on the east side. Directly above the spring on Spring Hill is the residence of Mrs. Attrice McReynolds known as the T. J. "Tom" Freeman house. Mrs. Freeman kept her milk cold in the Spring. The back of the house is log, and more than 100 years old. The colorful Mr. Freeman served at least two terms as jailer and was killed in a fight while seeking election as sheriff. Reportedly his opponent tweaked Mr. Freeman's long handlebar mustache and the fight ensued. The names of former residents of that house are Dr. W. R. Shepherd, John Sam Carpenter, Hill, Howards, Garings, and A. J. Ritchey - and hereby hangs a tale.
Old timers tell of an incident that happened when Mr. Ritchey laid a corpse on a "cooling board", and some young men came to 'sit up with him'. "Fire Water, not spring water, as in so many of the earlier happenings around town, affected their sympathetic leanings. One made the comment that the deceased would "sit up in his casket'' if he could hear the talk about him. Whereupon they decided he wouldn't have to sit up, they would stand him up and proceeded to do that. One version is that they stood him in the corner, another that they stood him on the floor, making for an unusual wake. Mr. Ritchey was sheriff here during the Civil War Years.
The other two very old homes still standing near the Spring were built by the prominent pioneer landholding family named Walker, who owned many slaves. One is on the corner of Second and Maple, now the large apartment dwelling owned by Mrs. Emma Johnson. The house was built by slaves of hand-hewn logs and hand-chiseled stones. The large basement housed living quarters for the slaves where they cooked and lived all in one large room, and still contains the dungeon used for recalcitrant slaves. This is the oldest house in Scottsville, and was the home of Dr. A. S. Walker, a leading physician who died as he wished, administering to a patient. The entire block of land from the Public Spring to the Johnson Apartment house was part of the A. S. Walker property, and contained barns and stables behind the dwelling for their horses and cows. Around the corner from the Freeman house is the other Walker home, at Third and Locust. It was the residence of Dr. A. S. Walkers son, Dr. Jake Walker, and is now the home of 92-year-old Mrs. Daisy Patton, a dear lady who has seen many changes in the city. The Walker descendants were noted doctors, lawyers and teachers. They are buried in the old cemetery in concrete above the ground tombs.
The Chesapeake and Ohio, later L & N Railroad was built from Gallatin, Tenn. a distance of 35 miles in 1886 and the train brought a new kind of entertainment to Scottsville, a traveling circus. The circus set up on Spring Hill where the Allen County Health Department is now. Another circus came to town a little later and set up at the fairgrounds on the Gainesville Pike where Mrs. Martha Hobdy now lives. The circus ran into financial difficulty and was stranded for a few days and here hangs another tale.
Paul Welch, the son of Sylvester Welch who resided on the hill in front of the Public Spring where Churn Holland's Sinclair Station is now, organized Scottsville's first brass band and this is how they obtained most of their instruments. A group of the city's fine young men imbibed a little two much one afternoon, and then decided to visit the fairgrounds and the stranded circus. After reaching the fairgrounds they decided to take over the show and did flips down the eating tables set up for the circus hands. A big fight resulted. While the fight was in progress some of the group made off with the show's large musical instruments, and also some of the circus animals. It seems they felt a desire to show the elephant to John Huntsman, man bedfast for year with rheumatism, who lived in the Grace Huntsman house where Harper Ford's car lot is now. His son Arthur, in the group said his father hadn't seen an elephant in 20 years.
They started toward
town leading the elephant and a monkey. The circus manager hurries into
town to get the town marshal only to be told Wheeler Atwood is leading
the group out there." These were "good old boys" - not
rowdies and their families did some fast straightening up to stem the
trouble. Names mentioned in the group include Charlie Settle (who got
a big brass horn) Hutchins Kemp (got a big bass drum) R. R. Pitchford,
Shep Bryant, Thurman Dixon, Arthur Huntsman, Bishop ,Huntsman, Fred Harlin,
Paul Welch, Harry Read, Jim "Beeswax" Gilmore, Leslie Durham.
The circus animals were returned, restitution eventually was made for
the instruments and the publicity over the fight put the Skaggs Show back
on its feet and it prospered. Charles "Bosco" Settle had the
horn when he died.
An article in the
1907 edition of its local newspaper, The Times-Messenger, brags that,
''The town has been free from the sale of intoxicating liquors for the
past forty years", yet that Daily train from Tennessee carried many
a jug, barrel or bottle addressed to foreign sounding names for Scottsville,
The containers were always claimed by local residents however who knew
for whom they were intended.
Very young boys got
their financial start in life carrying drinking water for the 35 to 50
men working at the W. W. Thompson Spoke Mill. A yoke was fitted across
the shoulders from which a bucket hung on each side. Some of the carriers
were Harry Spillman, T. W. Crow, Sr., Robert Foster, Wrent Wilmore, and
Levi Soules. The boys carried water in shifts, all day or all night when
the mill worked two shifts.
Article furnished by Meredith Churchill email@example.com