CLICK HERE for a map of early homes and businesses around the Springs

The 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.
And Paul Welch's brass band was well equipped. The Welch home there on South Court once was occupied by a Mr. Ford who had a piano, a rarity at those times. People came to the house with all kinds of excuses to get in to see the piano.

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.
The business section of Scottsville caught the development fever of the 80's and 90's, and a number of milling industries located near the Public Spring. County people coming to town to spend the day brought a fruit jar along, and when noontime came they went down to the Spring to fill their tar with cold water and eat a lunch brought from home. The protruding roots of the great trees there provided a place for nearby laborers to sit and eat sack lunches, before the days of quick food restaurants and soft drinks.
Many gallons of water were hauled from the Spring in cans and barrels on buckboards, and later in Model T's for Monday washings. And there were the water carriers. One of the earliest remembered carriers was an ex-slave named Shed who carried water for the Pitchford family on Vinegar Hill with whom he lived. Barefoot winter and summer, Shed had a unique way of transporting a bucket of water - on his head.

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.
Levi Soules tells us that he started carrying water at 5 cents for a 10 hour shift. Later wages went to 10 cents, then 25 cents. Mr. Soules looks on those days as good ones, with lots of jobs, people working. The water carriers had to be careful on County Court Day nights, for some of the "Jockey" crowd would remain, sleeping off a drunk under the bushes and in the grass on the hill around the Spring.
Jockey, or Second Monday, or County Court Day - it was called by all three names - was a big event in Scottsville and was held in the area around the Public Spring. Traders with mules, dogs, guns, liniment, dinner bells and other antiquities, and preachers came from a wide area for this important day each month. They came in such numbers that they spilled out of the Spring hollow and at times all the way to the Square. This was a busy trade day in Scottsville, but is now a thing of the past around the Spring.

There were many sheep in the county at this time and the people took their wool to the Scottsville Wool Carding Mill to be washed, carded and spun. Later this became the Scottsville Woolen Mill, weaving wool into fine blankets for shipment everywhere, and selling wool in skins from their office and sales room on the corner-above the Public Spring where Scottsville Tire Exchange is now. The Joe Read family on the Glasgow Road has five new blankets today which were made at the woolen mill, dyed with walnut stains.
A gravity line was run from the Spring to the boiler of the Woolen Mill and to the boiler of the Scottsville Electric Light & Power Company south of the Spring in the hollow. This was the second electricity plant for the city, the first one being built in 1905 or 6 by J. D. Read on East Main, and provided power early in the morning and early evenings only. The power plant near the Spring operated 24 hours a day and was built by Slinker and Mayes in 1909 or 10. Jake Hood bought the plant in 1913 and he, R. D. Gregory, and Robert Burns Pitchford wired many of the houses, their wiring still in use today. When the Armistice was signed in 1918, the electricity plant operator started blowing the steam whistle in celebration. Mrs. Bess Morehead tells us that her father became concerned and called the plant to warn the operator that he was going to let off all the steam and lose the power, but the joyful man continued his blowing, and eventually did let off all the steam. The souvenir booklet distributed in 1915 lauds their electric light system "which is the equal of any in cities three times as large", but keeping the power at a steady flow was a problem. Mr. Hood sold the plant to Thurman Dixon in 1918, and the plant was replaced by a franchised high power line run from Bowling Green by John Braswell and the Scottsville Utilities Company

Near the electric plant was the establishment of J. M. Guthrie, a master plumber, who installed the first city water works in 1920, lines running from Hewitt Springs on the Trestle Road.
Businesses uphill from the Spring also benefited from the spring's bountiful flow. Mr. Dan Pitchford tells us of a tank behind the then Hobdy and Read Company into which water was pumped uphill from the Public Spring and stored. The Carpenter-Dent Drug Store where he was employed obtained water for the store from that tank. Photographer Lucien Dalton, Mr. Aubrey Dalton's predecessor but no relation, went to the Public Spring to wash the developing chemicals from his prints.
The Carpenter-Dent Drug Store was the city's first, started in 1875 and operated for many years as Carpenter Drug Store. A bookkeeper for Carpenter-Dent, one Arthur C. Alexander, lived in an old log house above the Spring where the Ward Building and Gerald Printing Service is now. This log house was previously owned by John Morgan Settle, a blacksmith and cousin of Mr. Alexander. It was torn down in the 40's and moved to Nashville to be rebuilt there as someone's pride and joy.
Memories of the Public Spring after 1900 bring to mind Perry Farmers Fish Wagon. Perry Farmer was a black man who had a special way of cooking his fish, crisp and brown, spread with butter, and he had of fights election day, but one ended in a man's throat being cut. He was laid in a buggy and the doctor sent for.
A runaway horse near the Public Spring dragged its rider, Elzie Eaton, to his death several years ago. Mr. Eaton of the Oak Forest community was thrown from his mount when the saddle turned but his foot hung in the stirrup. The frightened horse ran down the street behind the woolen mill, on across the little bridge before it could be stopped and Mr. Eaton freed. He died a short time later.

And then there was the tragic event on May 7, 1923 when Will Willoughby, a poor hardworking farmer of the Trammel community met up with a stranger from the city at the Public Spring and was beaten to death with sticks and stones. Willoughby and his son had hauled a heavy log to town to sell at J. D. Read Lumber Company. Willoughby prepared to water his four horse team at the spring before going home, and got into an argument with Sank Bradley who was also waiting at the Spring to haul logs for his employer, Mr. Read. Reportedly Bradley attempted to charge Willoughby 25cents to water his team, Bradley's companion, Tom Hughes joined in the altercation, and Willoughby died 2 or 3 days later of a fractured skull. So incensed was everyone at the killing that there was threat of a mob and the two were taken to Bowling Green for safekeeping.

Horseless carriages gradually replaced mule and horse teams around the Spring, but the thrilling entrance into Scottsville of the first three locally owned cars is still vivid in the memories of some of our storytellers. It's true that John W. Boyd, a native of Allen County and partner in the lumber manufacturing firm of Love, Boyd and Co., drove the first car into town, but he lived in Nashville. The time remembered by Messrs. Jesse Marion, R. L. Taylor, Levi Soules and Oscar Parrish was when three beautiful little one seated, two cyclinder 1911 Maxwells came in a parade up the Jackson Highway (Gallatin Road) bound for owners, Dr. W. M. Meredith Dr. W. A. Callis, and Mr. A. G. Braswell - when the top of the Maxwell was down, it looked a lot like a buggy, and the crowd that gathered to welcome these cars was as excited as though watching a circus. 'Tis told that drivers of the early autos almost ran down family members, said whoa when trying to stop, and alternately prayed and cussed so as to be on the right side either way.
Miss Clytie Gilliam, Garland Braswell's sister-in-law, learned to drive one of these first three cars in town.
Through the years changes have been made in the rustic springhouse and the watering trough. The wooden trough rotted and the trough area became muddied due to heavy use, so according to best information, the hexagon shaped watering trough was planned and built by Frank R. Goad while he served as county attorney from 1918-1922. At first nervous horses, unused to the gleaming white trough, shied away from it. The modernization of the springhouse took place during WPA days, under the prodding of the old Scottsville Civic League. This was a group of the city's leading ladies including Mrs. Ethel Bartlett, Mrs. C. G. Morton, Sr., Mrs. A. S. Gardner and Mrs. R. C. Huntsman ,

The old rock springhouse was plastered over, a flat concrete top replaced the old wooden peaked one, and the cleft was filled in around the springhouse. A cell door from the old jail was installed across the opening. Bradford Chaney and Dennis Lamb, two of the Overseers of WPA crews who worked on public works projects around the town and county, in the mid-thirties, were overseers of the Spring modernization project.
The Scottsville Garden Club has taken over care of the Public Spring as a primary club project and last year planted spring flowering bulbs and holly trees in the dell. In these days when many long for things as they once were it is our hope that the club will restore Scottsville's eternal landmark to its once beautiful rustic appearance.
The flowing water still has a joyful magical sound. How long has it been since you stopped to enjoy this unfailing stream? Roy R. Pitchford in 1915 wrote in tribute, "And of this spring it is written, that anyone abiding near its source for a time and gazing from among the great spreading branches of hovering oaks may never forget."
...... article published, circa 1975.

Article furnished by Meredith Churchill