The Amazing Journey of an Almost Forgotten Fountain

9 Oct

In 1925, the Margaret Gaston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution donated a fountain to honor the pioneers who settled our city. The fountain was placed in the northwest corner of the square where, at one time, people gathered to collect water. From its day of dedication, the fountain has had an interesting journey. Yes, it has been on the move.

The fountain remained in place for a couple of decades. I can imagine people in the 1930s gathering around it and discussing the hard economic times. They could have walked by while talking about the new president Franklin Roosevelt and wondering if he could do anything about it. During World War II, it was probably a backdrop for gatherings to sell war bonds or to see sons off to fight. It definitely survived the Tennessee Maneuvers, which were headquartered in our town. I wonder how close it came to being knocked down by a tank.

The fountain sat on the square through all of that, but it could not survive construction. The city was doing major repairs on the northwest corner of the square when Joe Graves, who served as county sheriff, saw the fountain on the back of a truck. When he learned that it was headed for the trash dump, he took it to his home on West End Heights and turned it into what must have been the nicest bird bath in town.

In 1967, Mr. Graves passed away. A year later, his widow sold the house, and the fountain was relocated to the home of their daughter Pam Tomlinson. The fountain that started on the town square was now a fixture in the Centerville community.

In the 1970s, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Lawlor contacted Pam about the fountain and asked if she would be willing to return it to the Daughters of the American Revolution. She happily gave it back for it to be restored to a place of prominence. In 1976, it was rededicated and placed in front of City Hall on College Street, which was only a few blocks from its original location. A plaque commemorating the event was placed on its base, and it was transformed into a drinking fountain.

Finally, the fountain that had a home on the square and a home on West End Heights and a home in Centerville had a permanent home. Except, it did not. City Hall was moved to the former campus of Castle Heights Military Academy, and the fountain did not make the transition. Pam, like her father decades earlier, became concerned about the fountain. She asked several city officials and employees about their plans. After months of inquiries, she found it behind the city’s Public Works building with a pile of trash headed for the dump. She asked a city employee to deliver it to her house. Once again, the fountain was saved.

That was a couple of decades ago. The fountain faded from the memory of most, and those who remembered thought it was gone for good. Then, I received a call from my friend Larry, Pam’s husband. He had an offer I could not refuse. I had been appointed City Historian, and he was sitting on one of our city’s great mysteries – the Missing Daughters of the American Revolution Fountain. He told me that they wanted to give it back and for me to tell everyone that I knew where it was located.

At the next meeting of Historic Lebanon, I made the announcement that I had talked to the person who was in possession of the fountain. Mary-Margaret, member of Historic Lebanon and the Daughters of the American Revolution, immediately wanted the details. I told her that the location had to remain secret, but they could have it when a good location was chosen to display the fountain permanently.

Last week, the Margaret Gaston Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution held a ceremony to once again rededicate the fountain.

It now sits in front of the Fite-Fessenden House, which is home to the Wilson County Museum. The fountain is a few hundred yards from its original location. After 92 years, we all hope that the fountain has finally found a permanent home. If not, then, hopefully, someone in the Graves family tree will come to the rescue.

 

 

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6 Responses to “The Amazing Journey of an Almost Forgotten Fountain”

  1. Marilyn Armstrong October 9, 2017 at 01:29 #

    A long journey for a fountain! I was wondering if you finally adopted it.

    • Rick October 9, 2017 at 02:07 #

      I didn’t adopt it, but it has a good home. At least, I hope it has one. By my count, it has moved 5 times.

  2. Andrew Petcher October 9, 2017 at 06:17 #

    Nice to know that it survived the trash dump threat. Good story!

    • Rick October 9, 2017 at 14:17 #

      Survived the threat twice. Very resilient fountain.

  3. Kim Parks October 10, 2017 at 15:37 #

    Do you know the year of the Square construction that prompted the first move? I’ve always wondered why the city just didn’t call the DAR instead of throwing it on the trash pile.

    • Rick October 10, 2017 at 17:07 #

      I have wondered that, too. In fact, they threw it away on two different occasions. When was the Devil’s Elbow torn down? Could that have been it?

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