Tag Archives: Castle Heights Military Academy

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 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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A Few Students of Castle Heights Military Academy

9 Jun

From 1902 to 1986, our city was home to Castle Heights Military Academy, a school that attracted students from all over the world. Those of us who have been around for a while have heard a bunch of stories about the school. The rivalry between the cadets and the local guys. The great athletic teams. The people who received a great education within its halls. One day, I will write about those stories. However, this is story is about a few students who made an impact.

Many of the Castle Heights cadets went on the great success, and a few of them went on to a level of fame.

Pete Rademacher won the heavyweight boxing gold medal at the 1956 Olympics. He made his professional debut by fighting Floyd Patterson for the heavyweight title. As far as I know, it is the only time that someone had a shot at the belt in their first fight.

General Wesley Clark, who ran for president in 2004, also attended the school.

Danny Evins, the founder of Cracker Barrel, went to Castle Heights and was one of its major benefactors for many years.

Heck, Benito Mussolini even sent some young men to Castle Heights before the outbreak of World War II. I have seen a photograph of the Rotary dinner that was held in their honor.

However, two brothers who attended Castle Heights rose to greater fame than any of those. They altered the course of music history and, as a result, became iconic figures. One of them passed away in 1971 at the height of his fame. The other passed away just a few days ago.

It is difficult to imagine them wearing the uniforms of Castle Heights cadets, but Duane and Gregg Allman did just that. Up above is a picture of Gregg as proof.

A Brief Look at the Historical Legacy of Lebanon, Tennessee

19 Aug

I just started a new book by Andrew Carroll called Here is Where, about a journey to find historic places that have been lost to, well, history. Although I am only a few pages in, it promises to be a good read about his journey to find these places and the people he met along the way.

It has also made me think about the history of my town. In class, we talk about the big events and people who took part in them, but history is local. There are a lot of amazing stories about people and events that we have never heard of. They are important to the towns in which they lived, but their notoriety doesn’t go past the city limits. My town is full of history.

Of course, some people don’t believe that. Several years ago, I was in a meeting, and a lady said that we had no history. That’s when I rattled off a list that included some of the following.

My workplace, Cumberland University was founded in 1842. Thousands of students have passed through its doors, but none are more important that Cordell Hull.Cordell Hull

Never heard of him? Well, he was Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt and known as the “Father of the United Nations”. He was also a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Of course, his time as Secretary of State was in and around World War II. During that time, Cumberland University also played an important role as the headquarters of the Tennessee Maneuvers, a series of war games to prepare for the invasion of Europe. Soldiers fought battles and captures town all of Middle Tennessee. General George Patton was in charge of the Maneuvers and spent some time in town. I have heard that his private plane was still at the local airport when he was killed.George Patton

Another military leader started his career in town. Sam Houston opened his first law office on the square.Sam Houston

He went on to become governor of Tennessee, an office from which he would resign under mysterious circumstances. It was then that he went to Texas and became one of the leaders of the fight for independence from Mexico. After victory, Houston became the president of the nation of Texas and the governor of the state of Texas.

I always thought it was fitting that the Houston Oilers became the Tennessee Titans. They were just coming back home.

Following the military theme, Castle Heights Military Academy opened in 1902 and was a top private school for decades. Kids were sent from all over the world for a regimental education. The local girls loved them. The local guys didn’t care for them all that much. Thousands of students marched the grounds of Castle Heights, and some of them became famous. Can you imagine Gregg and Duane Allman in a military school?Allman Brothers

Me neither. However, they spent time at Castle Heights.

Another famous rock star spent time here while he was doing some recording in Nashville. Paul McCartney showed up with Wings and stayed at a local farm.Paul McCartney

He even wrote a song about it.

The farm was owned, and is still owned by Curly Putman, who wrote “He Stopped Loving Her Today“, considered by most to be the best country song ever recorded.

Oh, there’s one more thing that is of some historic note. Cracker Barrel was founded here by Danny Evins, who started serving food to attract people to his gas station.Cracker Barrel

The next time you get Uncle Herschel’s breakfast you should remember that Uncle Herschel was from here, too.