Thursday, September 1, 2016

East Edgefield and Spring Park

The stories of the East Edgefield subdivision and Spring Park go together.  This story is in two parts.  The first is a letter written by Clement Breast who lived in Edgefield and gives a first hand account of Spring park and the surrounding neighborhood.  The second part is about the development of the East Edgefield subdivision and Spring Park.

Spring Park, Otto Giers, 1884-1885, image from Case Antiques, Lot 255 Giers Nashville Archive.

The story of Spring Park is wonderfully told, by Clement A. Breast.  Mr. Breast's lived at 925 Russell Street when he was a child, in the 1870's and 1880's.  He grew up roaming the streets and countryside near his family home. Following is a letter written by Mr. Breast, about his boyhood in Edgefield.


Hobson Spring, by Clement A. Breast

The old Hobson Spring in East Nashville in entitled to honorable mention in the list of springs which served the people in their respective neighborhoods many decades ago, and continued so to do until, like nearly all the others in the vicinity of Nashville, it has well night passed from the memory of man generally speaking. Of course many there be who will remember these things when they are brought out of the folded draperies of the past, and yet who do not keep them fresh in mind like the few whose interests run to the historical, or what were common-place things of half a century ago.
Having been born in East Nashville (or Edgefield, by, which name it was then known) 60 years ago and having spent half of that time on Russell Street within half a block of its end at Tenth Street, I feel that I am qualified to say something that may recall to many, some half forgotten thing, and to acquaint others with something they never knew before, regarding the old Hobson spring and the surrounding terrain.  As a boy of ten or twelve years of age the favorite swimming place was a large pond located at what is now the southeast  corner of Holly and Twelfth Streets.

There was a barrel filled with mud and rocks and a board on the top of it and this was the "jumping place" and was located in the center of the pond.  This pond went by the appropriate name of Goose pond.

A short distance away, about a block and half east, was the Hobson spring, and a wonderful country spring it was.  All the country around was open pasture land with a plentiful covering of blue grass and was the grazing place for all the cows, horse, mules and goats belonging to the people of that section, and the farms still further east.  Few houses were in view, the nearest being the home of Mr. Ed Gilliam, a florist on Tenth Street, and that of Hamp Daniels, on what afterwards became Fatherland Street.  It was about where Twelfth now crosses Fatherland.  I believe it was the old Hobson home.  

No fences were in sight unless one went down the hill to the east of the spring and came across a long north and south fence which marked the western border of the Lindsasy farm.  The spring was located beneath a sudden dropping off o the otherwise comparatively level land, and from which jutted a ledge of rock with a cleft some eight or ten feet long forming a small chasm, the floor of which was flat and solid, and here was an elliptical bowl, of perfect form and with a capcity of about six gallon.  This bowl was a work of art and was supposed to have been chipped out by Indians who had, perhaps used this fine water from time immemorial.  The stream of delightfully cold water which poured out of this basin flowed in an easterly direction to join a stream in the Lindsay farm and the tow to meet still others on the way south to the river and to pass behind the old home of the Cahill family, as the stream known in those days as 'Pugsley's Gut.'

Fatherland Street was a new street and ran no farther than Tenth and terminated in a small turn-table for the new mule-car line which was soon to be operated on it.  Nearby was built a large barn for the street car mules, it was on the southeast corner.  About the distance of two blocks east of it was a large, ancient graveyard and another spring.  This spring was in the lower, or southeast corner of the graveyard and not far from Hobson spring.  I remember getting down many times on my bare knees on a large flat gravestone, which was places across the spring, and drinking long draughts of water which, perhaps, came through any number of ancient graves before it emerged from the earth to be used by people and stock alike.  Where ignorance was bliss there was no use knowing too much,  But many others beside myself drank of this graveyard spring.

A few years afterward, Fatherland Street was built out to the Hobson spring, and the car line extended to it.  Then the street car company bought about twenty acres and a beautiful park was laid out and built.  There were flower beds, bandstands, sandy gravel walks, comfortable benches, trees planted to help the already large oak trees to make shade and ornamentation and to furnish cozy resting places.  A baseball diamond and grandstand were provided and competitive games held.

Quite a nice sized lake was made with an Island in the center covered with plants.  Water lilies, mosses and various kinds of gold fish flourished in this lake, and along the south side of it there was a considerably elevated bank, or shore, on top of which were many cages of animals which drew large crowds of visitors.  Old Pat, a very large monkey, furnished remarkable entertainment and was never wanting for something funny to do.

Sunday concerts by both string orchestras and brass band and by singers were weekly features for pleasant weather, for several years, and the business of the Fatherland Street car line was very profitable for the owner of it.

Finally, however, as with almost everything else, the order changed.  Lots were sold, houses began to spring up, graves to disappear, fences to rot away, streets to be extended, an in course of a few years even the memory of Spring Park (for that was its name) was almost obliterated from the minds of the majority of people who lived in the city where it flourished, grew beautiful, gave vast pleasure, and finally fell into the discard.

C. A. Breast                   


More about East Edgefield and Spring Park.
by Debie Oeser Cox

One of the earliest parks in Nashville, was the privately owned Spring Park.  The park was located in Edgefield at 14th and Fatheland Street and covered two city blocks, between 13th and 14th and running back to Holly Street.

Before 1870, much of the land to the east of 11th street was undeveloped.  There were large estates, belonging to A. V. S. Lindsley, Thomas Chadwell, Nicholas Hobson, HiramVaughn, Fank Cahill and George Maney, all outside the limits of Edgefield. 

Map of Davidson County Tennessee, 1871, Wilbur Foster, Library of Congress

In 1873, Henry Cooper, Edgar Jones, Frank Cahill, James P. Druillard, W. W. Berry, J. F. Demoville, W. W. Cole and others purchased from Nicholas Hobson, a tract of 68 acres.  

Republican Banner August 20, 1873

Most of these men resided in the area.  They wanted to see the neighborhood developed in a positive way, without negative impact on those who already lived in the area. The land was surveyed and a plat was filed.  Many existing streets were extended through the new development and new streets laid out as needed. The boundaries of the tract, were 11th to 14th, west to east and Woodland to Shelby north and south.  The men called this subdivision, East Edgefield.  

Plan of East Edgefield, filed December 11, 1885,  plat book 21, page, 147.

In 1881 the Fatherland Street Railway Company was incorporated.  Their line began at the public square, ran across the bridge to Woodland St. then down 2nd street to Fatherland. The line continued along Fatherland to 10th, and then another 500 feet past tenth to a turnaround. The new line brought people right into the middle of East Edgefield.  On Sunday afternoons, crowds of people would enjoy the ride out from the square, leave the car at the end of the line and stroll along the lanes that went deeper into the country side.  Hobson spring became a popular destination.  The area was shaded by old trees, always with a cool breeze and fresh cold water could be found at the spring.  The crowds brought vendors out, and light refreshments could be purchased. A short walk took visitors over to the Woodland Street car line for a different ride with new scenery, out of Edgefield and back to the square.  Residents of the area were  treating this tract as if it was a park and an adjoining level flat ground became the site of Sunday afternoon baseball games. 

The owners of the East Edgefield subdivision, worked together with the owners of the Fatherland Street Railway, to establish a park on the Hobson Spring tract.  William C. Dibrell, Andrew J. Caldwell, H. W. Buttorff, J. M. Sharpe, John S. Bransford, Andrew Allison, and Percy Kinnaird were the owners of the railway.  The land company transferred to the railway company, several acres of land, bordered by Fatherland Street and Holly Streets and 13th and 14th Streets.  The name of the park, the brainchild of John S. Bransford, changed from Hobson Spring Park in 1882 to Spring Park by late 1883.  It was simple in the beginning, with graveled walkways and flowers beds, under large trees. A cool quiet place to escape the summer heat. Over the next several years the park was improved, with a small lake, a grotto, a gazebo, and an amphitheater.  There was a small zoo, with and eagle, a great horned owl, a wild cat, an alligator and a monkey cage. A shelter was built that could hold several hundred people.  Thousands of people visited Spring Park in the years between 1882 and 1887.  It was said to be the best resort in all of Nashville. John S. Bransford sold his majority interest in the Fatherland Street railway in 1885. It was soon absorbed into another railway company.  The Hobson spring tract was sold.    In 1887, the Spring park tract was subdivided into building lots, and a big auction was held to sell those lots.  Sadly, the beautiful little park disappeared, one lot at a time.

Spring Park subdivision, plat book 57, page 134.

1 comment:

  1. I definitely appreciate learning some of Nashville's history. I feel like I am currently writing about the recent history of Nashville and surrounding areas, as it seems we are in the midst of change that happens almost before you can blink your eyes here in Nashville nowadays.


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