McMinnville officials are being asked to have a heart and adopt a stone.
“Our Ebenezer” was placed by McMinnville Heritage Preservation on the site of the original Town Springs, a water source and the reason why the city was built here.
“I’m here to try and sell the idea of adopting this spot as a city park,” said Neil Schultz, organization president, to members of the city Building and Grounds Committee. “There are a lot of tangible and intangible benefits to preservation. It encourages strong moral fiber. When you have a feeling of connection to your heritage, you want to pick up trash and you don’t want people to throw trash on the street. You do a lot of things toward that effort, like join preservation organizations. Our Ebenezer is what we call an echo symbol of our pioneers.”
The stone, 8 feet tall, was placed upright in a small rock garden south of East Colville Street and is located near the BRC office. It was named Our Ebenezer, a Hebrew word which means stone of help. The rock garden around it was named Emmanuel’s Garden, because it is in the area where a black church once stood.
Schultz informed officials about the importance of the area. Schultz says the springs were origins of life in McMinnville.
“This site is the first heritage area of McMinnville,” Schultz said. “The people who established our town were drawn to this place because of the existence of two large springs that could supply the water needs of a town. Also, there was a natural wonder here. One of the springs flowed from a cave with a gigantic rock overhang. The springs are the reason our town is located where it is today.”
In 2013, MTSU conducted a study of the site and its findings revealed the town springs were the primary source of water for the city from 1810 to 1884. McMinnville was founded in 1810 when Warren County Commissioners John Armstrong, James English, Benjamin Lockhart, Thomas Matthews, and James Taylor selected an approximately 40-acre tract one mile from the log courthouse at Spring City.
“They picked the site because of the springs,” said Schultz. “After the town springs were replaced by another source of water, the city no longer needed it and it became a quarry site. The gigantic cave overhang was chipped away for building material. Spring Street was named for having originated at the springs, however, after urban renewal, that connection was severed.”
The quarry was owned by Leftrict and Marbury. Samuel Leftrict was a skilled stone mason and was born a slave.
“Our county historian, Jimmy Haley, said there was evidence Leftrict’s partner may have been one of the once-slaveholding Marburys. A former slave and a former slaveholder in business together would be a compelling story.”
Schultz said a former slave going into business with a former slaveholder was probably unheard of at the time and it also makes the area part of Black Heritage in McMinnville.
The preservation group acquired the area. Over a several year period, volunteers cleaned it. Along with dense overgrowth, the site had been used as a trash dump.
“We don’t want to see this area return to what it was,” said Schultz. “It was a trash dump right in the middle of our city. It was hidden by dense overgrowth and you couldn’t see it. Out of sight and out of mind, I guess.”
Heritage Preservation has offered to deed the area over to the city so it can pick up where it left off more than 100 years ago in maintaining the area as a small city park.
Committee members agreed to consider the request.