Rural Hamlets of Upper Sumner County:
Fountain Head, Bucklodge,and South Tunnel
School paper by Denise Harper Wilson, 1983
Used by permission.
The Fountain Head Community
In the fall of 1799 two or three hundred pioneers started overland to make settlements in Middle Tennessee. They wanted to avoid the real mountainous route through Tennessee. They entered Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap and traveled along the Kentucky Trace to Whitley's Station. They went to Drake's Creek past a large Maple Swamp to a big Bituminous Spring (Old Fountain Head); then to Red River to Kilgore's Station just west of Cross Plains; and on to Mansker's Creek and finally to French Lick (Nashboro) arriving there December 25, 1799, some four months before the group that came by boat. This shows us that Fountain Head Community was on an early pioneer trail.
The Fountain Head Community stands out as one of the most interesting historical landmarks of Sumner County and Middle Tennessee. It had its beginnings before the Revolutionary War. Captain DRAKE and a group of soldiers pursued Indians up a stream now know as Drake's Fort. He observed that this stream was being fed by many large springs and decided it would be a good place for a fort. We should give Captain DRAKE the credit for the real beginning of the village that later became a hamlet known as Fountain Head.
Many settlers and prominent families soon followed. Among these pioneers were the names; BUTLER, GWINN, GOODALL, HODGES, GATES, SARVER, LARZELERE, HOUSE, KIRBY, BUMPUS, ALBRIGHT, and later MCKENDREES and HARRIS families.
GOODALL built a water mill on which bark was ground to tan leather. Its location was near what is now known as Brady's Spring, then known as Tanyard Spring. A little ways downstream SARVERs build a large watermill for grinding grain. This was the first flour mill in the country and drew customers from a large area until finally washed away by a flood many years later.
James GWINN was the first of the families to locate here. He came to America from Wales and settled near Charleston, South Carolina. He later moved with a wagon train in 1791 to Tennessee country. He stopped and took a large holding of land near Fountain Head (spring) to which he was entitled under a land grant for military service. This GWINN land was later bought by John RONEY, who, when the railroad was built, deeded two acres to the railroad for a depot site and loading yard.
James GWINN became a Methodist preacher in 1803 inspired by his good friend William MCKENDREE. James GWINN later enlisted as a Chaplain under General Andrew JACKSON in the War of 1812.
Samuel GWINN son of James GWINN was appointed Postmaster at Fountain Head by President Jackson on April 7, 1828. The office was in his residence near the spring and was the second Post Office north of the ridge. In 1848, the Post Office moved to Fountain Head Cross Roads. Again in 1875, the Post Office was moved to the depot. It was consolidated with Portland in 1958. The last Post Master was John H. CROWDER. During this time twenty-two postmasters served this area. There was only one robbery of the Post Office; the thief escaped with $4.80.
William McKendree GWINN, another son of James GWINN, was appointed to a political office in Mississippi by President Jackson. It carried a salary of $75,000 a year. When California became a state, he was elected as the first United States Senator.
Just a short distance from the Post Office was the home of a MARTIN family. This family of MARTINS later became the beginners of the present Martin College at Martin, Tennessee.
Just a short distance from the old WATTWOOD home stood was MCKENDREE Academy. A golf course was once in this area.
The coming of the L&N Railroad brought changes to Fountain Head. As soon as the people knew where the railroad would be built, they began to move to the railroad, changing the community center. It was now located on the L&N Railroad two miles south of Portland and twelve miles north of Gallatin.
During the building of the railroad a resident of Fountain Head, Mr. SARVER who was said to be a lazy man, and his slaves would come and sit on the porch of the community store and watch everyone else work.
Taking up the religious part of the Fountain Head Settlement, the Methodist Western Conference, which had first been convened at Strother's Meetinghouse at Cottontown, Tennessee in 1802, had grown to such an extent that the General Conference meeting in New York City, May 1, 1812, divided it into the Tennessee and Ohio conferences. The Tennessee conference, know at the time as the "Old Jerusalem Conference," was called to meet at Fountain Head, Sumner County, on November 12, 1812. There the conference was organized by Bishop Frances ASBURY and Bishop William MCKENDREE, who four years earlier became the first American born bishop of the Methodist Church. He died at the MCKENDREE farm March 5, 1835 and was buried there in the family cemetery. Forty years later his remains were removed to the campus of Vanderbilt University.
The meetings at Fountain Head were held in the old log meetinghouse then at the home of MACAJAH house, about one mile east of Portland. The meetinghouse structure was typical of the frontier period. It was described as being approximately twenty by thirty feet, rectangular in shape, and built of small round logs, chicked and dabed. There was a made of four-foot boards, weighted with poles. A single fireplace with stick-and-dirt chimney was located at one end of the room.
These meetings at Fountain Head might well have been the beginning of the congregation that some thirty years later began the church was so long known as Old Fountain Head. This was about 1811 or 1812. This first church building was a log structure about 18 x20 feet. It was used for a number of years and was outgrown. The Methodist congregation at Fountain Head erected a new church building in 1830.
This first little church was replaced by an eight sided, log structure with a self supporting roof. It was used until in 1862 when it was torn down by Union soldiers and the logs hauled to Fort Mitchell at Bucklodge to build barracks for the soldiers guarding the railroad and water tank from Confederate and Guerilla raids.
No replacement was attempted until 1867 when a two story frame building was erected. The Fountain Head Masonic Lodge No. 326 occupying the upper story. The lodge had been previously organized at the home of O.P. BUTLER who had moved from the Wright's Cross Roads and built the two storied brick building, now still know as the BUTLER place.
There are four churches in New Fountain Head area. The Methodist organized in 1892; the Seventh Day Adventist, organized in 1906; the Church of Christ organized in 1938; and the Baptist, organized in 1947.
In 1866, two acres of land was given for a school. The state gave a small amount of money, and the Old Fullows Hall was built. The building was replaced in 1952 by a modern five room fireproof brick structure.
There were various clubs organized in the community. The Community Club was organized in 1926, the 4-H in 1928, the Home Demonstration Club in 1946, and the P.T.A. in 1952.
When Fountain Head was a hustling country community there was not a single residence in what became Richland in 1858. Well, you know, time changes everything. Soon "Old Fountain Head" began to die a long, slow death. A Methodist Church had been built at Richland, another at Fountain Head Station and along with the rest of the "Old Fountain Head Community" the church just withered away. Nothing now remains but a large cemetery and a marble monument commemorating the holding of the first Middle Tennessee Conference there.
I would like to mention a few more of the prominent men who lived in the Fountain Head Community: Dr. DURHAM, an early Medical Doctor of the community; Captain W.G. POND, Sr., who was a Confederate veteran of distinction, a merchant, and a prominent citizen of the community; and W.R. BUTLER, Magistrate, County Judge, and a prominent farmer of the community. At one time in the community a distant relative, Herbert HARPER, owned a grocery store. Due to being over worked by holding down a job in Gallatin, raising a large family, plus the extension of too much credit of his merchandise, he was unable to stay in business.
Fountain Head Church of Christ
The earliest record that can be found about Fountain Head Church of Christ is 1902. In that year a Brother SHOULDERS held a meeting at the school house and a few members began meeting each Sunday. Some of the members soon began to move away, while others began worshiping at Portland. They discontinued meeting at the school house altogether.
A few years passed and a lot was bought in the Center Point Community and a good sized building was built. The name of the church was then known as Jones Chapel.
Between the years 1927 and 1930 again some moved away, while others began to worship at Portland. They quit meeting at Jones' Chapel. October 26, 1930, the church met for the first time in a building that had been previously used as a storehouse in the Fountain Head Community.
In the early 1940's the congregation began to want a new building. On January 24, 1944 work was begun on the new building. An addition was built on in 1970. The average attendance is 125.