Old Fountain
Oakwood Cemetery
Corsicana, Navarro County, Texas


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Fountain in the Oakwood Cemetery - Dec 27, 1906
Postcard from the collection of Edward L. Williams

 

1/13/2002 FOUNTAIN OF HISTORY: Discovery could lead to restoration

By JOAN SHERROUSE/Daily Sun Staff

A skeptical parks department employee initially dismissed an elderly resident's claim that a turn-of-the-century fountain in Oakwood Cemetery once overflowed into a large pool beneath it.

"An elderly fellow came out here after this thing had been knocked down and he said there used to be a pool there about three feet deep," Tim Roop said.

Curious, however, Roop decided to investigate. After all, the cast-iron bowl and base of the fountain were pushed over by vandals at Christmas time and the city was thinking of raising money to restore the structure.

Sharla Nelson, director of parks and recreation, turned to J. E. and Jerry Johnson of J&J Manufacturing Co. in Fairfield, metal fabricators who have undertaken numerous city projects including construction of the overhead Christmas decorations on Beaton Street.

J.E. said the only part of the pool still visible was the top edge which looked like a round concrete curb.

A little probing, however, proved the resident's claim might hold water, so J.E. and his son Jerry started digging.

A few days later, the excavation uncovered an almost-undamaged concrete pool 12 feet across and 30 inches deep with a center section believed to once house the pumping mechanism which made the fountain functional.

The structure, which is located near the 15th Street entrance of the cemetery, is expected to stand about six-feet tall when it is put back together

Uncovering the pool was an amazing stroke of luck, but the Johnsons were even more impressed by the workmanship they discovered on the metal castings which made up the fountain's base.

"I've never seen any cast iron like this," J.E. said.

"That was made back when there were craftsmen," Jerry added. "I imagine it's a sand cast then, what they do at that time is get that cast looking real good then they start cleaning it up and smoothing it."

The detail on the fountain's bowl is believed to be even more intricate although a piece of the edge is missing and will have to be fabricated.

"It's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together without having all the pieces," J. E. said.

The fountain is believed to have been constructed in about 1908 at the same time a nearby bridge was installed, and a plaque on the fountain shows it was made by J. L. Motts Iron Works in New York.

Restoration will be a delicate hands-on project from the bottom up which includes cleaning the pool by hand, patching a few holes in the concrete, sandblasting it and finally painting it.

"We have a pool man coming from Dallas, and he's going to tell us what we need to put it all back as far as working order," Jerry said.

Nelson wouldn't speculate on how long the pool has been buried, but said no one at the city had any idea it existed.

Now, she can visualize a peaceful mini-park complete with curved benches, a little stone work to provide walking areas and decorative plantings to complete the picture.

Connie Standridge, city engineer, is also captivated by the fountain and the possibilities it presents, even if from a mechanical standpoint.

She believes it is entirely possible to provide the needed overflow drainage, plumbing and electrical work necessary to restore the structure.

"This is going to be beautiful," she said.

Hopefully, a combination of modern internet technology, meticulous old-fashioned metal work and community support will come together to solve the mystery of the old fountain and restore its former tranquil beauty.

Joan Sherrouse may be contacted via e-mail at jsherrouse@corsicanadailysun.com.

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ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Fixing the Fountain

Residents interested in helping to fund the Oakwood Cemetery fountain project should call Sharla Nelson, parks and recreation director, at (903) 654-4874.


1/20/2002 Townley remembers Oakwood Cemetery fountain

John Townley stands near the recently-discovered fountain at Oakwood Cemetery. Townley grew up near the park and fondly recalls the fountain when it was in use. Daily Sun photo/JOAN SHEROUSE

By JOAN SHERROUSE/Daily Sun Staff

John Townley was a boy of about 10 when he moved with his family from Kerens to Corsicana in the early 1940s, and some of his fondest memories are of hours he and friends spent playing near the newly-discovered fountain in Oakwood Cemetery.

"I remember a pond with goldfish in it, and water would come out of the fountain," he said. "It had a bowl at the top almost like a birdbath with water in it all the time, and we'd go down there and watch the goldfish and play around that thing a lot."

Townley lived near the old Kmart building, so he and his friends frequently climbed the fence or rode their bikes to Oakwood, spending a surprising amount of time appreciating the historic value of the cemetery.

"Mr. Roy Bunch was over the cemetery, and he knew us boys and knew we weren't going to damage anything," he said. "We respected people -- I wouldn't ever step on a grave, back then or now."

The fountain and pool, which the parks department is restoring since its discovery a few weeks ago, was a central gathering place for Townley and his friends, and he remembers it as an impressive structure.

"It seems like there was a small bowl at the top with a bigger one at the bottom," he said, a memory which coincides with the picture on an old postcard. "I remember it was silver in color and had some pretty metal at the top."

Although he doesn't remember the fountain ever being painted green, he recalled when a bridge over the nearby creek got a coat of paint.

"We had a secret hiding place on that bridge," he said. "The top rail on each end of it had a removable plate, and us kids found out we could loosen one screw and pull that plate off. We'd hide little things in there like slingshots and stuff like that."

The creek, filled with crawfish, provided another playground, but Townley recalled one unpleasant discovery.

"I can remember finding an old coffin that had been dumped in there to fill in and keep it from washing away," he said. "We thought there was a body in it, of course, but we finally got up enough courage to look."

Several gravesites were especially interesting to the boys, including two where children were buried.

"There was a grave by a cedar tree that had a glass case with a tricycle in it," he said. "Us kids used to stop and look at that tricycle and think about that little boy."

Another site drew the boy's attention because of what was apparently a unique family custom.

"There was a grave down there that had an angel with a cup and they used to put a penny in there for every birthday the little boy had," Townley said. "We used to count the pennies to see how old he was, but we always put them back. Pennies were a lot of money to us kids, but we'd always just count them and put them back."

Mulberry and persimmon trees provided both climbing opportunities and snacks, but respect for their surroundings remained an unspoken law among the boys.

"I guess kids are not taught to respect the dead any more," he said. "Now, we were mean kids and we did a lot of things we weren't supposed to do, but we respected the dead."

He recalled hours spent reading the tombstones in Oakwood and trying to imagine what kind of life the person might have had.

"That cemetery holds a lot of memories for me," Townley said. "When I look back, there are so many things I would have liked to have known before my mother and dad passed away, and if kids nowadays would talk to their parents and remember this stuff, I feel like they would have a lot happier future."

Joan Sherrouse may be contacted via e-mail at jsherrouse@corsicanadailysun.com


2/28/2002 Oakwood Cemetery Fountain Restored


City officials, with the help of residents and local businesses, have restored the uncovered fountain at Oakwood Cemetery. Daily Sun photo/SCOTT HONEA

By JOAN SHERROUSE/Daily Sun Staff

When a vintage fountain was found vandalized in Oakwood Cemetery, Sharla Nelson, director of parks and recreation, knew she had to act fast.

It was time to either restore the historic landmark to its former tranquil beauty or lose it forever.

So, based on several verbal promises of financial help, she chose to move forward with a restoration effort.

Days of sandblasting, painting and metal fabricating were followed by plumbing work, installation of a new pump and the electrical work needed to make the pump run.

"Although these improvements were not budgeted, patience, dedication and special talents have brought this project near completion," Nelson said. "Now, we are seeking commitments from the community to help pay for the restoration."

Later, she hopes to add one or two benches and some seasonal planting to make the site an inviting place to stop, but for now, she is glad the fountain is safely preserved.

"J&J Manufacturing Co. had to fabricate some pieces of the bowl and stand that were missing, and they did a wonderful job," Nelson said. "While they were working, they said a lot of people drove by and some stopped to see what was going on.

"Now, I'd appreciate the community's continued interest in the project."

She urges residents who have not seen the now-working fountain to enter the cemetery through the 15th Street gates and take a look.

"We have transformed the cemetery fountain into something the community can be proud of once again," she said.

In the spring, a walking tour through Oakwood Cemetery will highlight the historical sites, and Nelson is pleased to know the fountain will be one of them.

Joan Sherrouse may be contacted via e-mail at jsherrouse@corsicanadailysun.com


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