Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Smyrna and the sad tale of the mud hole.

Most people don’t know, but there was at one time a sizable lake/pond in down town Smyrna. Even where it was at is a hint confusing for some.

The first time I noticed a map that had the pond marked was the 1878 corner blowup map of Smyrna. The 1878 beers map can be found HERE if you wish to view the whole county.

My first reaction was to try to figure out where that spot is today.

I marked in red the three main roads and the one, now gone, rail road crossing. I find it impressive that they had three separate rail road crossings in just the downtown area back in 1878.

I then laid the same crossing lines on a shot of google earth.

Using google earth and the street names, I place the pond near this spot.

This pond was a sizable bit of water. Now this was not just a stagnant body of water, but one that had its own fish and such.

To get a little more history on the pond that is no more, you need to go to a document entitled “FOOT PRINTS IN THE MUD AND DUST AT SMYRNA, TENNESSEE” By Walter K. Hoover. (LINK)

Mr. Hoover is viewed by many as Smyrna’s first historian and much is known about the early part of our community’s history thanks to him.

In the paper he wrote he talks about the an early book in Smyrna

By word of mouth I had been informed that Mr. Joseph Engles had been the first Mayor of Smyrna, 1869. By evidence of record I knew his son Dr. J. W. Engles to be the first mayor of Smyrna under a new and different Charter of Incorporation in 1915. , 
Let me relate to you the circumstances that brought the following evidence to my attention. Evidence that shows the Engles family took care to preserve the record book of the 1869 to 1881 City of Smyrna records, only to come back to light be sheer circumstance. 
This book itself, evidently was left in Smyrna by some officer of the Union Army during the Civil War. It is a large ledger type book seventeen and one half inches tall, eleven and one half inches wide (when closed), leather bound, quite shaken or loose, worm eaten, and dirty, yet the contents are still legible 
So four years after the war when Smyrna needed the then scarce item of paper material to record the incorporation, and continuing minutes and records, some one came up with this Civil War record book. It proved to be an excellent choice.
 This book is full of items that look rather mundane on the surface.

While part of the daily business of government, they do show the earliest form of government, a Mayor and Alderman system, that lasted well into the year 2000+.

The pond was mentioned several times in the book, and was labeled “The Mud Hole case”. It seems to have been a source of problems.

Friday, February 21, 1879. 
"I think that A. Davis has traded Jo. Engles a track of land for his Smyrna property. I hope he has and that Engles will move out of Smyrna at once." (Perhaps where the minute book was found . 
G. S. Ridley was down and he and I went out and looked at the former mud hole and corporate lines and etc. "(in streets) 
Monday, August 4, 1879.  
"In company with J. M. Hight and J. W. Hager I went to Murfreesboro in a spring wagon and was up there nearly all day. The Criminal Court was in session and I went up to prosecute R. H. White for buying witness fees, he having reported the corporation authorities of Smyrna for having a mud hole in the road in December last. I do this to get even with him. Got home at 6 o'clock."
 I will have to say that a public record that says “I did this to get even with him” made me laugh.

Tuesday, August 3, 1880 
"I went to Murfreesboro in my buggie and worked S. E. Hager 's, horse. While up there I paid J. E. Arnold $5.00 and S. E. Hager. paid him $6.30 that being the balance on the corporation mud hole fine." 
Monday, May 16, 1881. 
"I also collected $7.00 due me by the Corporation of Smyrna, amount paid to criminal court in the mud hole case."

The mud hole case seems to dry up here, pun intended, and at this point Mr Hoover put some personal knowledge of the mud hole into the document.

A note by W. K. Hoover.
Look on page 9, 1878 map. See lake near depot. This lake originally extended under the buildings on the west side of Front Street. When Smyrna excavated along this street to install water mains the ditching equipment was stopped about three or four feet deep by railroad cross ties, placed solid together to hold up the roadway. They had to be chopped into to install the water pipes in 1936. 
I have seen boys fishing from a crosstie raft in summer and party's skating on ice in the winter. This lake was drained and filled with cinders by the railroad about 1920,
He mentions this at the very end of the last mention of the Mud Hole case. It was big enough to have a raft for kids, and to go fishing in. It also seemed to extend across Front Street at one point. In the 1880’s it is described as a mud hole, but I guess it got upgraded to a pond by the 1910-20’s.

So there was at one point either a glorified mud hole, or a nascent pond in the down town area of Smyrna.

Sadly I have not been able to find any images or pictures of the mud hole/pond.

A bit of Smyrna history for your enjoyment. The whole document about Smyrna is a good read and worth downloading in either text or PDF. 

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