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Picturing the Past 69: In search of courthouse stones

Posted Tuesday, July 13, 2010, at 7:20 AM

The bottom stones forming the columns at the Lane Parkway entrance to Willow Mount Cemetery were taken from Bedford County Courthouse after it was rebuilt following the December 1934 riot. (T-G Photos by David Melson)
Last week's Picturing the Past featured old vs. current photos of Bedford County Courthouse -- and what happened to the stones forming its old columns after they were replaced in the 1935 rebuild.

Several persons, both in blog comments and in person, mentioned where several of the stones forming the old columns ended up. Others said they didn't realize stones they'd seen around over the years came from the pre-riot courthouse.

So, in the most photo-heavy Picturing the Past yet, welcome to The Tour of the Courthouse Stones, based on comments made by Jerry Cook and others about the stones' locations. The top photo is at the entrance to Willow Mount Cemetery on Lane Parkway. Only the large bottom stones on each column were taken from the courthouse.


These stones stand at the driveway of a home on Warners Bridge Road just west of the Shelbyville city limits. Pay close attention to the flat, smoothly-cut stones at the top of each column. Those appear to have been taken directly from the old courthouse as well (note the pre-1934 photos, at the top of the columns). When did the road's name change from Fishingford Pike, as I always heard it referred to as late as the 1970s?


The Confederate monument on the southwest side of the courthouse lawn, also using stones from the old building.


And the World War I monument on the southeast side, dedicated Nov. 11, 1935 and made of stones from the former courthouse.


At the entrance of Audubon Road off South Brittain Street stand two identical stacks of stones, this one on the south side of the road and both including more of the courthouse column-toppers. Look closely at what appear to be bullet holes, and note the stones stacked on their sides in the ground nearby.


A closer look at the row of side-stacked stones off Audubon Road.


One of two identical columns at the entrance to the American Legion Center on Kingree Road.


More of the stones, this time on East Lane Street on the westernmost of two side-by-side homes.


Stones at the second of the East Lane Street homes. The ones at far right are next to what I believe used to be the driveway of a large older home on Cooper property that burned in the very late 1960s or early 1970s.


What's left of the stones at the entrance to Fritzsche Trailer Park, East Lane Street.

So far we've accounted for approximately 90 of the missing stones from the columns of the 1870s version of the courthouse (I'm not going to try an exact count) but, if I've counted correctly on the 1934 photo, the majority remain unaccounted for.

I love how this blog sometimes goes in unexpected directions as a result of reader comments. I would never have expected to go courthouse stone-searching.

Early Celebration photos: We need photos of the original construction phase of today's Celebration Grounds from the 1940s or so for a story in our annual Celebration special edition. Can you help?

Picturing the Past is featured each Tuesday in this blog. Reader submissions are welcome.

Showing most recent comments first
[Show in chronological order instead]

David----The Bedford County Courthouse stones I identified in a previous Blog and you photographed are the courthouse column stones and are peculiar to the 1872 courthouse structure that was burned in 1934. Homes, houses and buildings have been erected in Bedford County since it was established in 1807 with logs, bricks and stones. Homes and public buildings have been erected in Shelbyville since it was founded on May 2, 1810 when Clement Cannon donated and deeded the 100 acres to the commissioners for the new county seat. They were also made of logs, bricks and stones. Not any of these earlier stones used for building materials were taken under consideration---just the ones identified here and photographed that belonged to the 1872 Courthouse. By the way, your photographs of the various Courthouse columns located in various parts of Shelbyville are well photographed and are beautiful and very historic looking. Very good job. As for the large stones used in the building of the 1867 Bedford County jail that is still standing in Shelbyville, I cannot produce a photo, but from years of my research on local history, I can produce an article that may prove interesting. I began my interest in local history back in the early 1960's. On July 19, 1934, Mr. O. C. Walker, a noted local Shelbyville historian, wrote an article for the Shelbyville Gazette which he titled, "Incidents of local Days." Incidently,I met Mr. O. C. Walker back in the 1960's when he and I sat in a swing on his front porch getting acquainted and talking about local history, a subject we both enjoyed. Mr. Walker even gave me an old Bedford County postcard that I have to this day. Anyway, I quote from his article his information about the stones and the mule in building the 1867 jail: "In conversing with my dear old friend, Mr. J. W. Naron, who lives about four miles southwest of Shelbyville, I found out that it was a very usual occurence for him, with Mr. Jim McMillon, deceased, to walk eight miles to town, when a lad. They would come from their homes near the Bell Buckle lane to town and trade and when through return by foot. On one occasion sixty-seven years ago, (1867)he and Mr. Jim McMillion came to town afoot to see the construction of the new jail, which was built in the year of 1867. They approached the building and climbing the scaffolds walked around the top of the building when there was only one more layer of rocks to be put on to complete the present jail of Bedford County. He says that they had a mule in the swamps going round and round, lifting the rocks and carrying them several hundred feet to the building and then lifting them up over the place to their final location, when a man stood ready to see they were properly lined up. This was done with blocks and rope....." This article makes you wonder where the swamps were and where was the location the stones actually came from. Hope this helps.

-- Posted by Highway64 on Sun, Jul 18, 2010, at 12:46 AM

Bo, I do not believe that I have ever seen a picture of the Jail when it was under construction. It sure would be interesting to find some.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Jul 14, 2010, at 4:39 PM

Pardon me for getting off the subject for a moment. I've heard of, but have never seen, pictures of the old Bedford County Jail at the time itr was being built. The grandson of an elderly lady told me at least 25-30 years ago she had pictures of the big stones in the jail being pulled by donkeys around the building site. She was extremely protective of those pictures and wouldn't allow anyone to see them. It would be great to know where those stones came from and if the donkeys pulled them to the jail site.

-- Posted by bomelson on Wed, Jul 14, 2010, at 3:16 PM

David, I have a folding map of Bedford County with Shelbyville, Wartrace, and Bell Buckle. It is dated 1990 and it shows Fishingford Pike and Warners Bridge Road just like it was in my memory, so my guess is that the name change came after 1990.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 4:43 PM

As a child we lived in an old farm house on Lewisburg Hwy. We had large square stones such as these around the property. In fact we used one a s a step leading from the back of the house. I know that home was built many years before 1934, so I am sure large stones were a common building item and not peculiar to the courthouse.

-- Posted by balloon boy on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 3:08 PM

Wow David, I hardly know where to start today. First of all the capstones on pictures 1,2,5, and 8 eeriely resemble the capstones in the 1934 burn-out picture from last week that could be found at the top of the lower floor limestone columns.

Secondly, the three East Lane photos from this week remind me that my footprints could probably be found on top of the walls in all three of these pictures as I walked on top of them often as a child. The wall surrounding the frontage of the old Whitthorne Mansion/Boyd Mansion was constructed from field stones and a little harder to walk than the hewn stones at the Cooper place, and at the Fritzsche property. Another thought just came to my mind that on the Whitthorne Mansion wall, it went all the way around the curve where East Lane and Whitthorne Streets join. Right in the middle of the curve there used to stand a big Catalpa tree where the local fisherman came to get their Catalpa worms, and the local boys gathered the seed pods and called them Indian Cigars, or dogars. Sorry, just a fond memory.

Thirdly, I first thought that the holes could be from iron hardware being mounted on the stones for a gate or arch of some sort because I remembered an arch at the Audubon Road site going down to the old Toby Green stables. I went to Bing Maps and discovered that the arch is still there and it is made from 2 1/2 or 3 inch pipe, so that blows that theory. I guess that I will probably agree with marnold1118 and garhawk that they were probably used in moving the stones.

As for Fishingford Pike, I left Shelbyville in 1976, and in my mind up until at least that time Fishingford Pike and Warners Bridge Road were two distinct roads. Fishingford Pike ended at Temples Ford Lane. There was an offset in the road and then Warners Bridge Road took up at that point and ran all the way to Simms Spring Branch where it intersected with Simms Spring Road. Not proof positive, but just my memories.

As for the Horse Show Grounds, I was there some time during the day of nearly every day of construction. Me and Ezralee Swing sold soft drinks, candy bars, and eat-a-snacks to the workers from his bicycle basket. However, we never took any pictures. I think that when the grandstand was being built was my first time to ever see a welder in use. At least I know that I was fascinated by the welders. In the back of my mind I am pretty sure that I have seen construction photo from that period. I am thinking that the Blue Ribbon Magazine from years past might be a good source.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 10:18 AM

What I've pictured here is based on comments made by several people. One of the purposes this blog can serve is to clarify truths and wrongs about our area's history. Is one of the structures above yours, Garhawk?

-- Posted by David Melson on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 10:12 AM

My apologies for the previous comment directed to Mr. Carney. I associated the picture with the heading listed to it's side.

My words should have been to David.

-- Posted by garhawk on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 9:09 AM

Mr. Carney:

How did you identify the stones you show in your photographs as those coming from the Courthouse?

I personally own many stones of this shape and size and, can assure you they were never used at the Shelbyville Courthouse. The structure in which my stones are contained was erected long before the courthouse of which you refer and, most of the stones are in their original position today.

As for the holes which you suggest may have been caused by gunfire, they were actually made by the stone masons for the purpose of moving the heavy articles. If a lenghty rod is inserted into the hole, the stone can be moved by rolling with surprisingly little effort.

I suggest many of these stones around Bedford County and the immediate area were quarried and masoned by a local enterprise and, unless there are some definitive markings tying them to the Courthouse, then it would seem to me to be impossible to determine their origin of placement.

-- Posted by garhawk on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 9:05 AM

David, Great blog today. What about a scavenger hunt trying to locate other stones from the old Courthouse columns?

Regarding the indentations (holes) which you said may be from gunshots during the riot, and may have been, but I have another possible theory. If you look closely at all the photos in today's blog, many of them have similar indentations midway of the blocks which I think may have been made (1) originally when the stones were installed during courthouse construction, or (2) when the stones were relocated for various uses. Thoughts?

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Tue, Jul 13, 2010, at 8:29 AM

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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.