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JIM, History: More on Columbia's Simon Spring

Simon Springs was mentioned in an earlier story: Ann Heskamp Curtis: Of the Town Branch, and much more. That wonderful story about the rise of one fork of the Town Branch, drew JIM's attention, inspiring the following fascinating story about the man for whom the spring(s) were named. And raises the question of where the location would be today.
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By JIM

Mention of Columbia's Simon Spring in the recent most excellent recollections piece about the Town Branch served as catalyst to bring together a handful of notes accumulated piecemeal over the years.

In 1942, an increased population necessitated that the South Columbia voting precinct be divided in half.



To that effect, a legal notice in the Newsdelineated the line between the No 1 and No 2 precincts, starting thus:
"Beginning at J.M. Frazier's place, on Burkesville Street, west side College Street, continuing straight street by graded school, to Simon Spring branch, those on northwest to be in South Columbia, No. 2, thence over hill of Tutt Addition. . ."
The spring drew its name from Mr. Simon Lester, sometimes called Simon Wheat. A mention in passing in June 1904 referred to him as "Simon Lester, of color, who has been a citizen of Columbia since 1852 . ." His wife had passed some weeks earlier and the News reported the family lived in the suburbs of Columbia. When he passed two years later, the paper reported his death on the front page:
"Death of an old colored man Last Monday forenoon [June 25, 1906], Simon Lester, of color who has been a resident of Columbia for more than 50 years, died at his late home. He was a victim of heart trouble, and was about 78 years old. He was born and reared on the Cumberland river, Russell county, and became the property of Milton P. Wheat, of this place, during slavery."
Milton P. Wheat, a well-to-do Columbia merchant, died in the fall of 1862. His will, written in 1859, left the bulk of his estate to his wife Rebecca, nee Miller, including "all of my slaves with their future increase. . ." However, Mr. Wheat added a strongly worded proviso that should the need arise for Rebecca to sell any members of her human chattel, she was to "tak[e] care not to separate Simon & his wife too far from each other, both of whom I own. Should it become necessary to sell either of the two last named slaves, for the cause before stated, he or she must be sold to live in the same vicinity if not together."

Mr. Lester's surname and the Russell county connection mentioned above likely places the locale of his birth (c.1828), or at the very least places where he spent some of his earlier years, as the southern part of the county not far removed from where Wolf Creek Dam stretches across the Cumberland River.

A few weeks after Mr. Lester's passing in 1906, the (unnamed) executor gave notice that Mr. Lester's personal property (chiefly, a horse, a hog, and a Jersey cow) and a two-and-a-half acre parcel of land would be sold (apparently but not explicitly stated) by public auction. The "Land, Stock, and Crop" column in the August 15th edition of the News noted Mr. M. (Montgomery) Cravens purchased the land, "consideration, $225."

A single reference found in the News appended a surname attached to the spring. When Mrs. W.E. Taylor died in April 1918, the News gave the Taylors' place of residence as "near the Simon Wheat Spring, in the southern portion of town." (In the 1910 Adair County census, the Taylors lived in the vicinity of the Columbia city limits in close proximity to several of the Afro-American families known to reside on and near Burkesville Street / Burkesville Road.)


This story was posted on 2018-03-14 03:22:47
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