Frances Allen and family grew up near spring

By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published Dec. 28, 2011

Charlotte resident Frances Allen remembers the refreshingly cold and clear water that bubbled from Hall Springs in her youth. She remembers the image of her grandfather reading his Bible under a lamp in the old log cabin near the spring.

Allen, however, doesn’t ever recall a werewolf romping around Hall Springs, aka Werewolf Springs. She said her grandson, however, is familiar with the legend.

In the Oct. 28 edition of The Herald, I wrote an article detailing the legendary “Wolfman of Borneo,” who escaped a circus train that derailed outside Burns in the mid-1800s. The beast has been rumored to stalk the area surrounding Hall Springs ever since.

Allen grew up on the land surrounding the spring and Hall Cemetery in Montgomery Bell State Park in Burns. She was quick to let me know she had never heard of, nor encountered, a werewolf during her childhood near Hall Springs.

Allen, whose mother Minnie Josephine Eleazer was a Hall, celebrated her 84th birthday Tuesday. The day also marked the 120th wedding anniversary for her late grandparents, Elbert “Ebb” and Arizona “Zonie” Meek Hall, who raised Minnie and their children near Hall Spring.

Allen recalled her grandfather Ebb pulling a seat close to a lamp so he could read his Bible and puff on his pipe, which left singed pages in the holy text.

The land that fostered the former Hall homesteads near Hall Springs is sacred to Allen, she explained as she sifted through the ancient pages and photos spread across one end of her dining room table.

The table was stacked with handwritten and printed histories, fading photos and preserved legal documents, all saved by her mother. We had to unplug Allen’s laptop to clear room for my spot at the table.

‘Big spring’

When the Halls lived on the present state park land, Allen recalled Hall Springs was the “big spring” with the “clearest, prettiest” water to quench your thirst. The family planted corn and other subsistence crops in her grandfather’s bottomland.

“That’s all they did, there was nothing else to do,” noted Allen.

Allen’s grandfather sold the land to the federal government for a planned recreational demonstration area crafted from “submarginal land,” now known as Montgomery Bell State Park. Park visitors can access the spring through a 10-mile overnight trail.

Allen possesses the contract documenting the sale of Marland A. Baker’s land, encompassing the spring area, to the Submarginal Land Program for $20 per acre for 100 acres.

“I bet they thought they were rich when they got (the money),” said Allen. “That was a lot of money back then.”

The contract is dated Feb. 28, 1935 and defines the property in the 5th Civil District of Dickson County, bordered by neighbors – east by E.J. Hall; south and west by A.J. Richardson; and north by D.G. Luther.

The contract states the program sought to conserve natural resources and to rehabilitate people living on submarginal lands. The National Park Service and the Civilian Conservation Corp began development in 1935 of the Montgomery Bell National Recreation Demonstration Area.

Allen was a bit puzzled how Baker, who’s mother was a Hall, came to own the land, and reckoned her grandfather must have sold a portion of the property to him. Baker’s contract retained one acre of the land for the Hall family cemetery.

Allen noted the family saved this document as proof they owned the cemetery.

Hallowed grounds

The cemetery has served as an important gathering place for the family. Halls would coalesce every Labor Day to maintain the hallowed grounds. Allen recalled a dinner accompanying the occasion, with everyone sitting on the ground to eat.

“I don’t know how we kept the ants away,” Allen mused about the dinners. “I imagine we just ate ’em too.”

She also showed me a photo capturing the Hall gathering in 1929, depicting Allen at age 2.

Hall’s mother grew up in a log cabin on hill between the cemetery and springs, with her parents Ebb and Zonie Hall and nine brothers.

“I don’t know how she got enough food for all those boys,” Allen pondered of her grandmother, “Mama Hall.”

She explained her uncles grew up to be “big, stout men,” venturing into various occupations.

Allen recalled the home being small for the family’s size, with an upper level where the brothers slept. Allen didn’t remember stairs to the upper loft, and supposed the boys climbed a ladder to go to sleep. The home also featured a long kitchen table with benches.

Allen noted the family tapped an old Oak tree near the site to make molasses, and “Mama Hall” canned and cooked food stuffs for the farm family. Allen also remembered the long walk up hill back from the springs carrying the drinking water.

Allen was raised in an old log home near the springs. She remembered the sound of the water from the spring’s run-off washing against a rock as the stream curved its way to lower land.

“I remember living there, but I don’t know when or how long,” said Allen.

She noted the home was divided by a dog trot separating the home’s kitchen and rooms. Allen, her parents and late older brother, Wade Jr. lived there. She said the home was vacant when the land was sold to the government.

Allen also recalled her family gathering at the “big spring” for picnics and ice cream suppers. She also noted the old Franklin Road passed near the “big spring.”

Revolutionary War veteran

The Halls lived on or near the land until the government began “buying up property” in 1933, said Allen. The residents were permitted to return to their lands within the new park boundaries after signing over their property to harvest their crops.

Allen explained the Halls came by the land through Revolutionary War veteran David Passmore, who served under Gen. George Washington. Passmore married Ruth Kelly Austin in 1807 in Orange County, N.C. The couple moved to Dickson County in 1807-08.

They had one child, Mary Fussell Passmore (1808-1850). She married Levi Reeder in 1825, became a widow, and married Benjamin Brown Hall in 1834.

Benjamin Brown Hall (1806-1878) was born in Georgia, and is Allen’s great-grandfather.

His parents, John and Rosanna Brown Hall, moved to Dickson County in 1810. Allen explained Passmore presented the Hall Springs land to his daughter as a wedding gift.

Benjamin’s first wife passed away, and he remarried Allen’s great-grandmother Mary “Polly” Fussell (1825-1900) in 1854. Benjamin’s first wife was the first person buried in Hall Cemetery.

Allen possessed a document listing statistics from an 1840 Census in Dickson County. Benjamin’s household listed the following individuals – four males, three females and one female slave.

Two of the males were under age 5, one between age 10-15, and Benjamin between age 30-40; one female was between age 5-10, another between age 10-15 and his wife between age 30-40.

In addition to the Halls and extended families, Hall Cemetery also features many slave gravesites.

Allen and her family relocated to Mulberry Street in Burns, where her father planned to build a home. He contracted a rare fever in 1933 and passed away at age 35.

Allen’s grandparents and their youngest child moved in with Allen and her family till they could build the planned home. Logs from the Halls’ oldest cabin by the spring, and from the cabin on a hill near the cemetery, were used to build a barn and a hen house for the Mulberry Street home.

Allen’s grandfather also bought land next to her mother’s property and planned to build a home with the old cabin logs in the barn and hen house, but within two year he also got sick and passed away.

Allen, her mother, grandmother and brother lived in the home on Mulberry Street.

Her mother’s youngest brother, Ted, passed away at age 26 from blood poisoning after appendicitis. Allen noted scientists hadn’t introduced penicillin as an antibiotic yet.

Allen’s brother, Wade Eleazer Jr. served in World War II and passed away in 1975. Her mother continued living in Burns till 1962.

Allen’s late husband, Bobby was the former Circuit Court Clerk. Their late son Steve Allen was a Vietnam veteran. Allen noted Agent Orange took its toll on Steve’s health.

Allen recalled the booming town of Burns in the late 1930s-’40s after her family relocated to Mulberry Street.

“I wouldn’t take nothing for growing up in Burns,” said Allen.