Austin family helps dedicate the historic site

By Josh Arntz
The Dickson Herald

Published June 24, 2015

The Lonesome Pioneer Park officially opened last weekend in Burns.

The park centers around an early 1800s log cabin and surrounding property donated to the town by Bill Austin.

The Austin family and Lonesome park board of directors hosted a dedication ceremony Saturday morning at the site off Highway 96 near Lime Kiln Road, officially dedicating and opening the park.

Bill Austin recalled how his ancestors William and Dicy Horner Austin moved into the newly-built cabin in 1820, not knowing what would happen next week. He suspected they “never would have imagined” the structure lasting 200 years.

Austin described the dedication ceremony like a wedding, with the cabin being the bride and the town being the groom.

“And I am like the father of the bride giving her away…” Austin said. “Look at her, isn’t she beautiful. She’s never looked prettier.”

Also present Saturday was Austin’s 98-year-old mother, Lucia Patton Austin, who brought her son to the cabin throughout his childhood.

“We trust you all. We know that you’re going to take good care of our cabin and the cemetery and the land,” Bill Austin said. “And we look forward to being a part of that with you.”

Park’s future

Lonesome park board member Dianne Hotvedt thanked the Austins for their gift and alluded to the park’s future.

“Today the community is accepting a huge responsibility with this gift,” Hotvedt said. “We are now going to be responsible for the trees, the grass, the flowers that are planted.

“We want this to be a peaceful, peaceful place, just like Lonesome has been forever,” she added.

Park board member Bob Deal outlined plans for the park, which also included clean water exhibits. The cabin and land abut Beaverdam Creek.

“Because the people who settled this area came in, they found a spring and they built the cabin near the spring,” he said.

The board expects to replace a spring house on Beaverdam Creek that washed away in 2010, Deal noted.

Deal described future walking trails, an arboretum and botanical areas on site too, along with a “demonstration garden” with foods early settlers would have grown.

Deal hoped to turn the cabin into a Burns history museum, and pointed to the first major project on site – a picnic pavilion with public restrooms.

“We’re hoping to get that started right away because we’ll include in that some public toilets,” Deal said of the picnic pavilion, “and we need those down here in order to make the place a little more habitable.”

Delayed progress

Deal acknowledged the park was supposed to open in April, but progress was delayed. Deal broke his neck in 2014, which slowed the board’s work.

The Burns Commission unanimously agreed to accept Bill Austin’s terms for donating the Lonesome Cabin property to the town for a municipal park in November 2013.

Deal noted “tremendous progress” for the park during the last few months.

“So, we’re well on our way to catching up,” he added.

Saturday’s dedication served as a park fundraiser event as well, with Hotvedt calling for volunteers to help with the park’s developments. She noted “a lot of activities” planned for the park.

“And that means we need a lot of people,” she said.

Hotvedt referenced the park board’s “first endeavor to involve the community in a daylong activity” will take place this fall with a folk festival, featuring 19th century music and history demonstrations.

In October, the board will partner with a local high school drama department to present weekend “spook drama” stories in the park’s cemetery. Hotvedt explained “a very unusual grave” in the cemetery will be the “basis” for the productions.

Several local public officials attended Saturday’s dedication, including Burns Mayor Landon Mathis and Commissioner Shot Grove, town attorney Tim Potter, state Reps. Mary Littleton and David Shepard and Dickson County Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe.

Littleton presented Austin and the park board with a state proclamation, and Bledsoe with a county proclamation, recognizing the cabin’s history and construction, along with the Austin family’s gift.

Hotvedt summed up the board’s appreciation for that gift.

“There’s not enough words to say thank you to the Austin family, other than us making this so great that it continues for another 200 years,” she said.

For more information about the park, visit the Friends of Lonesome Pioneer Park Facebook.com page.

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