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Welcome to Elm Springs!

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Elm Springs History
 

Elm Springs is a Greek revival mansion built in 1837 by Maury County’s master builder, Nathan Vaught.  It faces the Mooresville Pike, which was the old stage road from Franklin to Pulaski.  The name Elm Springs comes from the number of springs on the original farm.  At each spring, an elm tree had been planted.  Also, at one time an avenue of Elms extended from the house to the road.  Dutch Elm disease has killed most of these trees in recent decades.  The four Doric columns across the front of the house are unfluted.  They are made of rounded brick covered with plaster.  A number of bullet holes may still be found, reminders of Civil War Skirmishes that took place uncomfortably close to the house.  The house retains its original interior features, including original mantels, the broad main staircase, rear service stairs, pocket doors and other trim.  Most of the floors in the house are original, made of poplar.  Some of the furniture in the house today is original to the Looney family, such as the rectangular, marble-topped “petticoat table.”

 

James Dick had Elm Springs built as a gift for his only sister, Sarah, on 1837.  James and his brother, Nathaniel both or Ireland, had established a lucrative brokerage business in New Orleans by the name of N & J Dick Company which flourished and both amassed great fortunes after relocating to Louisiana in about 1809.  James Dick, a bachelor, had traveled in Europe, and it is said that he had Elm Springs built to the same specifications as one particular Italian Villa that he had admired.  Never to settle for half measures, after he built the house for Sarah, he had all fourteen rooms furnished with the finest imported pieces a healthy and generous purse could buy.  Sarah & her children inherited much of James Dick’s wealth when he died.  She was married to Christopher Todd who had settled in Maury County about 1827 and was a native of Virginia where they had married when Sarah was 23.  Christopher was born 1781,  Sarah in 1784 and had the following children:  Margaret G., Mary R., Ann Jane, Bernard, Sarah D., James Dick, and Susan K.  By the time of the 1836 tax list Christopher Todd owned 208 acres, 4 slaves, and had a $300 carriage.  Active in public life, Todd will be found as a subscriber to Jackson College in 1843, one of the underwriters for the construction of a new Presbyterian Church in 1848, and a charter member of the Duck River Slackwater Navigation Company.  They had four daughters and one son, who died at age 21 and was the first person buried in the small family cemetery near the house.  Six of the Todd grandchildren were living here in 1850.  The boys were attending Jackson College. A granddaughter, Eliza Calhoun, had graduated from the Columbia Institute in 1844.  After Sarah Todd’s death in 1853, one of the daughters, Susan, who had married Abram McClelland Looney, and her family came to live at Elm Springs to live with her father who died in 1868.

From this time on, the house was identified with the Looneys. The Looney family were Christians of the Presbyterian faith.  Abram Looney was a prominent local attorney, a gifted and eloquent speaker, a member of the State Senate, and also a horticulturist.   He was once selected to make a nominating speech for Isham G. Harris’ re-election to the U. S. Senate.  At this time Looney was in the state legislature, which chose our U.S. Senators.  (The people of Tennessee were not able to vote in senatorial races until a new law was passed in 1913.)  His stirring & enthusiastic speech assured the Harris election and was delivered without any notes.  Later he said he had not known what he was going to say until he began talking.  He was very active in the Democratic party and was a delegate to the Chicago National Convention which nominated Grover Cleveland in 1884.  Col. Looney died in 1904 at the age of 84.  When the Civil War began, Abram Looney became a captain in Company H., 1st Tennessee Infantry—The Maury Grays and was later promoted to Colonel & kept a diary of his experiences.

 

     The painting is entitled “Defending Elm Springs” by artist Marvin Stalnaker was commissioned y the SCV to depict the events of November 27, 1864.  The Federal troops occupying Columbia were anticipating a great battle with Confederate General John B. Hood’s rapidly approaching army from Florence, Al. as the line of battle was to extend from the Mooresville Pike to the Pulaski, to the Campbellsville and Mt. Pleasant Pikes, all large structures along this line had to be removed, and the quickest way was by fire.  It was considered a “military necessity”.  Many fine homes were burned that day.  Some fine homes were burned that day- Col. Trotter, John G. Hughes, W. S. Fleming, Col. William A. Sanford, and Peter R. Booker’s.  Elm Springs was also on the list, and in the thick of some skirmishing, a Union soldier placed a lighted broom in a closet under the rear service stairwell.  Fortunately, a trusted female slave removed the burning broom before extensive damage could be done.  The Union soldiers had already stolen the furniture and fixtures for the house, but the family’s 18th century silver service was hidden in a cistern on the property.  As this painting depicts, Mrs. Abram Looney appealed to General Frank C. Armstrong to protect the home from possible destruction, and he place soldiers here, making Elm Springs his headquarters.  The Looney’s 9th child, a boy, was just a baby at this time, and family members say his mother took him out into the yard because of the great amount of smoke inside the house.  Mrs. Looney later traveled with this baby to the Confederate lines in Northern Alabama so that her husband could see this newest child, born in his absence.  The boy, named Edmund, grew to become a county judge in Maury County.  The other children were as follows:  Sara T., Elizabeth G., James D., Abraham M. II, Christopher T., Susan T. Mary L., and Anna Jane W.

 

            The hall closet beneath the back stairs is still charred in the back from the burning broom.  These stairs were used by the slaves and the children & are quite worn from all the foot traffic over the years.  It was the custom of the day for children to use the back stairs until they “came of age”.  One marked innovation for that day and time was the placement of a two story ell, or extension, at one end of the house rather than at the rear.  Instead of a separate smokehouse, meat was hung in a room on the upstairs floor of this ell to be simultaneously cured by the daily rising smoke from the kitchen below.  According to record, at one point during the war, Colonel Abram Looney returned home long enough to kill hogs and left 1600 pounds of meat for the family’s provision.

 

     The family at Elm Springs and the family of Fairmount just across Mooresville Pike were close friends and it is said that on still evenings they could call across to each other by only slightly raising their voices.  Elm Springs farmed commercial daffodils in the 1950’s shipping 1,500 dozen picked blooms to the Chicago market each year.  The farm had largely been grown in tobacco and had a dairy operation.

 




























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Original Maury Grays Flag
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Courtesy of the Tennessee State Museum

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Col. Abram M. Looney of the Maury Grays

Wife of the Colonel, Susan K. Looney
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Mrs. Looney presented the decanter at right to Gen. Armstrong after his troops saved Elm Springs

James Dick bust
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James & his brother Nathaniel had Elm Springs built for sister Sarah Todd, Mrs. Looney's mother

View from the Elm Springs balcony
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Across the road is Fairmont built by John Smiser.

Christopher Todd buried at Elm Springs
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Sarah Dick Todd's husband & Susan K. Looney's father

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Elm Springs Gift Shop

Click here to visit our online store

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Elm Springs Gift Shop

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New elm tree nursery on the grounds

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Reproduction of the Maury Grays Flag

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Rose Hill Cemetery / Columbia, Tenn.

A Remembrance of Thanks
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Brandy Decanter given to Gen. Frank C. Armstrong for saving Elm Springs

Todd Cemetery on Elm Springs grounds
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James Dick Todd's grave stone was the first & largest stone in the Todd Cemetery

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Christopher Todd carved his son's name in this brick when his son died at age 21 of tuberculosis

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Gen. William D. McCain Library & Conference Room

Elm Springs Kitchen
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Feeding the multitude at a Tennessee Division Function

Preserving Our Heritage
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Work on recent damage to a chimney & brick by straight line winds

Keeping Elm Springs in top notch condition
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Plaster work on the children's stairway

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General John C. Brown

Tennessee Governor John Calvin Brown

Following the Battle of Franklin where he had been wounded, General John C. Brown, C.S.A., was brought here and remained here for several weeks until the Federal troops came back into the county.  Born in Giles County on January 6, 1827, John C. Brown was one of nine children & the brother of Governor Neill S. Brown, who was thirteen years his senior.  He was one of the best educated men the State has ever produced and was a graduate of Jackson College, Columbia. In 1848 he began the practice of law. In politics he was a Whig and made a brilliant canvass of the State as elector on the Bell and Everett ticket, 1860. He opposed secession; but when the State voted to go with the Confederacy he went with her.  With no military training, Brown entered the service of his state in 1861 as a Private and was quickly elected Captain, then Colonel of the 3rd Tennessee Infantry. He commanded his regiment in their invasion of Kentucky and Fort Donelson, where he was captured and sent to a northern prison. When released, he was promoted to Brigadier General and later to Major General.  At the battle of Perryville he was shot in the thigh and on leaving the hospital reported for duty while yet on crutches. His horse was shot from under him in the battle of Missionary Ridge; and at the battle of Franklin he was shot from his horse while leading a charge in which the severe wound ended his military career. However, he did rejoin his men in North Carolina in April 1865 and was paroled at Greensboro.  Brown returned to his law practice in Pulaski, was elected to the Legislature, 1869, and was the moving spirit in the Constitutional Convention of 1870. This same year he was elected Governor, defeating William H. Wisener; and in 1872 A. A. Freeman. Among the most important acts of his administration was the funding of the State debt, and the establishment of the present school system.  He was President of the Texas & Pacific Railroad and at his death was President of the Tennessee Coal, Iron & Railroad Company.   As a Master Mason, Brown was Worshipful Master of Pulaski Lodge, No. 101, and also served as Grand Master of Masons of Tennessee. A benefactor of the Church of the Messiah in Pulaski, "He was a faithful man and feared God above many."  Upon his death August 17, 1889, Governor John C. Brown was laid to rest in Maplewood Cemetery at Pulaski, Tennessee, where a life size statue, sword in hand and facing the South, marks his resting place. Carved on his monument appears a fitting inscription: "He was successful in every undertaking and faithful to every trust."

 

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Official website of Elm Springs Staff / Copyright 2013 Sons of Confederate Veterans