A trip to Gatlinburg in October or early November is a trip to be desired. The autumn colors of the trees on the mountains create a never-to-be-forgotten panorama.
But have you seen the gingko tree at the corner of Fifth Avenue West and Oak Street? Incredible!
Of course, there are smaller trees in town. And there is another large gingko at the corner of Fifth and Walnut. But the one at Fifth and Oak is most surprising.
Its green fan-shaped leaves are there, perhaps unnoticed, all spring and summer. But suddenly, when fall comes, the leaves turn gold.
And just as suddenly when the nights grow cold, the leaves are gone. The tree is bare.
The gingko is huge, and it is old.
The property itself goes back to the original Lot #21 of Springfield. As early as Dec. 18, 1815, Robert B. Carney had a residence there.
Mr. Charles Love says that probably on this lot was held the first meeting of Western Star Lodge No. 9 in Springfield.
Daniel Harton sold the lot on Feb. 1, 1823, for $1,100. He had lived there for seven years.
Other owners followed, but George W. Davis is the one most remembered.
In 1858, he bought the property and built the home. He had also been elected mayor around that time.
The home still stands, and the gingko is in the yard. The house is described as a “one-story cottage” with “a brick ell to one side.”
It was built soon after the marriage of Davis to Elizabeth Connell, daughter of Giles Connell, Jr.
George Davis had already become a major personality in Springfield. When he was very young, he had gone to Mississippi and worked as a day laborer picking cotton in order to “learn the business.” He next went to Memphis and clerked in a grocery store.
When he returned to Springfield, he at first worked in the store of his brother, Richard A. Davis.
By 1860 he was in the newspaper business. He had been elected mayor, but when the Federal troops came to town, his political duties ended.
So did the newspaper.
Davis and H.H. Kirk had published the “Springfield Spectator.” In 1862, John Hunt Morgan seized the press and printed one edition of “The Vidette,” a “war sheet.” Federal troops destroyed the press.
The war finally ended, however, and Davis was listed in 1868 as being in the business of “groceries, queensware, and hardware.” Queensware would have referred to items for the home.
In the 1880’s Davis and Rev. S.D. Ogburn went into the milling business. Davis also owned a brick kiln.
Meanwhile George Davis and his wife were the parents of three daughters – Ella, Addie, and Georgie.
Addie married Joel H. Bell. Her picture is displayed in the old Post Office/History Museum as the first postmistress of that building.
Georgie married Joel Bell’s brother, Charles A. Bell.
Miss Ella never married, and the house where she grew up was her home for most of the rest of her long life.
George W. Davis had bought his wife the first sewing machine in Robertson County.
And Mrs. Davis at some point purchased the gingko sapling from a traveling nurseryman. She died in 1909, so the tree is truly very old.
The many businesses of George W. Davis may have been forgotten through the years. But the magnificent tree on the corner of Fifth and Oak is a worthy memorial to the Davis family.
In the Eagle’s Eye is sponsored by the Robertson County Historical Society. Call 615-382-7173 for more information.