By: Judge John L. Kiener
(Editor’s Note: Following is how the Mill Spring became the name-sake of Spring Street in Jonesborough according to the following poem about the Mill and Brook Spring given by Sarah Kate Whitaker to George Campbell with a written note stating: “This was given to me 20 years ago after I read the Rev. J. B. Herndon’s poem.” A legend connected with the poem says that “he who drinks out of the Mill-Brook Spring will return to Jonesborough.”)
By George Robert Campbell
The Mill Spring, the name-sake of what is now called Spring Street in Jonesborough, flows from the east side of the old Jim Beckett store. The spring, before Spring Street was widened, was quite a grand sight. It had limestone steps leading down into the cool water.
This (the widening of the street) is what prompted the Rev. J. B. Herndon, pastor of the Jonesborough Presbyterian Church, to write “The Legend of the Mill-Brook Spring.” I think it was in the 1950s that the Town of Jonesborough decided to widen Spring Street. The spring was a bottleneck. They instructed H. H. “Spoolie” Campbell to cover half the top of the spring. “Spoolie” covered part of the spring by first placing railroad rails across the spring. He then covered the rails pouring cement over them.
I can remember the blacksmith shop on the town side of the Beckett Store at the corner of where Woodrow Avenue joined Spring Street. As mentioned in the poem, “the musical blows of the anvils ring from the sooty smithy nigh.” It really makes me sad to see the Mill Spring forgotten as it is.
THE MILL-BROOK SPRING
By Rev. J. B. Herndon
Have you ever seen the Mill-Brook Spring that flows in the ancient town?
Have you ever drunk from its limpid depths the magical waters down?
Hard by the railway flows the Spring, and many a traveler stops to drink,
And catches a glimpse of a Heaven below, as he pauses over the brink.
The Mill whirls on in endless song, as the days and weeks go by,
And the musical blows of the anvils ring, from the sooty smithy nigh.
And the brook flows down thru the quiet town, and makes the meadows green,
All along its sides the snow drops hide with buttercups between.
(Repeat # 1 Verse)
There are wonderful tales the townsmen tell, with never a doubt of the truth,
For they verily believe these waters have a power o’er age and youth.
And a legend they add to all their tales, an ever confident refrain,
Whoever drinks from the Mill-Brook Spring, is sure to come back again.
A child drank here and wandered afar, till all had forgotten his name.
But an old gray man in the after years, back to the village came.
And begged a place to lay him and die, when he drank of the Spring once more,
And they laid him to rest on the warm earth’s breast, where he sleeps till time is o’er.
And lovers many have wandered here, to the parting of the ways,
And gazing the magical waters, dreamed, they would meet in other days.
A youth left home for the great wide world, that lay o’er the valley rim,
And his mother led him to the Mill-Brook Spring, and looked to the future dim.
A soldier brave in his Southern Gray, marched away with never a fear,
For the Mill-Brook waters assured the wife, he was sure to come back to her.
And men, they say, have been known to go across the wave-tossed main,
And brave the storm, and famine, and death, and yet come back again.
And the young and old who have tasted here, the sweetest waters God has made,
Have found its magical powers true for man or woman, boy or maid.
(Repeat # 1 Verse)
I went to the Mill-Brook Spring one day, and drank of its waters cold,
A warm wind blew from the Southern climes, and the meadows were all in gold.
A subtle something filled my soul, that made me dream of bliss,
It may have been the April sun, or a fairy’s enchanting kiss.
And she who walked by my side that day, was full of laughter and song,
And the flow of beauty that flushed her face, was full and fair and strong.
“You’ll come back now, I know,” she said, ‘For you’ve drunk of the Mill-Brook Spring,”
And it seemed so glad a thing to her, that future days might bring.
And about my heart a secret string, today draws me back to the place,
It may be the charm of the Mill-Brook Spring, but it may be the charm of her face.