If you drive the road between here and Gallatin, you will pass through the community of Castalian Springs. The little cluster of homes, a post office and a few businesses was named for the springs of the same name in ancient Greece.
The connection these springs have to the springs in Greece is merely that they both have water gushing out of the ground. There were no Greeks involved in the naming of the community. Some early settler just liked the name.
But the white man who named the community was not the first man to set foot there. Almost a thousand years ago, there was a thriving community of Native Americans living there.
On your next drive to Gallatin, look to your right as you pass the Castalian Springs post office and notice the fenced-in field. In the middle of the field is a strange mound of dirt.
That mound is evidence of Native Americans.
You see, those very first settlers were part of a culture that we refer to as the “mound builders.”
There were no mound builders living here when the first white men arrived. The culture had mysteriously disappeared from the area. Only their mounds survived, built to elevate important buildings in their villages.
Historians today generally believe that the mound builders died out as a result of the introduction of disease brought to these shores by the Spanish conquerors of the New World. Those who survived abandoned their towns and villages and eventually formed new tribes – the Indians that we are more familiar with, such as the Cherokee, Shawnee, Creek and Chickasaw.
By the time the first settlers to this area arrived in the late 1700s, no Indians were living here or anywhere in Middle Tennessee.
However, the tribes mentioned above did frequent the area, hunted here, and claimed the land as their own.
The mounds that survived in Castalian Springs were not the only ones to be found. A large collection of Indian mounds can be found in Wilson County. Another set of mounds were plowed under in Dixon Springs.
And there were mounds in Hartsville!
The first name associated with modern-day Hartsville was Donoho’s Mill. That was changed when the Donoho family sold their mill to James Hart, but that is not when we became “Hartsville.”
Instead, the small settlement of Donoho’s Mill became the town of “Damascus!”
Why the name change and why Damascus?
Well, we don’t know why they didn’t just start calling the community “Hart’s Mill” to reflect the new ownership, but we do know why they picked Damascus.
According to the late historian James Welch Owen, the ancient Syrian town of Damascus was the oldest city on the route between Jerusalem and Rome. The presence of Indian mounds on the rise above Little Goose Creek, where East Main Street runs today as it leads out of downtown, indicated the location of another ancient town.
Welch claimed that the Indian mounds made that location the oldest city on the new road between Knoxville and Nashville, a road today known as the old Avery Trace.
The similarity between the two locations made for the designation of Damascus onto the former community of Donoho’s Mill.
Those mounds were plowed under and leveled to build homes and farms. Today, no evidence of those mounds can be found.
The speaker at the Nov. 12 meeting, in two weeks, of the Trousdale County Historical Society will be Professor Kevin Smith. Smith has been in charge of the digging at the Castalian Springs mounds over the last decade and will speak on what he and his workers have found and their significance.
We also call our readers’ attention to the new location for our society meetings. We will start meeting at the County Archives building, behind the new County Administration building, on Broadway, across the street from Sonic.