The first Adventists to settle in Fountain Head in 1907, now considered part of the Portland area, left behind them a remarkable description of the community of their day and its early founders, some of whose families had moved here early in the 19th century.
A surviving manuscript contains no author, yet a careful reading of it shows that one of the early Adventists had to have written it.
A young man named Braden Mulford was the leading spirit among the Adventist pioneers to Upper Sumner County. He comprised part of the original student body of Madison College, founded in 1904. He was one of the first to go out and start an extension school of Madison near Ridgetop, Tennessee with another man, Charles Alden.
Then he went out on his own and bought a farm near Fountain Head, the site of Highland Academy, Highland Elementary School, The Bridge at Highland and the Highland Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Mulford then asked his sweetheart, a young school teacher named Pearl West doing mission service in Africa, to come home and marry him. She accepted and her brother, Forrest West, who happened to be married to the sister of Braden
Mulford, and his wife also moved to Fountain Head, and the nucleus of the
Adventist community here began.
I assume one of them wrote the following article. It shows these founders made an effort to know their adopted community and its culture as well as expresses their philosophy of education.
The term was not coined by us, for long before our arrival at this place, Fountain Head was here, and occupied a most prominent point in the mind of many who have been here before us. Going back to pre-Civil War days we find some of the most prominent families of this section living at Fountain Head.
Some of these have occupied places in the State Legislature, County Judges and members of the County court. It is interesting to note that there was organized at Old Fountain Head, in the year 1812, the first Methodist Episcopal Conference in this art of the country, under the leadership of Bishop [William] McKendree.
Bishop McKendree was a close relative of the Payne’s, who had been leading lights in the community for more than a century. Two of the families that had much to do with the earlier days were the Sarvers and Hodges. Henry Sarver came from Germany and settled in North Carolina with his wife, Thamer Holle Sarver.
In 1806 this family moved to Fountain Head. Isam Hodges came to America from England, and settled in Virginia. Later he moved, with his family and settled at Fountain Head about the same time with the Sarvers. We got this part of our story from Mrs. John House, who is a daughter of Elder M. Hodges, a Baptist Minister.
Mrs. House is 93 years old and remembers well the days of her girlhood. Her grandmother, on her father’s side was Elizabeth Clay, a first cousin of Henry Clay. The Butlers and the Ponds have added much to the community sinew for the past 75 years.
Space forbids our mentioning others by name, but we do want to add that when we came to this spot a quarter of a century back, we found a community of most splendid citizenship. We found lands that had been cleared by others. Many other opportunities were ours because of the energetic effort of men and women who had given their lives for the cause of progress.
We stepped into generations of accomplishments. It was only left for us to build upon what they had already laid out in a most substantial manner. To do this in keeping with the splendid foundation handed us was our duty—our most sacred trust.
As stated above, the term “Fountain Head” was not coined by us. Neither was it made up by those of the immediate generation before us. For when the Sarvers and the Hodges came in 1806, they found the place already named.
From best data that we can get we are led to conclude that the name came from the earlier settlers recognizing that this is the highest point in the Highland Rim, and too, because near this point they found a bursting, bubbling, ever-flowing spring of sparkling water.
We are glad that it was so named, and as evidence that those men were right in their conclusion, it is an established fact, that just to the North of Fountain Head Station is the highest point between Louisville and Nashville, and the spring is still flowing as it was found by them 125 years ago. We are glad for the name. We could not add to it. We shall use every effort to not detract from it.
It is hard for us to approach the subject of our own work. We would rather dwell upon the doings of those hardy men and women before us. But we have been asked to give a short story of the establishment and development of our work here, known as The Fountain Head Sanitarium and Rural School.
In giving the story of our own work, we feel that we must in this, also, grant to others the planting of the seed and the subduing of adverse mental decisions. For a considerable time before the first step was taken to open up an institution in this place, we had the privilege of being in close contact with a group of educators, who were ploughing up virgin soil in the educational field.
These men and women had stepped out from most prosperous positions in schools and colleges, and had come into the South with very limited funds, with the thought in mind of establishing a school on a farm, and to make that school 100 percent self-supporting to the student and to the teacher.
This same group of teachers said that young men and young women, the future home makers of our land, should be trained to honor the soil. That true education would bind up in its curriculum that combination of intellectual and industrial which would bring labor up to its rightful place. It was urged that the type of industrial training that should be given should include the various lines of work that must be done on the school farm, fruit growing and stock raising. Also that cooking and dress making should be a part of this.
To these activities were added various other lines of work such as carpentry, blacksmithing, auto repair and weaving. Still another phase was added. Recognizing the value of good health, it was urged that every student should receive definite instruction along the lines of diet, treatment of the simple diseases and the prevention of same.
It was urged that individuals, rounded out with this sort of training would make efficient home builders and community leaders. These men and women urged, much to the chagrin of educators in higher schools of learning, that for a student to learn to bake a loaf of bread and prepare a well-balanced meal, was a point of development of far more real worth than an accomplishment in the field of the languages or higher mathematics, without this practical training.
We have reference to The Nashville Agricultural and Normal Institute, founded in 1904 by Doctors Sutherland and Magan, Prof. Alden and their colleagues.
NOTE: The school they refer to is now Highland Academy and Elementary School.
Article submitted by Albert Dittes with the Highland Rim Historical Society.