The land that houses the city of Cleveland’s most historic source of water may soon be sold.
In June, the Cleveland City Council delayed a vote to sell the site located at 283 1st St. N.W. next to Superior Cleaners. Attorney Jim Webb had previously owned the site.
Webb donated it to the city because of its historical significance. The City Council accepted the building as a gift, but never used the building, according to published reports.
The historical significance of the building is due to a spring that flows underneath the structure.
The spring — nicknamed “Taylor’s Spring” — was the deciding factor in where the city of Cleveland, the county seat for Bradley County, was to be established in 1837, according to author John Morgan Wooten. The author wrote “A History of Bradley County” in 1949.
The history around the area began in 1836 after the Ocoee Purchase, Wooten said, when the Tennessee General Assembly began holding Saturday meetings to determine where a permanent seat of justice would be located.
“The records tell us that there were two areas of land under consideration — one was owned by Cleveland’s first settler, Andrew Taylor,” Wooten wrote. “The other was owned by an Indian named ‘Deer in the Water’.”
Taylor’s house was on the lot that eventually became the parking lot north of the old downtown post office. Early settlers called the house “Taylor’s Place,” which is now on the corner of 2nd Street and Broad Street N.W.
Today, a large Dogwood tree stands at the corner of the property.
The Indian’s land was on what later became the B.T. Finnell place on Cleveland-Benton Pike, according to reports. The land is three miles east of where the city is located today.
In 1835, the first permanent white settlement had begun to form at what is now called Cleveland. Prior to this date, Taylor — who had married a Cherokee woman named Jane “Jennie” Big Bee (Bigby) — had been allowed to have 160 acres in the Cherokee Nation.
The boundaries of the Cherokee Nation were partly on the Hiwassee River. South of the Hiwassee the line ran about halfway to Atlanta, while the west boundaries went to Ross’s Landing on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga. The east boundaries went across the Smoky Mountains and included parts of North Carolina.
Taylor was living in the log house when the controversial removal treaty — or Treaty of New Echota — was made with the Cherokee Indians, according to Roy G. Lillard, author of the 1976 book “The History of Bradley County.”
“To the pioneer settlers, the first consideration in seeking a place to build a home was always a spring of flowing water,” Lillard said in the book. “This is why the Taylor house soon became a favorite stopping location for travelers — because it was the only spring on the property.”
The Taylor property soon became the largest and most important colony of the Ocoee District, Lillard wrote.
As a result, when the first county court met in 1836 to call an election to make a county seat, “Taylor’s Place” was one of the two sites placed before the voters. The other location was three miles east on the reservation of the wealthy Indian, Deer in the Water.
The Hiwassee Railroad Company had surveyed its line from Dalton, Ga., to Knoxville through Deer in the Water’s reservation, and the road had been partly graded, and wooden stringers for the track had been delivered.
The railroad company had actually already started building on the land, records indicate.
“The railroad officials assured the voters that a station would be built at this point and emphasized the importance of having the county seat on the railroad,” Lillard wrote. “History could have been very different if it were not for Andrew Taylor’s secret weapon — the water source.”
The large group of people whohad formed at Taylor’s Place countered with the argument that water was of more importance to a town than a railroad.
“Certain folks argued that at the location on the Deer-in-the-Water reservation, there was but one small spring and that to dig wells, at that time, was expensive,” Lillard wrote. “At Taylor’s Place, on the other hand, there was enough flowing water for all purposes. It was quite the local drama.”
In the end, a one-vote majority selected Taylor’s Place.
“The spring was the reason the city of Cleveland is where it is located today,” Lillard reported.
Since the town would not move to the railroad, the railroad agreed to run its line through the new county seat, and the old roadbed was abandoned.
This caused a significant delay.
Although the original survey was made in 1837, it was not completed until 1851, records reveal.
The legislative act establishing Bradley County provided that the county seat, when established, should be named Cleveland, in honor of Col. Benjamin Cleveland of North Carolina, a Revolutionary War hero.
Now, in July 2013, the Cleveland City Council must decide whether to sell the property or to use it for historical purposes.
Michael Slaughter, a nationally respected historian who researches historical documents, urged city residents to contact their representatives on the City Council to seek the preservation of the site.
Slaughter was hired by Cleveland businessman and philanthropist Allan Jones in 2012 to conduct research on Andrew Taylor to determine if Jones was related to Taylor, as had been passed down through the years as a family legend.
Slaughter determined that Jones was related through the Slaughter family to Larkin Taylor — a likely brother of Andrew Taylor who died in 1945. Slaughter could not prove for certain that the two were brothers.
Once Slaughter determined that Jones was not a direct descendant of Andrew Taylor, the Allan Jones Foundation paid Slaughter to continue his research on Taylor as a gift to the community.
Toby Pendergrass, director of the Foundation, said Jones would also hire a team to send a camera through the pipe in the Webb building to determine where the spring actually originates.
Pendergrass said it isn’t clear if the spring originates in the Webb building or not.
“It would be nice for the city to remove the structure that exposes the spring, so that the public can see this site where history took place,” Slaughter said. “This is one of the most historic areas in Bradley County, and needs to be preserved. It would fit nicely along with the museum and the Cherokee Chieftain.”
The city has valued the building at $200,000, although Council member Dale Hughes said an offer of around $100,000 would be “a fair price.”
Slaughter said the building should not be sold, but instead should be razed and the spring once again exposed as a historical landmark.
“We can make a difference and save this historic piece of property,” Slaughter said. “We must do this to preserve history for future generations. After all, if it wasn’t for Andrew Taylor’s spring, the city of Cleveland would have been three miles east from where it is located today.”