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Sun, Nov 23, 2014

Sharing Thoughts: School name recognizes Native American heritage

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Rutherford County is steeped in history. That is a statement of fact. A person has to look no further than the Courthouse, Oaklands Mansion, the Sam Davis Home, The Bradley Museum, Stones River National Battlefield, and some of the beautiful antebellum homes along Murfreesboro’s East Main Street.

For the sake of this article, let me muse about Black Fox Elementary School in Murfreesboro. Several years ago, former Superintendent John Hodge Jones asked if I would be on a committee to name the new school as it was being completed on Rutherford Boulevard. I was honored to be asked.

I don’t recall all the other members, except Mary Scales and the late John Pittard. We met and evaluated several names that had been recommended by folks in the community, and we also offered a few of our own to the mix.

As best as I remember, we met on several occasions. The recommended names ran the gamut, including Rutherford Boulevard School. We landed on the name Black Fox Elementary.

Our rationale was to honor the historical significance of what Native Americans contributed to Murfreesboro and Rutherford County. I wish that I could consult my late friend, Mrs. Mabel Pittard, who was an astute historian, but I’ll try my best to recall some local history.

Black Fox was the leading chief of the Cherokee Nation in the early 1800s. He could be described as a modern-day president, and the other Cherokee chieftains would be what we think of as governors. He lived primarily in Alabama and in Tennessee.

Black Fox claimed a hunting area along what is now Manchester Highway, and where our Black Fox School is located. One of the first Indian trails into this area was known as the Black Fox Trail. We have the Black Fox Spring. One of the first settlements in what is now Murfreesboro was the Black Fox Camp. Early white settlers came here to trade with the Native Americans at the camp. Before our city was given the official name of Murfreesboro, Black Fox was one of the considerations, in addition to Cannonsburgh.

I personally have an affinity for the Black Fox Trail because my great-great-great grandparents came to Middle Tennessee by covered wagon, drawn by oxen, from South Carolina along the trail, settling in the Rock Island area between Warren and DeKalb County.

Back to my story about Black Fox Elementary School. Mary Scales liked the historical significance of the name, as did I. The other committee members agreed, and that became our unanimous choice; a recommendation based on heritage and symbolized with the name Black Fox.

Mrs. Pittard once told me a story about Black Fox and how he narrowly escaped death. It seems that there had been some Indian uprisings in this area. Soldiers were dispatched from Nashville to remedy the situation. The story goes that the soldiers came upon the Black Fox Camp, and suspecting that those Indians were the culprits, the soldiers launched an attack.

Chief Black Fox reportedly escaped by jumping into the nearby spring-fed water, which is supposedly laced with many sinkholes. Legend has it that the Chief surfaced at Murfree Spring near where the Discovery Center is located. The story seems a little far-fetched, but is apparently true. Chief Black Fox reportedly died years later and was buried near Huntsville, Ala.
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Blackfox Elementary, Ralph Vaughn, Voices
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