|WHITTLE: Courting Wall played significant role in Lascassas lore
|Posted: Sunday, June 24, 2012 5:20 am
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There’s the “Wailing Wall” of Israel, the “Great Wall of China” and the infamous, inhumane “Berlin Wall” of Germany.
Tennessee officials came to the village of Lascassas in 1951 to dedicate a bridge on Highway 96 for Ben Brown, owner of the local grocery store. (File photo)
But none have had the local impact of the “Courting Wall” of Lascassas, a never-incorporated rural village tucked serenely in the north-eastern corner of Rutherford County just before you cross the Wilson County line.
“It’s the rock fence in front of old Lascassas School that can still be seen today as you drive by on State Route 96 East (Lascassas Pike),” confirmed lifelong Lascassas resident Melinda “Mo” Brown Black. “Many of my former little school friends would sit on that wall and hold hands during recess.”
There might not be a “Mo” Brown Black and her brother, Ernie Brown, if not for the Lascassas School’s “Courting Wall.” Both parents attended Lascassas School in the generation before “Mo” and Ernie. The old fence had an early impact on their lives.
Linda McCrary Brown, at age 69, recalls the “romance” surrounding that old rock fence that still stands as a sentinel of the “good life” of a rural farming community made up mostly of hard-working people.
“My husband Buddy and I were ‘childhood sweethearts’ back in second grade,” Linda traced back in time. “Buddy would sneak ‘candy kisses’ from his dad’s (Ben Brown Grocery) store that sat next door to the school.
“And he would ‘hide’ the candy kisses in that rock fence for me to find at recess,” Linda shared. “I thought he was the sweetest little boy, sharing those sweet-tasting chocolate candy kisses with me. It made me feel very, very special.”
How effective were those candy kisses?
“So effective, that when Buddy proposed to me at the drive-in theater in Murfreesboro when we were teenagers, I immediately said, ‘yes,’” Linda linked her family’s romantic trail of life.
How did that “proposal” take place?
“Buddy was always resourceful as a country boy, so he paid for my engagement ring by selling a bunch of hogs,” Linda reflected. “The night he proposed to me, after I said ‘yes,’ he told me to reach inside the car’s glove compartment, that there might be something in there that I’d like. I did like it. It was my engagement ring he’d bought out of his uncle’s jewelry store over in Cookeville.”
How important is the “courting wall” of the past?
So important that Lascassas School alumni successfully pleaded with Rutherford County School District officials in the 1990s to not tear down the wall when the present-day Lascassas Elementary School was moved to the other side of Lascassas Pike.
“I remember the day we ‘walked’ as teachers and students, carrying our books, from the old school grounds, down to open the new school,” recalled now-retired Lascassas School Principal Larry E. Stewart. “We gathered in front of that old rock fence to walk from the old to the new school.”
Feb. 1, 1993, was the date of that “school walk,” when Principal Stewart claimed he first noticed his initials “L.E.S.” in the middle of the new gym’s basketball floor.
Not to burst the aging educator’s dream, but “L.E.S.” is also the initials Lascassas Elementary School. But there is a bridge named for Larry E. Stewart that spans Stone’s River leading to the heart of “downtown” Lascassas.
“When there was still a Lascassas High School, there was a lot of ‘courting’ on that old rock wall,” Stewart described. “We’d take a little mid-morning break, and we’d see students out there, holding hands … you know … and they’d wait there for parents to pick them up.”
The origin of “Lascassas,” the name, is very unique.
Down through time, the village has been spelled various ways and styles, including “Las Casas” and/or “Las Cassas.”
As one of Rutherford County’s most colorfully named communities, there’s a popular myth “Lascassas” (present-day spelling) was named after a Spanish missionary who came to the region in the 1500s to befriend and witness his religion to Native Americans.
“But, that’s not true,” verified lifelong Lascassas resident Linda Brown, who researched the community’s name as part of her studies at MTSU. “Our community was named after an Indian chief, who was named Lascassas.”
“Actually, the Indian chief was named after the Spanish missionary, who came to America on Christopher Columbus’ third exploration voyage out of Europe,” Linda noted. “It was the Indian chief who took the name ‘Lascassas’ after the Spaniard missionary named ‘Bartolome de las Casas’ came into the region. The missionary became known as the ‘Apostle of the Indians” he befriended. He’s credited in history books with efforts to protect the native population from slavery and abuse.”
After completing studies at Lascassas School and MTSU, Linda returned to the school of her youth where she taught for 30-plus years.
“We’re still strong supporters of the school,” the now retired teacher noted. “It’s the heart-beat of our little community that we all love so much.”