Letter to the Editor: Cromling leaves wonderful legacy as a matriarch of Old Town

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To the editor,

In 1999, I wrote a letter to the editor about the passing of Henry Goodpasture at age 101. His family lived at Old Town from 1948 to 1978, when the Coopers bought it. Catherine Cooper became one of my first friends after we moved here in the early ’80s and our children grew up together. 

I admired the daffodils along Old Natchez Trace and Catherine told me Virginia Goodpasture had planted them and she had added some, too. We also took in animals that had been dumped along the Harpeth River and even an elder horse abandoned down the road.

That is how old Jed came to live at Old Town for many years until his passing when Jubilee, a gentle Appaloosa, took his turn on the ancient good pastures covering the Mississippian Indian mounds at Old Town.

In 1999, Old Town was also up for sale. I remember saying a prayer as I stood on the mounds with Jubilee hoping good people would become her new owners. By then, the animals that had found their way to Old Town had stayed with the blessings of the different owners.

I told Danny Haber, our veterinarian, who had treated so many animals at Old Town, my prayer. He smiled and told me good people were indeed coming and Old Town was in good hands. It was the year the Cromlings moved in. Jubilee and a sweet cat named O.T. were there to welcome them.

That was 20 years ago, and now it is deeply difficult to write about the passing of Maureen Cromling in late June.

Although Maureen and Bill’s home and family were in Ohio, they were often at Old Town and thoroughly enjoyed having family and friends visit, making magic memories so full of creativity and joy it makes me smile through the tears. I do know they deeply treasured the tranquility that truly seems to transcend time at Old Town. They value rural landscapes and farms and have saved many, many acres in Ohio from development.

Along the years, we became dear friends. Maureen was particularly wonderful to my children and embraced the animals I brought to Old Town. Several abused senior horses were able to spend their last days on those good pastures and pass on in peace. Two tiny kittens found swimming frantically during the Flood of 2010 were taken in.

One year they attended the blessing of the animals at St. Paul’s in Franklin and last year they started that service at their church in Ohio, where their Bella was blessed.

I could go on about how she lifted me up through some of my darkest times and inspired me to never give up. Her eyes smiled with quiet strength and deep wisdom. The Ohio newspapers wrote about all her accomplishments as CEO of Ross Environmental Services, the business her parents started in Ohio, and the list was lengthy. I am overwhelmingly grateful to have been able to experience her accomplishments in Williamson County.

In 2013, when the county Highway Department rolled out improvements for Old Natchez Trace, residents rallied to protect and preserve the Old Natchez Trace. The county’s plans were to widen the road and cut many trees in its shaded canopy. The roots of those trees helped support the historic road bed since it was built by United States soldiers in 1801 by order of President Thomas Jefferson.

Underneath the road bed in front of Old Town, Indians lay in stone box graves. Maureen contracted experts in ground-penetrating radar to survey the road bed along the frontage of Old Town and the mound field to detect the graves. There were more than 100.

She hired an arborist to determine the health and age of the trees along the frontage of Old Town. She engaged an attorney, now a ninth district county commissioner, to represent Old Town’s interests in preserving and protecting the stone box graves and trees. She wrote letters to county officials and she and Bill attended the highway commission meeting. Her support was instrumental in the county adopting a sensitive template for the Old Natchez Trace.

In 2014, Maureen hired Dry Stone Conservancy of Lexington, Kentucky, to rebuild the north bridge abutment of the original limestone Old Town Bridge built in 1801 by U.S. soldiers. The Tennessee Preservation Trust received its first preservation easement from the Cromlings on the Old Town Bridge in 2015, calling the Old Town Bridge “one of the most significant structures in the state.”

In 2015, they sold Old Town to the Bill and Tracy Frist and returned to Ohio. The Frists graciously let my little horses and donkey, Isaiah, and a trio of barn cats stay and I still go there every evening to feed them and put the chickens up for the night.

Maureen delighted in the progress of the Frist’s Old Town Historic Daffodil Project. We share a special love for the daffodil, the trumpeter announcing spring and a harbinger of hope. Maureen also planted daffodils when she was at Old Town, adding to the living legacy enjoyed by generations along the Old Natchez Trace. Lightning bugs still spark upon Old Town’s historic, scenic and culturally significant grounds. And I told Maureen many times I carry her in my heart as I walk Old Town and the Old Natchez Trace. Some people, like some places, transcend time and space.

Laura Turner

Franklin, 37069

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