09/26/04 — Seven Springs park is testament to town's resolve

View Archive

Seven Springs park is testament to town's resolve

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 26, 2004 2:06 AM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- About as many people as live in town converged on the playground for a Saturday morning dedication ceremony that just five years ago would have seemed unthinkable.

It was in 1999 that the town was covered in water and nearly every house in Seven Springs was flooded. Though spirits were down, an effort was led by then-Mayor Jewel Kilpatrick and others to build a park in town.

It was done not just to provide a place for children to play, but to show that the residents had not been beaten by the floods.

Mayor Pro Tem Emma Ward dedicated the Seven Springs Community Park "to the children of the town and surrounding community, to the adults and families who will picnic and play here and to the future generations who will be able to enjoy the fruits of the efforts of so many to bring this happy place out of devastation."

Seven Springs, called by some "the town that would not die," has undergone a metamorphosis. Since the floods of Hurricanes Fran and Floyd, the town has gained the park, water and sewer service, and an old church building for a new town hall and library.

The town's new park has many unsung heroes, Town Commissioner Peggy Jones told the crowd of at least 80. The last census placed the population at 86.

Former Mayor Kilpatrick did not attend the dedication. If she had attended, she would have received two plaques, one with a poem, "Our Jewel" by Scarlet Beaman, and the other recognizing her for her efforts to help save the town.

The poem said: "When water's high and sky's gray there was always one person to lead the way. ... Seven Springs would rise again ... We owe so much to this our Jewel."

The other plaque acknowledged the "love and compassion she showed to all in Seven Springs."

The park was her dream, said former Town Commissioner Ivy Outlaw. He said she worked tirelessly to get funding for the park.

He also recognized former Town Manager Charles Snyder, who was the park chairman in its beginnings, and Mark Magnarella, who designed the park at no cost and helped build the first part of the playground.

He recognized Bill Ellis, who built the second part; Chris Stewart and his Spring Creek High School FFA members, who designed and built the replica of the Confederate States Ship Neuse; Danny Carter, the current park chairman; Ola Mae Adams, who donated the space in the Seven Springs Restaurant for dinners held to raise money for the park; Ann Pate, the park fund-raising chairman; Bobby and Karen Mozingo, who helped with the park and other projects; the town board; and its clerk, Deanna Grady.

Felix Harvey said the Seven Springs Supply Co., which he owns, has endured all the floods and enjoys a wonderful clientele in the town. The company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in November.

Battles for survival have marked the history of the little river town, the oldest in Wayne County. It has overcome threats of wars and natural disasters ever since its beginnings.

Europeans started moving into the area before the Revolutionary War. William Whitfield II and his wife, Rachel, migrated into the area in 1743. They built on the hill in an area that now is the home of Seven Springs United Methodist Church.

The community grew into a little town and became incorporated as Whitehall in 1851. It endured a Civil War battle and was the site for the building of the ironclad C.S.S. Neuse. One hundred years later, the town got its current name of Seven Springs because of the flowing waters there that were said to have healing powers.

After the floods of 1999, many people thought the town would fold. But many diehard residents refused to leave, rejecting a buyout from the federal government.

It seemed only fitting that the town had a beautiful fall day to enjoy its new park Saturday and to celebrate the renewal of a town that just as easily could have faded into the past.