Polluting Poplar Head: Part 1

By: Rhiana Huckins Email
By: Rhiana Huckins Email

Before Dothan got its name, settlers built homes near a spring know, as Poplar Head.

Today, the spring is located underneath Liddon Furniture in downtown Dothan.

However, water that runs from the spring goes into Omussee Creek.

And, the area has now been polluted with massive amounts of garbage and debris.

We learned about the pollution several weeks ago, when we went for a walk in the area.

The woods and Omussee Creek are near the Wiregrass Art Museum right off of Highway 84.

Over 120 years ago, when poplar trees crowded the land, Poplar Spring used to flow here. It was Dothan’s major source of water, and in the in the early 1900s, a building was constructed over it.

Frank Gaines, a Dothan photographer and historian said, "This is an old photograph where Liddon Furniture is. This picture was in 1910 and you can already see the building is built over the spring."

Gaines and his family have lived in Dothan for generations. He has seen many changes throughout the city, and has collected thousands of photographs.

"Back in the early 50s, they used to test the water that came out of the spring underneath Liddon Furniture," Gaines said.

According to the owner of Liddon Furniture, the family business has been operating for 80 years. And, while you can't see the spring water anymore, it’s still underneath the building.

Water flows underground into Omussee Creek and if you take a look at the area where the creek opens up, you can see garbage, and tons of it.

Louise Motzenbecker, the owner of A Place to Renew said, "When you think about it, water sustains life, and what brings life here, and this is the way we treat it? Defiling it and it’s sad, especially since this is what gave to everybody; what gave them water for their crops, themselves."

Some Dothan residents envision the beauty of Poplar Spring that those living in 1885 saw and think that something must be done to honor their land.

"It feels so cool over here and fresh,” Motzenbecker said. “That’s the most beautiful tree I’ve ever seen. We're leaving our footprints."

Downtown business owners and local organizations like the Downtown Group would like to see a change.

Cathy Cole, the director of the Downtown Group said, "This should be something of beauty rather than blight. The old Omussee Creek is now filled with garbage and we would to see it cleaned up."

Poplar Spring is currently honored in downtown Dothan at Poplar Head Park, but the land and the legacy go beyond this area.

"There was a legend that an old Indian chief, [who] was [going] back to his homeland and camped here; he saw a vision of white man in the area with no dear or fox and people think that came true," Gaines added.

And, in 1885, Poplar Head residents changed the name to Dothan, after Genesis 37:17, which reads, “And the man said they are departed hence, for I heard them say let's go to Dothan”.

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