Washington Square

 

This peaceful haven of leisure was deeded to the city in 1850 by Archibald Gordon for use as a public promenade. Flowers, shrubbery, hedges and winding walks enclosed by a picket fence rendered an atmosphere of quiet charm. Toward the north of the fountain in the square stands an iron deer, the Square's most famous link to the past. Today, the picket fence is gone, but Washington Square is the focal point of neighborhood activites.

The Iron Deer

According to Benjamin D. Baker of Alabama Writers’ Program, Works Project Administration speaking at the Council Chamber, City Hall Mobile, Alabama, November 7, 1939

The big iron deer in Washington Squares has had his pedigree traced, and although it is a bit late for bestowing recognition this year, the deer should be honored with a wreath next Memorial Day, for he is a Civil War hero. The cast iron animal, four feet high and a sturdy beast, has had far more stirring experiences than to stand in the square and let children pet him, for he was a casualty of the War Between the States, and was almost lost to posterity in a watery grave at the bottom of Mobile River.

For many years before the War Between the States the deer and his twin graced the lawn of George A. Tuthill, Sr., at Spring Hill, a residential section of Mobile, and the two animals were considered among the handsomest of the scores of fine iron animals that stood on the grounds of homes in Mobile and environs.

The present generation may not know it, but no one who was anybody at all would have considered keeping house without some cast iron ornament on the lawn, up until twenty or thirty years ago. A flower urn was about the least a family could respectively get away with, and anyone who pretended to move in the better circles had one or more nice animals, preferable deer.

The Tuthill family exhibited considerable opulence by offering as an attraction not only the two deer, but also two cast iron negro boys, who stood at attention, tending the handsome animals, and it was this pair of boys that got the deer into trouble.

When the Union army finally penetrated these shores to Spring Hill, they were considerably chagrined to find the Tuthill deer and colored boys practically challenging them. “It is an afront to our cause,” the Union officer said. “Look, two negro boys in bondage, and cast in iron at that, Free them.”

Mr. Tuthill’s African-American boys were freed, all right. They were heaved into the river by the Yanks, to remove all trace of slavery, and the Union men, deciding to do the job right, threw the carefully nurtured deer and negro boys in the briny deep, according to the version furnished by Mrs. Harward Goooden, of Fairhope, Alabama, a great-granddaughter of Mr. Tuthill.

After things had quieted down, and the Northerners had gone on their way, Mr. Tuthill, sorely grieved about the demise of his iron charges, spent a good deal of time and money probing the depth of the river, seeking to recover the deer and negro boys. He finally resurrected the Washington Square deer, and folks, there he stands, a proud survivor of the War Between the States. And a lasting friend of the several grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Mr. Tuthill, who live in and around Mobile.

source: Alabama Pioneers; Historic Mobile, An Illutrated Guide, The Junior League of Mobile, Alabama, Inc. 1974, p.41