Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

PLAY BALL: In its heyday, Duncan’s Meadow served as a great baseball field for Jonesborough youth

When you go to the Post Office on Boone Street, it may not occur to you that 32 years ago, instead of mailing a letter, you might have been standing on part of the only ballfields Jonesborough had — a nine-acre piece of land remembered fondly as Duncan’s Meadow.
George Morelock coached Little League tat that site for about 14 years.
“It was a good little ballpark,” Morelock said. “Duncan’s Meadow was close, right there beside the road, and people would park on both sides.”
Morelock remembers policemen coming by and turning on a caution light during games to slow traffic on Boone Street at the main entrance to town.
“You had your stands there, and people would hit foul balls and you always had a bunch of kids chasing them,” Morelock said. “They didn’t look for cars.”
According to Morelock, the fields hosted some unusual, but most welcome, spectators at evening games.
“The ballpark started right below where the fire department is, and behind first base there was a hill. We would be playing ball at night, and they turned on the lights, and there would be rabbits in the outfield that watched the game.
“To my knowledge no rabbit ever got hit by a ball or a fielder,” he explained laughing.
There was also a small building on a corner of the field that claimed a special place in every player’s heart. “In the lower left hand corner there was a little red building,” he said. “If my boys missed a routine or ground ball they would drop their glove and run to that building and back. That was punishment, and the boys decided if it was (time for) a trip to the building or not.”
And when the town began to ready Duncan’s meadow for the construction of what would be the new Town Hall, Visitors Center, and Library, Morelock said when the building came down it broke a few hearts. “When Jonesborough decided to do away with that little red building I assure you that my boys would have been there to see that thing go down, you could have got a crowd there for a ceremony,” he explained.
The two ball fields on Duncan’s meadow weren’t exactly high tech, but they got the job done. Morelock explained that there was a larger field for older players, and a smaller field to match his little leaguers’ shorter hits. His wife kept score for the team, as there was no score board. And he remembers having picnics at the end of the season each year.
“If I remember correctly they had some picnic tables next to that building on the lower end, that’s where you had the end of the year picnic,” he explained. “Jonesborough just had a nice little place to play ball, and you could bring your picnic, and it was centrally located, and all the kids got to play.”
According to Town Administrator Bob Browning and former Mayor Jimmy Neil Smith, Jonesborough had outgrown its current Town Hall in 1978. The town also wanted to build a tourism facility. And both buildings would need easy access to downtown.
“The old Town Hall, which is where the Dining Room is now, was a very, very small place,” said Smith. “And there had been no action on trying to build a larger, newer Town Hall. So that was one of our goals.
“And it became clear to us that (it) should be located at a place that was accessible to downtown, accessible from downtown, and accessible to (highway) 11E. And Duncan’s meadow was a logical choice.”
And though lots of fun times were had during games on the meadow, it was also a miniature flood plane, and a bit of an eye-sore. “After you pass (ed) the fields, where Town Hall and the Visitors Center is now, it was just rubble, weeds, and piles of stone and dirt,” Browning explained. “It was certainly not an attractive entrance into town.”
So after a spirited debate and a referendum election, the town bought Duncan’s meadow with a specific plan in place to address flooding issues both on the meadow and throughout downtown – a problem that had to be resolved before construction began.
“The fields were OK for the circumstances, but they flooded every time it rained,” said Browning. “Jonesborough in general flooded a lot during that time period. So in addition to moving the ball fields, and building facilities, we were doing flood control and had to work with TVA.”
Browning explained that Jonesborough has always been a Mecca of underground springs, which created some challenges in directing water away from buildings. “There’s just springs all over the place that run underneath buildings,” he said. “Where the library is (now) when grading was done for the foundation I think they found 13 springs.”
So with the help of the TVA, major building site development was implemented for the project. “When the springs were opened up that whole section of Duncan’s meadow, by Sabin Drive and the Exxon station, was full of water almost all the way up to the street,” Browning explained. “They had to pump the water out, and put in mechanisms (that function as) sort of a channel for water to flow through, and built (them) up with stone, and then compacted dirt over that, and when they finished water was flowing through again underground.”
The flood control plan included building a berm- a specially graded slope that surrounds the Town Hall complex, and allows water to build up and run off without doing any collateral damage. “Part of the berm that goes around the end of (what was) Duncan’s meadow by Sabin holds water,” said Browning. “It allows water to build up there without going out into the road.
“It’s higher than the road so water can back up there, and it’s all designed so that water backs up into the channel behind the visitors center. And (it) can back all the way up to Town Hall and that grass lot that’s on the 11E side; water backs up onto other grass areas instead of into buildings.”
And while the Duncan’s meadow project progressed the town bought approximately 100 acres to create Persimmon Ridge Park, and replace the old ball fields. “We didn’t just want to eliminate the ball fields that were in Duncan’s meadow, and the kids not have a place to play,” said Browning.
And Browning said he believes the hard work of constructing permanent flood controls, and building new public facilities for athletics and tourism galvanized an enormously positive shift for Jonesborough. “(At first) people thought that Visitors Center was going to sink, (but) it’s still standing, and you would have a hard time finding a crack,” he said. “And it’s been a great facility. I think the program worked as designed, and everybody should be proud of the effort that went in there.”