The Culbertson Fountain is located in a public square in the heart of Paris, Texas, and named after wealthy businessman and philanthropist, John James Culbertson (1853-1932). Culbertson arrived in Paris in the 1880s and helped build a mill and eventually built a very profitable cottonseed oil company. The fountain was built between 1924-1927 and was constructed with imported Italian Cararra marble. Near the fountain is a historical marker describing Culbertson's life and legacy.
Backstory and Context
John James Culbertson was born on March 16, 1853 in New England. Information about his childhood is not readily available, but as a young man he married his wife, Emily Lou, in 1882. Around this time he found a job working as a cotton product salesman for an Alabama company. Two years later, he settled in Paris and helped build the city's first cotton mill called Paris Oil Works. In 1887, he sold it to American Oil Trust and relocated to Arkansas where he became manager of an oil company.
Culbertson came back to Paris in 1891 and founded a cottonseed oil company that he would later name Southland Cotton Oil Company. Over time, his stature grew in the community and around the country. In Paris, he helped develop the master plan for the city in 1913 and the next year became a member of the Board of Directors of the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas. He also played a key role in rebuilding the city after much of it was destroyed in the 1916 fire.
Apparently, after seeing fountains on a family trip to Italy, Culbertson decided to build the fountain, which was designed by architect J.L. Wees, who designed the Scott-Roden Mansion. The fountain consists of a small bowl above one that is nine feet in diameter. This one was made in Italy from a single block of Carrara marble. Water flows from it to a sixteen-foot basin below, which itself rests on a large stone platform featuring globe lights in bronze fixtures, benches, and urns. Standing atop the fountain is a statue of the mythological figure, Triton.
Nationally, Culbertson was known as an expert in the cotton industry. As a result, in 1917 President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to a board that established an agency tasked with managing cottonseed products for the U.S. Food Administration. Culbertson died on September 27, 1932.
"Culbertson Fountain - Paris, Texas." History of Paris, Texas [Facebook Page]. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/historyofparistexas/posts/culbertson-fountain-paris-texas-the-centerpiece-of-paris-downtown-was-formally-d/477910145717386.
"John James Culbertson (March 16, 1853 - September 27, 1932)." The Historical Marker Database. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=97618.
"Monumental Paris." TexasEscapes.com. Accessed October 19, 2020. http://www.texasescapes.com/TOWNS/Paris/Monumental-Paris.htm.
Both images via the Historical Marker Database