Days Gone By - stories from the past

Mobile Deer survives the War Between the States



Benjamin D. Baker

Alabama Writers’ Program

Works Project Administration

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.

Deer in Washington Square, Mobile, Alabama (Library of Congress)

Almost a casualty of the War Between the States

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.

Cast iron statues were essential decorations

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.

Deer and Boys challenged the Union army

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 negro 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.

Postcard of Washington Square ca. 1900 with deer in center at end of walk (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Mr. Tuthill probed the river

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 (References Personal Investigation)

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  • The Yazoo land fraud
  • Daily life as an Alabama pioneer
  • The capture and arrest of Vice-president Aaron Burr 
  • The early life of William Barrett Travis, hero of the Alamo
  • Description of Native Americans of early Alabama including the visit by Tecumseh
  • Treaties and building the first roads in Alabama.

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Dont tell anyone. They will want to remove it.

  2. I am so happy the deer is still there. I remember it as a child. There was a story that some good Dr. who
    lived on the Square always kept a bottle in its empty tummy!. I don’t live in Mobile now but in Hoover near
    Birmingham, there has been some talk of removing a statue from one of the parks here, it would be such
    a shame to lose the great artists works, no matter who they are of. They are beautiful and as art who cares what the person is, the horses are magnificent! I love the fact that Fairhope, Al. are adding some
    beautiful works of art, mostly children, to the Bluff Park there. I remember as a child also in N.O.,La.
    there were beautiful statues of art in City Park where we could all enjoy. I have heard that all the
    statues there are being removed & put in the Cabildo across from Jackson Sq. We could never afford
    such beautiful statues today, it’s like the beautiful old mansions, just think of the workers who built them,
    no matter who they were they were artists and the price to replace today could never be enjoyed but
    for a few millionaires or billionaires, in the past artists were not compensated like they are today. Ask
    any DAR member how much it costs them to have a simple plaque repaired from vandalism. These
    historic signs are placed in memory of history past. Art is there for all to enjoy. I hope the deer gets to
    stay in Washington Square, Mobile, Al.

    1. Amen.Never heard about the feer’s bottle, but Dr. Sam Eichold and his wife Charlotte,who lived on the square had the statue restored and remounted. See the plaque by it.

  3. Good thing this isn’t in New Orleans or it would be gone.

  4. you mean the Civil War?

    1. Thank you! Mind boggling that there would actually be a contemporary use of this term.

  5. Some one might need to protect it before the crazies think it needs to be removed. Look what’s happening in NO

    1. This New Orleanian believes that is not crazy at all to bring down statues raised as a show of defiance and control. Please DO look at what is happening in New Orleans and in other cities around the south. Look at the reasons why these huge obtrusive (hurtful to many) monuments are targeted in particular. p.s. I really think the little deer is safe.

    2. You must not be from NO. Those that have lived there and from there are extremely upset over the stupidity of a man who is trying to erase history. I believe that’s how communism got a strong hold in Russia. And these men whose names are being defiled were also very important in the making of America. Learn your history as to what these important men accomplished. America is part due to these strong leaders. Has nothing to do with the Civil War. Those who live in NO are repulsed over the stupidity of the mayor who just needs votes.

  6. Great story of the history of the deer and sad to have lost the other statues. My parents used to take me to play at Washington Square and always loved seeing the deer.

  7. Susan Gaston-Jones Scott Jones Christina Marie Zegler

  8. Thanks for sharing Donald Zegler. Interesting. Amazing how folks love trying to bury history when they don’t like it. Trying to erase it won’t change it.

  9. A nice story but just not true. Tuthill may have had 2 iron deer on his property but neither was the same deer that currently resides in Washington Square. The deer was created as an ornament to Bienville Square, along with the boy that stood beside it. They stood on a mound in the center of the Square for many years before and after the war until the deer was moved to Washington Square. For more info. on the deer or Bienville Square, email me at [email protected] or [email protected].

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