A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.~Proverbs 17:17 NKJV
Abbott Cotton Martin never knew an enemy; everyone was a friend.
An English professor at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, from 1899 to 1974, to this day people still talk about “Abbo.” In fact, Abbo’s garden will most likely live on as long as the university exists. Sewanee was founded on a mountaintop, where two springs (Tremlett and ATO) come together to nourish the ravine they form. ATO meanders for a mile, and then cascades as a waterfall over the plateau to the valley below.
One Spring day in 1929, Abbo saw a crocus volunteering beauty to this shrub-filled ravine. Abbo could not stop thinking about this flower. The winter had been especially severe, so to see this little flower lift its head above the snow captured his attention. He envisioned the ravine as a manicured garden filled with thousands of plants that bloomed.
But Abbo’s plans would take place over time, and not without a struggle. Patience plus friendships equals a lasting legacy. That’s what I’ve learned from Abbo. He had a dream, and he would not let it die. The main way he did this, was to cultivate more than flowers–he cultivated friendships.
Abbo obtained permission from the university to plant more flowers, bushes, and trees, and to create a walking trail. But, before he could plant anything, he needed to clear the brush. This was a daunting task, so he asked students to help him. Then, help came from German POWs being held at nearby Camp Forrest, and from community members. Of course, to Abbott the new volunteer force were all friends. Everyone was his friend.
Abbo set a goal to cultivate “every flowering plant which would grow in our latitude” (https://new.sewanee.edu/files/resources/v7-n3.pdf ) with full knowledge he could never realize this dream on his own. Year after year, he continued his work, with volunteers and funds coming from various places. In 1964 the garden was renamed The Abbott Cotton Martin Ravine Garden, and fondly nicknamed, Abbo’s Alley, in his honor.
By 1969, Abbo was declining in health. Would his dream garden die with him? No. The garden still continued, through various gardeners volunteering their labor, until in 1990, the Friends of Abbo’s Alley fueled the work. To this day, gardeners improve the ravine, and have added various sculptures, gazebos, bridges, along with thousands of bulb flowers including Abbo’s favorite, the daffodil, along with a plethora of landscape cultivars. It is a peaceful place, dreamy with colors and fragrances, providing a respite for residents of the mountain.
Dreams aren’t built in a day, or for one day—when God is in them, they are meant to grow, improve, and provide nourishment to the soul.Diane Virginia, author of The Kiss of Peace: A Contemporary Exploration into Song of Solomon
More important than Abbo’s legendary garden was his goal of bringing people together to achieve a common goal. He applied the principle found in Psalm 133, “Behold how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1 NKJV). He knew the power of friendships, and the hand of God who puts people together.
Dreams aren’t built in a day, or for one day—when God is in them, they are meant to grow, improve, and provide nourishment to the soul. When we, as friends, come together and pursue objectives, we can expect the results to be as beautiful and as lasting as Abbo’s Alley.
Do you know a friend who recruited friends, and worked patiently to realize a God-sized dream?
Lord God, thank You for the inspiration Abbo provides, to set goals too big for me to accomplish on my own, and to know I need to rely on godly friends to realize them. You have a plan and a purpose for every friendship. May the works You accomplish through us last for generations to come.
In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Copyright 2021: Abbo’s Alley: Diane Virginia: All Rights Reserved
Published: August 2021: Inspire a Fire: Senior Editor Martin Wiles; Executive Editor Cindy Sproles
Meet Our Contributor
Diane Virginia (Cunio) is an award-winning author, and the founder/ director of VineWords: Devotions and More.
Diane’s book, The Kiss of Peace: A Contemporary Exploration into Song of Solomon (Mount Zion Ridge Press), placed in The Sparrow Award, Second Runner Up, at the Asheville Christian Writer’s Conference 2019. The sequel, Behind the Veil: Becoming the Ascended Bride of Song of Solomon, is in the works.
She has developed the model for motion-activated musical prayer centers for use in the garden retreat, themed to the places where the Bride of Christ travels to in the allegory, Song of Solomon. She envisions these prayer gardens to serve as refuges for seekers and believers alike where they can tarry, worship, and find or deepen their relationships with Jesus Christ.
Diane is a co-editor, co-compiler, and contributing author to Love-Knots: Stories of Faith, Family, and Friendships (VineWords Publishing).
Diane is published at Answers2Prayer, Christian Broadcasting Network, Christian Devotions Ministries, Faith Beyond Fear, Inspire a Fire, Pentecostal Publishing House, PresbyCan Daily Devotional, The Secret Place, VineWords: Devotions and More, and other ministries.
CONNECT WITH DIANE VIRGINIA AT