Borden Springs, east of Piedmont, Alabama was part of Calhoun County until 1866, when it became part of Cleburne County, Alabama. The area is located high in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a valley between mountains that lie unbroken for fourteen miles on either side.
The earliest settler on the Borden property was John A. Borden from Huntsville. He owned one thousand acres west of the spring. There he built a grist mill at a bend in Terrapin Creek and nearby he built a large home with open hallway that extended the length of the house and living rooms on both sides.
Terrapin Creek (courtesy Jacksonville State University)
Arthur Alexander arrived shortly afterward and bought 160 acres which included the spring and land around it. His son, Matthew married John Borden’s daughter, Annie.
The next pioneer was C. M. Wheeler, who bought the spring property. He married, Sarah, the daughter of Arthur Alexander.
An interesting anecdote about the Wheelers occurred during the War Between the States when guerrillas came to the Wheeler home to take the youngest of seven sons, a boy of seventeen, to join their ranks. “Mrs. Wheeler had the boy go into the house and fasten it well, and then took her stand on a wide stone stoop in front, with a broadax concealed beneath the folds of her capacious apron. When they rode up and demanded the boy, she said: “If my son were of age to be in the army, he would be there, but he is not of age and he is not going.” At a threatening move on the part of the men, the ax came out and was lifted high with both hands. “If any man puts his foot on this step, his head will come off,” she warned. Perhaps the men were moved with admiration of such courage, and some fear, too, for they quickly left.
Prior to 1894, a hotel was owned in Borden Springs by the Fruithurst Company, a group of Swedish families who came from Minnesota for the purpose of raising grapes for making wine. They established the town of Fruithurst.
The glory day of Fruithurst were brief and now only a few remnants of the once blossoming colony are left. However, today, it may be making a come back with a new winery that has opened. Named the Fruithurst Winery, it operates in conjunction with Laminack Vineyards and offers an array of different table wines.
“The hotel building, established originally as a clubhouse for prospective land buyers, was short-lived, for within a few years the company went defunct. The Borden-Wheeler Company purchased the clubhouse and employed J. C. Bass of Carrollton Georgia, to dismantle the structure, move it sixteen miles to Borden Springs, and reconstruct it as the Borden-Wheeler Hotel.”i It was moved with the aid of mules and wagons.
When rebuilt at its new location, the structure had wide porches, broad wings, and was surrounded by mountains covered with pine, maple, oak, elm, gum trees, ash. Soon there was a village of cottages around the hotel which harmonized with the background of trees.
The hotel had over 100 rooms, 9 concert pianos, running hot and cold water, electricity, a large outdoor swimming pool, a dance pavilion, and a golf course. Numerous French chefs prepared the guest meals. The Borden-Wheeler Hotel soon became known as a lavish week-end resort. Orchestras furnished music during meals and dancing was the best that could be obtained in Alabama and Georgia.
The Borden-Wheeler Company sold their holdings to J. C. Bass, who had moved the building from Fruithurst and he operated the hotel until his health failed in 1920. His son continued to operate the hotel until 1927. Then he sold the property to a Florida company headed by Leon Prine of Fort Meade. The hotel was closed in 1933, probably due to the Great Depression. A tragic fire destroyed the hotel in 1935, leaving nothing but ashes.
is a collection of lost and forgotten stories of the first surveyors, traders, and early settlements of what would become the future state of Alabama.
- A Russian princess settling in early Alabama
- How the early setters traveled to Alabama and the risks they took
- A ruse that saved immigrants lives while traveling through Native American Territory
- Alliances formed with the Native Americans
- How an independent republic, separate from the United States was almost formed in Alabama
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