Days Gone By - stories from the past

UPDATED WITH PODCAST -Actress Lillian Russell discovered the anguish of chigger bites in Alabama – funny story

Blount springs jackson house hotelJackson Hotel at Blount Springs ca. 1900 


Blount Springs – summer resort in rural setting

“Blount Springs’s mineral springs and rural setting made it a summer resort for thousands of wealthy people from Alabama,Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and more from 1820 to the 1930s.  Some came to the mountain region from as far away as New York, Washington and New Orleans. By the 1880’s, Blount Springs became one of the foremost health resorts in the South and was nicknamed the “Saratoga of the South.” (Story continued below)

Copy photograph of a group at Blount Springs in Blount County, Alabama ca. 1890 by photographer John Englehart Scott (Alabama Department of Archives and History)Copy photograph of a group at Blount Springs in Blount County, Alabama ca. 1890 by photographer John Englehart Scott  (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Copy photograph of a house in Blount Springs, Alabama 1894 by photographer John Englehart Scott (Alabama Department of Archives and History)Copy photograph of a house in Blount Springs, Alabama 1894 by photographer John Englehart Scott (Alabama Department of Archives and History)

Blount Springs waymarker

The Goff House and Duffee House were antebellum hotels of renown there, with the Jackson House being built after the war. Renamed the Blount Springs Hotel after the Sloss Brothers took control in 1887, it became one of the finest hotels in the Southeast and was known for its hospitality and the highest quality food and parties.

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Stone wall surrounding one of the springs that emits white sulfur.Remains of a Healing Spring at Blount Springs surrounded by stone

Advertised high quality

An article from an old newspaper article stated that Blount Springs was under the management of the Blount Springs Hotel Company, “we are prepared to furnish the patrons with a diversity of amusements, and a dining-room second to no American-plan hotel in the South…. A high-class orchestra is engaged, giving a concert in the mornings from 11 to 12 o’clock, and from 8 o’clock in the evenings until nearly midnight.

As a health resort Blount Springs is historical. Long before Alabama was admitted into the Union as a Territory this famous group of sulphur springs was a landmark and meeting place for the Cherokee and Creek Indians.”

Many celebrities came to Blount Springs

“Celebrities and important people visited and politicians galore spoke and vacationed there. Governors of several states, Senators and other office holders and seekers were constantly visiting. Even Teddy Roosevelt once made an appearance. One of the largest stars of the day, Lillian Russell, came for an extended visit and created quite a stir after she enjoyed a day of sunbathing and was covered in chigger bites. It took every ounce of butter in the town and surrounding countryside to soothe the most famous body in the country. Diamond Jim Brady, New York Restauranteur and gentleman friend of Miss Russell, also accompanied her on the trip.”

Actress Lillian Russell March 17, 1896 (Library of Congress)

In 1915, a fire occurred and destroyed two main hotels, several homes, businesses, and cottages.

Blount springs featureOnly stone footings of the hotel remain

Blount springs people featureSome People who worked at Blount Springs Resort

Newspaper article from 1936

The following article was written for the Southern Democrat in 1936 about the Blount Springs community.

Blount Springs Community is located on the Bee Line Highway between Garden City and Warrior. In the year 1818 Jonas Byars moved from N C and settled in a little cave one and one-half miles East of the Springs, and in 1820 was built the first cabin.

In the late twenties, the property was bought by Mr. Harris and Mr Perine who built a splendid hotel right near the springs, and it was not long until Blount Springs became a noted Summer resort, and was patronized by the people of the South.

In the early forties, the property was sold to a Mr. George Goff, a wealthy New Yorker, who planted Mulberry trees along what is now known as the Mulberry prong of the Warrior River. The river took its name from this project of Mr. Goff. As soon as the Mulberry trees were large enough Mr. Goff placed millions of silk worms on these trees and started a silk factory at Blount Springs.

The silk industry was a failure so was Mr. Goff and in a few years the property was sold under mortgage and bought by Parrish and Company of New York. The property remained in their hands until bought by J F B Jackson in 1876.

The hotel, which had already been started was burned in 1866. When JFB Jackson bought the property he built another, and in 1878 built a large one. In the later eighties, Mr. Jackson sold the property to the Sloss Company of Birmingham, Al. In 1895 Blount Springs was again sold under mortgage, and bought by Arthur W Smith, W E Byars, and Capt. Graves.

In 1903 they sold this property to W. M. Drennen whose heirs and assigns now own the property.

In the forties, a Methodist Church was organized and a building erected down at Old Cold Springs about one mile South East of the springs. In 1875, the church was moved up near the springs.

Gadsden Times 1976

BlountSprings blue bottle

Excerpts from an article from the Gadsden Times July 2, 1976, state the following:

Blount Springs received a boost in 1871 when work was renewed on the South & North Alabama Railroad Col. J. F. B. Jackson of Chattanooga, a construction engineer on the railroad, foresaw the potential of the springs and bought several thousand acres of land in the area.

On July 4, 1873, an excursion party of 200 persons from Birmingham visited Blount Springs, spending the day in fun and games and returning home that evening.

By early morning of the next day, seven of the group had died of cholera. Later, however, when the disease was declared epidemic in Birmingham, many people from that stricken city chose Blount Springs as a sheltering place until the cholera subsided.

It was claimed that the seven who had died had contracted the disease before coming to the springs.

In 1874, upon the invitation of Col. James R. Powell, mayor of Birmingham, the New York State Press Association held its annual session in the Alabama City. Before reaching Birmingham, the New York delegation was entertained at Blount Springs….

Blount Springs had many attractive features, but none surpassed the mineral waters. The most popular among these was the “Red Sulphur” It was bottled in blue glass because it was thought that glass of that color preserved the strength of the water.

Boys representing the bottling company boarded the northbound trains at Warrior and the southbound trains at Hanceville, selling water to the passengers.

With frivolity on every hand, gambling became a favorite pastime at Blount Springs Under the Alabama law, gambling was legal at the resort. Slot machines and roulette tables were features in the hotel. Card games attracted many players.

A half-mile tracks on Jackson Mountain, less than a mile from the hotel, provided horse racing.

Rich in history, the area of  Blount Springs hs been revitalized as a private gated 450-acre community is 25 minutes north of Birmingham and 20 minutes south of Cullman.

Greg Burden has written a book on Blount Springs entitled: Blount Springs: Alabama’s Fountain of Youth which includes many historic pictures and stories.

SOURCES

  1. Alabama State Archives
  2. Wiikepdia
  3. Blountsprings.com

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Exploration: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 1)  is a collection of lost and forgotten stories about the people who discovered and initially settled in Alabama.

Some stories include:

  • The true story of the first Mardi Gras in America and where it took place
  • The Mississippi Bubble Burst – how it affected the settlers
  • Did you know that many people devoted to the Crown settled in Alabama –
  • Sophia McGillivray- what she did when she was nine months pregnant
  • Alabama had its first Interstate in the early days of settlement

Check out historic books and novels by Donna R. Causey

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 www.daysgoneby.me All her books can be purchased at Amazon.com 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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33 comments

  1. I was born in Ballinger, Tx, but was raised from the age of 12 years old east of Cullman, Alabama in
    the Oak Level Community. I know the Blount Springs and the Bangor Cave area very well. Matter of
    fact, at one time when visiting Bangor Cave, I crawled out the far end of the cave (only could see appx 1 square foot of light there) & came out on the other side. I went back inside, joined the group I was with & shared what I had seen on the outside (which was only a group of rocks & a small hole in the ground). I also remember seeing the Cashiers Booth in the Cave (had an old safe inside) & the old rock bar or stage area. this was in the appx 1953 or 1954. Later during the 1960’s, when I visited
    the Cave the old safe was not there anymore. But, everything else still looked the same as when I was there a few years earlier.
    I believe someone had mentioned that Jabo Carter had a Night Club at the Cave at one time, don’t
    know any details about it though.
    I have hiked numerous times in the area where the Blount Springs Hotel was located. But I never
    hiked near the old house that was on the property (thought someone might possibly be living there?) You know, I do not remember seeing the group of rocks in the photos or the springs that shows the area lined with the nice square rocks. These must have been covered with debris, etc when I was hiking in that area (1960’s). I did find quite a few pieces of the blue bottles scattered around where the
    sulfur springs was coming from the ground. This area possibly has been cleaned out good since
    the 60’s, because it was only coming from appx 1 foot above the ground area at that time. I suppose this is why I do not remember seeing the pretty area lined with the square rocks shown in the photo?.
    My daughter just sent this article to me & when I saw the photos & read all the info that I never knew
    about these 2 sites, couldn’t help but share what little knowledge that I had about the area. Any one
    want to share stories about the area, look me up on FB or my email address listed above. Thanks,
    Fran Hernandez…San Angelo, Tx. 7-2-14

  2. JoAnn Kyzer Doty

    An awesome place to look around.

  3. Remember Tuscumbia

    Been hunting for information on the White House Springs Resort up on Colbert Hts south of Tuscumbia. . Only thing I’ve found is an old newspaper ad, and the ruins of the springs.

  4. Margaret Jane Mcdonald

    Blount springs, I know the place. It’s up 65 north past smoke rise. We looked to buy a house there before we moved down here. It’s a beautiful area.

  5. Josh Hall

    Close to my childhood home… Good memories

  6. Julie Kilgo Harper
  7. Dana Batemon McRee

    It’s so pretty in that area & the smell of Top Hat BBQ smoking up the valley is also .. Every time I come to Hanceville / Cullman to visit family , I always drive through Blount Springs …plus someone had posted about a book called Blount Springs Alabama’s Fountain of Youth by Greg Burden and I had to buy me a copy it’s a good book.

  8. […] of the caves is Bangor Cave, and of the springs, perhaps the Big Spring southwest of Guntersville. Blount Springs is situated in this […]

  9. […] Mary Gordon Duffy, of Blount Springs, a few years ago, wrote thus about Mrs. Crawley’s return to […]

  10. Deb Mason

    That’s funny. We even have chiggers in Illinois

  11. Just keep clear fingernail polish handy…coat skin and pull off when dried…nail polish and Jiggers come off easily….

  12. Thomas Boyd

    “CHIGGERS” can drive you crazy.

  13. Karen Mellema

    Well now, like we tell folks that are visiting, if you don’t like bugs don’t go into the woods or grass, stay indoors.

  14. Edna Peirce Dixon

    LOL Chiggers don’t care how rich or famous you are.

  15. Donna Moseley

    Funny! Chiggers don’t care if you are a rich movie star!

  16. Susan Matthews

    Taylor Lane Mathews:) share with Mikey!!

  17. Ain’t nothing funny about chiggers.

  18. Interesting story, and I like the old blue bottle !!!

  19. Kerry M Kilbourne Thompson

    I remember a story my Mother told me about one time when my fathers’ parents were visiting for a weekend. Mother was about 8 months pregnant and they had all spent the day outside. My grandfather got chigger bites all over his legs. At that time folks used clear nail polish to smother the chiggers. Well, Mother was feeling spiteful because he insisted on my parents giving up their bed to them for the weekend because he “was not” going to sleep on a sleeper sofa, even though Mother was 8 months pregnant. So Mother told him the only nail polish she had was bright red and that was what she used to smother the chigger bites. She said she almost went into labor because she laughed so hard at him walking around in shorts with bright red nail polish spots all over his ankles.

  20. Charlotte Bofinger

    Celeste Sage Beevers the old stomping grounds. I remember going doing in there before the current development. Jamie was little & we walked along the old walls.

    1. Charlotte Bofinger

      I remember Mom talking about the Bee Line Highway…it’s how they moved back to Alabama from Ohio.

  21. My Great Grandfather Monroe McAnnally had a farm near here in the 1890’s. I wonder if he benefited from this place. Perhaps sold some of his excess farm products or occasionally supplied his labor.

  22. Does anyone know the location of the creek with the “stair step” cascade that I see in pictures of Blount Springs? Very pretty.

  23. Kathryn Yow Whaley

    What a pose for the time period!

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