Monday, June 28, 2010
Mineral Springs and Boyhood Trips, Part 1
J. Mark Lowe
Robertson County Historical Society
Although I grew up in Cedar Hill, my parents were natives of Kentucky. I grew up hearing the place names and stories of small Kentucky towns. For example, Chalybeate Springs, pronounced Clee-Bit, is a small town in Edmonson county, Kentucky near the Mammoth Cave and known for the mineral springs with the mineral, Chalybeate, known for its healing properties. As a young boy, I remember the sulphur well which provided water for Jo Byrns High School [Cedar Hill, Tenn.]. How could one forget the taste of that water from the water fountain.
In a review of medical journals, I found a lot of study of the medicinal qualities of mineral and thermal waters. In one 1902 Medical Journal, I found a list of noted mineral springs. Among them were:
Eldorado Springs, Chancy [later Ridgetop]. Robertson Co., Tenn. sulphuretted, Idaho Springs, St. Bethlehem, Montgomery Co., Tenn.; Kingston Springs, Cheatham Co., Tenn., sulphuretted and chalybeate; Red Boiling Springs, Macon Co., Tenn. sulphuretted and chalybeate; also in this list were Buena Vista Springs and Borgher Springs near Russellville in Logan County.
According to the 1893 Keating and Hamilton’s Dictionary of Medicine, “Natural water possessing more or less distinct medicinal properties due to inorganic substances in solution. All are diuretic when taken in considerable quantities. Chalybeate waters are those holding in solution one or more of the iron compounds, most frequently ferrous bicarbonate and ferrous oxide. They are useful in anemia, but usually have other constituents, the administration of which may or may not be indicated in certain cases. Purgative waters usually owe their properties to sodium sulphate and magnesium sulphate. They are used in some cases of constipation, and in gout, gastric congestion [catarrh], and congestion of the liver. Sulphuretted waters contain sulphuretted hydrogen, and usually the sulphates of sodium and potassium. They, are useful in some cases of gout and rheumatism, in hepatic torpor [liver inactivity], and in constipation, and are asserted to have been used with good results in cases of chronic bronchitis and phthisis [tuberculosis or consumption]. In all these diseases they may be used internally, and externally as baths.”
The springs of Kentucky and Tennessee have had considerable attention paid to them by geologists and chemists, and they have many improved resorts.
I remembered my Dad talking about stopping at the White Sulphur Well on his way to visit his Aunt and Uncle in South Central Kentucky. Eventually, I would learn more about the Sulphur Well. When the father of the Baptist minister in Cedar Hill died in Kentucky, my father and I set out to the funeral home.
We left early one Saturday morning, right after breakfast. I’m not quite sure why I was chosen to go, but I always enjoyed the one-on-one time with my Dad. We traveled through Keysburg and on to Russellville, where we turned onto Highway 68-80. I was familiar with this road, since we often visited family in Bowling Green, but on this day our destination was a bit further. We passed the South Union Shaker village in Logan county and passed the oil pumps near Woodburn. As we approached the community of Rockfield, my Dad told me that he attended first grade in the old school here. He promised we could come back to visit on another day. We passed through Bowling Green and continued northward on the highway.
We soon passed through Bristow, where I knew my brothers and sister attended school before the family moved to Tennessee. Dad turned right following 68-80 through the community of Oakland and by Smiths Grove.
We traveled through the countryside with my tour guide pointing out farms and sights from his youth. I only wish I could remember more of the stories he told on that day. We headed into Glasgow, and he said “I guess we will have time to stop at JELLIS.” I didn’t know what he meant, but he encouraged me to wait and see. As we turned into the city square in Glasgow, I saw across from the Courthouse, a large brick building with a sign painted across the front – J. Ellis’ Drug. [JELLIS] We went inside for an early lunch at the drugstore counter, where everyone there seemed to know my Dad. He suggested we get our dessert to go and head on our journey.
Heading east on Hwy 68-80, he began to tell me about how his family loaded up in a wagon to visit his Aunt Maude and Uncle Leonard, who lived in Greensburg, Kentucky. He said his grandmother, his Uncles, Aunts, and parents would load up two truck wagons with food and supplies for the visit. Based on his stories, I would suspect his first trip would have been about 1925. One of the trucks has high sides and a cover over part of the bed. The other truck had lower sides and only a cloth cover. My Dad remembered his younger brother, Ralph, being held by an Aunt most of the way. The trip would take all day, so they would head out early in the morning, stop over for lunch, then arrive in the early evening at their destination. Staying a day or two, they would head back following the same plan. He said,” We always stopped at the Sulphur Well for lunch.” As he shared more about this trip, he pulled over to a small parking area, he announced, “ We’re here!”
Although disappointed at the story being interupted, I jumped out of the car with anticipation. “Where are we?” I asked, only seeing a rushing creek and a few picnic tables. “The Sulphur Well, we are at the Sulphur Well, “ he exclaimed as he grinned.
Learn more about the trip to Sulphur Well next week.