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By John Oliver, President, Historical Society

We are spending this month looking at “summer pleasures.”

The warm months of summer lead us to such things as swimming in the ‘granny hole’ on Little Goose Creek, sitting under the backyard shade tree with a glass of lemonade, or enjoying a revival and dinner on the grounds at our neighborhood church.

Since our county history revolves around farming and most people in Trousdale County made their living farming, the chance to enjoy simple summer pleasures was made all the more difficult by the daily need to feed the livestock, gather the eggs from the hen house, milk the cows, hoe the weeds in the garden. Well, you get the idea.

It was said that a farmer had to get up an hour earlier if he wanted to take off an hour later in the day to sit and visit with friends and family and enjoy watermelon and hand-cranked ice cream.

Submitted photo
This old ad from 1898 promotes a stay in Red Boiling Springs. People could take the train to Hartsville and then ride a stage to the resort town. The “war bulletins” mentioned in the ad are for the Spanish-American War!

People in the big cities would visit the country to get away from the heat and congestion of the sidewalks and traffic-filled roads. Many a city kid spent the summer visiting with their country relations.

And many folks would pack a bag and visit a rural resort to spend a week, doing little more than sitting on a wide hotel porch in a rocking chair.

If you are not from here, then you won’t know that just up the road from Hartsville was the popular resort town of Red Boiling Springs!

Named for the natural springs that literally boiled up out of the ground, the small town became a resort known for its large wooden hotels, wide verandas, home-cooked meals and simple pleasures.

The waters were also said to be healing and people would drink them or bath in them to cure a variety of illnesses.

If you went, you would immediately notice a strong sulfur smell. The waters were full of natural elements and sulfur was just one of them – and you might have to hold your nose to drink a glass!

Nevertheless in the days before automobiles and such entertainment capitals as Orlando, Las Vegas and even our own Gatlinburg, the little community of Red Boiling Springs attracted a huge crowd of people from the cities.

An ad in an 1881 issue of The Tennessean encouraged people to take the Louisville and Nashville railroad to Hartsville and then take a wagon to the springs. The ad reads, “…arrive at Hartsville in time for dinner at the Allen House, and thence to the springs to supper at 8 o’clock.” The Allen House was a Hartsville hotel.

The springs offered dancing in large pavilions and even a small lake for boating. It was low-key entertainment, but occasionally it offered a bit of excitement!

The Palace Hotel, one of the town’s largest and grandest hotels, would occasionally announce a “dog and badger” fight.

Now if you place a dog of any breed in a room with a wild badger, the result is a fight the likes of which you’ve never seen. Fur would fly!

On a given afternoon, the public would be invited to the Palace dance hall where, and we quote from an account written about the frenzied event, “They had a room where they kept the musical instruments and piano…so when they’d get everybody all there they’d set it up…and they’d have someone that had never seen (a dog and badger fight) hold the rope the badger was tied to. And the badger would be inside the room where the piano stayed…And they would line the benches…in a small circle up there so the badger and dog would have to stay in that. So, when the time come this badger would be making a noise in the room and the dog would be outside, and the rope would be shaking and all, and all of a sudden, the doors would fly open, and out would come the badger whenever they pulled on the rope. And of course, it was nothing in the world but a little tin chamber (pot). A little flat one, you know, with a handle on it…Made the dog-gonest racket you ever heard.”

It was all in fun, and the “victim” holding the rope was probably red-faced at being made to look like a fool. But the whole crowd had fallen for the joke.

There are lots of stories about the healing waters of Red Boiling Springs, the old hotels, famous and infamous people who stayed there, and the various entertainments. The speaker at this Saturday’s Historical Society meeting, Mr. Don Green, is going to talk on just that. Mr. Green has written a book on the people and hotels of old Red Boiling Springs and knows about their history.

The Historical Society meeting will be at 2 p.m. at the County Archives building at 328 Broadway, behind the main county administration building. The public is invited to all society meetings!

And by the way, there are still a few old hotels in Red Boiling Springs today!