Monday, April 21, 2014

A Summer Retreat

After the Civil War, during the Reconstruction Period, several local retreats were built as vacation spots. These hotels were surrounding the many mineral springs at the base of White Oak Mountain.  Families from Hamilton, James and Bradley counties would get away and bath in the mineral spas and enjoy some time away from home. These mineral springs were touted to have many healing powers. Residents who were sick with rheumatism, skin infections, tuberculosis, or poor digestion,  prayed that these medicinal waters would help cure all of their health woes.

One such hotel, the Mineral Park, was built on Highway 11 at the base of the mountain, around 6 different springs. It was located about 3 miles up Old Lee Highway between Ooltewah and Cleveland. This 2 story hotel had one advantage that the other nearby retreats did not have. They were close to the railroad. While others were located some distance from the railway with a steep and uneven hill to climb; Mineral Park was erected near enough to the railway to allow a level plank walkway to the inn. The Southern Railroad that went between Cleveland and Chattanooga would stop in front of the resort and allow vacationers to get off. Hence, this park was easily accessible for the feeble and infirm.

from the archives of Mitch Kinder

Although the Park existed maybe as early as 1899, the Inn, built in 1910, contained 23 rooms and a dance pavilion. There were also several cabins on the property. Moderate rates and modern improvements were also the draw to this location. Below are some advertisements for the Park.

All of these advertisements were found in the Cleveland Public Library
Cleveland, Tennessee

The Springs were used for larger gatherings as early as 1906. Here you see The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, celebrating the founding of the IOOF and their own Lodge in Cleveland, at Mineral Springs Park . Other nearby Odd Fellow and Rebekah lodges were invited to the celebration.

from the archives of Mitch Kinder
Also, from 1910 -1912, Mineral Park was the site for the encampment of the Ocoee Baptist Association. There were more than 500 attendees.  A number of preachers and denominations took part in the 1910 program. The park worked diligently in preparations and construction of a tabernacle on the grounds for these events. This building was their pride and joy. The building must have highlighted the meeting, because the Association continued to come back for another two years.

In the beginning, the Mineral Springs Inn was owned by Charles P. DuVergery.  Dr. H. P. Fitch, while living on Grindstone Mountain, later purchased the Inn and made the improvements necessary to bring in the Ocoee Baptist Association. In 1931, O.J. Lawson, the Bradley County Sheriff, purchased some of the property, fixtures, barn, and houses and began to operate the Mineral Park property. In a effort to keep the resort flourishing, he remodeled many areas and converted the dance hall into a Sunday School room. He also planned to convert the hotel into a tourist home and summer resort for religious gatherings.

But sadly, the popular resort came to an end in March of 1933. A fire erupted in the south wing and spread throughout the entire structure, leaving the building in ashes. Later, the springs were covered to make room for utility lines. 

Becky Eaves, an East Brainerd resident, recalls going there as a child around the early 1930's.  She remembers a very large, enclosed pavilion that was used for picnics. She does not remember seeing any springs. Later, what was left of the park went into disrepair. Families no longer attended any activities there. Men began to go there to drink and fights became a common occurrence. It wasn't long before the park closed down permanently.

There is some controversy as to whether this park was ever in James County or not. It is currently in Bradley County, however, it is directly on the county border. As we know, the Bradley County and Hamilton County borders moved slightly during the James County Era. Where was the line drawn on that road? There are no maps in existence that would show the amount of detail necessary to determine that. However, the existing deeds for this property are in the Bradley courts. It appears as if this property, although directly on the county line, never was in James County.

If you have any information concerning Mineral Park Springs, please leave a comment or contact us and share your corrections or additions.

Mineral Park
Mineral Park Springs
Six Different Mineral Waters
Best Arsenic & Iron Water in the South

*postcard from the archives of Mary Hyde