Not far from rural towns of Princeton and Cadiz, Kentucky, close to the Caldwell and Trigg County boundary is the community of Cerulean Springs. Today it is a small, peaceful community; it once, however, was the scene of a thriving health resort and tourist attraction: the Cerulean Springs Hotel. People from all over the south, and other parts of the country visited the resort seeking the cures of the blue water. The earliest documented evidence of the healing effects of the water at Cerulean comes from the 1790s. Unlike today, the water at that time was a blue-black color at that time. The subterranean effects of the 1811 - New Madrid earthquake changed the spring water to the “Cerulean Blue” color that we are familiar with today.
Robert Goodwin, one of the first settlers of Cerulean, observed three Native Americans dipping another of their tribe in the middle of the stream. He hid behind a tree and tried to figure out what kind of ceremony was taking place. As the Natives continued, Goodwin reasoned that the person being dipped in the water must have been sick, and after they had departed, he waded out into the middle of the stream and observed the sulphurous blue-black spring boiling up into the stream’s clear water. “Afterwards, it was learned that the Indians came from miles and miles, bringing their sick to drink of and to bathe in the healing waters of the spring.”
Sulphur spring water was widely reported to be helpful in curing body ailments. “[The waters] have a most beneficial action upon the kidneys, stomach disorders, and the skin. They are a specific remedy for rheumatism, gout and neuralgia, in all stages, and in many cases are effective in Bright’s Disease, an intestinal antiseptic in contagious and infectious diseases...foul breath, languor malaria, fever, jaundice, and a tenderness over the liver. The water removes all inflammation of the mucous membranes of the digestive organs and restores the stomach.” Many people who had no particular health problems used the water as a “cure all”.
The reputation of the healing aspects of the waters at Cerulean Springs led to the building of the first hotel by Kinchen Kilebrew and his wife, Martha, who opened the health resort in 1817. The land on which it was located consisted of three hundred and seventy acres. “Kilebrew erected some crude long cabins on this land for the treatment of the ill.” In the next twenty years, the resort was operated by Joseph Caldwell, William C. Thompson, and Philipps Crow. These men made several additions to the resort, but it was not until Colonel Philemon H. Anderson bought the property for $2,200 in 1835 that the first large building was constructed. Development on the property was initially delayed due to a boundary dispute which if proven would have meant that the spring was not in the tract of land owned by Anderson. Although it required several years of legal wrangling the matter was ultimately settled in Anderson’s favor, and during his ownership, the Cerulean Springs Hotel became very well known. Anderson is thought to have accomplished more in the establishment of the resort’s notoriety than any other person, and his affinity for the property was evident in his desire to be buried on the grounds, near the ballroom so that he might be near the “sweet strains of music”. His request was fulfilled at his death in October, 1866, but his remains were moved to a cemetery in Hopkinsville in 1878.
Two years after his father’s death, Charles Anderson, sold the hotel and grounds, now only fifty acres to John W. Hicks. A fire of undetermined cause destroyed the hotel in 1869, but Hicks rebuilt within the year and hired Jesse T. Harper to manage the facility. Under Harper’s direction, a trolley was developed which carried water from the spring to the hotel. This trolley line allowed guests to remain on the porch outside their hotel rooms and bring water from the sulphur spring by cable. Hicks sold the hotel and property to Harper and his father-in-law, John F. White in May, 1879, for $3,500.
More about the Cerulean Springs Hotel will appear in the next edition of Remember When...
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