The Springs of Virginia

$4.00 By Perceval Reniers UNIV. OF NORTH CAROLINA
THIS book does not, as one might perhaps imagine, deal with the well-known Spring family of Virginia, but rather with the thermal establishments of that State, from the earliest times to the present. While some of the famous springs were known to George Washington and his contemporaries and visited by them, they were located in the wilder part of the mountains of western and southwestern Virginia and were not fully explored or developed until the 1820’s and 1830’s. During those decades and up to and after the Civil War they enjoyed a vast popularity, particularly among the planters and merchants of the low country of South Carolina and tidewater Virginia. It became the smart thing to do to pass the oppressively hot summer months visiting ‘ The Springs.’ Of these there was every variety, with all standards of comfort or the reverse. It was not enough to visit one of the Spas; one made the tour of the Springs, perhaps half a dozen of them or more. You might begin at the Warm and then proceed to the White Sulphur, the Hot, the Salt, the Red Sulphur, the Sweet, the Red Sweet, Healing Springs, Bath Alum Springs, and so on and so on. In these early days some of the establishments were of an incredible crudity, and travelers submitted to all kinds of indignities for the privilege of drinking and bathing in the health-giving waters. The medical profession of the pre-Civil War period managed to find a cure for every possible human ill somewhere in this galaxy of mineral springs, and the gentry of the Deep South faithfully carried their hobnailed livers to Virginia for an annual summer cleaning. Along with the gentry, of course, came a more sinister group — the gamblers, touts, riffraff of all kinds, who always follow like jackals the people with leisure and money to lose.
Mr. Reniers presents the disagreeables and the discomforts incident to life at the Springs, but is naturally inclined to romanticize the belles and the beaus of that early period. There is a good deal of lavender and old lace and of the romance of the pre-war South. After the war the Springs, which had gone through good times and bad, dwindled in number until there were left, and are left today, only two of national significance — Hot Springs and White Sulphur, which still carry on as great year-round resorts as well as therapeutic establishments. R. E. D.