BARGER SPRINGS, (Hinton News) – It is time for another edition of A Peek into Summers County’s Past. Every week, local history collector William Jones talks about pieces from his extensive collection and their connection to the area’s history. In this edition, we are talking about the community of Barger Springs.
To begin the discussion, Jones said, “This week’s piece is about the little community of Barger Springs. Its name was established due to and centered around the water as so many similar ‘spring towns’ in southern West Virginia. Such as Pence Springs, Sweet Springs, Salt Sulphur Springs, Blue Sulphur Springs and the nationally famous Greenbrier, which is the only one still in operation today on that scale, to name a few. All of which became popular because of the belief that the water had healing properties.”
About the area, Jones stated, “The progression of the railroad in this area made it easier for tourists to travel great distances to partake of the waters, which is what built up the hotels and, therefore, other businesses in these communities. Then during the 1910s through the 1920s, the automobile became increasingly more popular and affordable, which greatly helped these areas thrive with people being more freely able to travel at their discretion. WW1 ending in 1918 and the economic boom that occurred in the 1920s added to the success of these resort towns.”
Like so many of the natural springs in the area, the Barger Springs water was believed to have healing abilities. Particularly for certain ailments. Jones said, “Barger Springs was believed to be a natural aid in the healing of chronic kidney, liver and other complaints of that nature. Then the Great Depression hit in 1929 and lasted through 1939. Most of these resort towns and many of the small businesses that sprung up around them saw their business come crashing down, many of which virtually happened overnight. In all my years of collecting I have never seen a single artifact from Barger Springs except for these store ledger books from the store that was in Barger Springs near the hotel from around the turn of the century.”
“The store’s name was Bolton & Keatley. Barger Springs was operational as a resort town from 1903 to 1929, which these four ledger books essentially encompass this time frame. In doing research on this store, I came across the name Isaac Carden. Isaac was the original owner of the property and the one who first started to develop it prior to the Civil War. He built a hotel that catered to the hunters and trappers in this region. Mr. Carden also had one of the first stores in this area.”
According to an article written by Shirley Donnelly in 1964, the property was originally owned by a man named Isaac Carden. Before the Civil War, there was a resort for hunters and trappers. Donnelly went on to say that ownership eventually passed to William H. Barger, whose name was “given to the resort.”
Jones went on to talk about the work Carden did on the property. He said, “To further develop the property, he built a series of log cabins that profited from the influx of the hunters and trappers. Not much else is known about Mr. Carden except that he passed away in 1863. There is very little recorded history of this community until 1903, when the property was bought by a group of 30 men from Hinton, W.Va. who formed a company under the aegis of T. N. Reid, a lawyer in Hinton at that time. They divided the property into 30 lots on which they built vacation cottages.”
He continued, “They constructed the current pavilion over the spring (which is the only structure left standing on this site today other than a few of the cottages). The company later constructed the three-story hotel building called Greenbrier Springs Hotel, which you can see here in this original advertising postcard from 1905 which was very popular among visitors who came to fish, swim and numerous other outdoor activities. There were entertainment venues such as a dancing pavilion built for the guests.”
In conclusion, Jones stated, “As I mentioned before, the depression hit in 1929. The hotel itself was razed shortly thereafter. And the cottages were sold off by the development company. In which many became private residences. Some of the names in these ledger books are strong early names you hear throughout Summers County histories, such as Ballengee, Hedrick, Maddy, and Mann, just to name a few. It is always interesting to read through these records during this time and compare them to today’s prices. For instance, in 1907, one sack of flour was .46 cents. Perhaps the most shocking is a dozen eggs were only .33 cents at the time. Compared to today’s prices for eggs, it seems unreal.”
This brings us to the end of another edition of A Peek into Summers County’s Past. Are you familiar with the Barger Springs area and its history? Be sure to come back next week for another look at the area’s history.
If you have a story from Summers County’s past that you would like to share, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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