The springs of South Carolina became popular destinations for the citizens of the state from the late eighteenth century through the nineteenth century. There were scores of mineral springs in South Carolina. Some of them were local watering holes, while others were on the grounds of country homes built by wealthy planters to escape the sickly season.
Mineral spring water was considered to have curative properties. The water from Glenn Springs in Spartanburg County was described as having an odor of sulphur and a bitter saline taste. South Carolinians traveled to the springs to drink the water but also to visit with each other and to enjoy the community. The pace was slow as people took the time to heal.
Large resort hotels were built to take advantage of the popularity of the mineral springs. The hotel at Glenn Springs, built in 1838, was open until it was destroyed by fire in 1941. Stagecoaches carried visitors from nearby railroad lines until a narrow-gauge railroad was built in the late nineteenth century. Since the South Carolina Constitution of 1790 prohibited state officers from leaving the state while in office, Glenn Springs Hotel became known as the summer capital of South Carolina as the governor stayed there for a few weeks every summer.
During the 1870s Glenn Springs Hotel entertained over one thousand guests each summer, including prominent South Carolinians such as the Civil War generals Wade Hampton and M. C. Butler. The hotel offered more than a daily regimen of healing waters. Guests enjoyed midnight banquets and danced away the languor of South Carolina evenings to the music of orchestras imported from Italy. The hotel had tenpin alleys, billiard tables, and croquet grounds.
Other notable springs in South Carolina included Abbeville Springs in Abbeville District and Boiling Springs and Healing Springs in Barnwell District. Poplar Springs was in Orangeburg District, and Platt Springs was in Lexington District. Lonamsville Springs and Lightwood Knot Springs were both near Columbia, and Rice Creek Springs was halfway between Columbia and Camden. Cool Springs in the Kershaw District was a summer retreat for Wateree planters who also made their summer homes at Spring Hill in Marlboro District. Bradford Springs was in the High Hills of Santee. There were numerous springs in Spartanburg District, including Limekiln Spring, Cedar Spring, Chalybeate Springs, Cherokee Springs, Pacolet Springs, and Patterson’s Spring. Hanging Rock Springs was in Lancaster District, and Williamston Springs was in Anderson District.
Springs and related resorts declined as vacation destinations in the early twentieth century when the automobile allowed people to travel farther afield and the Great Depression discouraged vacationing. Still, the water from the springs continued to be popular well into the 1940s. Water was bottled and sold in containers ranging from twelve-ounce bottles to five-gallon demijohns.
By the early twenty-first century some springs were dry. Glenn Springs no longer existed. Other springs in South Carolina were still open to the public, and people continued to visit in order to fill milk jugs and water bottles, but the social benefits of mineral water consumption in South Carolina had ended.
Brewster, Lawrence Fay. Summer Migrations and Resorts of the South Carolina LowCountry Planters. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1947.