See color home movies of the 1969 Red Boiling Springs flood!
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Read the history of the 1969 Red Boiling Springs flood
written by Mark A. Rose, Meteorologist,
of the National Weather Service.
Note: after the 1969 flood, extensive work was done to add flood-control dams above Red Boiling Springs. Hopefully, the flood of 1969 will be the last one in RBS history.
History of Red Boiling Springs
by Mrs. Mary Clark Pryor
Macon County Historical Society
Red Boiling Springs is located in the northeast corner of Macon County, Tennessee.
Indian and other peoples followed the animals’ trail to the salt lick located four miles northwest of town (downstream). Among them was Daniel Boone whose name and the date 1775 were said to have been carved on a beech tree in a nearby community. The Macon County Historical Society plans to mark the spot where this tree once stood.
In the mid 1780s, the first surveys for land grants in the vicinity were made, and the stream that flows through the town today was named Salt Lick Creek. In 1791, nearby Jennings Creek was named for Edmund Jennings.
Some of the early settlers in the area were Ferguson, Brandon, Patterson, Davis, Chitwood, Bean, York, Vaughn, Rush, Vincent, Morrow, White, Hall, Roddy, Crawford, DeWhitt, Jones, Hudson and Whitley families.
The Salt Lick Creek post office was established in 1829 with Samuel DeWhitt as postmaster. In 1842 Samuel Jones, Sr. died. He had possessed 400 acres of land (more or less) leaving this land to his youngest son, Jesse Jones, and a life estate in the same land to his widow, Elizabeth Jones. On the land were several fresh water springs and at least one well-known red sulphur spring having reported medicinal properties. The Red Sulphur Spring or Red Boiling Spring, also called then Jones’ Spring, and about 20 acres of land including freestone springs were sold to Samuel E. Hare in 1844. A Mr. Shepherd [probably James Shepherd] was employed to build cabins at the site.
In 1847 the name of the post office was changed to Red Boiling Springs Post Office. Boiling referring to the movement of the water, not the temperature.
In 1848, Mr. Hare sold an interest in the Red Boiling Springs to Jesse G. Bledsoe. Mr. Bledsoe was the innkeeper in 1850. In the 1870s, Capt. James D. “Jim” Bennett, a Civil War veteran, ran the Red Springs Hotel. In the 1900s, word of the medicinal benefits of the mineral waters had spread, and many visitors came to the town for lengthy stays during the summer months. More hotels and other accommodations for entertainment were built. The town boasted a lake, dance hall, bowling alley, shooting gallery, bath houses for mineral baths, skating rink and swimming pool. It became famous for its water and hotels. The Dedman Hotel, built by Joseph M. and Bessie Dedman, burned around 1910, and the Palace Hotel was built in its place. In 1959, it was torn down and The Palace Nursing Home was built on the spot. The Cloyd Hotel, built around 1890 by Henry Cloyd, is still operating as The Thomas House. The Donoho Hotel built around 1900 by Squire Donoho is still operating with the same name.
The Arlington or Central Hotel, built around 1908 by Sam Hance, burned in 1953. The Moss Hotel was built around 1921 by Jim Moss. The Red Boiling Springs or Lincoln Hotel was built in 1926 by Ellis Witcher. The Counts or Smith’s Brick or Smith’s Hotel was built before WWII by Henry Counts. This hotel is still in operation today as The Armour Hotel. The Colonial Hotel was the home of Charles B. McClellan and was made into a hotel around 1944. It burned in 1976. The Missouri House was operated by Mrs. Haywood Smith. The Hudson House was built in the early 1900s by Riley “Cap” Hudson and wife, Molly. Governor Whitley House was run by Jefferson Cannon and wife, Elizabeth (Slate) Whitley. The Joines House was operated by Tom Joines. The Walter Knight House or Trousdale House, The Farmer Hotel (built around 1913 and burned in 1955 had 17 rooms), the Davis House, the Jordan House and many other boarding houses were opened to the thousands of people who came to the town each year.
The health resort era ended in the 1940’s after WWII due to new technology, transportation and recreational attractions that lured visitors elsewhere, and only three of the original hotels are still in business.
Downtown businesses were built by Glenn, Ray and Kenneth Witcher, Dr. Lillard Sloan, Scott and Georgia Wood. Norman & Rose (Donoho) York had a theater and beauty shop. Perry Driver’s Feed Store is still operated by J. L. Deckard. Nearby Hillwood Shopping Center was built by Fred Holman, Don Carver, Bubbie Witcher, Bill Martin. The first bank was the Red Boiling Springs Bank organized in 1919 with the name later changed to Macon Bank and Trust. Lumber-producing operations and garment industries have provided jobs for several years.
The town was incorporated 27 April 1953. The first mayor was Dayton Chitwood. Councilmen were Glenn Witcher, C. H. Russell, B.W. Chitwood, C. P. Joines, Cordell Parkhurst and Charles McClellan.
Today the town has an efficient police force, ambulance service, a fire department, rural health clinic, a landfill, Red Boiling Springs Branch Library, a K-12 School, and Tri County Vocational School which serves the counties of Macon, Clay and Jackson. It also has beautiful parks, one dedicated to the memory of Renah and Jennifer Bilbrey, two little girls who lost their lives when the town was flooded in 1969 by a sudden rainfall of 6.8 inches. The local newspaper, Macon County Chronicle, has been in business since 1993. The town provides city water for itself and neighboring communities including some in other counties. Water from the Bennett Springs is bottled and sold, being pure freestone water. It is bottled and sold as Nestlé water.
A new section of Highway 52 has recently opened bypassing downtown Red Boiling Springs. If you are traveling this way, be sure to visit this historical town of about 1000 people.
From 1922 to 1930, Red Boiling Springs was the location of a Coca-Cola bottling plant.