By Lizzie S. Britt (1892-1987), Turkey, NC
* From the Sampson Independent, October 16, 1979, reprinted with permission.
I was 17 years old in 1909 when my friend and later sister-in-law Eva Daniel (now Mrs. Edward Seay, age 91), and I went to visit Seven Springs in Wayne County for 10 days.
So many of our friends had been and told us about the quiet beauty of the place, the restful atmosphere, the delectable country food, the fine mineral water. And too, they told us that is was an excellent place to meet fine young gentlemen of good families.
Seventy years have passed but I can tell you that we were not disappointed. I also remember from my study of history at old Salemburg Academy that Hippocrates, the 5th century B.C. Greek physician, recommended that one drink plenty of water, take exercises, breathe fresh air and rest in order to remain healthy.
We took the train from Turkey to Warsaw, where we changed to a northbound train called the “Shoo Fly.” We got off the train at Mount Olive. It was my first trip there. At that time there were no paved streets and the few stores were on Center Street.
A crowd of people came to the depot to see who had come in on the train. We took a hack, or two-seated surrey, to Seven Springs. I remember the deep ruts, the many sand beds, and some old dilapidated plantation houses that showed signs of seeing better days.
We met several buggies and wagons, but did not see a single automobile.
The hotel was a large frame structure of more than three dozen rooms, but it was architecturally interesting and had spacious piazzas. There was no running water but that did not bother me, since I had been accustomed to the outdoor facilities.
It was the Fourth of July weekend and the hotel was filled. On the Fourth, large numbers from near and far came to spend the day, to drink the water, and for picnics.
The food was simply wonderful. For breakfast we had fried home-cured ham, eggs, home-made biscuits, home-made butter, coffee and fresh fruit. For dinner (lunch is a more recent invention) and supper we had fresh vegetables galore, steak, chicken, and a variety of cakes and pies.
In the morning we went to the springs and we would drink from all seven of the springs. I was convinced then of the therapeutic value of mineral waters. I am still drinking the Seven Springs water and I have to admit that my memory is not as good as it was, but it would be stretching the point to say that I am either physically or mentally rusty.
I also enjoyed the walks among the moss-laden oaks and pines. Actually the hills reminded me more of the Piedmont than the low country of Coastal North Carolina.
In the evenings, we would play a card game called Rook, and we did have fun. And too, there was pleasant conversation. We found the people at the hotel to be quite congenial. Some were there for recreation and others were there on orders from doctors for rest and for drinking the mineral water.
Some of the ladies enjoyed then, as they do now, telling in great details of their aches and pains and their operations performed at Johns Hopkins or at McGuire’s in Richmond.
While there, I met a young man from Greensboro who was visiting an uncle who was a doctor in Goldsboro. He had a Maxwell touring car, I realized that the moment I met him he was interested. He came over and took me to ride several times with my chaperon (for the propriety).
I well remember riding to La Grange one afternoon and to old Holy Innocents Episcopal Church on another occasion. We all wore long dusters back then when riding in open cars, to keep the dust from getting on our clothes. In fact, we really wore clothes in those days. When dressed up, I usually wore at least three petticoats.
The village at Seven Springs was called White Hall, and had been named for the manor house of the pioneer settler William Whitfield. I walked several times down to the post office, which stood near the Neuse River Bridge. Steamboats were still coming to White Hall but since the water was low in July, I did not see one.
I remember talking to an old gentleman who had been a Confederate soldier and had spent the four years of the war with General Lee’s army in norther Virginia. He told me that the Confederate ram “Neuse” was built at White Hall and was floated down to Kinston to be completed.
He enjoyed telling me of the battle of White Hall in 1862 and how the Yankees burned the town. He also pointed out to me some Confederate breastworks on the north side of the river, and the old Whitfield cemetery on the banks of the Neuse.
One afternoon, a local resident took four of us on a lovely boat trip up the river. I remember seeing the interesting and unusual geological formations that are now called the Cliffs of the Neuse. An aged black couple was fishing from the banks of the river. They had caught several catfish, an eel, and a turtle. I talked to them as they remembered fighting at White Hall during the War Between the States and, more especially, they remembered all “the soldiers dressed in blue who were not on our side.”
After ten days we returned to our homes near Turkey. And now that seventy years have passed and I have traveled extensively in this country and abroad and have been to many fabulous resorts, I am still able to recapture the thrills that I had while vacationing at beautiful Seven Springs in 1909.