This article is dedicated to Gracelynn and Kennedy Turner, whose pioneer ancestors James W. and Jane Rogers Turner came to Cerulean in 1808.
Cerulean Springs’ reputation as a “watering place” health spa resort began at a very early date. Folklore and written primary sources present different versions of its history. Historians William Henry Perrin, William T. Turner and the Cerulean Springs historical marker disagree about the site’s succession of owner-operators. All three at times disagree with contemporary newspapers. Deeds sometimes indicate a different property owner than the hotel proprietor named in the newspapers. The discrepancies reflect both the distortions and simplification inherent in the transmission of oral history and the fact that at times the hotel operator did not own the real estate, but ran his business in leased or rented facilities. Today the resort’s historical folklore is well known, while its tangled factual history is not.
The Antebellum DecadesPerrin wrote in 1884, “The waters of these springs have attracted the attention of the humble and scientific from their earliest discovery. The first settlers of the county had a high appreciation of them, because, when almost overcome by thirst and heat they could drink to satiety without oppression. Well-beaten tracks, coming from all directions, led to these springs long before there were any distinguishable pathways to any other point in the county, and invalids for their curative properties sought relief from these waters before the beginning of the present (19th) century.”
The spring and acreage around it was first surveyed for Jesse Goodwin (1760-1848) and a deed recorded on July 7, 1806. Perrin named Richard Stow as the first owner of the spring. Stow sold the spring and 50 acres around it to Kinchan Killabrew in 1817. According to Perrin, “Killabrew erected some rude log cabins on the premises for the comfort of invalid visitors about 1819.” Henry Crow acquired the property in 1830 and made some improvements to the facilities. Crow sold it to Philemon H. Anderson in 1835. According to Perrin’s internally contradictory account, Anderson immediately became involved in a dispute over title to the property that remained unresolved until 1880, when ownership passed into the hands of John F. White and Jesse T. Harper. White and Harper built “A large, commodious hotel capable of receiving several hundred guests ..., with a number of outer buildings for servants, washing, cooking, etc.” Elsewhere in his book, Perrin states that William D. Lander (1818-1878) was “landlord of the Cerulean Springs at the time of his death.”
William T. Turner, in an article published in the Trigg County Sesquicentennial 1820-1970 Historical Program Book stated, “In the next two decades (after 1819) the resort was operated by Joseph Caldwell, William C. Thompson, and Phillips Crow. In 1835, Cerulean Springs was bought by Col. Phil H. Anderson, who in the following thirty years developed it into a very prominent resort. He erected the first hotel building on the ridge of the hill above the spring and added greatly to the reputation of the place. Col. Anderson requested before his death that he be buried in the garden, near the ballroom, that he might be near the sweet strains of music. His wish was granted in October, 1866.” According to an article published in the Cadiz Record in 2013, Anderson’s body was exhumed and re-buried in a Hopkinsville cemetery in 1878.
Anderson owned the property, but evidently leased the facilities to others who operated the hotel. He gave his occupation as “farmer” on the 1850 U.S. Census. N. N. Lampton gave “Cer. Spgs.” as his occupation on the census. Lampton’s household included 35-year old musician A. M. Fuqua. Advertisements in the Clarksville Chronicle in 1857-1860 name “Messrs. Carter & Fuqua” as proprietors of the Cerulean Springs resort. In its July 31, 1857 issue the Clarksville newspaper reported, “Cerulean Springs — We learn from a gentleman just from this delightful watering place that gayety is reigning supreme there. The company is large and select and is giving over the cares of business for the hot season they have abandoned themselves to pleasure. Our informant says they are indulging in the most delightful dances, hunting and fishing, parties, & c. & c. The company is principally from Paducah, Hopkinsville, Princeton, and Trigg County, with a few from upper Kentucky, and from the South.”
On June 1, 1860, the Chronicle published an advertisement, “This celebrated watering place will be open for the reception of visitors on Tuesday, 19th of June, by the undersigned. The guests will be entertained by a splendid Ball, without extra charge, for those who desire to indulge in a trip on the fantastic toe. From the reputation gained by Messrs. Carter & Fuqua at the above Spring during the last watering season, it is useless to say that, with additional improvement made there, every person whether invalid or in search of enjoyment, may rely upon finding superior accommodation at the place.” It was the last grand cotillion in antebellum Trigg County.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of several articles on The Cerulean Springs Hotel.