Watering Places: Mallory Springs in Madison County

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Watering Places: Mallory Springs in Madison County


I recently read “Old Kentucky Watering Places” by Lexingtonian J. Winston Coleman Jr. It appeared originally in the Filson Club History Quarterly of January 1942. The spas were for people to partake of the curing qualities of mineral spring waters and to spend a period of rest and pleasure away from the summer heat, wrote Coleman.

The first place listed was Olympian Springs in Montgomery County. It dated from the early part of the 19th century. From the same era was Greenville Springs near Harrodsburg. Later came Harrodsburg Springs, Blue Lick Springs in Nicholas County, Estill Springs, and Crab Orchard Springs in Lincoln County.

Many of the spa patrons came from the Deep South to avoid the summer heat.

Therefore, disruptions during and after the Civil War caused the springs to decline in favor. Some revival of their popularity came in the 1890s. Coleman’s listing from this period included Mallory Springs in Madison County. Most of the watering places had disappeared by 1918.

Looking back at this more relaxed and gracious time, several of the springs had some version of a romantic tale of the “lone grave.” Buried there was a Southern belle who died dancing in the hotel ballroom and, as per her wishes, is buried in a lone grave at the springs where she had spent so many happy hours.

Mallory Springs, over toward Big Hill and Red Lick, was the only Madison County springs listed. In 1940, the Tates Creek Baptist Association’s Women’s Missionary Union opened the Pond Memorial Camp at Mallory Springs. The associational young people’s leader then was Mrs. John Turner. Under her guidance, the association purchased a lot at Mallory Springs and constructed a two-story log building. There was also a second building which housed a kitchen and dining room. The first year, some 40 boys and girls attended this camp. The camp closed in the 1950s. The association sold the property and in 1959 and purchased the old Bobtown School, using it as a youth campground. This new location was not nearly as popular as the Mallory Springs camp and was closed in 1968.

I attended the camp at Mallory Springs in the 1943-1947 era, as did a number of our readers. I recall two or three old wooden buildings left over from the watering hole days. Also, in fine condition, was the Moody cabin. It burned down later. The spring still poured forth its supply of sulfur water. You had to hold your nose while drinking. The camp was at the end of the road, but you could hike up the mountain to a rock with a line on it indicating that you were in Jackson County.

Like the spa of the 1890s, the camp of the 1940s was a relaxing, wonderful place.


Dr. Fred Engle




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Dr. Fred Engle, “Watering Places: Mallory Springs in Madison County,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 26, 2022, https://madisonsheritage.eku.edu/items/show/1793.