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Since 2014, Chief Investigator KyL Cobb has visited the Thomas House many times in an ongoing attempt to understand the nature and extent of paranormal events occurring at the site.
Written by Kyle T. Cobb, Jr.
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Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee is located in the Upper Cumberland region of Middle Tennessee in an isolated corner of Macon County. The area surrounding the community is filled with steep hills, broken ridges, and narrow valleys. The village was established in a valley on the Highland Rim, almost seventy-miles northeast of Nashville.
Thanks to extraordinary geologic and hydrologic factors, the ground waters in the area become mineralized by remaining in contact with a layer of Chattanooga black shale just beneath the surface throughout the region. As a result, the naturally occurring springs are highly mineralized.
Because Macon county, which was formed in 1842, had no navigable rivers, travel through the dense mountain forest by wagon was difficult at best. The nearest navigation port was the Cumberland River port near Hartsville, Tennessee. The Salt Lick Creek happened to be the most remote section of the county.
Some sources claim Sukey Gourd discovered the power of the mineral springs as a treatment for her dropsy. Another legend claims Shepherd Kirby washed his infected eye in the waters and was cured.
The first village in the area was formed around the Salt Lick Post Office in 1829. In 1847, the post office was re-designated Red Boiling Springs. The town was named for the red water which bubbled up every morning on the farm of Jessie Jones.
In 1844, Samuel E. Hare bought the springs and twenty acres surrounding it from Jessie Jones. The first hotel in the area, referred to as a “house of entertainment,” was built by Hare and Jesse C. Bledsoe in 1849. The successor of this hotel was the Webb Hotel that was later re-named the Dedman Hotel. The inn closed before 1873 and the building burned down in 1910.
During the War of Northern Aggression, Union supporters mostly occupied Macon County. Four companies of Union soldiers originated from the county while only two Confederate regiments were raised. The War came to Red Boiling Springs on 24 September 1861 when Captain Ridley West and Captain Joseph L. Bryant organized Company H of the Twenty-Eighth Tennessee Infantry of the Confederacy in the Webb Hotel located near the current Main Street and Whitley Hollow Road. On 22 October 1861, an additional regiment, the Thirtieth Tennessee Infantry, was founded by Colonel John W. Head and Colonel James J. Turner in the Webb. The Webb Hotel would continue acting as a recruitment center until the later occupation.
In late 1861, Doctor James Carson Weir transformed a portion of the Webb hotel into a temporary hospital.
On 16 February 1862, Union Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant captured Confederate Fort Donelson near the Tennessee–Kentucky border. The victory by Grant opened the border to the Cumberland River, and secured Union occupation of Red Boiling Springs.
Control of Red Boiling Springs reverted to Confederate control in September 1862 when General Braxton Bragg launched a campaign into Kentucky. By 18 September, Bragg located his headquarters, seven miles to the south Red Boiling Springs at Gibbs Crossroads near 5270 Carthage Road.
The only battle near Red Boiling Springs occurred at Gibb’s Crossroads, on 11 May 1863. Approximately one-hundred men from the Fourteenth Illinois Cavalry engaged the one-hundred twenty-five men under Confederate brigadier general John Hunt Morgan. The Federals lost one officer and two privates were wounded. Two Confederates were killed and several wounded.
In addition to caring for the injured, the hotel housed Union officers while their troops camped the perimeter of the building.
By 1864, Red Boiling Springs and the surrounding area were firmly under Union control. As a result, the hospital was no longer needed. The hotel resumed operation as the Dedman Hotel but rarely received visitors.
The establishment of a stagecoach route in 1873 between Red Boiling Springs and the railroad in Gallatin, Tennessee, began to draw medical tourists to Red Boiling Springs. Ironically, at the time, only thirty-five people lived in Red Boiling Springs. The town offered four general stores to support distant farmers.
By 1876, Captain James D. Bennett, the owner of the local general store, had purchased the land containing many of the springs and built a new hotel. The Bennett hotel was essentially a series of log cabins next to a central wooden dining hall and a ballroom for nighttime dancing. As wealthy patrons began visiting Bennett’s hotel, Nashville newspapers began mentioning the springs and the hotel in Red Boiling Springs. This free advertisement throughout the late 1870 and 1880s, acted to bring even more medical tourists.
Samuel Jones, Samuel E. Haire, and Jesse G. Bledsoe also opened businesses to exploit the springs in the area.
In 1887, James F.O. Shaugnesy purchased the Red Boiling Springs property and began developing the area as a resort. Shaugnesy’s hotel was originally located on the site that the Palace Hotel was later built upon.
At that time, Henry James Cloyd operated one of the three general stores in the area. The Cloyd general store also served as the post office and received mail three days a week.
In 1890, the railroads reached Carthage and Hartville, Tennessee. This allowed visitors to Red Boiling Springs to travel by train to within thirty miles of the village
By 1890, Red Boiling Springs supported two hotels, the Red Springs Hotel and the Cloyd Hotel.
The Cloyd Brothers Hotel was opened before July 1890 by Zachariah Wheat Cloyd and William Clay Cloyd near an old Shawnee Native American Trail to the Salt Lick. The two Cloyd brothers that created the hotel were the sons of Thomas Jefferson Cloyd (31 May 1811- 20 February 1890).
In 1894, the town changed its name to Redboiling (one-word) Springs just to confuse historians.
As devout Presbyterians, the Cloyd family decided around the turn of the century that their guests would benefit from a church next to the hotel. As a result, a small rectangular Presbyterian church was erected to support the hotel as well as the local community.
Because of the popularity of the springs in the town, by 1905, the city was listed as a Tennessee tourist attraction in Richardson’s Southern Guide. The town was known for hosting germans (cotillions), masked balls, and themed costumed dances. Guest played tennis, billiards, and pool. Hotel baseball teams played teams from Walnut Shade. Guest seeking a quieter relaxation found trout fishing readily available.
The Cloyd Hotel provided patrons with a bath house featuring “Double and Twist” waters. The water here was so full of dissolved minerals that it was considered unsafe to drink. The water name comes from the idea that if you actually were to drink the water, you would double over and twist in pain.
In 1912, it was noted that Thomas Tyler Cloyd was the owner of the Cloyd Hotel. The town is noted as having only one “modern store,” called McClellan Brothers, which boasted that it was three stories high, had an electric elevator, housed a drug store, and a variety of other departments.
By 1914, automobiles began to be able to reach Red Boiling Springs. Around 1917, the Tennessee Central Railroad began contracting with the Red Boiling Springs and Carthage Auto line to shuttle guests from Carthage to the Springs. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad formed a similar shuttle service from Hartsville. The use of automobiles reduced the drive time from the rail terminals to Red Boiling Springs to approximately three hours.
The death of Thomas Cloyd on 14 March 1915 left a gap in management for the Cloyd Hotel. In spite of their best efforts, the family struggled to run the operation for the next year. Ultimately, in mid-1916, the Cloyd family could not pay their hotel’s expenses and lost control of the hotel.
Just as the automobile began to accelerate visitors to the village, the hotel was sold to Joseph H. Peters of Nashville. Peters continued to run the hotel under the same name.
Around 1916, President Woodrow Wilson and his entourage stayed in the hotel.
By 1919, Red Boiling Springs was experiencing a “boom time.” Crowds of over seven hundred tourists per day were routinely staying at the growing number of hotels and boarding houses.
While the sixty-four room, $2 per night Palace Hotel closer to town featured the wealthiest and most prominent visitors, the Cloyd was considered the hotel for the more sedate, religious crowd. The Presbyterian Church on the Cloyd grounds as well as nightly after-dinner church hymns sung next to the lobby piano each night fostered this reputation.
In 1924, a fire destroyed the original wooden hotel. Under Peter’s direction the new red-brick Cloyd hotel was built in 1927 with bricks created on the property. The hotel featured over fifty rooms and two community bathrooms. Patrons were expected to bathe in their rooms using water pitchers and basins.
By the 1930s, the Cloyd Hotel operated one of the areas four bathhouses. The treatment at the bathhouses included alternating hot and cold treatments as well as doses of mineral water. Additional services included body shampoos, massages, and electrotherapy.
The 1930s also saw the Cloyd Hotel offering a five-pin bowling alley and a miniature golf course. The golf course was covered with green painted cotton seed husks and corn-husks along with tiny bridges which allowed patrons to cross back and forth over Salt-Lick Creek.
Red Boiling Springs was at the pentacle of its success in the period between World War I and World War II. During 1936, over 14,000 patrons stayed in the eight hotels and dozen boarding houses lining Salt Lick Creek. A key element of the success of Red Boiling Springs during this period was its utter disregard of the United States prohibition of alcohol.
Because Red Boiling Springs was not incorporated until 1953, there was no local law enforcement. While occasionally the Macon County sheriff or Federal Revenue agents would intercept a shipment of liquor heading to Red Boiling Springs, generally alcohol flowed freely. Even after national Prohibition ended, when beer became legal but liquor was still outlawed in Macon County, the hard liquor drinks never stopped flowing in the village.
In addition to alcohol, the village also catered to sexual desires. In addition to a brothel located near the village at a place called nickel hill, Red Boiling Spring offered a selection of prostitutes for customers’ entertainment. One resident claimed that a number of the hotels’ female employees made the majority of their income “after midnight.”
If gambling was your vice, in 1924 Nashville investor M.A. Simmons offered a gambling house at his nearby lake resort. While gamblers played high-stakes poker and blackjack, their families could enjoy the Simmons’s skating ring, swimming pool, bowling and canoes.
Every day the hotel served guests three meals included in the price of boarding. Meals were served family style and elements were served in large bowls scattered around the tables.
Typical meals at the Cloyd Hotel featured country ham, or fried chicken with vegetables. The Cloyd was known for keeping a large hog pen behind the hotel that was used to produce cured hams throughout the year. The hotel would regularly send out “produce men” to buy vegetables, eggs, and milk from local farmers. The Cloyd was also known for serving ice cream as the featured desert with many meals.
While the depression choked the rest of the country, Red Boiling Springs was largely immune. While there are individual stories hardship such as the suicide of a grocery store owner, the eight resort hotels that remained open through the depression seeing record crowds. In 1936, it was noted that at least 14,175 people had summered in the hotels. In early 1938, the village saw W.N. York and his wife opening a multipurpose building featuring a movie theater.
On 1 November 1941, the town name was changed back to Red Boiling Springs.
Beginning with World War II, the tourist business in Red Boiling Springs collapsed. Medical advances, improvement in transportation, and the failure of the local hotels to modernize proved the downfall of the village.
In 1950, Dr. A.T. Hall of Lebanon, Tennessee purchased the hotel. He added a modern bowling alley, a golf course, and a swimming pool. Hall is noted as the leading advocate for modernizing the Red Boiling Springs water and power systems.
By 1952, only the Cloyd Hotel and the Donoho Hotel remained in operation.
For a ten-year period during the 1950s and 1960s, the hotel was managed by William Archie Moss and Cornell Cloyd Moss, daughter of Thomas Tyler Cloyd.
The summer of 1961 brought tragedy to the hotel. On 29 July 1961, seven-year old Edwin Ward Rush, the son of Dona Ann Cross and Clarence Earl Rush, drowned in the swimming pool in front of the hotel.
Throughout the 1960s, the hotel had few visitors.
On 23 June 1969, the town made news across the state when a flood engulfed the entire Salt Lick Creek valley, killing two young girls. Fifteen businesses in the center of the town were destroyed along with thirty-five houses. Even a Trailways bus was washed away and carried over five hundred feet.
Unfortunately, the $2.2 million in damages had not been the first major flood the town had suffered. In the 1940s, two other major floods had damaged the town but preventative action had not been taken.
After owning the property for twenty-three years, in the fall of 1973, A.T. Hall sold the property to professional wrestler Lester Morgan and his wife.
In 1974, the Citizens Bank of Lafayette foreclosed on the hotel from Lester Morgan because he had paid nothing against his $116,500 loan to purchase the hotel. As a result of the foreclosure, the property was auctioned off on 23 December 1974. Morgan claimed that the hotel simply was not profitable and that, at any given time, there were only ten to twelve guests in the hotel.
Around 1980, the Hotel was renamed to the Cloyd Country Inn and noted for operating the only hotel run swimming pool.
By May 1983, the Cloyd was operated as the Mossy Creek Summer Camp for children and was owned by Evan Moss. Ads for the camp offered a complete children’s program including horseback riding, canoeing, and swimming.
In 1986, the Mossy Creek Summer Camp-Cloyd Hotel building was submitted for consideration as a National Historical site along with several other locations in Red Boiling Springs.
The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places on 11 September 1986.
Around 1987, the Mossy Creek Summer Camp closed and the building was purchased in 1988 by the Anzara Inc. Tennessee corporation. The new owners renamed the building to the Anzara Hotel. Virginia June Riggs was listed as the agent for the company out of Athens, Tennessee. At the time, the Anzara religious order had moved to Red Boiling Springs. Members of the cult lived in all three operating hotels in the town. While little is known about the ambitions of the cult, it is believed that the cult was an Armageddon cult with a focus on summoning and communicating with the deceased.
In May 1992, the corporation that owned the hotel collapsed. By 30 August 1992, the hotel had entered bankruptcy. The building including hotel fixtures and eleven acres surrounding it were sold at auction on 3 September 1992. A real estate investor purchased the land.
Roy and Evelyn Thomas Cole purchased the hotel for back taxes. In 1993, the hotel was reopened as the Thomas House bed and breakfast.
In 2001, the hotel suffered a fire that destroyed a portion of the U-shaped building. The Coles rebuilt the section in the same style and converted the new portion of the hotel into private living quarters.
Today, the hotel continues to operate hosting regular theatrical presentations and serving excellent country-styled food.
You can spend the night at the Thomas House and have professional paranormal investigators usher you through the experience with my friends from Ghost Hunt Weekends. Click their logo below to go to the Thomas House Booking site.
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