This collection began with the Kentucky Oral History Commission’s effort to establish oral history programs in each of the state’s 120 counties. County libraries worked with local volunteers to collect interviews. Since 1987, county oral histories have been generated primarily by recipients of technical assistance grants from the commission that provide training and equipment to volunteer interviewers. Interviews donated by independent researchers are also included. Original collection held at Kentucky Oral History Commission/Kentucky Historical Society. Access copies available at Lincoln County Public Library. Authorization must by granted by KHS to use or publish by any means the archival material to which the Society holds copyright.
LINCOLN COUNTY ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW
INTERVIEW OF MR. WELBY BURGIN BY MRS. M. H. DUNN
TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE
Mrs. Dunn: We will be interviewing Mr. Welby Burgin, a Lincoln County native. Mrs. M.H. Dunn will be asking most of the questions. Welby, we want to get this tape recording of the activities of the old Crab Orchard Springs. We understand that you worked there for a good many years and we feel like you could tell us many things that have not already been told to us, about this famous springs.
Mr. Burgin: Well, when I first knew of the Crab Orchard Springs to amount to anything, is we moved to Crab Orchard in 19 and 9 (1909) and Mr. and Mrs. Willis, formerly of Richmond, Kentucky, was…been operating it for many years. And, they had a cuticura (sic) there, at the time, before the prohibition days, and the doctor that took care of that was Dr. Dick. And, he left there somewhere around 1914 or 15 and Dr. Strator took his place, and he stayed there as long as the whiskey went out in 1918.
Mrs. Dunn: What type of recreation did they have for the people that came to the Springs, other than those that just came to drink the waters?
Mr. Burgin: Well, they had a bowling alley, pool room, dance every night, except Sunday night; six nights a week; horseback riding, golf course, tennis courts, lake, fish, and did some boating, swimming. Just mostly anything you’d want to…recreation you’d want to take.
Mrs. Dunn: I’ve heard somebody talk about national fox hunters coming there. Tell us about those activities.
Mr. Burgin: Well, they had the month of May, and June…up to the last week in June, was always convention time. Fox hunters didn’t meet until November. Usually, for years straight there, the State Fox Hunt met there and the National Fox Hunt, too. And, they would have a…after the fox hunt in the afternoon, well, they’d have a steeplechase and different sports to follow up. And, all the…all the conventions always had some kind of a program they’d put on. And, trap shooting and anything the…the fox hunters…not only the fox hunters, but the druggists, and doctors’ convention and insurance and different ones; any time they’d want a convention, well they had a place to come…a good place to have it. And, the hundredth anniversary of the Masonic Lodge met there in 1916; in June of 1916 and they ran excursions there from everywhere and never had enough side tracks to hold them all and they took one back to Brodhead so’s they’d have enough room for it, and one to Maywood. And, that was the biggest crowd I’ve ever seen in Crab Orchard. They come from everywhere.
Mrs. Dunn: Now, back to the fox hunt, what do you mean by cast the hounds?
Mr. Burgin: Well, that’s where they would…they’d take the hounds out in a truck and they’d get the boys or some of them there in town or take the horses out there, one would ride a horse and maybe lead three or four along with him, wherever they were going to turn the hounds loose. That’s what they…as casting the hounds. They’d have a little program before they’d turn the hounds loose for the hunt. And, the rest of them would go in cars out to wherever they were going to what they call cast the hounds. And, they would have breakfast by 5:30 or 6:00 o’clock and get out there right about daylight. And, in November, the hunt…always hunt…had to have cool weather for the fox hounds to run. And, then they’d have a car out there…they’d ride the horses and then bring the horses back the way they…where they started from that morning and some of the boys would bring the horses back for them and they’d ride in the cars back; get in around noon.
Mrs. Dunn: Were these hunters mostly Lincoln County people?
Mr. Burgin: Oh, no, they was from all over this state and some other states too. A National hunt, they come from everywhere.
Mrs. Dunn: Were there prizes that made it worth their while to come in for the fox hunt?
Mr. Burgin: Well, it was the sport mostly they wanted. Of course, they won prizes, but it was….
Mrs. Dunn: What type of prizes?
Mr. Burgin: Oh, silver cups and anything of that kind. They didn’t come for the monies’ in it. They come to let their hound lead the pack.
Mrs. Dunn: Who was manager when you worked there; when you started working there?
Mr. Burgin: Mr. A. A. Webb. He came from the old Willard Hotel in Louisville. He was raised in Greensburg, Green County.
Mrs. Dunn: How was Isaac Shelby, Jr. connected with the Springs?
Mr. Burgin: He was the one that built the brick building, the main building. What year, now, I can’t tell you.
Mrs. Dunn: I’ve heard of office row. Tell me about what is office row.
Mr. Burgin: Well, there was two long frame buildings that sat a hundred yards or more apart, that ran down from the road, and then this brick building was built at the end of those, in between…not in between them, but at the end of them. And, that was…office row was the first building that was built and then later they built another frame building and it got its name, Calico Row, from…they had some…I don’t know what kind of fever it was, tick fever, yellow fever or something in the South, in Mississippi or Louisiana one, and some families all got together down there and brought the children up there to get away from this disease. And, brought the maids with them, and they did the laundry for the children, and they’d dry their clothes on a banister of this…they took up this one section of what’s called Calico Row and all the rooms in it, and they’d dry the children’s clothes, dresses and all and calico was hanging on those bannisters through the day, and so they just…the nickname started… somebody nicknamed it Calico Row and it just held onto that name as long as…until it burned down.
Mrs. Dunn: Now, you mentioned that they had dances every night except Sunday night. Did a lot of local people attend the dances or was it just for the guests of the hotel? Mr. Burgin: Oh, no, it was for anybody that wanted to come. They come from Lancaster, Stanford, and Crab Orchard and Mt. Vernon, all around…Lexington, if they wanted to be over there. Sometimes they would come and have dinner that night and then stay for the dance. The orchestra played for the meals twice a day, at noon and night, and then they’d play to 11:30, 12:00 o’clock, the dance, Monday through Saturday night.
Mrs. Dunn: Did they have any kind of church services for the guests?
Mr. Burgin: No, no, if that’s…if they wanted to go to Church, they’d go there in town, and those who wanted to go to the Catholic Church in the city, usually a good many, some of them come to Danville and some of them go out to Ottenheim a small Catholic Church out there.
(tape turned off, then back on)
Mrs. Dunn: Welby, how did these people ever get here? Was it early enough that they…not many people had automobiles, or how did they come to the Springs in the early days?
Mr. Burgin: Well, in the early days, now, before ever I went to work there, when I was just a boy, a lot of them came by train. But, later on, why they came, most of them, in automobiles, cause the roads got better and…but a…now, when they used to come by trains, they had a hack…what they called a hack that would meet the train, two horses, and they would…the driver sat up on the top and would drive. And, it was a nice…a nice outfit. I can remember when the last hack was shipped in there by freight and unloaded. I went down and watched them unload it out of the boxcar. And, it was the driver that drove those two big black horses, and he’d drive up from the depot and he got right there in the center of town, there’s a turn to go up toward the Springs, he’d blow a bugle, and the band would strike up…they had a bandstand out in the yard and he’d be playing My Old Kentucky Home when the people would arrive at the door. And, then, later on, why, the automobiles took the day and they didn’t travel by train, they come in cars. And, of course, now, then, cars are much more used than the trains. Trains don’t haul anybody anymore because they’re not even running.
Mrs. Dunn: How expensive was it to spend a vacation at the Springs?
Mr. Burgin: You’d get a room with a bath, five dollars a day.
Mrs. Dunn: Well, could the average family afford to spend a vacation there; say two weeks’ vacation?
Mr. Burgin: Well, they did. They did. A lot of them, they’d bring children that was all…and pay for them just the same, if they wanted to go. Why, that was just about as cheap as you could go anywhere else, or maybe a little cheaper.
Mrs. Dunn: Did you have many honeymooners?
Mr. Burgin: No, not too many. Had a few, just like any other place, but….
Mrs. Dunn: When you mentioned the horses that drove the hack…that pulled the hack, were there any riding facilities for people or stables?
Mr. Burgin: Oh, they had a stable of riding horses, yes, and they would ride out on the country roads. There wasn’t enough automobiles then to bother them. They could just ride most anywhere they wanted to go. They’d ride out…some of them had never been out in the woods and they’d ride…take a road down through the woods, and just ride horseback, a bunch of them together. Some of them didn’t know much about riding, but they’d get along. Always picked gentle horses; didn’t have many too wild, green horses for people that wasn’t used to horses.
Mrs. Dunn: Was this just opened through the summer time?
Mr. Burgin: Well, on the last it did. In the wintertime, it was too much expense to operate it. Now, when Mr. and Mrs. Willis ran it, they kept it…they lived there. They kept it open the year round, the brick building. And, then Mr. and Mrs. Fickerson (sic) and Mr. Joe Hassman (sic) bought it from them, and they operated it themselves, so they kept it open the year round. But, after Mr. Webb came there, why, he stayed there the year round, but he didn’t operate it.
Mrs. Dunn: Now, many of these people just came for vacation, but I’ve understood that many of them came to drink the waters.
Mr. Burgin: Oh yes, they had an iron water, magnesia springs and a lot of doctors would recommend it and had salts water. Years ago, they used to boil the water down till it came to a crystal, just like Epsom Salts would be, and then they got to just boiling it down, concentrating it, put a tablespoon full in a glass of water and it had the same affects. I still have a…well, my daughter has one of the old cartons that says Crab Orchard Spring Water, and she also has a little box…tin box of those crystals.
Mrs. Dunn: And, it was bottled and sold….
Mr. Burgin: Oh, yes….
Mrs. Dunn: Shipped?
Mr. Burgin: Any drugstore you could go and buy it. We sold it at the Springs, too.
Mrs. Dunn: But, was it shipped to other places?
Mr. Burgin: Oh, yes, yeah, they shipped it. People…we didn’t concentrate it there at the Springs. Goodwin Brothers, a bottling outfit, and they bottled it and shipped it everywhere.
Mrs. Dunn: Did the Springs just go dry? Is that why….
Mr. Burgin: No, the Springs never did go dry. You can go up there now and get all that kind of water you want. It’s still there, the water is.
Mrs. Dunn: Well, now, it was famous all over the South, and it was known, at one time, as the Saratoga of the South. What happened to it? Why is it not in existence today?
Mr. Burgin: Well, it was sold for a school, people thought, during hard times, and they couldn’t make a school out of it. And, it ended up a burning. But it could…it would be a great thing today if somebody had it and operated it, because you’ve still got the water just the same as you always had it. The water is there.
Mrs. Dunn: None of the buildings are in existence today that was operating…
Mr. Burgin: No, no, they are all gone.
Mrs. Dunn: Were they torn down?
Mr. Burgin: Burned down.
Mrs. Dunn: They didn’t burn at one time.
Mr. Burgin: No. Even the barn burned. It was always a separate building.
Mrs. Dunn: And, the spot is now the….
Mr. Burgin: The school.
Mrs. Dunn: Crab Orchard City Schools.
Mr. Burgin: Right; that’s the county school.
END OF INTERVIEW