LET’S TAKE A VACATION!
By Paul Gettys
Have you ever wondered how folks spent their free time over a hundred years ago? Well, it seems they did many of the things we do. In order to find out what summer vacations were like, I spent some time looking through copies of the Rock Hill Record during the spring and summer of 1909. Not everybody shows up in the paper, of course. Vacations were largely a privilege of those wealthy enough to travel. Also, the newspaper tended to provide more coverage to the socially prominent and very little coverage to African Americans. With these limitations in mind, it can be enlightening to see what folks were up to. All dates are from 1909.
Very few families had automobiles in 1909. The most common mode of travel was by train, and Rock Hill’s position on two rail lines made access available to many destinations.
Some people traveled for health purposes. Mr. W. Brevard Fewell left Rock Hill around the middle of April to spend the summer in Hendersonville, NC in hopes of improving his health. Mrs. Fewell was already in Saranac Lake, New York for her health and would join him later.
Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Jones of Chester planned to spend several weeks in Hot Springs, Arkansas for health reasons. There were many resorts close by which offered springs and cures. These health resorts were popular and most claimed that their waters had curative powers. Often they were developed into hotels for summer guests. Miss Nan Johnson spent some time in May at Connelly Springs, while Mrs. E. H. Johnston went there in August. Connelly Springs was located in Burke County, N. C. near Rutherfordton. The springs were discovered in 1889 and a hotel was built there with 50 rooms. Mrs. S. N. Sowell and children spent some time at Rocky River Springs. A group of eleven ladies and their children left on July 2 for White Stone Lithia Springs in Spartanburg County. This resort, which had a hotel and cabins housing 350 guests, boasted its water had Lithium bicarbonate and Lithium sulphate. The hotel eventually burned and the land is now within Croft State Natural Area. Piedmont Springs, located in western York County near present-day Kings Creek, was a popular destination. Mrs. Leroy Poag and Miss Carrie Belle Poag returned in mid-July from Piedmont Springs. Mrs. Frank Massey and her children also spent some time there, as did Mrs. W. J. Neely and Mrs. F. M. Hair. This resort, which dated from the 1820s, had a large hotel which burned in 1918. Mrs. Francis Beckham and children of East Moore Street enjoyed a visit to Glenn Springs, located in Spartanburg County. The use of the waters at Glenn Springs dates to the 1830s. The grand hotel and spa burned in 1941. Professor J. C. Cork spent some time in Barium Springs, N. C., in southern Iredell County. Mr. E. R Rivers left in late July for a stay at Alkalithia Springs, located in Alexander County, N. C. Miss Ruth Youngblood and Mr. and Mrs. John Cowan spent a week at Catawba Springs, a resort on Killian Creek in eastern Lincoln County, N. C.
Some travelers combined business with pleasure. John Gary Anderson, founder of the Rock Hill Buggy Company and later the Anderson Motor Car Company, left in the spring for a trip to Europe and the Middle East, where he visited a number of countries. By May, he had written letters home from Liverpool, London, and Paris. In June, he was in Jerusalem, where he took orders for Rock Hill Buggies. He also took orders for buggies in Damascus. Anderson returned home in July. Dr. David Bancroft Johnson, President of Winthrop, also had something of a working vacation. In June he left for New York for a meeting and then joined his wife in Hendersonville, N. C. for a stay. After that, he attended a National Educational Association meeting in Denver and visited colleges in Iowa, Chicago, and Knoxville before returning home.
Others who traveled to distant places included Henry Massey, who returned in April from a trip to Florida, and Miss Hester White, an employee of the Friedheim Brothers Store, who spent two weeks in New York City and northern New York. Also spending time in New York City were Mr. I. Bloomberg and his son and Miss Maggie Lee Sadler. Roy Barron, a college student, went to Washington State where he worked for the summer months. Mr. S. S. Plexico went on a trip to Tennessee for a family reunion in Memphis, then stopped in Chattanooga and Knoxville. Mrs. Selina Moore and daughter Jonnie spent the summer with relatives in Alabama and Mississippi, while Professor T. O. Mabry and his family went to their farm in Mississippi. There was a Alaska-Yukon Exposition in Seattle, Washington which attracted a number of visitors, including Miss Ethel Maxwell, Mr. J. C. Witherspoon, and Capt. and Mrs. W. A. Graham. The Southern Railroad offered special excursion packages for this exposition. Hal J. Pride spent a two-week vacation in Texas.
Others found some summer relaxation much closer to home. The Record reported on July 22 that “creek parties” were quite popular. “Nearly every afternoon several carriages full of folks drive out and spend several hours on the alluring banks of some nearby stream.” On August 12, Mr. and Mrs. F. H. Moore and Mr. and Mrs. Wilson Moore and sons left for the [Catawba] river, where they camped for the rest of the week. The family of T. L. Johnston also took a camping trip to the river in July.
On July 28-29, M. G. (Max) Bryant led an excursion from Rock Hill to Charleston on the Southern Railway. The ad for the excursion stated “No drunkenness, rowdyism, or bad behavior will be tolerated.” Six coaches were full of Rock Hillians, including a baseball team planning to play a YMCA team in Charleston. The entire group totaled 400, including some picked up in Chester and Columbia. Some of the group stayed at the Isle of Palms “surf bathing.” Others took a harbor cruise, explored the Battery, or “learned how Charleston observes or does not observe the dispensary [liquor] laws.” The beachgoers included a prominent Rock Hill minister who turned somersaults into the ocean from the shoulders of two men and “Hi” Henry, a large man who was able to lift young ladies up as the waves came. “He was the envy of shorter men.” The excursion came home overnight and arrived back in Rock Hill at 5:30 am.
Like so many families today, many took beach vacations. Miss Orrie Steele spent five weeks in Willoughby Beach, Virginia. Peter Ihrie enjoyed a stay at Wrightsville Beach, as did Fletcher Ruff. Miss Carrie Friedheim enjoyed a stay at Atlantic City, N. J. where she was chaperoned by her aunt, Mrs. Samuel Friedheim. Charles Mobley attended a house party at Edisto Island, while Mrs. J. E. Reid spent time at Sullivan’s Island. The F. W. Lachicotte family from Chester spent the latter part of the summer at Pawley’s Island. Also visiting the coast were Mr. J. E. Parker and son James, who visited Charleston, and Miss Evelyn Frew, who spent time in Savannah.
But far more popular were trips to the cool North Carolina mountains. Folks flocked to Hendersonville, Asheville, Waynesville, Black Mountain, Saluda, Tryon, and other mountain towns. Miss Fannie Dickey stayed two months in Asheville, while Miss Carrie Means and her sister Essie spent two weeks there. Enjoying Waynesville were Mr. Morris Cobb, Mr. and Mrs. C. W. Frew, and Mr. and Mrs. F. Sadler Love, who spent their honeymoon there. Tryon attracted Mrs. L. C. Harrison of Charlotte, who had a mountain home there “where she will entertain at a continuous house party” during July and August. Some of her Rock Hill guests were Mrs. Myron Sandifer and sons, Miss Amelia Beckham, Mrs. E. E. Poag and Mrs. J. B. Heath. Mrs. Clara Barrett Strait of Lancaster spent some time at Blowing Rock, while Dr. and Mrs. J. P. Kinard of the Winthrop faculty enjoyed their summer home near Black Mountain. Mr. Toy Rhea joined a party of friends who spent two weeks camping in the mountains. Mrs. James Scruggs visited her uncle in Cherokee, while Lottie and Annie Barron spent ten days in Saluda. Also staying in Saluda were Mr. and Mrs. Marion Nelson and Mrs. C. D. Smith. Hendersonville attracted Mrs. D. B. Johnson, Mr. and Mrs. Brevard Fewell, Mrs. W. G. Steele and her niece Adeline Fewell, Mrs. R. L. Sturgis, Miss Ivey Frew, and Miss Alice Butler Cherry.
The mountain retreat most often mentioned was Montreat, the Presbyterian assembly grounds. In addition to hosting church conferences and retreats, Montreat in the early twentieth century already had numerous cottages and houses owned by families from throughout the South. The Roddey family of Rock Hill owned twin houses on the upper terrace. Miss Catherine Roddey hosted a house party which hosted Bessie Waters, Mary and Carrie Anderson, and R. H. Crawford The related Whitner and Roddey families spent much of the summer at Montreat. Capt. W. W. Boyce and family and Professor E. W. Hall rented a cottage at Montreat for the summer. Others who vacationed at Montreat included Catherine Poe, Elizabeth Law, Col. W. B. Dunlap and Mrs. Ira B. Dunlap and children, Mrs. Ben Fewell and family, and Lillie Earle Sadler and Mary Adams.
Several families tried a new resort near Flat Rock called Kanuga Lake. Mr. George Stephens of Charlotte bought 950 acres and dammed Mud Creek to form a lake. Landscape architect John Nolen created a master plan and Asheville architect Richard Sharpe Smith designed the major buildings, including a large inn, a lakeside pavilion, and 39 cottages. It opened in 1909 and became a popular summer resort. Mr. T. A. Crawford of Rock Hill was among the first guests and he reported that the inn was filled to capacity. Others from Rock Hill who visited Kanuga in its first year were Mr. J. E. Roddey, and Mrs. T. A. Crawford and son Robert. In 1928, the Episcopal Diocese of the Carolinas purchased Kanuga Lake and created a conference center and camp. Within ten years, it became the largest Episcopal conference center in the nation.
Whether visiting the mountains, the beach, or places farther afield, Rock Hill residents of 1909 enjoyed many of the same vacation destinations still popular today.
R&R NOTE: Mr. Paul M. Gettys, the author, is a regular contributor to the pages of Roots and Recall. Besides his excellent written contributions, he provides invaluable insights into local history and works endless hours to post accurate, informative, and enjoyable history and stories from across the region. He is an author, historian, and prolific volunteer, who continues to give graciously of his time and talents to numerous undertakings. One of his activities includes researching local papers for information on specific topics: old houses, vacation destinations, building permits, and notices of new construction. He regularly contributes and works with Roots and Recall, to see local history recorded, and freely provided to anyone interested. Thanks!
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