Rocky River Springs Fish Logo

 
   

 

 

 

While parked out in front of Rocky River Springs Fish House waiting for friends to join us the other evening, I looked out over the surrounding grounds and wondered if the many hundreds of people who came each week to enjoy the delicious food at the fish house had the slightest idea of the history of Old Rocky River Spring.

Some few of the senior citizens now living remember the great celebrations and picnics put on there in days gone by, but even they may never have heard of the real hey day of Rocky River Springs.

Rocky River Springs is located about ten miles south of Albemarle and about one and one-half miles north of Rocky River in Stanly County. A small stream flows through the springs property, winding it's way to Rocky River. This stream is known as Alligator Branch. Many tales have been told, according to Indian Lore, this branch was infested by alligators. The place where it empties into the river is very deep and has always been called Alligator Hole. Legend has it, that this hole has no bottom, and is a "suck hole". No diver or fisherman has dared to venture it's waters, but wait! Let us turn back the curtains of time to the days preceding the American Revolution to get a logical setting for the history of Rocky River Springs.

In those days, this section was part of Montgomery County. A small town, Tindallsville, located on the west side of the "Yadkin River" was the county seat. Not far from the present day "Swift Island Bridge". The court house was located here. It was destroyed by fire., along with all records. After the Court House was destroyed in Tindallsville, the large County of Montgomery was divided, and in the year 1841 Stanly County came into existence. The Yadkin River is the dividing line. Albemarle became the county seat. During this time history was in the making. One of the most interesting sections of the county was in a stage of development, and was destined to serve the interest of many hundreds of people and become one of the best known health resorts for many generations.

Rocky River Springs was a fine group of mineral springs, and was first discovered by roving bands of friendly Indians, who called it "The Place of Healing". Indian chieftains and tribes used the spot as an assembly ground. Southeast, not far from the springs there is signs of an "Indian Burial Grounds".

Joses Greene, who had settled in early years, south of Rocky River, on a large grant of land in Anson County, had reared a large family of sons and daughters. Besides farming his many acres, he built, probably the first power and grain mill on Rocky River in this section.

Joses Green's eldest son Jonas, married a Miss Deberry. After their marriage, they settled on the north side of Rocky River, across from his father's estate in Stanly County.

Jonas Greene obtained about one thousand acres or more of land. Here he engaged in farming, and became a leading maker of shoes, harness and saddles in the county. He also loved to hunt and fish. His farm was in easy access to both forest and stream. Another great asset connected with this farm was the location of a fine group of mineral springs. The same springs the Indians called "The Place of Healing".

This pioneer settler and his young wife Eliza Deberry built their home on the summit of the hill just east of an oak grove, overlooking the famous springs, which were located in a depression at the base of converging hills, on the north, east, south and west.

The springs were independent in their natural characteristics, one contained in its analysis iron, and perhaps this was the most popular spring in the group. Another contained a mild arsenic ingredient, another was called the sulphur spring. Another was strong in magnesia, but was very palatable drink. Then there was one spring referred to as the poison spring. The water of which is really not poisonous, but has a copperas taste. It was highly valued for it's healing powers, and was used by many people for their daily bath, when afflicted with skin disorders.

Realizing the effectiveness of the waters, Mr. Greene began sending letters to some of his friends living in South Carolina and other sections of the state, and induced them to come share with him, the hunting, fishing and benefit of the healing waters. In the intervening years since settling here, the Greene's had reared a large family of sons and daughters, who were by this time young men and women.

During these years many people visited the Greene family. Their home was spacious enough to accommodate a number of guest's.

Once people became acquainted with the pleasant surroundings and wonderful opportunities afforded them, they returned again and again for relaxation and recreation.

By now the community was fast growing into a small town. The first resident physician, was Dr. Tom Ellerbe, who had married an Anson County girl. He was wealthy and well known.

By this time, the Springs were well known, far and wide. So accommodations had to be made to take care of the many, many people coming here for their health. So, about the years of 1825 and 1830 a development company, consisting mostly of South Carolinians, bought a tract of about 100 acres, had streets surveyed, sold home sites and business lots. And the town of Silver, NC was born.

Hotel facilities were made available. Before long grocery stores, and places where strong drink and drugs were sold, were much in evidence.

Dr. Tom Ellerbe, we have mentioned before, lived in his own house here until his death, which occurred about the year 1850. AFter the death of Dr. Ellerbe, this , the first town, Silver, which located just north of the springs, was due to become a ghost town.

For some reason such notables as the Lowerys and Cashes from South Carolina stopped coming to the springs.

Interest for a few years began to wane. The main buildings were destroyed by fire, and the others deserted.

But before long a new day dawned for the springs which meant more for future activities and a revival of new interest in building and housing facilities. The land on which this once thrifty town was built, and where many people had been entertained for many, many years was reposed by Jonas Greene, the former owner. He then deeded this land to a son Dr. Jackson Greene and a daughter Sallie Greene, neither of whom were ever married. They lived here together.

Their commodious home had escaped the ravages of fire and decay, that had befallen the other buildings of the town.

In the reconstruction years of the south, Dr. Greene became ill from exposure and died of pneumonia.

It was during his lifetime, and for several years after his death that there was no hotel at Rocky River Springs.

But pleasure and health seekers continued to come to this famous resort. Lodging was found in homes of those living near. Some lived in tents and cabins of their own construction. Many of the older people who had so long frequented the place had died.

Many years have passed since the events mentioned at the first of this article

Shortly after this the springs property was bought by Sam Wright. A new hotel, large and spacious was built. Dining halls and kitchens were erected. The best chefs' and butlers that could be found were hired.

Dance halls, pool rooms, bowling alleys were soon in business, and Rocky River Springs was on it's way for a come back once more. Soon people by the hundreds were coming for their health and pleasure to the well known resort.

Mr. Wright operated the hotel and Rocky River Springs successfully for several years, but the springs were once again destined for a change. Rev. C.C. Forman, a well known Baptist Minister became the owner and with the help of his wife, daughters and sons operated the hotel for a number of years.

During his ownership additional space was needed because of the crowd who came. A large annex was added to the hotel. Cottages were built, stores were opened. A post office replaced the old mail post at Rocky River Springs.

Everything was flourishing. The Fourth of July celebrations had been held for many years. Now thousands came to the celebrations. Brass bands were one of the main attractions. Soon, there were merry-go-rounds and other carnival attractions. It was almost like a city circus. This was many years after the death of the original owner, in the year 1888 or 1889.

Rev. Foreman was instrumental in securing teachers for the opening of a successful school known as Rocky River Springs Institute. The first principal was Prof. D.A. Tompkins. His assistant was Miss Anna Parker. Quarters for the school was up over the large dining hall. Students from Anson, Richmond, Stanly and other counties enrolled.

Before many years the school out grew it's quarters and a new larger school was erected, which was used for several purposes. Once again, the hotel and other buildings were inadequate for the needs of the many people seeking rooms.

Meantime Rev. Foreman had died. The time had come for a change of ownership once more. D.N. Bennett and W.E. Blalock of Norwood became new owners. As before, during this time, many people came to spend the summer. The hotel was crowded and could no longer take care of the visitors. Summer homes began to dot the hillsides. Even the Fourth of July celebration attendance grew. The hills and valleys were often covered with people and their wagons, surreys, buggies and carts. Those who lived near by walked.

Swiftly the years passed. the hotel changed hands several times. During the ownership mentioned above, a Mr. and Mrs. Drake from Wadesboro managed the resort a while. Then Mr. and Mrs. Sam Mayner, their sons and daughters leased and operated the hotel for a while. During these years, there were fancy balls given, with orchestras playing while dancing was enjoyed long into the night in the dance hall.

Roller skating was another sport enjoyed in the dance pavilion. Later a Dr. Beckwith and family managed the hotel. People continued to come and enjoy the springs, for health and pleasure.

Many cures for different diseases were attributed to the healing waters of the springs.

An exciting incident happened at the springs on the Fourth of July, about the year 1924. As usual, there was a tremendous crowd there. Rev. Jimmie Little an evangelist began preaching at the open-air pavilion. As he got warmed up to his subject, someone began to play a piano waltz. Some of the young people began dancing, their noise completely drowned out the words of Rev. Little. He paused a minute, wiped the sweat from his brow, and asked God to stop the dance, so that he could be heard, almost immediately, there was a loud crash and suddenly the floor of the dance hall gave away. The dancers scurried to their feet. Luckily, there were no casualties. Rev. Little thanked God for stopping the dance and preceded to finish his sermon. There are many people living today who were there when this incident happened.

Rocky River Springs continued to change hands and management. When Mr. and Mrs. W.T. Brasington and their children of Wadesboro, owned the springs, it was one of the most prosperous eras in the history of the springs. Up until now the grounds had been lit by large oil-burning lamps located on post's here and there. Oil lamps were also used inside the buildings.

Mr. Brasington installed a power unit that generated electricity for the needs of the hotel and other buildings. Some of the cottages and summer homes also used this power. Another convenience installed , was a water system. Up until now great quantities of water had to be carried by servants for use in the hotel. A large pump was installed and powered by the motor that generated lights. AFter the water was pumped into the reservoir on top of a high hill it gravitated down hill to furnish water for bathroom and other needs.

Rocky River Springs was placed on the map as a first class summer resort. By now automobiles had come upon the scene and the number of visitors to the springs increased. This was around 1906 to 1914. During this period and later and under other management, more cars and trucks came on the scene. People from Albemarle, Wadesboro and other places nearby could make the trip to the springs with greater speed then they had on buggies and wagons.

Farmers in this area found a good market for vegetables, eggs, and chickens at the springs. During the Brasington management, people from Darlington, SC, Wadesboro, Cheraw, SC and Virginia as well as other places. All classes of people came, judges, doctors, preachers, lawyers, teachers, seeking rest health, relaxation and pleasure.

But the beginning of the end for the famous Rocky River Springs is in sight. It was in 1911-1913 that the Norfolk and Southern Railroad Company of Richmond and Norfolk, VA and Raleigh, NC made a survey for a railroad track. The property was obtained and construction begun. By 1914 the railroad was finished and in operation.

When the railroad came, Mr. Brasington decided to quit operating the springs hotel. He purchased a large track of land and laid off lots near the railroad tracks. the lots were soon sold and a new town by the name of Aquadale was born.

Mr. Brasington built a 32 room hotel. His idea was to furnish rooms and board for the passengers that came in on the train, and transport them to the healing waters at Rocky River Springs that was just a short distance away, with his horse drawn carriage.

During this time W. Titus Efird of Albemarle has taken over the Rocky River Springs Property. He spent thousands of dollars improving the property. He added a large swimming pool, with dressing rooms and other improvements. A deep well was drilled to get plenty of water for the swimming pool.

While grading and blasting for the bed of the pool and drilling the deep well, the water level of the springs dropped, and in spite of all that could be done, never again was there enough water in the springs to be used as a health resort.

Interest in the springs began to wane. After more than a century of growth and expansion, the famous Rocky River Springs was now dead, and the thriving town became a ghost town, as did it's predecessors of past years.

The only attraction here now, is the popular Rocky River Springs Fish House. A family business, owned and operated by Von Swaringen, his son, Don, and son-in-law Kermit Efird. Some of the wives in the family and a good many other workers help also.

Von Swaringen opened up the Fish House the last week in June 1968. He had very successfully operated a fish house on a smaller scale near his home for several years before building a large attractive building here. It is convenient for parties, family groups or just one or two. It is packed with customers from Wednesday on through Sunday nights. People come from far and wide to eat some of the delicious food prepared here. Steaks, seafood platters, oysters, catfish, slaw, french fries, but the most famous plate is the fish plate.

As you leave the Fish House, take time to gaze out over the surrounding hills with only the springs remaining, the water still flowing, but it's energy and beneficial qualities lost forever. The famous resort, the towns that have been, all gone, with only a very few people living today that remember even the last days of the famous Rocky River Springs. Listen! You may hear the sound of an Indian war dance, the music of the merry-go-round, the laughter, the oratorical of the old time preachers and politicians, the neighing of horses and squeaking of wagon wheels. Yes! There's ghost around these here springs.

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