Red Sulphur Springs: Excerpts from the 110 page typewritten copy of the diary of Grace Fenton Hunter, 1838.
Hunter spends six weeks at the Red Sulphur after making stops at the White Sulphur, Warm, Hot, and Salt Sulphur Springs.
… We set off next day by one in the morning, and reached the White Sulphur in the evening, we breakfasted at the Warm Spring and I enjoyed greatly the exceedingly beautiful, and sublime, view from the Warm Spring mountain, which cannot be described by words. I saw many wild flowers today with which I am unacquainted, some of which were beautiful. The various aspects of the different ridges of mountains, furnished a subject of unwearying interest, I never before saw the clouds lying on the mountain tops, or the rain falling in the valleys between whilst the next mountain reflected back the rays of the sun, occasionally perhaps interrupted by a shadow, thrown like a thin veil across a portion of it. Along the road mingled with our own fine forest trees, were the cucumber tree, the feather spruce pine, with the yellow pine, the buck’s eye, cypress hemlock fir, and balm of Gilead, with other beautiful plants which I did not know. The White Sulphur, is a pretty green looking spot, with some fine old oaks, and other trees scattered about, but the grounds very little improved. We were shown into a miserable dirty apartment, with three single beds, immediately above a store, apothecary’s shop with black legs, and drinkers for our neighbors, and no ladies near, hoping to go on next day, we made the best of it. About two o’clock at night we were awakened by music from the neighbouring room, at first it was very sweet, one of the performers having an unusually fine voice, after a while however they became very boisterous, and sang drinking songs. After drinking song, jumping, clapping, singing all together and making themselves as disagreable as possible. Much to our sorrow, we found the stage full, and were unable to quit the next day.
At breakfast saw Mrs. Metier, the Somaxes, and Miss Tucker, the day passed very drearily as we found our room exceedingly hot, and unpleasant, and had no amusement whatever. … I forgot to mention we looked at the Hot Springs, as we passed by them.
… On Sunday [July 5, 1838] we again took our seats in the stage, and though I was sorry to spend a Sunday in travelling was but too happy to leave the W[hite]. S[ulpur]. The country is more solid and picturesque as you proceed towards the red sulphur, we dined at the salt s- but did not drink the water. At the salt sulphur one of our fellow passengers quitted us (Mr. Stewart) the other a stage contractor, (who used many strange works, and who shewed us a place where the worst accident, he ever saw happened, that is, it would have been the worst had it happened) left us a little before, we soon found we had rotten harness, to carry us over the most dangerous road we have travelled, but despite it, reached the Red. S. in safety after sunset. It is a very pretty romantic looking place as you look down many hundred feet upon it from the stage road, the approach has been so often described I will not attempt it again. We were given a room adjoining the ball room the night of our arrival, an airy apartment, above the village. The next morning was one of confusion spent in removing into Philadelphia row, where we have a small double cabin No 7.
On Tuesday I was seized with a fit of the tooth-ache, and great debility. On Monday evening, we went in the ball room, by Mr. Carusi’s invitation, where we heard some good music.
…My cough grew worse, and very troublesome whilst I was at the White Sulphur, and since I quitted that place it has continued so, if I may judge from a few days experience, as far as these waters are to benefit me, I have taken the journey for nothing, I have been suffering almost constantly, with pain in my face, and debility, but courage, complaining is useless. Our principle amusement has been walking to the nine-pin alley, as it is the most level walk.
19th. Walked before breakfast to the spring, and the nine-pin alley, where an old gentleman insisted upon setting up the pins, and Mamma, Sister M., and myself attempting to upset them. I suppose seeing our forlorn condition without an acquaintance, he wished to amuse as far as he could, poor man, he little guessed how unsuccessful he was. I should judge from the appearance of most persons here that the company is almost wholly composed of invalids. I find my weakness or sickness, or something disposes me very much to sleep, but hope when the drought breaks up, that we shall have more bracing weather, the heat is intense. I work a little, read a little, sleep, but find it impossible to settle myself to any one employment. In the evening after drinking some of the water, walked up the mountain to a platform, from which there is a pretty view of the valley. In the morning the walk would have been beyond my powers.
…Rose rather late, having been disturbed during the night by my cough, after walking to the spring, took our accustomed walk to the nine pin alley, and promenaded the piassa on my return until breakfast. During the course of the morning Dr. B. brought us some old books from the Burke’s Library.
…20th. This morning as usual visited the spring. … Mrs. Burke, too, this morning called upon us, she seems a sensible woman, talkative, and more agreeable than the generality of persons. I hope this new channel of communication will prove of more avail, to us than any we have yet met with. … There was a great alarm of fire at night, which turned out to be a window curtain, which had blazed up.
21st. This morning, the earlier part at least was passed as usual. Mrs. Burke, came to get some one to introduce her to Mrs. Fowles, sat a while in that lady’s room. A little later in the morning, we paid Mrs. B. A visit in her own room, she reminds me much, of a queen bee, in her manner of moving about. She and her daughter gave us some music, her voice, would have been quite sweet had she left it, as nature made it.
… Tuesday [July 24th] I have been very lazy about rising since I have been here, though I am up long enough before breakfast, to visit the spring, and sometimes to read, for some time. … I felt very badly today, and spent the greater part of the morning, and evening reading on the bed. We, this afternoon, accepted Mrs. Alexander’s kind offer of her carriage, (Mamma would not ride) and took a very pleasant ride, the road for some distance lay along the margin of a creek, and the country was very pretty through which we passed. … Hearing from home, and reading the Abbot, are two of the greatest pleasures; or perhaps, the only real pleasures I have enjoyed, since I have been here. Nothing could be more monotonous than the time spent here, and I fear as far as I am concerned unprofitable, both as respects mind and body, for besides feeling sick, and inert, I cannot feel as if I was settled or give myself up, to any useful employment. I am too stupid, so dull, and often so sleepy, I hardly know what to think of myself.
…Had a pleasant ride this evening, with the two Mrs. Fowlers. I wish the roads about here were better as the country seems a very pretty one. The Fowlers came at night to take leave, and I feel quite sorry to part with them. I was quite sick, and obliged to lie on the bed in my wrapper, until I fairly went to bed, at 4 o’clock.
Thursday. The weather again very warm, rose late, and after breakfast, received a visit from Mrs. Burke, who invited me to bring my work and sit with during any morning, which I think would be rather a pleasant arrangement, during the heat of the day. Some other visitors have also called, but none whom I cared for. I fancy seeing so many persons, the reverse of clever, makes me dull.
…Friday. Another intensely warm morning, my strength seems sinking before the weather. took a short ride with the Baynhoms, and Miss Cocke, in Mrs. Staples carriage. After which read in Ivanhoe, and worked, and wrote, but did not much of either at a time. I feel the greatest desire to see home again, though I hope to be able to remain without complaining, the appointed time.
…Monday. When we returned from the spring, heard prayers in Mrs. Sydneys room. This has been a day of some confusion, so many going out, and coming in around us. Paid a visit to Mrs. Burke, who was out.
Tuesday. Rose rather earlier than usual, but made no profitable use of my time, as much of it was spent in fidgeting, took the common walk to the spring. After breakfast sat awhile in my room then Dr. B. with Sister M. and myself visited Mrs. Burke, whom we found at home, she played and sang for us, and was as peculiar as usual. She insists on our visiting some of her Richmond friends tomorrow, and tells us five great belles are expected, whom she desires should be attended to. We worked and read some in the morning, and in the evening we talked until it was cool enough to walk, when Dr. and Mrs. B. with Sister M. went to a store. Mamma, Mr. Baylor, and I took a walk to the nine pins alley, on our return we found Miss Lomax awaiting us, who sat until supper, after which Mamma, Mr. B. and myself again walked, we took a very pretty walk around the mountain, and to the top.
…August 1st. Wednesday. Rose unusually late, after breakfast we all took a walk. … Mrs. Burke also called. Whilst in company I was tolerable busy, with my needle and since have been engaged in writing. In the afternoon read, and worked until five o’clock when we rode several miles, Mamma, Sister M. Dr. B. and myself. The scenery was very handsome, the same which I have seen before, only farther along the road. After tea, mamma, Sister M., Mr. Baylor and myself walked around the mountain to the nine pin alley.
At night as usual sat in the piazza. The nights now are beautiful, the moon being very brilliant, and the lights from the white buildings shining through the trees look quite romantic.
… Friday … I spent a bad night, but feel much the same. I rode out with Mrs. Winter, soon after breakfast, after which sat until late in the day, in our room, when Dr. B., Sister M. and I sallied forth, to visit Mrs. Burke, and get her to introduce us, to her four belles, who however refused to see company, and we returned probably as well contented as if we had. In the afternoon, Sister M., Dr. B., Mr. B., and myself paid a visit to the Lomaxes, whom we found in and whom returned our visit after tea. As usual spent the night in the piazza or rather, until bed time.
Saturday. 4th. This is my birthday, though I had forgotten it until Mamma, reminded me later in the day of the circumstances. How many melancholy feelings, and recollections it brings with it, of hopes overthrown, good resolutions, which have turned to nothing, of time misspent, and wasted, of twenty one years, in fact, which it grieves, and shocks me to look back upon, and I scarcely know, how those days which may yet remain for me, will be better. The day was passed much as usual, after breakfast, as we were sitting all together, we, Mrs. B. and I were invited to ride with Mrs. Winter, On our return read, and worked, as usual, but feeling badly did little of either. In the afternoon, worked, and talked until I was again invited to ride with Mrs. W., we had a tete a tete, and a cool ride. After returning went with Mr. B. to the spring, where Miss Lomax, R. B., Sister M. joined us, we called for Mamma, when we all walked to the nine-pin alley, the other ascending the mountain. Mamma, Mr. Baylor, and I, walked along the stage road. One letter tonight from home. A poor lady died here today.
Sunday. This day has passed as usual, little like Sunday, in the morning, Mrs. Nesbitt was buried, the funeral service was performed in the piazza, where there was quite a collection of persons, the scene was a very solemn one.
… Monday. The morning was spent much as usual, for here one day telleth for another. I believe I might almost copy any one journal, and it would do for any other day. The same routine of walking to the spring, working a little, talking a little, or rather a great deal, frequently reading a little, and speaking to passing acquaintances, passes off the time. Mrs. Burke called upon us, and I called on Misses Owen and Garland, nothing occurred, worth mentioning in either visit. We all sat together a good deal during the day. After tea Sister M. and I went to the Lomaxes, found Miss Anne sick. After our return Mamma, Mr. Baylor, and I walked around to the ten pin alley. At night we all sat in the porch.
Tuesday. This morning I was roused tolerably early, Mrs. and Dr. B. setting off for the Sweet Springs. Before breakfast as we were sitting in the piazza Mrs. Winter, invited me to ride around the circle with her, as we were going she pointed out a cabin where a gentleman had died the night before. Read the greater part of the morning, until drinking water time, when the gentlemen seated themselves with us until dinner was ready.
… Thursday … Spent much of the morning in lying down, as I felt very weak today. Mr. B. came in between twelve and one and sat until some time after dinner. As long as he was here, I sat up, after his departure Sister M. who had the toothache, laid down awhile, and then I took her place on the bed, for really I feel too weak to sit up long. At five o’clock went to the Spring.
… Friday …I stopped for a few moments with Mrs. Palmer, of Philadelphia, who had stopped me as I was starting to ride, to make inquiries concerning my cough, as she has a similar one.
Sunday I do not recollect very distinctly how this day passed, all the party excepting myself went to church I, feeling unusually sick, laid down, a large portion of the morning. the Bible was the only book I had an opportunity of reading during the day. We walked as an unusual thing to the ten pin alley, and sat there awhile in the evening. At night, Sister Martha went again to meeting, Mamma, Mr Baylor, and I, sat in the portico.
… Monday. Rose very early, and rode before breakfast, with Mrs. McGuire, whom we have lately become acquainted with, during the morning laid down a good deal, the ladies Mrs. McG. And Miss M. returned our visit, Mrs. Burke, came also to see us, as kind, as usual.
…Tuesday. … Paid a visit to the Burkes this morning, who played and sang for us. I worked and read rather more than usual today.
… Wednesday. Rose tolerable early, sat in the piazza, where I read until Mr. Baylor joined us, went to the spring, and then sat waiting for the all important second bell. After breakfast rode with Mrs. McG., father up the creek than I have ever been before, and found the body of water larger, than the part I usually see. Rested and read on my return, went to the spring and wrote.
… Thursday. Rose rather late, after breakfast rode with Mrs. McG. Then laid down, and read, until drinking time of day, then worked awhile, and wrote. … I was surprised to see Dr. and Mrs. B. who had just arrived in the stage pass the door, we were all quite pleased to meet again, and we all sat together until bed time.
… Tuesday … I feel glad to think there are few nights left for us at the Red Sulphur. Mr. Baylor told us good bye, before retiring, as he starts early in the morning for Essex.
Wednesday. Rose somewhat earlier than usual, walked in the piazza, to spring, wrote, and read before breakfast. How the history of this day was interrupted I know not. On Thursday started for Essex.
Papers of the Hunter and Garnett families, 1704-1940, Accession #38-45,863, 837, 1262, 1896, 4034, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library.