In May of 1939, an editorial in the News-Argus asked the public, “How do you spell it?”
The reference was to the name of the village I’ve always known as Seven Springs, one of Wayne County’s loveliest spots.
But let the editor share reasoning for asking in the first place:
For some 12 years now we have been spelling the name of Wayne’s southeasternmost town like this: “Seven Springs.” The town is so named, you know, because of the location there of a cluster of springs, each spring with a different chemical analysis. The springs in an earlier day were the seat of one of the state’s first health resorts. People came from long distances to drink the waters; stayed days and weeks.
The other day, however, we happened to notice on the postmark of a letter “Sevensprings,” spelled as one word. Inside the letter was a money order, and the government designation of the post office on the order was “Sevensprings.”
But Principal R.L. McDonald, principal of the town school, spells the name “Seven Springs.” The News-Argus correspondent in the town, a woman of education and background, spells the name “Seven Springs.”
Who is correct? Uncle Sam and his post office spellings or the folks who live there?
Now then, I have a little more trouble knowing exactly how the town’s neighboring village should be spelled. I’ve seen it two ways: “LaGrange” and “La Grange.” Are the “a” and “G” to be separated or not?
Research shows it spelled as La Grange, Ill. But the town’s entertainment center is the Lagrange Theater. It is La Grange, Kentucky and Texas.
An online source reads thusly: “La Grange (often spelled LaGrange or Lagrange) is a town in Lenoir County, North Carolina. The population in 2008 was estimated at 2,757.”
Next time you head over to Kinston or the Sandpiper, check spelling on the road markers.
I’m not writing today to quibble over the proper spelling of either village. I’m wanting to share some historical highlights, written before most of us were born, about the place that was built around seven spouts of water bubbling out of the earth at the formerly called White Hall.
Seven Springs will someday be a big resort development
Many folks have seen Spanish moss growing on the trees at Seven Springs. Lots of people have drunk water from one or more of the springs.
But only a few in comparison have been a mile or two up the river from Seven Springs at the cliff of the Neuse. And still fewer have ever drunk of water from the eighth and ninth springs, also up the river from the place where the seven well up in less than a square of 20 feet.
For more than a century of years the springs have been known to the white man. Legend has it that the Indians knew them for uncounted time before. And it may well be that Indian signal smokes were lighted on the high ground of the cliff up the river.
These days, the breeze-swept cliff is visited by an occasional group of fishermen who park their car and go down to the water by a path at one side. Or picnickers may come for dinner. Children go part way down to where the cliff does not overhang, and slide the rest of the way in noisy glee.
The seven waters, each with a different mineral content, now bubble up into marble wells. The water is dipped out by the pitcher and served to visitors at a charge of a penny for a drinking cup. Many folks bring jugs to take away supplies of those waters which they believe healthy for their systems.
Many of the visitors take away booklets which tell how a foxhunter, Jim Parker, was the first white man to come upon the springs. That was in 1815. He returned to the springs and brought friends with him. In time they put curbs about some of the group.
A clearing was made about the spot in 1865, by some Confederate soldiers who wished to have a picnic. The story says that among them were Bryant Cobb, Ben Hines, Ed Holmes, Henry Shaw and Sutton Barwick. The fame of the springs spread through the years following the War Between the States and in 1881 two hotels were erected to shelter those who came to take the waters.
At present several places near the springs take in folks, the largest being the Seven Springs Hotel of G.M. Maxwell, who controls the land where the seven springs are. This hotel has seen revived the scenes of the first white man’s visit to the springs in the visits to it of many fox hunting clubs, including those of the state association in 1924 and 1925.
Many visitors to the section, impressed by the beauties of the moss-hung trees, the river, and the shore, have predicted that someday the site may be occupied by a great resort development. Pinehurst and Southern Pines have no natural beauties or advantages to compare with it, except the natural healthiness of the rolling sand country.
Such development for which a large investment would be needed may someday prove a great benefit to the whole section. It would distribute tourist money not only to merchants but to raisers of truck and poultry, to dairymen, to boys who would caddy at the inevitable golf links, and to everyone who might supply goods or services to the establishments. (News-Argus, Aug. 30, 1930)
John Hix’s ‘Strange As It Seems’
The famous seven springs at Seven Springs are pictured in John Hix’s “Strange as it Seems” picture panel issued to many newspapers by a national syndicate on Sept. 24.
Mrs. M.I. Quinn of Seven Springs received a copy of the Washington Post of Washington, D.C., which contains the reference to the springs. The copy was sent to her by her brother, H.F. Seawell, a member of the tax appeal office in Washington. Mrs. Quinn furnishes the News-Argus the following account of the discovery of the springs:
“When Dr. V.N. Seawell, about 1880, moved to White Hall on the south bank of the Neuse River, some 16 miles below Goldsboro, the post office was called Jericho.
“There were some springs huddled together in a briar patch half a mile above the village on the river bank on lands of W.B. Whitfield. Upon seeing the springs, Dr. Seawell at once recognized their mineral quality from the various colored deposits left by each at its overflow.
“He caused analyses to be made which showed that each spring differed from the others in mineral content. He later caused a highway to be built from the village of White Hall to the springs, and secured the change of name of the post office from Jericho to Seven Springs.
“To Dr. Seawell, who owned no interest himself in the springs, is due the credit for the first recognition of their curative qualities and their freakish nature.
“Dr. Seawell, who died a few years ago, is buried at Friendship Baptist Church in Moore County, in the neighborhood where he was born and spent his youth.” (Oct. 1, 1932)
Well, we all know Seven Springs has had its share of challenges over the last dozen years. But if ever there was a more resilient group of folks, I don’t know where you’d find them. And frankly, within the town and its surroundings there is no more lovely spot in the county. Local folks realize that, and that’s why there they stay.
I might get in a little trouble by saying this, but when I was a teenager with roving eyes, I thought it had more than its share of beautiful young ladies. I would not be very smart to name those I might have been sweet on. Some jealous husband might come chasing after me. And I’m too old to resist any verbal or physical altercation.
If you go back some 70 to 80 years, not only were those girls pretty but they were the dominant athletes of the county and for several counties in the region. A basketball dynasty they built, and in the upcoming weeks I’m going to prove it! So if you have a grandma with the last name Kea, Holmes, Barwick, etc., be ready to read!
Should you have a photograph of any of the girls team from 1931-1940, please email or regular mail a copy to me. Even if nothing more than an old newspaper copy. You might just see it in a future column. Need names with photo.
Sherwood Williford writes a weekly column for the News-Argus. Contact him at 919-440-8811, Sherwoodowl@hotmail.com or P.O. Box 175, Princeton, NC 27569.