Rockingham County, Virginia
VAGenWeb Project

A History of Rockingham County
John W. Wayland Ph.D.

Chapter XXIII





     The inspiring elevations, the splendid mountain scenery, the health-giving waters, and the historic associations of Rockingham have long made it attractive to persons on tidewater and in the cities, specially in the days of summer.  Not only do hundreds of people come hither every year, seeking health and pleasure, but many others seek to have the good things sent to them – piecemeal, of necessity, but in as large measure as possible.  Not to mention other things, thousand of gallons of Rockingham mineral waters are shipped annually to many distant points.

     The oldest well-known summer resort in Rockingham is located four miles east of Harrisonburg, and is now called Massanetta Springs.  The old name is Taylor Springs. The original name-givers were Jonathan and William Taylor, owners at the beginning of the 19th century. They were of Irish descent, and their graves are at Cross Keys.  In olden days, according to tradition, Taylor Springs were resorted to by many of the East Virginia notables – the Madisons and Monroes, among others. In 1816 they were selected as a permanent place for the annual campmeeting by the quarterly conference, Rockingham Circuit, of the Methodist Episcopal Church; and were leased at that time for ten years.  On the death of the Taylors, the Springs passed into the possession of Evan Henton, who was proprietor in 1854, and thereabouts.  Later, they were sold to Abraham Miller.  In the early 60’s they came into the hands of Geo. E. Deneale, and in 1870 Leneas Woodson became owner.  In 1872 they were purchased by a company made up of John F. Lewis, Dr. Burk Chrisman, and others, and the name was changed to Massanetta.  In July, 1909, they were purchased by J. R.



Lupton, and in January, 1911, the Massanetta Springs Company, J. R. Lupton, manager, became the owners.  The waters contain calcium carbonate, magnesium, and other valuable elements, and are widely celebrated.  The hotels are filled with guests, permanent and transient, during the summer months, and large quantities of the water are sent out upon order.(1)

     For a number of years past the most famous summer resort in Rockingham, and one of the most celebrated in Virginia, has been Rawley Springs, located 11 ½ miles west of Harrisonburg, 2000 feet above the sea level.  Rawley is also old in story.  The following extracts from a letter written September 24, 1881, by Benjamin H. Smith, of Charleston, W. Va., will be of interest, as to beginnings.


     My father resided in Rockingham county in the year 1810.  In the early part of that year my mother became diseased with chronic diarrhoea [sic], and although she had the medical services of Drs. Harrison and Cravens, eminent physicians of that time, they failed to relieve her.  My father, being much alarmed at her dangerous condition, made earnest inquiries into all the remedies from which relief could be hoped.  He had for years herded his cattle in the North Mountain, and during the year before stated, or some previous year, heard of the medicinal springs on Dry River, in the mountain.  Early in July of the year 1810 he resolved to try the waters of that spring.  For this purpose he had a shanty of plank constructed at the Spring, and supplied with comfortable furniture and suitable cooking utensils, taken from home by wagon. To this place in July of that year, my mother was removed, with competent servants.  All members of the family were occasional visitors, but I was deputed as her constant attendant, and stayed with her during parts of the months of July and August, altogether about six weeks, at which time my mother had thoroughly recovered, and her health was perfectly restored.  She lived 27 years thereafter, without any recurrence of the disease.

     The road from the river to the spring went up a point of the mountain next above the spring branch, and was made by the hands of my father, by cutting out the brush only, to enable our wagon to approach the bench of the mountain from which the spring issued.  When we went


(1)     For information regarding the history of Taylor Springs, I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. R. L. Myers.  His account has been supplemented by records found in the Methodist minute books and in the Rockingham Register of January 18, 1872, and other dates.




there no improvement of any kind existed, and all was a primeval forest.  My father’s shanty was the first dwelling ever erected on the premises, and we (my mother and myself) were the first resident visitors of the spring.  Before we left the spring we had an accession of some four or five families in shanties and tents.  The spring then had no name; but I recollect a Mr. Rawley lived at or about the gorge of the mountain through which Dry River runs, and I have always thought the name the spring bears was derived from this farmer, Rawley, the nearest resident of the place.

     I have not visited the springs since 1810.  I was nearly 13 years old at the time, and the recollection of the incidents connected with my residence there is clear and distinct.


     The waters of Rawley Springs are said to be almost identical with those of Pouhon, the most noted spring of Spa, Belgium, - those of Rawley containing more carbonic acid, those of Pouhon more iron.

    In 1825 Joseph Hicks was advertising “Rawley Springs”; in 1836-7 and in 1877 acts of incorporation were passed; in 1845 Miller, Sites, & Fry were proprietors; in 1861 the managers were John Sites & Son; in 1872, and thereabouts, A. B. Irick was president of the board, and Jos. N. Woodward was manager.  In 1874, 1875, etc., the number of guests at Rawley frequently reached 500.  In 1884, etc., J. Watkins Lee was the popular manager.  In 1886 many of the buildings were destroyed by fire; and a remarkable coincidence was observed in the fact that Anthony Hockman, who had constructed the main building, died the same night.

     The popular proprietor of Rawley in more recent years was Hon. D. M. Switzer; and the property is still in the hands of his heirs.  It is needless to say that modern progress is found exemplified in the present equipment.

     As one stands on Lover’s Leap, at Rawley, and looks out eastward across the Giant’s Grave upon the smiling valley, he has Union Springs two miles upon his right, and Liberty Springs two miles upon his left.  The water at Union is among the best in Virginia, and the view at Liberty is one of the finest in Virginia and West Virginia.

     Union Springs were resorted to as long as forty years ago; and in 1878 Miss Kate Croushorn, of Ottobine, was ad-




vertising summer boarding at Union Springs.  The water is chalybeate.  Every year, until recently, at least a few families of the county spent part of the summer there; but a steep, stony road, with a defective title to the property, has by this time made visitors rare.

     Some one writing of Liberty Springs in 1889 said that on the south side of the springs old chimneys were standing, marking the sites of cabins built before the war by William Ewing, John Beery, Abe Beery, Archibald Hopkins, Peter Good, John Gordon, and others.  In connection with this, the following paragraphs from a letter written December 14, 1911, by the late Mr. D. B. Showalter, will be of interest:


     In the burnt records, Deed Book 16, page 325, you will see that Augustus Waterman sold in 1843 210 acres of mountain land to Jacob Bowman, who, with his family, lies buried in the family burying ground on the farm now owned by S. F. Showalter, the said Bowman’s old home farm. . . . . In 1845 (Deed Book 18, page 123) Jacob Bowman sold to the Liberty Springs Company 52 acres of the 210 acre tract.  The company then was composed of John Swank, John Beery, Peter Good, Joseph Burkholder, several of the Hopkinses, Henry Showalter, Jacob Dundore, an old Mr. Ewing, John and Peter Eversole, Joseph Showalter, Samuel Driver [?], and others, all of whom have passed away, and many of whom had cabins built there before the civil war.  All these cabins were burnt during the war to prevent persons hiding there to keep out of the Confederate army.  There are some 20 cabins there now, all of which have been built since the war.  The company is now composed by our home people, who spend some time there. . . . . . A. H. Long is president, Frank Ralston, secretary and treasurer.  The springs are near the top of the mountain; the water is fine chalybeate.  The place can be reached by a good public road, built by the company in the last 12 years.


     A short distance of Liberty Springs, two miles west of Singer’s Glen, at the base of Little North Mountain, is the popular resort called Sparkling Springs.  The old name is Baxter’s Springs.  The company now in control was organized in September, 1886, and among the promoters of the enterprise were Messrs. David A. Heatwole, J. W. Minnich, Isaac N. Beery, John Funk, Timothy Funk, Daniel F. Heatwole, Lewis Driver, Michael Showalter, David Lineweaver, Henry A. Rhodes, Samuel Brunk, Abraham Weaver, Abram B.




Wenger, Noah W. Beery, and Emanuel Suter.  The company was incorporated in 1900.  The grounds in 1911 comprised 22 acres, and upon them were located 24 cottages, a boarding house, a fountain house, a dairy, two stone wagon bridges, one foot bridge, and a good road connecting with the county road.  Among the minerals contained in these springs are iron, magnesia, and sulphur.(2)

     At the western base of the Massanutten Mountain, about three miles east of Lacey Springs, are the well-known Brock’s Springs, called also the Yellow Massanutten Springs.  After important improvements in June, 1874, they were opened the next month to visitors.  Chas. J. Brock was proprietor; W. R. Carrier, general superintendent.  The waters are chalybeate and blue sulphur.(3)

     Three miles north of McGaheysville, at the eastern base of the Massanutten, are Rockingham Springs, known also as Hopkins’ Springs.  The surroundings are beautiful, and the waters contain health-giving properties in various combinations, springs of chalybeate, sulphur, and magnesium-alum being found there.  These springs, under the proprietorship of Messrs. G. T. and Edwin B. Hopkins, have been a popular resort for many years.  Mt. G. T. Hopkins had made extensive improvements there as early as 1874, or earlier.  In the summer of 1879 the poet Sidney Lanier, with his family, was among the notable guests.

     Not far from Rockingham Springs are Bloomer Springs, opened as a health resort in or about the year 1852 by Col. Henry Miller, Dr. S. B. Jennings, and Maj. John C. Walker.  Soon ten or twelve cottages were on the grounds.  Frequently as many as a dozen or more families from the neighborhood would spend the summer there, and persons from a distance would endeavor to secure accommodations, but no equipment for general entertainment seems to have been provided.  On


(2)     For aid in securing information concerning Sparkling Springs, I acknowledge special favors by Messrs. I. N. Beery and J. W. Minnich.

(3)     Rockingham Register, June 12, July 10, 1874; etc.




special occasions, however, a hundred or two persons would be present for the day.  The springs have not been regularly attended for the past twenty years, owing mainly to change in the ownership of the property.  During the years the springs were used the land about them was owned by Mr. Henry Brill.(4)

     In the vicinity of Bridgewater and in other sections of Rockingham not specially mentioned in the foregoing pages, are fine springs of medicinal waters.  The Bear Lithia Spring, below Elkton, must be mentioned particularly.  It is connected by a special track with the Norfolk & Western Railway, and thousands of gallons of water are shipped from it every week.  Elkton is a favorite summer resort, and the Elkton Hotel, in beautiful surroundings and under skilled management, affords excellent accommodations to visitors.

     Another place that may properly be noticed in this chapter is Assembly Park, just a mile north of Harrisonburg.  A company was chartered for managing it in March, 1892, and at frequent intervals ever since it has been the scene of large and important gatherings, such as temperance rallies, religious conferences, chautauquas, farmers’ encampments, etc.  The present manager is Dr. A. P. Funkhouser.


(4)    For information concerning Bloomer Springs, I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. John W. Brill, Elkton, Va.