Looking Back with Mathews, originally printed July 25, 1977
We are living in a time when a large number of people are on the big natural foods kick. Most of the shopping centers have little stores where the stock is composed entirely of whole wheat flour, honey, molasses, unpolished rice, and a variety of other straight-from-the-earth, pollution-free, and mineral-packed items. These same people are also great believers in organic gardening, and an unbelievable number of books and articles have been written on the subject.
The only regret that I have over this craze is the fact that so many of us grew up without even being aware that many of the foods that were so essential to good health were thrown away back when we lived on the farm. We went to a great deal of trouble to grow our own wheat, then when it was ground we ate the white part, and fed the good bran part to the hogs; a custom that now proves to be exactly reversed. Of course in those days the hogs got everything, including the used laundry water, so maybe we gained some strength from eating the hog meat that grew out of the feeding of all the goodies.
This health food thing is not as new as it may seem. All down through the years there has been some similar type movement. Along about the turn of the century the big thing was water as a cure for all ills. The area in which we live, being rich in minerals, was an ideal location for the health spas that took the country, and did a flourishing business until the time of the great depression. Pulaski County had two of these spas, Alum Springs, and Crabtree Springs. Both had hotels and swimming pools where people could drink and wash away their every ailment. Water from the Crabtree Springs was bottled, and shipped all over the country.
Robert Jasper Crabtree, an Irishman, came to this area in the 1800s and bought land in the Mount Olivet section, where he developed mineral and sulfur springs. He built a 22-room hotel and several cottages, and a lake that he called Lake Alma, after his daughter. There was boating, horseback riding, and swimming in the summer, and ice-skating in winter. The well-heeled guests from all over the world brought a big boost to the local economy. At one time Crabtree Springs was operated by the owners of the famous Maple Shade Inn, and the two were in conjunction with each other. People realized with the passing of time that water was not the cure for every ailment, and many went about seeking new miracles. But not all.
In the wall of a steep ridge out Brookmont Road, near the “Green Spot” a pipe hangs out over the highway ditch-line. From this pipe pours a steady stream of mineral water. It would be difficult to estimate how many millions of gallons of good mountain mineral water have run through this pipe in the years that have caused the pipe to rust to the point of disintegrating, and how many gallon jugs full have been carried away by those who still believe in the healing qualities of good water. There are those in Pulaski who would not dare drink the good pure water from Gatewood Lake because it lacks the mineral quality of the green spot spout.
It is a great comfort to know that these mountains that we are so blessed with are loaded with all of the ingredients necessary for a self-sufficient way of life. It is our duty to protect what we have, and use it wisely. We of the mountains are a people most fortunate to have so much.
The world has seen fit to paint the section called Appalachia a dull shade of poverty. I believe that most of the Appalachian people, regardless of economic status would paint us a bright green shade of blessed.