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History of the
Settlement and Indian Wars
of Tazewell County, Virginia.

By Geo. W. L. Bickley, M. D. (1852)


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The waters of Tazewell are both numerous, and of fine quality.  White, blue, red, salt, sweet and warm sulphur springs; chalybeate, iodureted, carbonated, alum, lime, and freestone springs are abundant.  Perhaps no county in the state exhibits such a variety of waters as this; yet so little has been done to inform the valetudinarian of our mineral waters, that they are almost a useless appendage to our county.  In truth, mineral waters are so common, that it excites no interest to speak of them.  Only a few of our springs have been analyzed, a circumstance to be regretted.

The Tazewell White Sulphar springs, now owned by Thos. H. Gillespie, are four miles west of Jeffersonville.  Those wishing to spend a season in retirement, can find no more suitable place than at the Tazewell White Sulphur.  When I say retirement, I do not mean that they will see no one else, or never hear the enlivening ring of the violin, for a considerable number are to be found here every season; the dance is assumed at the pleasure of the company; in fact, most amusements usually found at watering-places, are here offered to the visitor.  But the visitors are mostly ladies and gentlemen from the adjoining counties, who are seeking to restore lost health, rather than to find pleasure.  The little expense, the good fare, the beauty of the mountain scenery, the purity and salubrity of the air, the excellent quality of the water, and conveniences of the establishment, render it at once attractive to the valetudinarian.

Six miles east of Jeffersonville, are Taylor's springs.  Here, as at the Holston springs, are a variety of waters; six kinds, clearly different, rise from as many springs within a few feet of each other.

There is a spring in Baptist valley, about eighteen miles west of the C. H., belonging to Mr. Spotts, somewhat impregnated with alum.  When I examined this spring, it had but a short time before been cleaned out, and had rather an earthy taste, the water is strongly tinctured with iron, a circumstance which has led some to question the existence of alum in it at all.  There is, however, a small quantity of alum, yet not enough to render the springs notable.

A spring, said to contain iodine, rises upon the lands of Mr. Crockett, near Jeffersonville.

A sweet spring, without any trace of sulphur, but containing much iron, breaks out from the south side of Clinch mountain, in the Poor valley; but as few know even its location, its medicinal properties have not been properly tested.  It is known to be highly cathartic, and my guide to its location, declares it cured him of dropsy when the physicians failed.  It was a very cold day in winter, and the snow falling fast, when I visited it, so my observations were imperfect.

Springs slightly salty are so common, that no attention has been paid to them.  Their existence might yet prove to be the index to the existence of vast quantities of salt.

I am informed by Mr. Wynn, that a warm spring gushes from the base of Round mountain, in the south-east corner of the county, and that on the summit of the mountain, there is a spot the temperature of which is so high, that snow never lies on it half an hour after its fall, and generally melts while falling.

That kind of water used for culinary and ordinary purposes, is more important, however, to the people of the county, than any other; I mean the common blue limestone.  This kind of water is used in all parts of the county, except that which is drained by the Sandy river.  This blue limestone water has only one objection: it is rather hard, and is thought, by some, to operate to the injury of both the digestive and urinary organs.  (See further remarks upon this opinion, in the chapter on General Health.)

The springs usually have a temperature of 45 to 50 Fahr., during the summer, and about the same in winter.  The average for a summer and a winter month was 49 Fahr.  Except in a few instances, the occurrence of heavy rains, seems to affect the amount of water discharged, very slightly.  I think that the quantity of lime in our water is, perhaps, less than in some other sections in the south-west.  To the taste, no water can excel ours; it is true, that when persons formerly in the habit of using freestone water, commence using ours, it proves pleasantly aperient; this is owing to the presence of magnesia.


This county is not at present so healthy as one would suppose from its character in other respects.  This I imagine, may be easily accounted for.  One of the most prominent causes of disease in any mountain country where disease prevails, will be found to be the want of comfortable buildings.  Some are too close, others too open, others want light, and other are too damp.  The country being incapable of producing malaria, is, of course, exempt from miasmatic diseases.  The only disease worthy of particular notice, is what is known among our physicians as typhoid fever, but which will most generally answer to some form of pneumonia.  It seems to be generated entirely from exposure, and does not assume a serious form except in inclement seasons.

Here is to be met with a greater variety of disease than I have anywhere seen.  The quality of the water may account for the numerous cases arising from derangement of the digestive apparatus.  I know that my position will be disputed by those who have cherished, from their cradles, the idea that no waters are so healthy as those of the mountains; yet, this should not prevent me from stating my opinions, and the reasons why I entertain them.

There are living in the town of Jeffersonville, five physicians, who get a reasonable amount of practice; and, so far as I have conversed with them, they all declare, that if the diseases arising from the digestive apparatus be discarded, that there will not remain sufficient practice for two of the five.  Now what should impair the digestion in this region more than any other, if it be not the water?

That this county, naturally, is superlatively healthy, no one will doubt; and as soon as a little more attention is paid to the laws of life, and the quality of our mountain water, we may expect to see a decided improvement.  It is high time that my brethren of the grade-glass and mortar, were investigating this subject.



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