History of Blount Springs: Historian Greg Burden speaks at Cullman County Public Library

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Historian Greg Burden gave a lecture on the history and notable people of Blount Springs this week at the Cullman County Public Library as part of its Fall Brown Bag Lecture Series. (Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Blount Springs was a thriving community in the past when the Jackson House (or the Blount Springs Hotel) was open for business and drew in thousands of visitors, noticeably ones like U.S. President Teddy Roosevelt and famous U.S. actress Lillian Russell. Historian Greg Burden gave a lecture on the history Blount Springs at the Cullman County Public Library this week as part of its Fall Brown Bag Lecture Series.

Burden started around the time of the Creek War in 1813, when Luther Morgan was credited with the discovery of Blount Springs (including the actual sulfur water springs). Burden noted that Morgan was the grandfather of Confederate Army General John Hunt Morgan.

The first to act on the commercialization of Blount Springs was George Goff (also spelled Goffe). Goff built the first hotel in Blount Springs, the Goff House. Burden said Goff tried his best to make money in Blount Springs, one of his efforts being trying to establish a silk trade in Alabama. Goff planted mulberry trees along what is now the Mulberry River, giving the river its name.

Burden said that during the Civil War, Tennessee Senator and 1860 presidential candidate John Bell hid in Blount Springs when the “Yankees” took hold of Tennessee. After the Civil War, when the railroads were being established in Alabama, John T. Milner discovered iron ore and supported the idea of a railroad leading to the now Birmingham area, according to Burden. James Sloss built a railroad from Athens to Decatur, where L&N Railroad contracted Col. JFB Jackson to finish the railroad, which ended in Blount Springs. Jackson stayed in Blount Springs, where he built the Jackson House in 1872. Later, in 1878, a “new” Jackson House opened (what made it “new” was just some additional construction to the already present hotel, Burden noted).

Interestingly, Burden shared that in 1873, Col. James Robert Powell, in an attempt to promote Blount Springs and newly established Birmingham, wrote to the New York Press Association and suggested they have their convention in Birmingham.

On their way to Birmingham, it was noted that 70 or so newspapermen stopped at the Jackson House in Blount Springs, where, Burden said with a laugh, “They had a good time.”

Burden took a moment to note that Blount Springs didn’t experience segregation issues, “There was no black, no white. It was Blount Springs.”

Burden said that in 1887 Sloss and his brother Mack sold their stock in Sloss Furnace and bought the Jackson House, renaming it the Blount Springs Hotel.

Burden said, “When Sloss bought the hotel, things changed.”

He noted that Sloss spent a lot of money to improve the hotel, which saw lavish parties and famous visitors until it sadly burned down June 3, 1915.

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