People today have forgotten about them, but there used to be small, charming hotels all over Tennessee that were located near natural springs.
These small resort hotels were very popular between about 1840 and 1920 — before air conditioning, modern water treatment plants and private automobiles. Families that could afford to do so would vacation at these hotels for weeks at a time, often in attempt to escape the oppressive heat of the summer.
The vast majority of these “spring” resort hotels were in East or Middle Tennessee, but there was a famous one in Hardeman County. The springs was called Rogers Springs; the hotel was called the Rustic Inn.
The Rustic Inn was especially popular among the elite of Memphis, who would come there to relax, take in the waters, and hunt. E.H. “Boss” Crump of Memphis was a frequent guest at the Rustic Inn.
The Rustic Inn closed in the 1930s, but the building remained until it was struck by lighting and burned in 1984.
Also in Hardeman County History:
In the 1880s, a retired Confederate colonel named Paul Jones donated land to start a home here for people with mental disabilities. It opened in 1889 and for many years was known as the West Tennessee Hospital for the Insane. By the 1950s it had more than 2,000 patients.
However, in recent decades, several more modern mental hospitals were built in Tennessee, and today the building sits empty. Its future is very much in doubt.
Here’s another story with a Hardeman County hook to it: Stanley Scott was born in Bolivar in 1933 into a family that had started some of the first black-oriented newspapers in the South.
“It wasn’t exactly an impoverished family by the black standards of the day, but at 10 or 12 Scott learned how to clean newsroom floors and live on the coins brought in by circulation fees,” a Chicago Tribune columnist later wrote.
Scott went to the University of Kansas, served in the Korean War, and then became a reporter. In 1964 he became the first black general assignment reporter for United Press International (UPI). A few years later he was the only reporter present when black nationalist Malcolm X was assassinated. Then, Scott went to work as a communications man in the administrations of President Richard Nixon, and later President Gerald Ford.
Stanley Scott died of cancer in 1992. The cancer center at Louisiana State University is named for him.
Here’s the Hardeman County Courthouse.