This area was originally known as Salt Lick Creek due to a
salt lick that was located nearby, approximately four miles northwest of
current day Red Boiling Springs. The salt lick attracted animals, and, in turn,
attracted Native Americans as well as other peoples. The area was first
surveyed and land grants were first awarded in the mid-1780s. The first
post office was established in 1829 and was named the Salt Lick Creek post
office. In 1847, the post office was renamed "Red Boiling Springs."
The 1880s saw a boom in the development of mineral springs
resorts as "summer getaways," due in part to the publicity received
by places such as Saratoga Springs in New York. During the following
decade, a railroad line was extended to Hartsville, and the railroad
established a stagecoach line to Red Boiling Springs. With the continued rise
in the number of visitors, two local general store owners— Zack and Clay Cloyd—
opened the Cloyd Hotel during this period.
While most mineral water resorts fell out of favor as medical science began to question the healing properties
of mineral springs, Red Boiling Springs persisted, reaching its peak in the
1920s and 1930s. The summer of 1936 brought over 14,000 people to the little
hamlet of approximately 800.
Almost uniquely, five different types of mineral waters are
found at Red Boiling Springs. These springs are "mineralized" by
their contact with exposed black shale, from which iron sulfate
is dissolved into the waters. Some were named for the color they would
turn a silver coin; two, dubbed "Red" and "Black", were
from springs which were capped off and then piped throughout the town to a
series of wells with manually operated pumps on both public and private
property. Along with iron and sulphur, Red and Black waters both contained
relatively high amounts of calcium and magnesium. "Freestone"
water contained none of the trace minerals that brought the crowds to the
springs but it was by far the most palatable. The most mineral-filled water, known
as "Double and Twist," was named for the effect it had on the person
drinking it. "Double and Twist" was advertised as the "only
water of its kind in the United States."
"Taking the waters" at Red Boiling Springs
generally consisted of more than merely ingesting them; steam and tub baths
featuring the waters and their alleged therapeutic properties were often
featured. The bathhouses followed the hydrotherapy regimen developed by John
Harvey Kellogg at his Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, which was very
popular at the time. There were medical doctors on hand to prescribe which
treatments would work for a particular ailment.
The old hand pumps that stood on public land were made
inoperable because of liability issues that could occur. The hand pumps can
still be seen on private property around town, and some people still believe in
the curative powers of the mineral waters. As of 2010, three of the historic
hotels were in operation, with The Armour Hotel still offering a full
complement of steam treatment, mineral tub baths, and therapeutic massage.