May 2, 2014

Traces of Laurel: Rockcastle Springs



Kentucky history writer, J. Winston Coleman Jr., wrote about Rockcastle Springs in the January 1942, issue of The Filson Club Quarterly, as part of a longer essay titled “Old Kentucky Watering Places:”  “Rockcastle Springs was another of the watering places which staged a remarkable come-back after the Civil War and did a thriving business in the middle 1880s under the management of F.J. Campbell.  Here, in July of 1884, were registered over one hundred and fifty guests and the amusements consisted of ‘boating, bathing, ten-pins, fishing, deer hunting, quoits, billiards, cards, music and dancing’.  This resort was described in the papers of the period as ‘a veritable Eden for children, a sanitarium for the invalid, a paradise for lovers and a haven of rest for the tired.’” 

Dyche also quotes this same article, virtually verbatim, in his book “Laurel County History,” (1954) with credit to Coleman.

Dr. Thomas D. Clark in his book “A History of Laurel County” describes the setting for Rockcastle Springs Resort:  “It was situated amidst a rugged and wild natural area marked by a geological maze of rocky ridges and deeply eroded defiles, all cloaked in a dense growth of virgin forest.”  Clark also gives the rates of staying at the Resort:  “Gentleman or lady, seventy cents per day, five dollars per week.”  You could board your horse for fifty cents a day.  Sure sounds like a bargain to me.

The resort period is one of the most interesting in the history of the county.  It was part of an era when springs of almost any kind were touted as restorative to health, and businessmen took full advantage of this claim – plus the growing wealth of the citizenry and its desire for pleasure – to develop a thriving tourist industry. 

• • •

The Laurel County Historical Society is located at 310 W. 3rd St., London, (formerly the Laurel County Health Department).  The library is open on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 12 noon.    Call 606-864-0607 during those hours.  Visit the historical society’s website at 

Contact Jan Sparkman at


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Now that school is out, what are your family’s summer vacation plans?

A. No major plans. We will probably hang out around Laurel County.
B. Going to the beach!
C. Kentucky has a lot of wonderful state parks, and we plan to visit a few and enjoy quality family time.
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