History of Bullochville & Warm Springs

THE BULLOCH FAMILY
The Bulloch family came to Georgia from Edgecombe County, North Carolina. In the early 1800s, Stephen Bulloch brought his sons to Greenville, Georgia to live with their maternal grandmother after the death of their mother Winnie Robinson Bulloch. Cyprian Bulloch Sr. settled near Bussey’s Crossroads (present-day Judson Bulloch Road and GA 41 between Warm Springs and Manchester) while his brother Henry moved to Arkansas.

Cyprian Bulloch Jr. and Benjamin Franklin Bulloch

These Bullochs are not related to the family of Archibald Bulloch (b. 1730), the first governor of Georgia. His descendant Martha “Mittie” Bulloch (of Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia) married Theodore “Thee” Roosevelt in 1853. They were the parents of President Theodore Roosevelt and paternal grandparents of Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The little town of Bullochville, Georgia, established by Cyprian Jr. and Benjamin, was incorporated on December 20, 1893. Cyprian built his house across from the fish hatchery in 1892, and in 1893, Benjamin built his home nearby on a hill overlooking the town, which would later become the original Bulloch House Restaurant.

Cyprian Senior’s sons Cyprian Bulloch Jr. and Benjamin Franklin Bulloch owned nearly 2,000 acres of land in the county, encompassing the town of Bullochville and a large portion of the mountain, as well as a grist mill, a cotton gin, a bank, a coffin factory, and the cold springs, which still feed the Warm Springs National Fish Hatchery. Their brother-in-law William Thomas Bussey was also a prominent figure in the founding of Bullochville.

After the death of Cyprian Jr. in March 1903, the future of Warm Springs and a large part of Meriwether County was directly influenced by Cyprian’s widow Julia and their daughters Mattie, Minnie, Ira Gene, and Mabel. Benjamin passed away in June 1910 and is buried in the Warm Springs city cemetery along with Cyprian Jr. and many other Bulloch family members.

THE WARM SPRINGS & EARLY SETTLEMENT
The region of warm and cold springs that range between Barnesville and Bullochville was likely well-known to the Creek Indians who traveled through and lived in the area until 1826. Baker Spring, Brown’s Spring, Lifsey Spring, Parkman Spring, Taylor Spring, and Thundering Spring all produced warm water. Visitors were drawn to Warm Springs to enjoy the naturally buoyant water that flowed year-round from the springs on the north side of Pine Mountain. At a steady 88 degrees, it was the warmest of all the springs, and had the strongest outflow into large ponds that were ideally suited for bathing and swimming. Cold springs in Meriwether County include Chalybeate, Rock Sulphur, Black Sulphur, White Sulphur, and Red Sulphur, all of which have a very high PH content.

The “Spirit of Warm Springs” legend sprang from the aftermath of battles between the native peoples and European explorers. As wounded warriors from both sides found respite in the healing waters, a spirit of peace between adversaries was embraced. Although there is no archaeological evidence to support this story, there is no doubt of the peaceful atmosphere surrounding these warm springs.

In the state land lotteries of 1827, five new counties were created in the region, one of which was Meriwether, named for Revolutionary War Brigadier General, later Representative David Meriwether (b. 1755, Virginia, d. 1822, near Athens, Georgia).

Settlement began immediately after Meriwether County was created. Warm Springs was incorporated with three commissioners. David C. Rose, Joseph Andrews, and Charles Harris were to “oversee the well being of its inhabitants and visitors.” Rose acquired the warm springs in 1832 and began development.  He constructed larger buildings that were offered as lodging and could sufficiently handle two hundred guests.  In 1844, ownership of the resort changed hands to Colonel Seymour Bonner. He further developed the property, enticing more people to build their summer homes at the springs. With improved lodging, more visitors sought out the cool breezes of Pine Mountain.  Hotel registers dating back to the 1840s list the names of Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun and other prominent statesmen of that period who lodged at Warm Springs.

In 1848, John L. Mustain acquired the springs. Having a vested interest in the stagecoach line, he provided travelers with ease of transportation to the springs and further developed the property to accommodate three hundred guests. The area was spared from the burning rampages by Sherman’s and Sheridan’s soldiers across Georgia in 1864 and 1865, but sadly the original hotel burned in 1869. The chore of rebuilding fell upon his grandson, Charles Davis, who took over the property in 1874.  He oversaw the building of a larger hotel, added more cottages, and built six 10×10 masonry chambers for bathing.

Davis built the elaborate Meriwether Inn in 1893. This Victorian-styled three-story inn boasted electric lighting, sanitary sewage, and 120 rooms. Combined with the adjoining cottages, the resort could accommodate 250 guests. Travel literature from the era states the resort was gaining favor as “a gathering place for politicians and public men of prominence.” One enhancement was the addition of two new 15×45 enclosed pools, one for men and one for women.

As the automobile replaced the train, travelers sought out different destinations not offered by the rail lines, and thus the Meriwether Inn fell into a state of decline.  After Davis’s death, the now run-down property was bequeathed to his niece, Georgia Mustain Wilkins. In 1919, newspaperman Tom Loyless and financier George Foster Peabody leased the property with the hope of restoring the resort to its former glory.  Over the course of three summers, they observed Louis Joseph, a young polio victim, regain the use of his legs from swimming in the springs. In 1921, Peabody made a point to share this news with a friend of his who was stricken with polio: Franklin D. Roosevelt.

A postcard from the early 1920s.

THE ROOSEVELT LEGACY

Franklin D. Roosevelt first visited Bullochville in October 1924. Searching for a cure for his polio, he was intrigued by reports of the healing waters from the warm springs. In fact, he was so captivated with the little town that he officially renamed it “Warm Springs” later that year. He began purchasing property in the area in 1926, eventually assembling over 1,200 acres, and made tremendous improvements to the resort and the pools. On July 28, 1927, the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation for polio patients was incorporated. In 1932, Roosevelt built his “Little White House” near the warm springs. On January 3, 1938, Roosevelt established the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. In a fundraising effort during the week prior to Roosevelt’s January 30 birthday, radio and stage star Eddie Cantor made a play on words of the title of his radio show “The March of Time,” and called the project “The March of Dimes.” Over $85,000 was raised for polio research and treatment in this initial effort.

Franklin Roosevelt and Cason Callaway, founder of Callaway Gardens, met in 1925 through Donald Ross, Roosevelt’s golf course architect, and the two men immediately became close friends in spite of their contrasting political views. Sharing Roosevelt’s passion of philanthropy, Callaway was tasked with leading the 1933 fundraising effort in Georgia for Roosevelt’s foundation. He raised over $100,000, which was an astonishing amount in the depression years. His work led to the construction of the elegant Georgia Hall, which still stands on the campus of what is now the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. The two men remained friends until Roosevelt’s death in April 1945. Roosevelt often visited the Callaway family at their lodge at Blue Springs in next-door Harris County. He was so comfortable around the Callaways that he would remove his leg braces and completely relax in their company, knowing he was safe from prying eyes and personal questions.

Georgia Hall was built as a replacement for the badly-deteriorated Meriwether Inn, and that building was subsequently demolished in 1934.

Roosevelt made a total of 16 trips to Warm Springs. He was also known to frequent the ice cream parlor of the circa 1907 Hotel Warm Springs that is still in operation today. He died at his beloved Little White House on April 12, 1945 after suffering a stroke while he was sitting for his portrait painted by Madame Elizabeth Shoumatoff. The house and grounds were opened to the public in 1948, and a separate building houses the “Legacy Exhibit” featuring the “Unfinished Portrait,” along with the cape Roosevelt was wearing for the portrait. The original backgrounds painted by Madame Shoumatoff were recently acquired through the generosity of art collector David Frohman.

Roosevelt’s Little White House

At over 9,000 acres, the Roosevelt State Park is the largest in Georgia. A lovely feature of the park is Dowdell’s Knob, the highest point on Pine Mountain at 1,395 feet, where Roosevelt ordered the construction of a grilling pit. It was one of his favorite spots to relax and enjoy the beauty of the view of Pine Mountain Valley. His last visit to the Knob was on April 10, 1945, two days before his death at the Little White House. While Roosevelt normally enjoyed a picnic at the Knob with others, that day he asked to be alone.

Dowdell’s Knob, overlooking Pine Mountain Valley, with the bronze statue of FDR sculpted by Martin Dawe. The statue was dedicated on April 12, 2007.

Pine Mountain is a 20-plus mile long ridge that crosses through Talbot, Meriwether, and Harris Counties in Georgia and over into eastern Alabama, exceeding an elevation of over 1,100 feet. These are the highest elevations at so southerly a latitude in the eastern half of the continental United States. Often mistaken as the end of the Appalachian mountain range, which actually ends further north in Georgia and Alabama, Pine Mountain is part of a larger geological feature called the Pine Mountain Terrane.

Visit our additional sites on Flickr, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Other sites you may enjoy:

Meriwether Tourism

Roosevelt Warm Springs Archive on Flickr

Georgia Encyclopedia: Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute, Franklin D. Roosevelt in Georgia, Warm Springs

Sources include:

Little White House State Historic Site

Meriwether Tourism

Warm Springs by David M. Burke and Odie A. Burke

West Central Georgia in Vintage Postcards by Gary L. Doster

HistoricColumbus.com