Upland Chronicles: Line Springs Hotel was popular resort at foot of mountain

May. 26, 2013 @ 03:14 PM

By Carroll McMahan

According to legend, a wayfarer discovered the cool mineral springs located at the foot of Round Top Mountain in the early 1800s. The often recanted story relays how he spread boughs in the top of a giant white oak and built himself a bed in which he slept until his health was restored by the spring.

As early as 1882 the area known as Line Springs was well-known for its healing waters. The chalybeate water bubbling out of the mountain side contained several beneficial minerals with a predominance of iron. The cold water was also pleasant to the taste.

Dr. J.L. Davis described the water as “especially adapted to kidney and bladder trouble and dyspepsia and all conditions of blood dysprasia, rheumatism, neuralgia and all vinduce affections. … For a general rundown of the system, the water and air will do wonders.” Analysis indicated the water to contain at least eight medicinal minerals.

The history of the property is sketchy. Alfred M. Line purchased the land that included the mineral springs from the Renfro family who moved into Wear’s Valley in 1824. The Line family opened up the spring and by 1898 built log cabins for public use.

Alfred Line and his family decided to move from Wear’s Valley to Boyd’s Creek and sold the property to Rev. James Dunn Lawson, a Methodist circuit-rider during the Civil War and for a number of years following. Rev. Dunn was elderly at the time he purchased the property. He had recently moved from Tuckaleechee Cove to Wear’s Valley and made 2-mile trips daily to visit the springs.

Lawson died in 1906 and his son Daniel B. “Dan” Lawson came into possession of the property. After the resort lay idle for a few years the Little River Railroad was built and its tracks ran 2 miles from the springs at Metcalf Bottoms.

Dan Lawson began construction of a new, luxurious hotel in 1909. He opened the hotel for guests on June 22, 1910. The resort soon became one of the most beloved hospitality establishments in the Smokies.

Many guests came from Knoxville to Townsend to Metcalf Bottoms on the logging train. A horse-drawn hack and driver met each train and carried the tourist through Little Greenbrier to Line Springs Hotel. Hacks also greeted passengers arriving at the Sevierville depot.

Mail came on the train to Metcalf Bottoms. The post office was first called Curryhe in 1909. But after about a year the Little River Railroad changed the name to Line Springs.

Meals were served family style at two long tables, Cabins were near, for which you had to cut and carry your own wood.

Improvements were made through the years such as a spacious dining room and additional cabins. The resort also had a tennis court, croquet grounds and horse shoe park at the disposal of guests.

A popular activity was dancing in the hotel lobby and dining room. Sometimes the Clark-Jones Orchestra from Knoxville would entertain for the dances; sometimes the Bird Brothers from Maryville fiddled for clogging; and at other times native mountain folk would bring their instruments and furnish music.

All dancing ceased at the stroke of midnight on Saturday night because no dancing was allowed on the Lord’s Day.

Daniel Lawson and his wife sold the Line Springs Hotel and property to Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Wynn on October 31, 1916. Smith Jennings was the general manager.

In 1922, Mrs. Belle Caton who had an interest in the hotel with her son-in-law, C.W. Wynn, sold part interest to J. Edgar “Ed” Emert and his wife, Rose McMahan Emert of Sevierville. It was during the 1920s that the Line Springs Hotel was at its peak in popularity.

On June 27, 1923, the following article appeared in Montgomery’s Vindicator: “Owing to the favorable location of Line Spring, it is one of the best health resorts in the South. Its altitude is 2100 feet.

There is no dew and no malarial fog. A superior chalybeate spring — one of the best to be found in the entire country — is located there.

Throughout the night a peculiar and pleasant breeze is a notable feature. For a good health resort we know of no better place than Line Spring. This year a lighting system has been installed, furnishing electric lights for the entire place.

A specious dining hall has been erected and several new cabins are under construction. The rooms of the commodious hotel have been repainted and partly re-furnished.

Line Spring is now owned by Belle Caton and Mr. and Mrs. J. Ed Emert. Mrs. Caton, who takes great delight in hostelry, is in charge.”

One of the big attractions of the hotel was the culinary art of Martha Broyles who cooked for guests from all over the United States there for 38 years.

After the national park was established and the railroad pulled out the hotel began to decline. In 1968 the old hotel, then owned by Margarita Craig, was razed.

Interestingly the road leading to the site of the old Line Springs Hotel is marked with a road sign at the intersection of the road and Wear’s Valley Road (Highway 321) using the incorrect spelling “Lyons Springs.” It is puzzling as to how the error could have occurred since Line Springs was once such a well-known destination.

— Carroll McMahan is the Special Projects Facilitator for the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce and serves as Sevier County Historian. The Upland Chronicles series celebrates the heritage and past of Sevier County. If you have suggestions for future topics, would like to submit a column or have comments; please contact Carroll McMahan at 453-6411 or email to cmcmahan@scoc.org; or Ron Rader at 604-9161 or email to ron@ronraderproperties.com.