Old Sweet Springs

Seen Rivaling Heaven

By Shirley Donnelly

A recent vacation foray into Virginia led back home through Sweet Springs in Monroe County. This historic spot is one where every prospect pleases. There is the Andrew S. Rowan Home for the Aged and a lot of the aged are there. But first hearken to a bit of history of the watering resort. Thomas Jefferson himself designed the main building which was erected in 1833. Massive columns grace the front of the magnificent structure. In he days of its glory the nation's grand came there along with planters and their families who came up from the Deep South.

The main building had a dining room what was notable. There feeding upon its choice victuals and quaffing its water were such men as Presidents Van Buren, Franklin Pierce, and Millard Fillmore, and others of lesser stature

What manner of men were these? "Mr. Van Buren was rather exquisite in appearance. His complexion was bright blood, and he dressed accordingly. He wore an elegant snuff-colored broadcloth coat with a velvet collar. His craving was orange with modest lace trim; his vest was of a pearl hue; his trouser were white dark; his shoes were morocco; his neatly fitting gloves were yellow kid; his long-furred beaver hat with a broad brim was of a Quaker color" is one description of the "Little Magician"00"The American Tallyrand."

When Van Buren went to the White House he had ben a widower for 18 years. Mrs. Angelica Van Buren, his daughter-in-law was Van Buren's hostess. She was a Southern beauty and was the first White House hostess to introduce the hoop skirt. She wore three ostrich plumes in her braided hair.

What kind of stir would Franklin Pierce cause at this spa? Thrice welcomes was this son of New Hampshire to the Old Sweet because Franklin Pierce was a man with southern sympethysizers. The North tolerated him because he was one of them.

He did not want to be president and was the most unambitious men who ever ran for the presidency. But he got 154 electoral votes to his opponent's 42. He had a good military record, having served with distinction in the Mexican War. He had a wonderful personality and liked parties and gaiety almost in a fault. He had more personal friends, it was said, than any man who had ever been president. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry . Longfellow were friends of Pierce from college days.

He was a lawyer, of medium height, slim and straight. He was also handsome .His wife hated Washington and everything connected with the presidency. The Pierces s their last child killed before their eyes on a railroad track and the sight always haunted them. But at Sweet Springs, necks were craned as President Franklin Piece strode the great ponds and grounds.

And what of guest President Millard Fillmore? It is a thousand wonders that Fillmore would maintain a place like Sweet Springs where liquor was sold. Fillmore hated whiskey and other alcoholic beverages. Nor did he use tobacco in any form.

He was a good looking man, over six feet tall. He stood and walked erect and was impressively handsome. On his tours looked up stepping places which were claimed as "temperance" hotels. He was fastidious in his clothes.

Others liked to gamble but not Millard Fillmore. Only time, he said, he ever gambled was once when he was fifteen years old. That was when he was a turkey in a raffle on a New Year's Day. Suffocatingly respectable, Millard Fillmore looked like a president. He was vice president under Zachary 'Taylor who died in office in 1850. Fillmore succeeded "Old Rough and 'Ready" Zachary Taylor, whose cousin Hem Taylor had a hat factory in the Garden Grounds in Fayette County near Glen Jean.

Mrs. Fillmore was quite a person, too. When she got to the White House there wasn't a Bible nor a bathtub in it. She had both the Bible and Bath installed. They strutted in Washington, and at Sweet Springs, the Fillmores did . They had a carriage that was wine colored with seats of blue silk. Their horses cost $1,000 each and were in her that was silver mounted.

There's no fairer valley in all the land than Sweet Springs valley, walled in by Peter's Mountain and the great roar of the winds upon it. Sweet Springs was settled by James Moss in 1760. William Lewis bought the village site in 1792 and there built an to house those who came o drink the sweet waters. It would be wonderful to be able to spend an entire lifetime there. Those who have done so may be disappointed when they get to heaven because it will not be much of an improvement..