History of Hot Springs Library

The Library, Hot Springs, and Hazel Moore


The following was written from notes Sally Lassiter made during  a conversation with Hazel Moore on September 5, 2012.  Della Hazel Moore was ninety on May 31.  She was born in 1922, four years after World War I and she says that she counts her blessings.  The information in bold has to do with the history of the Hot Springs Library.


When Hazel was growing up, Hot Springs had no library. Even when she graduated in 1940, there was no library at the Hot Springs School, a  public school which served grades 1 – 11.  “The Dorland Bell Institute had a library but the town people didn’t use it, though some of the children did.”


“There were only two libraries in the county.  One was in Marshall and one was in Mars Hill.  [It took a long time to drive to Marshall.]  It was six miles from Hot Springs to the old mill wheel [at the Laurel River] but now that the curves are knocked off, it is a mile shorter.  The road was gravel.  It was macadamized in 1928.  I found that in an elderly man’s diary. It took about 30 minutes to ride the train to Marshall and about an hour to get to Asheville.  It was just 38 miles on the railroad.”


“Miss Peggy taught school up here at our school.  She was a good friend of mine.  Her good friends in Marshall needed someone in Hot Springs to represent Hot Springs and be the librarian.  Miss Peggy loved books and she needed a job so they chose her and she was appointed librarian by the county commissioners, I reckon.  She knew all the history.”


“There was no building for the library so a bookmobile was purchased.  It was called ‘Bookie.’ In 1966, a new bookmobile was bought.  It was a big van called the ‘Blue Cloud.’  There were shelves on the walls with books on them and you had to go inside the van to get your book.  Sometimes it went to Little Laurel and Shelton Laurel, sometimes to Bluff, sometimes to Meadow Fork and sometimes to Spring Creek.  Lisa still takes books to Spring Creek to be checked out.”


“Miss Peggy drove the bookmobile for years but in bad weather, her husband would drive it up Spring Creek.  She parked at the community center.  You had to go into the van to get your book.  She got books from the Marshall library.  She always had a good selection of books.  Lucille Roberts was the main one over all the libraries. Jean Krause was in charge after Mrs. Roberts resigned and then Mrs. Peak.  I really liked Mrs. Peak.  She was a sweet lady.”


“In 1958, the Asheville Citizen started a contest called ‘A Finer Carolina.’  Hot Springs decided to join the contest to beautify the town.  All of the clubs worked together and we won first prize --- $1,000.  The town bought Mr. Alfred Gentry’s store building which was vacant for $2,000 .”  [The prize money made the down payment. The rest was paid monthly by the clubs.]


 “The old store building was Keith Gentry’s grandfather’s dry goods store.  In 1947, Mr. Alfred Gentry had had a new store built.  The new store was a hardware store.  James and Dot Gentry raised three fine sons and ran the store ever since World War II.”


“The old building had been abandoned for several years before Mrs. Gentry sold it for the new community house.  It was in bad condition and needed an awful lot of work.  The walls had to be mended and the roof leaked.  The men in town got up and fixed it.  Burlington Mills donated things to cover the walls up.  All the work was donated.  The Boy Scouts helped too.  All the clubs worked together.  The clubs were the Women’s Club, the Men’s Civic Club, and the Friendship Club.  That was before the Lions Club.”


“A room was partitioned off for the library in the back and the front was used for a welfare clinic.  The clinic officially opened July 13, 1956. There was a woman doctor in town, Dr. Lord, with two nurses, who came on the days needed.”


Dr. Kimberly was here when Miss Moore was a child but “when the war came, he did something pertaining to the war.  Dr. Ross lived in Asheville and he came on the train several days a week.  Then he finally moved to Hot Springs during the war.  In the late forties, Mr. Rudsell built a long building on the Spa grounds for a clinic.  His business wasn’t just welfare.”


“Miss Peggy worked a year or two in the community house.  She worked for the Madison County Library for quite a few years, thirty some years.  She retired in 1984.  She was ‘Miss Peggy’ Dotterer,  Elizabeth Rumbough Baker Dotterer.  She owned the Inn property, ‘Rutland.’”


“Her grandfather was ‘The Colonel.’  Back then if you had a good education, you got a courtesy name.  He wouldn’t give the name up because he liked it.  He took care of getting supplies for the Southern troops.  He didn’t fight.” 


“The bridge was in a different place then. Mrs. Rumbough tried to burn the wooden bridge when the Union army was coming in but it didn’t burn.  She set it afire. They swam the river on their horses anyway.  That’s when all the business in Shelton Laurel took place.”


“Colonel Rumbough had a stage coach business coming through here.  The old stage coach road went by Mary Gahagan’s house.  It was six miles to Tennessee.  The road went to Greeneville and through here to South Carolina.”


There was a building called the Soldiers’ Hut and it “had a great big room and Father Graves let us use it for a civic center/community house.  It was located beside the rescue squad’s place by the creek.”


“Bessie Safford, who was Col. Rumbough’s daughter and Miss Peggy’s aunt, built the Soldiers’ Hut for a recreation room for the soldiers who were guarding the prisoners of war.  It was beautiful inside.  Mrs. Safford left it to the Jesuits.  The Soldiers’ Hut was a community center.  It was burned, maybe by the same person as burned the hotel in the 1970s.  He is mentally off.  What sense he had was mean sense.”


“The lawyer’s office used to be the Town Hall in 1946.  There was a jail in there with a big heavy door.”  [You can still see the bars on the back windows.] “Two Gentry brothers from Laurel got burned up in there.  They were drinking and staggering a little but they didn’t do anything wrong.  The sheriff arrested them, locked them up and left them.  He wasn’t supposed to leave them without someone with them.  They sat the mattress on fire smoking---should have been searched for matches.  They suffocated.” 


“The house caught on fire.  It did not burn down.  The folks next door smelled smoke.  We had a good siren then.  You could hear it all over town.  We had a fire truck [in the same building that was on fire.]  The room for the fire truck down there had the rafters burned.  It was never covered up and you can still see where the fire was.  They had to put a new roof on it.”


“I was in Asheville in the Pack Square Beauty School and everyone was condemning Hot Springs because no one was looking after those boys.  I didn’t tell anyone I was from Hot Springs.”


“Miss Peggy knew all the history.  She worked a year or two in the community house.  It officially opened in 1956.  She worked for the Madison County Library for thirty some years.  She resigned because of health.  Katherine Ferguson worked several years after Miss Peggy.  She was good at her work.  She resigned in 1992.”


After that, Hazel became the librarian.  She would close her beauty shop on Tuesdays and Thursdays and keep the library open from 9 to 5, after school was out.  She worked two days a week for over seven years and four months and made $4 an hour. 


In 1942, during the war, Hazel had taken a business course at the Crossnore School near Spruce Pine.  It was a Presbyterian boarding school built by two doctors, Dr. Sloop and his wife. 


“I studied shorthand, bookkeeping, spelling, typing, and a law course about how to act if you had to go to court. I was twenty years old. At the school, you paid and then you worked.  I worked on Saturday in the weaving room making tablecloths with a dogwood blossom.  First they put me on punching rugs.  I liked the weaving better.   It was a wonderful place.  They kept children too, in different cottages.”

“The first four years, I worked at the little community house beside the community center in a little room in the back.  Then in 1998 they moved the library up to where the learning school is.”


“Bruce Sprinkle was the best friend the Library ever had.  He died recently of cancer of the brain.  He lived in Mars Hill.  Mars Hill College gave us real nice metal bookshelves.  He put them in his truck, brought them down, and put them up.  If we needed anything that he could help us with, he said for us to call him.  He taught woodwork and some of our boys were in his class.  He was real good at oil painting too.”


“I retired in the late 1990s because of the computer business.  I was a little too old to learn although I did take two classes at AB Tech with Carol Dixon on computers.  I would have stayed with it but I didn’t know one thing about computers. Jean Krause wanted to do away with the card business and use the computer.  I liked the card system.  Jean said that it was better for her because she could get on her computer and see what all three libraries were doing.”


“After the Forest Service moved out, the Library knew they would get more customers in town than way up there on the hill.  When the Learning Center went in in July, 2008, the Library moved down.  I don’t know what they would have done without Bob Dixon.  The library building wouldn’t be what it is now if it wasn’t for him.”

“I still help the Library.  A lot of people want to find their ancestors or a certain cemetery.  Lisa or Winnie are good to call me and see if I know anything about it.”


“Bob Hurly, reporter for the Greeneville Sun newspaper has a column.  I help him when he has questions about Hot Springs.  I helped him with the CC boys lately.  I am the only one left who knew all of Colonel Rumbough’s daughters.”