Newspaper Archive of
Mountain Messenger
Lewisburg, West Virginia
January 16, 1990     Mountain Messenger
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January 16, 1990

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Vol. V No. 45 January 16, 1990 From the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia I! I! m Old bandstand at Sweet Chalybeate. ' Chas. A. Goddard Water rushes out of lime- Caves at a rate of 800 gallons -- more than one million a day --- and at a year-round ~rature of 72 degrees Fahren- first enters the bathing pools reserved for ladies and for chil- and then into the gents' pool. ago, before anyone now living remember, the dividing for the pools were taken the " e ' g nts pool", the wa- Sweet Chalybeate go a COnduit and into the near- I a winter's day the water at .~t Chalybeate feels much er than it actually is. The pres- 37-year-old Myron Pier- Went swimming on Christmas Day, when the air temperatures were well below zero. "You get used to it. I have a system. When you get out of the water you put your coat and boots on and make a mad dash for the house where it's warm!" Sweet Chalybeate Springs is lo- cated on Virginia Route 311, about a mile from Sweet Springs, and about 1/2 mile from the border of the two Virginias. "The first story I've heard about this place was that George Wash- ington came through here one day on horseback. The story, if you want to believe it, is that Washington's horse was bitten by a rattlesnake. Well, old George thought his horse had had it, so he just turned him loose. The story goes that the horse waded into the spring and was im- mediately cured!" Mr Pierson smiles as he relates this story and looks a little incredulous himself. "What I do know about this place is that it was a very popular spa for the wealthy Southern folks -- espe- cially from South Carolina. White people first came here about 1836. It was known as Red Springs then," Mr Pierson said. The name Sweet Chalybeate did not come into gen- eral use until about 1900, according to author Stan Cohen in his book "Historic Springs of the Virginias". Red, or Sweet Chalybeate, Springs never had the renown en- joyed by other spas such as White Sulphur and Hot Springs, but "it was the party place until the Civil War," Mr Pierson relates. "There were stage lines running to Crows and a rail line near here. They even had a whiskey distillery! rve seen some of the bottles they used." Sweet Chalybeate limped along after the Civil War and finally closed as a spa in 1918. It has had a num- ber of owners over its long history. Mr Pierson, a trim and athletic man --"an avid sportsman and lover of the outdoors"-- is the spring's latest owner. He purchased the property about two years ago from the Greenbrier Presbytery. The church received Sweet Chalybeate as a gift from its previous owner. At first, before actually buying the property, Mr Pierson was the un- likely caretaker. "Unlikely", because he holds an undergraduate degree in political science from West Vir- ginia University, a Doctor of Juris- prudence from John Marshall L.aw School, and a LLM (Master of Laws Degree) from the Atlanta Law Myron Pierson, proprietor of Sweet Chalybeate Springs, at home. "1 graduated from Greenbrier Mili- tary School in 1971. I went there from the seventh grade through high school. I really liked the individual attention we got there, but I hated the hair cut inspection." Mr Pierson shakes his long brown hair as he speaks. "During the summers for more than nine years I would come back to Greenbrier County and work as a lifeguard at Blue Bend. I did this because I wanted to be near the School. "1 needed a respite from At- lanta. The glamor of the rat race had worn off. I used to come up here for a few weeks at a time. I'd mow the lawns and do some repair work to the two houses and the log cabin. It wasn't long before I knew I wanted to be here all the time." Mr Pierson continues to practice law --- mainly disability and social security insur- ance cases-- in Lewisburg where his parents live. forest and spend my days outside. I always said I wanted to be a profes- sional pool bum, and look at me now." During the summer months, Mr Pierson is constantly minding the pools at Sweet Chalybeate. He sells season membership passes to fami- lies and individuals and offers spe- cial rates for picnics and night swim- ming. '1 really only have two main See "Sweet Waters", pg. 2-A Junior High Schools ii''. -, the Future? ~enbrier Center in Lewisburg, S. Rowan Memorial Home prmgs, and Denmar Hos- ---- all state-owned institutions --- have targeted by the state for radi- !nge or even possible closing. doesn't mean that these fa- Will necessarily cease to ex- Garcelon, public relations the West Virginia Depart- of Health and Human Serv- told the Mountain Messenger had inquires from several about the possible pri- and operation of the The private companies PrOvide the same services the state now does. Green- the Rowan Home, and Could be the same as they Lre __. just under private owner- latest barrage of speculation Andrew S. Rowan Memorial Home concerning the future of the institu- tions came from Governor Gaston Caperton in his State of the State message January 10, when he called for the closing of Greenbrier Center and Andrew S. Rowan Me- morial Home. An act of the legisla- ture is required before any opera- tional change or possible sale could take place. "For instance," Ms Garcelon said, "concerning Greenbrier Center. If a private company were to take over there they would probably build a new building to house the 56 clients. The old main building has problems with the heating and plumbing sys- tems and there is a lot of asbestos in the structure." Asbestos has been declared a health hazard by the fed- eral government and masswe clean- up programs have been undertaken in order to reduce the health threat posed by the mineral. The cost of "asbestos containment is phenome- nally high," Ms Garcelon said. "To my knowledge, we have had no inquires from individuals, private companies, or municipal govern- ments concerning other possible uses for these three facilities," Ms Garcelon stated. "In a parallel case, we (the state Department of Health and Human Services) ceased to operate the old Spencer State Hospital. It is just sit- ting there with a few state employ- ees maintaining the buildings. The City of Spencer is negotiating to pur- chase the buildings and grounds. They plan to then lease it to a pri- vate company for a prison. The mat- ter is before the legislature right now. They are the only ones who can make the decision." Greenbrier Center, established by the state as a training center for mentally retarded children in 1972 i i Photo courtly Dr Robert P, Conte 9 currently houses 56 adult patients and employes 116 support staff. Prior to the state purchase, Green- brier Center was a private girl's school. Andrew S. Rowan Memorial Home was established as a home for the aged in 1945. It was once a spa and hotel. Now there are 109 residents and 93 state employees there. Denmar Hospital at Hillsboro is an intermediate nursing care for 116 patients. It is certified for a capacity patient load of 175. Currently there are 161 state employees at Denmar even though it is budgeted for 171. Denmar was established as a tuber- culosis sanatorium in 1937. It is Io~ cated on 185 acres of prime farming land in southern Pocahontas County. By Jonathan Wright The junior high grades of Crich- ton, Smoot, and Williamsburg schools would be eliminated under a plan tentatively approved by the Greenbrier County Board of Educa- tion January 9. Dwindling enrollments at the three schools and the need to save money in the face of decreased state funding are the major reasons cited by Board mer~bers! in the deci- sion. Superintendent of Schools Steve Baldwin says the plan would provide financial relief while the Board awaits possibl~ approval for an more extensive consolidation plan voted on in November. Public hearings at each of the af- fected schools will be conducted by the Board before it takes a final vote on the matter February 20. The first will be at Smoot February 12 at 7 p.m., the second at Williamsburg February 13 at 7:30 p.m., and the last at Crichton February 14 at 7 p.m. Not knowing when and if the countywide junior high school con- solidation will be approved for fund- ing, the School Board developed the limited three-school plan to take ef- fect July 1 of this year. If the other approach were to be approved in the meantime, the present plan would likely be changed, according to Mr Baldwin. The plan affects only students in grades seven through nine. Crichton students would attend Rainelle Jun- ior High School, Smoot students would attend Rupert Junior High School, and Williamsburg students would be split nearly equally be- tween Renick and Lewisburg junior high schools. Present junior high en- rollments stand at 77 at Crichton, 71 at Smo.~t, and 47 at Williamsburg Accc~ding to information provided in a School Board study, within five years tt;e moves would ~ave $482,420 at Crichton, $510,795 at Smoot, and $533,495 at Wil- liamsburg, a total of over $1.5 mil- lion. Each school would lose between four and five professional staff r.lem- bers. Present teaching personnel would be transferred to other schools in the county. Since the 1980-81 school year, countywide enrollment has dropped from 7,399 to its present 6,149. It dropped 241 last year and 240 this year, according to Mr Baldwin. State funding provides three times the per-student funding for each spe. cial-education student. With those See "Schools", pg. 2-A