Cooper: Dr. Hopkins pens a letter

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There were many reasons for people to visit the Sweetwater Park Hotel. Some came to relax, but others were there because they were sick and looking for treatment for various ailments.

I'm still working on the research for a book regarding the resort era of Lithia Springs.

It's slow go mainly because I feel I should give the project the careful attention to detail it deserves, mainly because I have so many private papers of the various cast of characters to go through which involves lots of travel on my part, and mainly because I have this column and two other book projects currently open on my desk.

But, the work on the "springs" book does continue.

When I discuss the Sweetwater Park Hotel with folks who read this column and/or follow my journey through local history at my Facebook page "Every Now and Then" we often think of the pleasurable reasons folks came to Lithia Springs.

The resort was billed as the "Saratoga of the South," a place to relax -- biking and horseback riding, fine cuisine, rooms with modern conveniences for the time period, seining on the Sweetwater Creek, walks and buggy rides to the New Manchester mill ruins, dances, and most especially a place to rub elbows with the known and "want-to-be-known."

I still try to find those mythical connections to names such as Vanderbilt and Astor with the springs that some purport, but after five years of in-depth research I still have found no mention of folks of their ilk traveling to Lithia Springs for "the season." However, I have run across many interesting worthies high up in government, military, and finance circles that came to Lithia Springs including Dr. T.S. (Thomas Spalding) Hopkins of Thomasville, Georgia.

Dr. Hopkins' visits to the hotel remind me of another more serious reason why folks would come to the Sweetwater Park Hotel -- they were sick, and many of them were dying from various ailments.

Yes, death often hung over the Sweetwater Park Hotel as well as the other various hotels in and around the springs.

Dr. T.S. Hopkins hailed from an old Georgia family. He was the 10th child of General Francis Hopkins who was associated with various coastal plantations and early state government.

Dr. Hopkins ended up in Thomasville, Georgia where he served two terms as mayor and was highly sought for his medical opinions all over the state having written many scientific and medical treatises.

He spent at least three summers from the late 1880s through the 1890s at Lithia Springs, and some of this time was detailed in letters he would send back home to the editors at the "Daily Times Enterprise."

In July 1892, Dr. Hopkins advises his visits were "more in the capacity of an investigator than a pleasure seeker" mainly because he didn't believe the advertisements. The good doctor wanted to see things for himself and personally "investigate the curative powers of the water."

Instead of sitting on one of the many verandahs at the hotel, visiting the mill ruins or just enjoying the lovely dining room at the hotel, Dr. Hopkins spent his time in Lithia Springs pouring over the history of some of those "under treatment" at the hotel and "interviewed them frequently." He came to the conclusion over three years that there (were) no mineral springs of which (he had) any knowledge or history that possessed greater curative powers in a large class of diseases than Lithia Springs."

That July, Dr. Hopkins was looking after Judge Warren Currier who was staying at the Sweetwater Park Hotel. The judge hailed from Missouri where he was known as a former justice on the Missouri Supreme Court. Apparently, he was very ill, and the waters did not help. By July 25th it was reported Judge Currier had passed.

Through Dr. Hopkins letters I was also able to determine the geographical make-up of the people staying at the hotel during the early 1890s. According to Hopkins' observation one year "ninety percent were northern people, many who came on advice of their doctors." The next year he was surprised most were from places such as across the South as well as Missouri, and Hopkins confirms that during those summers the hotel maintained 200 to 250 guests.

You can catch one of my latest articles regarding the Sweetwater Park Hotel in the May/June issue of "West Georgia Living" magazine which is out now. If you missed your copy in the "Douglas County Sentinel" you can pick up a copy at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art or the Sentinel office on Bowden Street, or online.

Lisa Cooper writes the amazing stories of Douglas County each Sunday. You can find her new book "Every Now and Then: The Amazing Stories of Douglas County" online at Amazon, print and Kindle versions. Locally, her book can be found at the Douglas County Museum of History and Art and the Douglasville Welcome Center located at O'Neal Plaza in the former Douglasville Banking Company building.

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