The Times West Virginian

March 11, 2013

Cave Spring is home to water, passion and preservation

By Christine Tibbetts
CNHI News Service

MORGANTOWN — Empty milk jugs travel to Cave Spring with people who plan.

Now that I know how pure and delicious the water is in this northwest Georgia community, I intend to take the Waterford pitcher.

No chemicals in the 1.2 million gallons flowing every day from deep underground — just a dash of fluoride and a bit of required chlorinate.

“99.9 percent pure,” Cave Spring Mayor Rob Ware says.

To fill your pitchers, here’s the set-up:

Meander through the 29-acre Rolater Park, cross a little stream with ducks of many-hued heads. Stare at the limestone cave dreaming of the rocks and passageways inside. Self-guided tours are available for $1 in the spring and autumn or by appointment. Squat just outside the cave entrance to fill as many containers as you like.

Paper cups are available inside but I’d recommend taking a substantial vessel. This water tastes too good for only a sip.

Perhaps the water’s reason enough to visit. Maybe sleep over. Two historic inns are real options.

I chose the two-story Victorian Tumlin House where the great-great-niece of the original owner is today’s proprietor. I like real-live history connections and Nancy Boehm has a house full of them.

Pronounce that “bome,” spelled like the artisans of porcelain birds but not related and not said the same way.

Nancy knows lots of family stories in Cave Spring, going back to her Aunt Julia Dickerson receiving this house as a wedding gift from her father in 1896 when she married Albert Tumlin.

Albert’s hat hangs in the parlor.

Passionate people live here, caring deeply about their town of 1,200 neighbors.

Enduring spirits do, too: the Cherokee.

Local historians discovered a two-story log building belonging to the Cherokee Vann family in the early 1800s.

That means before the Trail of Tears, and before Cave Spring was claimed by white settlers.

“Established 1832” declares the city sign and 1835 is the date of the signing of the Treaty of New Echota, after which Cherokee were removed from Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and North Carolina.

I have mistakenly pictured Native Americans in mobile dwellings, tents for folding and moving.

This two-story house and the substantial Cherokee family home of Major and Schoya Ridge in nearby Rome indicate my need to learn some facts.

One method might be a journey along the Trail of Tears, in Georgia and heading west.

This is the 175th anniversary of the removal so experiences and information are likely to be abundant and I’m checking.

How was the log cabin protected so long? Covered up by the Cave Spring Green Hotel, actually built all around the original Cherokee building.

When some layers of clapboard siding were removed, Voila! “We knew this was something special,” says Nancy Boehm, “and the Historic Society began the process to purchase and protect the structure.”

I saw up close evidence of what happens in this tiny town when the preservation people fuel their passion and you can, too.

Start in Rolater Park, same place you get the water.

 Hearn Academy is the name to know, the private school established in 1839 to be “a permanent school of high order.” Seems that worked until 1922 when public schools were flourishing in Georgia.

This exquisitely restored building was a boys’ dormitory; today it’s an inn in search of an innkeeper.

The 1851 Baptist Church is preserved too, lovely exterior, easy to enjoy as you’re getting water.

Tumlin House where I stayed offers easy access for a walking tour of Cave Spring.

When you’re there, contemplate the family history within — good stories that innkeepers Nancy and J.C. Boehm will share.

Insider tip: Ask for music because they are accomplished professional singers, pianists and collectors of musical instruments from throughout the world.

Don’t overlook the vast collection in the parlor of musical instruments J.C.’s missionary mother embraced through a lifetime.