By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
system is still dealing with fallout from a recent attempt to develop the south
end of Dade County. Following an FBI investigation, federal criminal charges
were filed in May against two players in the no-money-down, no-monthly-payment
financing scheme used to sell lots at the Preserve at Rising Fawn, and a trial
is slated to begin in February. Meanwhile, Dade County’s efforts to collect an
estimated $500,000 in back taxes at the failed resort continue to be thwarted
by the ongoing bankruptcy proceedings of TAS Properties, a company associated
with developer Southern Group.
But as pointed
out recently by Dade County Executive and Commission Ted Rumley, incidentally a
local history buff, the Preserve was hardly Rising Fawn’s maiden voyage into
luxury resort ventures. Rumley has microfiche copies of advertisements from the
early days of the 20th century for a purported Rising Fawn health mecca called
“To all those
seeking a place where they can find rest from care and business, and where they
can spend a time free from the heat and dust of the Towns and Cities, and also
those suffering from general debility, and stomache dificuilties as the results
of Kidney and Liver troubles and over work,” begins a creatively-spelled sales
pitch headed Jan. 4, 1907, and goes on from there.
always been scammers, land scammers and all,” said Rumley. “This is one of the
first ones that ever happened in Dade County.”
Rumley says the
old ads come from the Georgia Archives near Jonesboro, where he loves to root
around when he’s in the Atlanta area for a meeting. “I found this about 15 or
20 years ago,” he said. “I made copies for people who didn’t believe it had
If you’ve lived
in Dade all your life and have never heard of Klondike Springs, it’s not
because you haven’t been paying attention. “It never existed,” said
Oh, the springs
existed, said Rumley, and they’re still there, on the west side of I-59. “You
go halfway up Hatfield Road and you turn on Old Deerhead Cove Road. It goes
back in the ridges there,” said Rumley. “The spring comes out of the foot of
But, he added,
it’s never been called Klondike Springs and there’s nothing special about it as
far as anybody knows. “It’s just water,” he said. “Nobody drinks it.”
page after page of glowing testimonials from 1905-‘08, though, that’s a crying
shame, because the mineral waters of Klondike Springs cure everything from
indigestion to liver disease, even lameness. Their miraculous properties were
discovered – and subsequently marketed – by a (northern) Civil War veteran
named R.R. Wilkinson.
“I was in the
army during the war of 1861 and 65 and contracted disease of the Liver and
Kidneys which have affected me more or less ever since,” wrote Wilkinson in his
own testimonial. “In December 1901 I had a severe attact.”
had not yet been invented in 1907.
on to state that he had been advised to come south and try the healing waters
of Sulfur Springs. “When I arrived there I was so weak that I could only walk a
short distance before I would have to rest,” wrote the piteous invalid.
testified Wilkinson, improved him only moderately. Fortunately: “While there I
became acquainted with Mr. S.B. Austin who told me I had made a mistake, that I
should have gone to the Springs near Rising Fawn, Ga., as they were locally
noted for their medical properties, and that to his personal knowledge he knew
of several wonderful cures they had made.”
went to Rising Fawn and became another success story. “As soon as I commenced
to use the water regularly I found it had a marked effect on the secretions of
the Liver and Kidneys,” he wrote. In six weeks, he testified, he was a new man,
with a hearty appetite and a stomach capable of “assimulating” food.
which had been very irregular for years became regular,” he wrote, presumably
in the interest of full disclosure. “Life instead of being almost a burden to
me is now a pleasure.”
His wife, also
a martyr to stomach ailments, was similarly cured. So, to believe the ad, were
tourists from Florida, Tennessee and Alabama, who all wrote florid testimonials.
“To whoom it
may concern,” begins one from E.L. Brett. “This is to ceertefy that I have used
the water from the Klondike Springs owned by Mr. R.R. Wilkinson at Rising Fawn
Brett goes on
to “ceertefy” that he received more benefits from the life-giving waters than
from any previous medical treatment, but the pertinent words in that passage
are “owned by R.R. Wilkinson.” Our lame Civil War vet was by now the proud
owner of the miraculous springs.
Not that he
intended to hog them: The next part of the ad describes 100 acres of prime
springside real estate, all available for immediate purchase. “There is a
beautiful location for a Hotel a few rods below the famed Spring where water
can be piped all through the building. There are Teraces around and below the
Spring sufficient to locate from 50 to 100 cottages,” wrote Wilkinson. “There
can be a fine road built to the main road with comparetively small expence.”
that the tract would be platted the following fall and that “lots will be for
sale at a reasonable price.”
medicinal tourists, the ad includes the names of prominent local citizens who
endorsed the venture. These include Allisons, Austins, Cantrells, Curetons,
Hales, Frickses, Wootens and Youngs.
people were not the targeted buyers for Klondike Springs, said Ted Rumley.
“What they did is they went up North and promoted this to people who didn’t
know,” he said.
resort was never built, said Rumley, and by the time he started asking, practically
nobody remembered anything about Klondike Springs. “When I got this, there was
still a lot of the old-timers living,” he said. “They said, well, they’d never
heard of that before.”
sure who owns the springs now but the owner when he first began investigating
was John West, now dead some 15 years. West did know about Klondike Springs.
“He laughed,” said Rumley. “He said, ‘Oh, that was just a big con.’ He said
he’d heard people mention it years and years and years before that and they just
laughed about it.”
“It was just a
big hoax,” concluded Rumley. “I wonder who bit off some of the chunks there
when they promoted it.”