1928 - Alderson High School - 1968



Pence Springs Memories

Down memory lane to The Pence Springs Resort --My first memories of this fascinating development center on the springs itself.  My father, Robert Morton Steele, was a traveling salesman.  Before cars had radios he frequently took me along on his travels to keep him company.  He seemed to me to favor springs and waterfalls.  At least that is my excuse for still favoring those two natural phenomena.

    He would drive up to the sparkling white Pence Springs spring house--lovely architecture, a building with two glass window sides and two open ends and a high, peaked roof.  We would enter the open end, go down 2 or 3 steps to where the water flowed from a low fountain.  He would give me a penny and I got to drop it in a slot where paper cups were stored inside a glass tube.  The penny would release the cup and we could fill and refill it as many times as we wanted.  I don't remember having to pay for the water.  I thought that water, (or was it freeing the cup?), was the biggest treat of the entire trip.  Alongside the spring house was a large, 1 story building, a bottling plant.  The spring water was bottled in large glass containers and delivered to hotels in the cities.  I also remember that ginger ale or some kind of soda pop was also made and bottled there but that memory is too faint to rely upon.

     The grand hotel had had a very short existence.  It was built early in the 20th century and was closed by The Great Depression.  The Methodist Church in Alderson would hold their annual summer picnic on the grounds and adventurous kids would climb the hill and explore the several hotel buildings and if we were lucky we could find a door unlocked or a window open and explore even further forbidden territory.  In my senior year, 1941, about 8 of us rode our bicycles from Alderson down to Pence Springs and had a picnic.  I had made butterscotch tarts topped with meringue, trying, no doubt, to impress some boy(s) but my borrowed bicycle had a very rickety basket and the pie box took a number of spills.  I was mortified to discover, when the box lid was taken off, therein was one large butterscotch/meringue mess.  My friend Ann Howard Jeffers Eades remembers that we scooped it up with spoons and ate it anyhow.  My memory is one of agonizing embarrassment.

     Many years later I read that the hotel had been converted to a state women's prison and then still later that it was restored to an operating hotel.  I was glad to learn that so on my very next West Virginia vacation I signed in as a paying guest feeling much better about myself than when I was a sneaking-in kid trespasser.  I have stayed there several times now and always recommend it to Ohio friends who can be persuaded to leave the Interstate.

     But I also have memories of other West Virginia springs: I worked at The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, when it had been converted to Ashford General Hospital during WWII and lived in The President's Cottage.  I have played many hours in the Greek temple pavilion at Blue Sulphur Springs where the acoustics made me sound like I was an opera star.  I have also been to Red Sulphur Springs, Green Sulphur Springs, Craig Healing Springs and others that I can't spell or no longer remember.  I have never been to any of the modern entertainment parks such as Disney World.  It is natural springs  that rank high on my list of favorite places.  I try to make an annual pilgrimage to the awesome Warm Springs in Bath County, Virginal. --Mary Margaret Steele Morgan

When I was a little girl, more years ago than I can remember, my mother and father played golf at Pence (with a "c" in those days) Springs. There was a nice golf course with some holes going out behind the spring house and around and up the hill to the hotel. I don't remember well, but I think there was some sort of club house or pro shop or something of the sort half way up the hill in the back.

Riverside, at that time was also a supper club and lots of Alderson people used to go there for dances, especially in the summer.

My father was convinced that the Pence Springs water had great restorative powers and every Sunday, even after it became a women's state prison, we went down and filled up jugs of sulphur water. Sometimes there was a small charge, some times there was no one operating the spring house, I guess it depended on the year.

In recent years, the twenty first century! we drove down to see the place but did not have reservations for a meal. It looked crowded at that time. Ashby has had several eating establishments in the county and used to cater parties also. He does serve wonderful food. I was sad to hear that Riverside Inn had burned. It, too, was a pretty place. After the dance club closed -- during the war maybe? -- it was a camping place for awhile.

I wonder, does the water still flow from the old sulphur spring? --Amanda Iodice