Bullitt County History

Letter About Paroquet Springs Inauguration Ball, 1871

The following correspondence appeared in The Times-Picayune, a New Orleans newspaper, on Friday, 4 Aug 1871. It appears to be a letter written by someone named Max who had visited Paroquet Springs that summer. In it he briefly describes the spa, and then goes into some detail about its Inauguration Ball held on July 27th, mentioning many participants by name. Where possible, we have included more details about them within brackets.

Paroquet Springs, Kentucky.
[Correspondence of the Picayune.]

Dear Pic. - We arrived at this truly elegant and comfortable summer resort yesterday morning, Thursday, July 27th, at 5 o'clock, having left New Orleans Tuesday evening at 5 o'clock, by the Jackson Railroad, and reached Shepherdsville depot, Louisville & Nashville Railroad, only one half mile from the Springs, without changing out of the palace sleeping car in which we embarked at New Orleans.

Imagine our surprise and pleasure at finding a watering place so well adapted in the curative powers of its waters to meet the exigencies of our insidious Southern diseases; and yet so accessible to our people. The Springs are situated eighteen miles from Louisville on the direct line from New Orleans to Louisville, in one of the most picturesque and beautiful spots of earth. Nature seems to have lavished its wealth of beauty on this place; but the company, not content with their world of scenery, have summoned art and science to crown their labors, and add the finishing touches to this lovely place.

Nestling like a gem amongst the Salt River Mountains, the Paroquet Springs can challenge any favorite resort in this country to show as magnificent scenery, wholesome atmosphere or salubrious climate. Salt River runs within fifty yards of the hotel, and every afternoon crowds of gaily dressed ladies may be seen floating over its clear bosom in the luxurious gondolas so generously furnished, free, for the use of the guests; while those fond of piscatory sports line the banks of the river indulging in their favorite pastime. Floating bath houses like those constructed for the nobility of Rome are in process of construction, and everything that pertains to aquatic sports or pleasure will be fully supplied. Large quantities of game, of every description, abound in the neighborhood, and the sportsman can amuse himself, with his dog, shooting on the wing, or join in the chase of the fox and deer. The hotel park contains one hundred acres of ground and comprises nearly every variety of trees known, forming a cooling shade and most delightful lawn for children in the gambols, and for enterprising and romantic lovers to hold sweet converse and to enjoy the music from the carols of innumerable songsters.

The Paroquet Springs Company is composed of Southern gentlemen: Col. Robert A. Johnson, so long a citizen of the South, and so well known in New Orleans, being the President. They have been princely in their expenditures, and have made a low rate of board in order to induce the people of the South to visit these celebrated springs. The hotel is a wonder of architectural beauty, and a paragon of comfort. It is nearly four hundred feet long and sixty-five feet wide, with a continuous gallery around the entire building, twenty-five hundred feet long and fifteen feet wide (so that plenty of exercise can be had indoors in rainy weather) and eight feet halls between the rooms. The rooms are sixteen feet square with lofty ceilings and thorough ventilation, many of them connected for family use. The ballroom and dining room are each eighty-six feet long by forty feet wide, and the parlors are perfectly elegant.

The cuisine is the very best. No expense has been spared to secure the most competent artists in this department, and the table literally groans with its generous load of palatable food, the choicest viands and luscious fruits.

The polite and energetic manager, Col. L. H. Fitzhugh, has spared neither labor nor money to make this hotel a success. He is a born gentleman, and seems by intuition to know the waters of a watering place. On account of his genial manners and ability as a caterer he has won the title of the Prince of Hotel Keepers.

The opening ball came off last night. I will, for the benefit of your many lady readers, endeavor to give you a brief account of the ball and of some few of the numerous distinguished guests.

A splendid band discoursed sweetest music from the spacious balcony of the hotel, and beautiful women hastened at an early hour to the capacious and brilliantly lighted ball-room.

Miss Nellie Courtenay, a pure blonde, niece of Mrs. L. H. Fitzhugh, the elegant and accomplished wife of the proprietor, accompanied by her aunt, enters the room first. She is dressed in white tartlatan, ruffled and ruched to the waist, with blue trimmings. Diamond ornaments. [Helen Martin "Nellie" Courtenay, daughter of Robert Graham and Annie Christian (Howard) Courtenay, was a niece of Anna Eliza (Bullitt) Fitzhugh. Both were descended from Alexander Scott Bullitt.]

A bevy of ladies and their gallants enter the ball-room, headed by Mrs. M. Lewis Clark, the celebrated Kentucky bride, formerly Miss Anderson, and just returned from a Continental tour. Dressed in black satin and white lace overskirt. Diamond ornaments. [Mary Martin Anderson married Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr. on 1 May 1871.]

Miss Tinnie Speed, niece of Jas. Speed, Esq., ex-Attorney General of the United States, a magnificent brunette, dressed with black silk train and white silk overskirt, trimmed with black lace. Magenta ornaments. [Peachy Austin "Tiny" Speed, daughter of Philip and Emma (Keats) Speed, married John F. Rogers on 1 Nov 1871 in Jefferson County KY.]

Miss Lena Jacob, niece of ex-Lieut. Gov. Jacob, of Kentucky, a tall and graceful brunette, dressed in a gold colored silk, covered with crepe of same color. Coral ornaments. [Lena Jacob, daughter of John Jeremiah Jacob, Jr. and Evelyn Johnson Jacob, married Charles Jefferson Clark in 1873. He was a brother of Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., mentioned earlier. Lena's uncle was Richard Taylor Jacob, Lieutenant-Governor of Kentucky from 1863-1866.]

Miss Lucretia Clay, a lovely blonde, daughter of the late Jas. B. Clay, Esq., dressed in white tarlatan, covered with brooches of pink tarlatan, studded with Marguerites, wreath of white and rose colored flowers. Diamond ornaments. [Lucretia Hart Clay was a daughter of James Brown Clay and Susanna (Jacob) Clay, and granddaughter of Henry Clay and John Jeremiah Jacob.]

Miss Katie Hamilton, an exquisite blonde, and as beautiful as a houri, dressed with white satin train, overskirt of blue crepe, looped with pink morning glories and black velvet band fastened with diamond pin. Diamond ornaments. [Kate Hamilton was a daughter of Henry Crist Hamilton and Rachel Eleanor (Swearingen) Hamilton of Mt. Washington. She married Samuel Avery in 1877.]

Miss Ellen Bullitt, niece of Col. Cuthbert Bullitt, a rich brunette, representing the Crescent City, dressed in gold colored silk, with thread lace overskirt. Hair exquisitely arranged with crimson roses. Diamond ornaments. [Ellen M. Bullitt was a daughter of William Neville Bullitt and Virginia Helen (Anderson) Bullitt, and granddaughter of Cuthbert and Nancy Ann (Neville) Bullitt.]

Miss Addie Rogers of Bullitt County, Ky., the beautiful belle, so faultless a brunette as to rival the daughters of the South in their favorite complexion, the owner of the bouquet of the evening, which rumor says, was presented with an offer of the donor's worldly goods and chattels, looked charming, dressed in rose colored silk, with jupe of rich white lace. Diamond ornaments.

Miss Sewall, of San Francisco, niece of Col. Cuthbert Bullitt, a handsome brunette, dressed in pink tarlatan, studded with pink flowers; pink flowers in her hair. Diamond ornaments.

Miss Mary Ballard, a sweet blonde, daughter of Judge Bland Ballard, dressed in blue silk with white overskirt and Paris muslin ruffles. No ornaments. [Mary Ballard, daughter of Bland and Sarah (McDowell) Ballard, married Charles H. Davidson in 1887.]

Miss Nina Sturgis, an interesting brunette, daughter of Gen. Sturgis, U.S.A., dressed in rose-colored tarletan, and rose-colored flowers in her hair. Jet ornaments. [Nina Linn Sturgis, daughter of Civil War General Samuel Davis Sturgis and Jerusha (Wilcox) Sturgis, married Hercules Louis Dousman in 1873.]

Miss Sally Stevenson, a dashing blonde, daughter of Senator and ex-Gov. Stevenson of Kentucky, well known in New Orleans, dressed in an elegant and very costly white silk dress, striped with blue; white flowers in her hair. Diamond ornaments. [Sally Coles Stevenson, daughter of John White Stevenson, governor of Kentucky from 1867-1871, and Sibella (Wilson) Stevenson, married Edward Colston in 1875.]

Miss Maria Yandell, a superb brunette, daughter of Dr. David Yandell, of Louisville, dressed in white tarlatan, very elaborate. Diamond ornaments. [Maria Yandell, daughter of Dr. David W. Yandell and Fannie (Crutcher) Yandell, married Dr. William Owen Roberts in 1877.]

The elegant Mrs. Bartley of Louisville, was dressed in black silk, with a long trail and low neck and short sleeves. Pearl ornaments.

Mrs. Frantz of Louisville, a handsome brunette, was dressed in fawn colored satin and magnificent point lace over dress. Diamond ornaments.

Mrs. Robt. G. Hunt of Louisville, was dressed in white tarlatan, trimmed with black. Hair decorated and diamond ornaments.

Space nor time will admit or a more extended mention of names; but it was a scene to be long remembered. Brilliant beauties and handsome beaux, the chivalry and beauty of Kentucky, arrayed in becoming and costly attire, resplendent with jewels and flashing diamonds, assembled in honor of the opening of her most fashionable resort, was sufficient to captivate the senses of those who were fortunate enough to witness the scene.

Taken for all in all, there is no fairer spot on the glad green earth than this, none better calculated to restore the health and revive the spirits of those who, ennuied by a season of hard work, need relaxation of mind and respite from all trouble. Let the New Orleans people remember that they have in Paroquet Springs a Southern watering place surpassing Saratoga in many particulars, and eclipsed by it in none.

Yours, Max.

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The Bullitt County History Museum, a service of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is located in the county courthouse at 300 South Buckman Street (Highway 61) in Shepherdsville, Kentucky. The museum, along with its research room, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Saturday appointments are available by calling 502-921-0161 during our regular weekday hours. Admission is free. The museum, as part of the Bullitt County Genealogical Society, is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization and is classified as a 509(a)2 public charity. Contributions and bequests are deductible under section 2055, 2106, or 2522 of the Internal Revenue Code. Page last modified: 12 Jan 2024 . Page URL: bullittcountyhistory.org/bchistory/max-letter.html