A backroad journey through South Carolina’s National Heritage Corridor in Barnwell County leads visitors to a historic and revered jewel nestled in the woods just outside Blackville. After hundreds of years, God’s Acre Healing Springs still flow -- filling water containers and the well of expectations that people have about their curative power.
The history of the site dates back to the 1700s, when Native Americans inhabited the area. They considered the springs sacred and used the water to heal the sick and injured.
The Healing Springs got its name during the Revolutionary War, according to one famous account. Historians say that in 1771, after a battle at nearby Windy Hill Creek, four wounded British soldiers, sent inland from Charleston, were left to die near the springs. Legend has it that Native Americans found the soldiers and took them to the Healing Springs, where they nursed them back to health. It is said that when the soldiers rejoined their regiment in Charleston, their unit was shocked to see them alive.
More than two centuries later, the legend of the springs’ healing power still exists.
“There are a lot of people who swear by it,” said Stanley McDonald, a charter member of the Blackville Area Historical Society. McDonald has drank from the Healing Springs his entire life and has spent quite a bit of time at the site.
“It’s a beautiful place to visit and get water, and it’s good water,” he said.
It's so good that McDonald believes it might have helped his great uncle, Jasper Owens, heal from a serious leg injury in the 1940s. McDonald tells the story of a mule that sank its teeth into Owens’ leg so deep that local residents had to use a crowbar to pry the animal away. The attack left Owens with a deep wound on his leg -- one that just wouldn’t heal on its own.
After a number of visits to local doctors with no success, it is said that Owens started going to the Healing Springs, where his leg healed after only a few visits. McDonald's great uncle was a true believer. “You try telling somebody like that this water doesn’t heal and you’re likely to have a fight on your hands.”
These days, the springs are designed for people to get drinking water. However, it's not unheard of to see people putting their arms and legs underneath spouts, hoping for a little extra healing power.
Johnny Summers, 79, has a practical faith in the springs. He’s made the hour-long drive from Bowman to Blackville for the past 20 years, filling containers in the bed of his pickup truck with as much as 150-200 gallons of water. For Summers, the spring water is simply an alternative to tap water.
And even though he’s survived a number of serious health problems, Summers is cautious to tout the power of the springs. "I can’t say the water has done any good, but I don’t think it has hurt me.”
Linda Lee lives less than a mile from the Healing Springs and enjoys the novelty and convenience of the site. “Sometimes when I’m going out on a roadtrip, like I am today, I stop by and fill up a water bottle.”
It’s not just locals who are drawn to the springs. Lorena and Johnny Owens drove in from Florida for a sip from the healing springs. “We heard that there was an upgrade out here, so we decided to come and check it out.”
Throughout the years, ownership of the Healing Springs passed through several hands until the site was acquired by L.P. Boylston. In 1944, he deeded the land and springs to God. Hence the name, God’s Acre Healing Springs.
The grounds of the Healing Springs have been renovated to include a repaved parking area. During my recent visit to the springs, the first in more than 25 years, the updated parking lot was the first thing I noticed. The area also seemed more pristine and well-kept than I remembered.
As a child, I often visited the Healing Springs with my family. While my grandmother filled water jugs, I was usually running around splashing my feet in the runoff of spring water that forms a little stream on the property. Back then, I was too young to think about the springs as anything other than a source of fascination and fun.
Now as an adult, I'm left pondering the same question posed by countless others throughout the centuries. Does the water truly heal?
I think it depends on who you ask. For me, two things are for sure. The Healing Springs are special and provide some of the best tasting water around. I’ll drink to that.
IF YOU GO:
God's Acre Healings Springs are 3 miles north of Blackville off S.C. 3. That's about 50 miles south of Columbia.
149 Springs Court, Blackville
Dusk to Dawn
WHAT TO BRING:
Comfortable shoes (that you don’t mind getting wet)
Empty containers for water