Growing up, one of my favorite summer treats was a trip to Shatley Springs. In today’s world of farm to table restaurants with fancy upscale versions of southern fare, it fascinates me that this little place in the absolute middle of nowhere is still around. But I am certainly glad it is.
I had a few days off recently and Dad and I decided to take a little trip up to Crumpler to eat lunch at Shatley Springs. I really think the appeal of the place is the tradition of it. I can see why maybe those who didn’t grow up going there would not find it too terribly appealing. For starters, it’s a pretty long trek just to eat lunch. This is my husband’s main reason for not caring that much about it. I asked if he wanted us to wait until he had a day off work so he could go with us, but he declined.
While I greatly enjoy the food, it’s really more about the overall experience. It’s not just lunch, it’s an adventure. It’s a little vacation and a good meal that is close enough to home to do in a day, but still feels like a sweet little get-away.
Shatley Springs, for those who may not be familiar with it, is something of a ramshackle little red building set on a property containing a spring said to have healing properties. The restaurant serves up plain ol’ country fare like fried chicken and mashed potatoes. They have a menu, but the only way to do it, in my opinion, is to order the family style. They bring out a great big platter of fried chicken and country ham and bowls full of pinto beans, mashed potatoes, cabbage, apples, corn, macaroni and cheese, oh and biscuits. Be sure to ask for some red eye gravy, too! I can’t explain it, but it just brings me joy to watch them bring out all those dishes of food and set them right in front of you. Oh, and there’s cobbler for dessert. I usually leave feeling so miserable I can hardly walk, but it’s worth it.
The entire place feels like a little step back in time. The story about the spring is quite fascinating also. It was discovered in 1890 by one Martin Shatley. Shatley was said to suffer from a variety of health problems including a very severe skin disorder. According to his testimony, written down in 1925, Shatley had seen numerous doctors and tried many different treatments, none of which worked. He was so ill that he contemplated taking his own life just to get out of the misery he was in. Shatley had suffered from his ailments for seven years when he moved his family to the area where he discovered the spring.
“Then I moved away from town and went to this farm,” Shatley said in a written testimony. “A few months after I had been on this farm one day I walked out on my farm. My face was so inflamed and swollen I had to hold my eyelids up with my hands to see my way to walk. I passed a spring and dipped up some water with my hands and bathed my face to cool the fever down in my face as I had often done when I passed where there was cold water and in less than one hour I realized that my face was better and so much better that I became excited about it.
“Then late that evening I went back to that spring and bathed my face and other parts of my body, and by the next morning the fever had left where the water was put on the skin. I was so glad I felt like shouting, I was glad with all my heart. I told everybody I saw about it. I gained strength every day and in three weeks I was out on the farm at work and could do about as much work as any man I could hire, and in six weeks my lung was well and I was about as stout as I ever was.”
Since the spring was discovered, many have come to seek healing for various ailments. The spring runs to this day, right under the restaurant. Visitors are able to collect water to take home while there.
Thankfully, I have no ailments in need of curing, but I can say the water is quite refreshing and I certainly feel glad with all my heart when they bring out all that food!
Kitsey Burns Harrison is a reporter for The Yadkin Ripple and The Tribune, here she shares her musings on food, life and love. She can be reached at 336-518-3049 or on Twitter or Instagram @RippleReporterK.