This area was originally known as Salt Lick Creek due to a salt lick that was located nearby, approximately four miles northwest of current day Red Boiling Springs. The salt lick attracted animals, and, in turn, attracted Native Americans as well as other peoples. The area was first surveyed and land grants were first awarded in the mid-1780s. The first post office was established in 1829 and was named the Salt Lick Creek post office. In 1847, the post office was renamed “Red Boiling Springs.”
The 1880s saw a boom in the development of mineral springs resorts as “summer getaways,” due in part to the publicity received by places such as Saratoga Springs in New York. During the following decade, a railroad line was extended to Hartsville, and the railroad established a stagecoach line to Red Boiling Springs. With the continued rise in the number of visitors, two local general store owners— Zack and Clay Cloyd— opened the Cloyd Hotel during this period.
While most mineral water resorts fell out of favor as medical science began to question the healing properties of mineral springs, Red Boiling Springs persisted, reaching its peak in the 1920s and 1930s. The summer of 1936 brought over 14,000 people to the little hamlet of approximately 800.
Almost uniquely, five different types of mineral waters are found at Red Boiling Springs. These springs are “mineralized” by their contact with exposed black shale, from which iron sulfate is dissolved into the waters. Some were named for the color they would turn a silver coin; two, dubbed “Red” and “Black”, were from springs which were capped off and then piped throughout the town to a series of wells with manually operated pumps on both public and private property. Along with iron and sulphur, Red and Black waters both contained relatively high amounts of calcium and magnesium. “Freestone” water contained none of the trace minerals that brought the crowds to the springs but it was by far the most palatable. The most mineral-filled water, known as “Double and Twist,” was named for the effect it had on the person drinking it. “Double and Twist” was advertised as the “only water of its kind in the United States.”
“Taking the waters” at Red Boiling Springs generally consisted of more than merely ingesting them; steam and tub baths featuring the waters and their alleged therapeutic properties were often featured. The bathhouses followed the hydrotherapy regimen developed by John Harvey Kellogg at his Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan, which was very popular at the time. There were medical doctors on hand to prescribe which treatments would work for a particular ailment.
The old hand pumps that stood on public land were made inoperable because of liability issues that could occur. The hand pumps can still be seen on private property around town, and some people still believe in the curative powers of the mineral waters. As of 2018, three of the historic hotels were in operation, with The Armour Hotel still offering a full complement of steam treatment, mineral tub baths, and therapeutic massage.