Webster Springs is the county seat of Webster County. The town lies in a valley at the end of Point Mountain, at the confluence of the Back Fork and Elk River and at the junction of State Routes 15 and 20.
The saline springs, long used as a source of salt by Indians and as a salt lick by wildlife, was discovered in 1782 by early settlers John McQuirter and John Miller Sr. when they claimed a large tract of land near the site of the present town. The first permanent settler was Polly Arthur in 1860. Although the community was originally named Fork Lick, it was incorporated as Addison in 1892 in honor of Addison McLaughlin, who donated the land for the county courthouse. Since 1902, the town has been known by its postal address of Webster Springs.
The reputed medicinal qualities of the spring water attracted many visitors, and in 1890 a springhouse was constructed to provide greater access to the springs. A hotel was built about 1896 by industrialist and U.S. Sen. Johnson N. Camden and expanded into a truly grand structure by John T. McGraw by 1904. Meanwhile, a narrow-gauge railroad arrived in 1902. With ready access and fine accommodations, Webster Springs became a summer resort.
In 1926, the Webster Springs Hotel was destroyed by fire, and in 1929 the railroad was discontinued, ending a decades-long tourist boom. Webster Springs continued as the center for business activities related to the coal and timber industries as well as the government activities of the county seat, but with the loss of mining jobs in the mid-20th century the town lost much of its population. Webster Springs had 776 residents in 2010.
This Article was written by E. Lynn Miller
Last Revised on November 12, 2010
Miller, Sampson N. Sr. Annals of Webster County. Orlando: Golden Rule Press, 1969.