Research finds that Irene Taylor Allen, author of the historical “Saga of Anderson” is the only Grimes County historian who wrote about the 1850s Kellum Spring Resort.
A search of indexes of Blair’s early 1900s Grimes County History does not mention the name of Kellum in the index, nor does the vast mid-1990s Grimes County Heritage & Progress History. Allen writes one brief sentence on page 151 that “Kellum Springs, named for Nathaniel K. Kellum, ten miles north of Anderson, was a health and pleasure resort in 1850.”
That was about the same time Sulphur Springs, later named the Piedmont Health Resort, opened. Much has been written about the Piedmont and probably because of its location much closer to what became Navasota, the town that trains built. Kellum Springs Resort was north of Anderson in Grimes County and little was historically known about it.
Charles Christopher Jackson wrote about Grimes County in the TSHA Handbook of Texas that “Two spas were established in the county around 1850: Kellum Springs, ten miles north of Anderson, and Piedmont Springs, seven miles west of Anderson. Piedmont Springs, in particular, attracted guests from great distances, and in 1860 a four-story, 100-room hotel was constructed there. The railroad first reached Grimes County in 1859, when the Houston and Texas Central extended its line to Navasota.”
The Findagrave post for Nathaniel Kellum states that “During the era of the Civil War, Kellum’s retreat flourished as a famous health resort in the center of Grimes County. The retreat was built in 1849. He built a 50-room, two-story hotel, with a bowling saloon, served elaborate food, and a fine bar that were all incentives for visitors. He also in time built a burial vault where he would be buried in the nearby Kellum Springs Cemetery.”
The Houston History Magazine’s June 2020 issue featured a history of Nathaniel Kellum as born in Virginia, raised in Mississippi, and at age 27, arrived in Houston in 1837 during the Republic of Texas decade. He was a brick mason and operated a brickyard, a lime vat for mortar and plaster, an iron factory, a sawmill, and a leather tannery. In 1843, he married 15-year-old Elmyra Cotton of Mississippi.
In 1844 he purchased a property for $500 and built a mansion for his family that would include three sons, Robert, Nathaniel Jr., and Ruthven. After falling out with a co-investor in 1849, he divested many of his Houston assets and came to Grimes County to open a health resort.
Both the Piedmont and the Kellum Springs Resort would die following the Civil War. Kellum, himself died early during the Civil War in 1862 on Oct. 14. He was but 50 years of age having been born in 1812. Also buried in the Kellum Springs Cemetery is his wife, Elmyria, who died in 1870; a son Ruthven, born in 1844, died in 1878. His son Robert is buried in Martins Prairie Cemetery and there is no valid record for Nathaniel Jr.’s death.
The TXGen Web lists directions to the Kellum Springs Cemetery as - from Singleton, take CR 176 west, turn left on CR 177, continue to road end and locked gate. The headstones have apparently been removed. The Cemetery is near the Resort location.
When Kellum’s Houston mansion sold to the Noble family in 1851, Zerviah Noble and her daughter Catherine operated one of the Houston’s earliest schools in the home. Kellum’s mansion still partially stands as the oldest home in Houston in Sam Houston Park refurbished by the Heritage Society. Tours are scheduled. The City of Houston actually owns the Kellum- Noble property, but it has been operated by the Heritage Society over the last 65 years.
Written by Betty Dunn, Two Rivers Heritage Foundation. See www.tworiversheritagefoundation. org for more info and membership.