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Refreshing Lifsey Springs: New owner hopes to reopen spring and pool

The water and land around Lifsey Springs have been refreshing lives for generations and the springs were opened to the community in 1875 as one of the first public swimming pools in the United States. The warm spring – one of only three in the state – and surrounding property were purchased by Ace Amerson in December 2019 and he has been working to clean up the land and restore both the spring area and the pool that was operated by the Pike County Lions Club from 1960 to 1981. ’If someone doesn’t start taking care of this now, then it is going to be destroyed,’ said Ace. ‘My goal is to rebuild the spring and make it look like it did in 1875 and also rebuild the swimming pool and make it look like it did in 1960.’ Amerson said he fell in love with the history of the spring, all the way back to the Native Americans who he said considered it a sacred place and believed the water held mystical properties that gave them strength. ’I have fallen in love with the Native American history in this area and I grew up around Warm Springs and have visited Thundering Springs in Molena also,’ he said. ‘The Native Americans considered this sacred land and believed the waters were warmed by the Great Spirit. They believed the water had powers to heal and give them strength and the warriors used to bathe in the water before battle.’ Even today, many say there’s something in the water of Lifsey Springs, especially considering four of the five oldest siblings in the world all live within a tenth of a mile from the spring. In fact, Rosalee King – who is now 104 years old – recently visited the spring and met the man who was clearing the property and making plans to renovate and reopen the pools. Her sister, Grace Mangham Ward will turn 101 May 19 and she lives across the street from the spring and watches the work from her front porch. Amerson said the spring’s water is nearly completely pure with a pH level of 7.1 (pure water is 7.0) and great mineral levels. He said the water could be bottled straight from the spring and it stays at 80 degrees year-round. ’There is something special about this water and this area,’ said Amerson. ‘I’d like to restore the original spring pool house to its white sand bottom. It’s amazing how they got the concrete walls placed in the pool so long ago without the use of modern tools.’ According to the History of Pike County 1822-1933 by Thomas Speer Wilson, early Pike County settlers – including the Mangham, Chapman and Lifsey families – began clearing land and building in what is now the Lifsey Springs area. ’In the early 1800s ‘¦ it first started as a wash hold dug out by the boys and men to take a swim after a hard day’s work in the field,’ said Wilson. The property was sold to John Lifsey in 1875 and given the name Lifsey Springs. ’The clear bubbling wash hole was developed into a swimming pool, which was divided into three pools (one for ladies, one for the men and a public one for those daring enough to swim together). From this came a beautiful summer resort and recreation area for people in Pike and surrounding counties to enjoy. Eight cabins were built on lots surrounding this area, owned by different people. Businesses began to spring up throughout the community,’ states the entry on Lifsey Springs in the history book. In 1893, Lifsey sold the springs property to Dr. James Monroe Head of Zebulon and he built a hotel for up to 40 people on the property. Lifsey Springs was a bustling resort area at the turn of the century and the natural warm spring pool was created with cement slabs and wooden walls that separated the three swimming areas. In 1914, Dr. Head sold the recreation property to Enoch Storey, Hartfort Green and John Mangham for $3,500. ’They continued to keep it as a beautiful resort with white washed trees and clean kept grounds. There was a dance pavilion, concession stand to buy cold drinks and rent a bathing suit if you did not own one, an ice cream stand with the best cream if you had a nickel for a cone,’ states the history book. The hotel that was built burned early in the 1900s and around the 1930s, the resort began to fall into disrepair with the property changing hands many times until 14 acres of it was purchased by the Pike County Lions Club in 1958. The Lion’s Club Youth Center dedication was held on June 14, 1960 and many local youth spent summers at the pool, including the Mangham siblings who earned a season pass by working at the property. ’It was a busy place in the summer months, going from black knee length bloomer style bathing suits to much shorter ones or two piece outfits. They had a tennis court and swings and other things for the children to play on and plenty of picnic space with tables.’ The property stopped being used as a youth center in 1981 and was sold in 1986 to J.C. Bankston and his daughter Hilda who used the Lions Clubhouse as a ceramic shop. About Ace Amerson: Ace grew up in Meriwether County and graduated from Georgia Southern University in 2007 after starring in MTV’s The Real World: Paris in 2003. He was a finalist on MTV’s The Inferno 3 and also competed on The Inferno, Battle of the Sexes 2 and The Gauntlet 2.

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