Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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Location: Missouri

I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written seventeen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History, and Murder and Mayhem in Southeast Kansas.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Saratoga Springs

When I was discussing on this blog a year or so ago the mineral water craze that sprang up in the Ozarks (and elsewhere) during the 1880s, I think Saratoga Springs, a town in McDonald County, Missouri, was among the examples I cited. Recently, while perusing the 1881 Joplin Daily Herald, I ran across a column written by a reporter who had taken a trip from Joplin to the fledgling community of Saratoga Springs in the late summer of 1881. The reporter said there were, at the time of his visit, two grocery stores and a drug store in the town as well as three or four dozen "summer houses" made of native lumber. Four or five springs flowed from a ravine below the town, but no medical qualities were claimed for even the largest of the group, which was dubbed the "Liz Weaver." In additon, the community had no organized town company or leaders working on behalf of building the place up. So, the reporter held out little hope that the town would flourish, and, of course, he turned out to be right. Today, Saratoga (the "Springs" part has been dropped from the name) is barely a wide place in the road on Highway 90 between Noel and Southwest City.
One place that did prosper, though, was Eureka Springs. It was tremendously popular, at least among Joplin citizens, from its very founding. It amazes me, in reading 1880s Joplin newspapers, how often I run into items reporting that a certain citizen was in Eureka Springs or had just returned from there. And I'm sure Eureka Springs was almost as popular with other residents of the Ozarks as it was with Joplinites.

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Anonymous Bob said...

It is also interesting to read the Peirce City papers from this era, which reveal a darker side to the mineral springs health fad. Eureka Springs was founded in 1878. For a couple of years, Peirce City was its nearest railroad connection. Eureka Springs was sold as a destination for health seekers. Many sick people went there, and many died. Some were buried locally, but others were soldered into metal caskets by a tinsmith and shipped home. These bodies went to Peirce City by wagon and waited there for the railroad connection. There was considerable concern that they presented a health hazard to the citizens of the town.

In 1880, the Frisco started a branch railroad south from Plymouth Junction, later Monett. This eventually made Seligman, a railroad town named for a railroad financier, the Eureka Springs connection. Still later, a branch railroad followed Butler Hollow all the way into Eureka Springs.

Before the railroad connection was complete, all or part of the journey from Peirce City to Eureka Springs was by stage. Some of the health seekers were affluent, and this stage was robbed at least twice.

August 19, 2010 at 5:36 AM  
Anonymous Bob said...

After checking an internet history, I should have said Eureka Springs was founded in 1879, not 1878.

August 19, 2010 at 8:48 AM  

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