Ozarks History

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

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written fifteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Bushwhacker Belles, Wicked Women of Missouri, and Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Aurora Springs

I have previously written about a number of resort towns that sprang up in the Ozarks during the late 1870s and the 1880s, as the mineral-water craze of the late nineteenth century swept across the country. A couple of the places I’ve previously written about that come readily to mind are Indian Springs and Saratoga Springs, both in McDonald County, Missouri.
Another such place was Aurora Springs in northern Miller County, Missouri. Aurora Springs was started in the fall of 1880 and quickly grew into a booming mineral-water resort town. As with all such towns, the waters were advertised as having medicinal qualities, and by the spring and summer of 1881, people were flocking to Aurora Springs seeking cures for all kinds of ailments. The Tuscumbia Osage Valley Banner reported on May 19, for instance, that a little girl was improving rapidly from the effects of “scald head” after using the waters at Aurora Springs. The same issue of the newspaper reported that 1,500 people had attended divine services at Aurora Springs the previous Sunday.
The Banner reported on June 30, 1881, that Colonel J. H. Stover had relocated to Aurora Springs and was now reaping the benefits of the water. The previous Thursday he had supposedly stood alone for the first time in three years.
The Banner reported in the same issue that Aurora Springs was booming. Sick and invalid people were coming in and receiving benefits and then returning home. “Some of the most wonderful cures have been performed,” claimed the newspaper.
The editor urged everybody to go to Aurora Springs for the big Fourth of July celebration and picnic that was being planned. “The largest assembly of people ever witnessed in Miller County” was expected. The newspaperman said the park grounds, hotels, and bath houses wee being put in order for the big event, and he predicted that as many as 5,000 people would probably attend the Independence Day festivities.
The Jefferson City State Tribune of July 10, 1881, confirmed that at least 5,000 people did, indeed, attend the Aurora Springs Fourth of July celebration. “The Springs, as now arranged,” said the Tribune, “is one of the most pleasant points in central Missouri for public meetings and picnics.”
In August of the same year, one issue of the Banner reported that Aurora Springs had gained 100 permanent residents just within the past week. The next month the same paper reported that a woman who had suffered from “milk leg” for twenty years was now improving rapidly as a result of taking the waters of Aurora Springs.
In late 1881 or early 1882, the Missouri Pacific Railroad built a depot about a half mile southwest of Aurora Springs, and the community that grew up around the depot was at first called simply Aurora but soon came to be known as West Aurora. The main railroad line, however, ended up bypassing Aurora Springs and West Aurora altogether and went through Eldon instead, about two miles to the north.
Aurora Springs, however, continued to flourish throughout the 1880s and into the nineties. At its height, it was the most populous town in Miller County, with a population of about 700. It boasted three hotels, three lawyers, four doctors, six churches, and businesses of almost every kind.
A post office at Aurora Springs remained in operation until 1912. The community of Aurora Springs still exists today, but very little remains to suggest its glory days of the past.

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