Dr. Jonathan Brown already owned land in northwest Howell County when he discovered some springs on his property in 1877 and began developing the site into a health resort the following year. He named the place Brown Springs and put in a small bath house and showers. Later, at the suggestion of his daughter, he renamed the resort Siloam Springs after the healing pool mentioned in the Bible.
D. F. Martin resigned his job as county treasurer of neighboring Iron County in the summer of 1878 and came to Siloam Springs because of his wife’s poor health. By 1880, Martin had acquired the resort from Brown, and he began promoting it heavily. In a letter to the Iron County Register in early July 1880, he told readers that the springs were “making themselves a wonderful reputation for their varied healing virtues in chronic diseases of all forms.”
Siloam Springs was growing rapidly, Martin said. It had 120 dwellings, several hotels or boarding houses, three general stores, two drug stores, and one livery stable. Homes suitable for small families were available to rent for two or three dollars a month.
Touting the almost magical powers of the healing waters of Siloam Springs, Martin said that, since he had come to the place two years earlier, thousands of people had visited the resort, and he had witnessed numerous cases that could only be described as miraculous cures. “So many have come here as a last resort after having been given up as incurable by their physicians, and their looks would seem to verify their conclusions; yet in spite of the judgement of their physicians, and the appearances of the patients, the waters seemed to take hold of them, and in a short time they would be on the highway to health and happiness.”
Martin said he didn’t claim to cure every disease known to man but that he could cure so many that his readers would be astonished if they were to visit. “You will see invalids brought here with the vital spark almost gone out by the wasting element of various chronic diseases, and as if by magic, some will spring into new life…while others more slowly, but none the less sure, will gather up thread by thread…until all is complete.”
Martin went on to enumerate some of the specific diseases and conditions that he and his waters could cure. He said he could cure every case of dropsy brought to the springs, as long as the edema had not been tapped. He could cure falling of the womb, all kinds of chills, and malaria of every form. “On kidney disease of all kinds the water acts like a charm,” Martin claimed. The springs also could cure general and nervous debility, paralysis and rheumatism, bronchitis, asthma, and catarrh. The springs could cure consumptive patients whose lungs were not already too far gone. All heart patients benefited from the waters, and half could be cured.
Concluding his spiel, Martin offered a money-back guarantee to any ill person who came to the springs and did not see benefit after two months of treatment under his direction.
About the time of Martin’s letter or shortly thereafter, he laid out the town of Martinsville at the resort, but the new name never took, as the post office and the springs themselves were still called Siloam Springs. Unlike many of the mineral-water towns that sprang up overnight and died about as fast as they came into being, Siloam Springs continued to boom throughout the 1880s and 1890s, when it reached a permanent population of about 600 residents. In the early 1900s, John Woodruff of Springfield acquired the springs and made extensive improvements, including electric lights, a modern sewer system, and playgrounds. The place declined, though, over the years, and Siloam Springs finally lost its post office about 1969.