Carroll County, Arkansas

Goodspeed's History of ... Carroll County, Arkansas

Towns and Villages, p. 367.

Eureka Springs.

This city is situated upon Sections 10 and 15, Township 20 north, Range 26 west, in the northwestern part of the county, and upon the head-waters of Leatherwood Creek, a tributary of White River. It is nine miles from the Missouri line.

The Springs. -- There are forty-two springs within the corporate limits of the city. First in importance, in the volume of its waters and the number of cures attributed to it, is the Basin Spring, so called from a circular depression eighteen inches in diameter and a foot deep in the solid limestone rock, in which a portion of the water from the cliff above was received. Twelve feet below this there was originally another basin, of similar shape, but much larger. Both have been destroyed in improving the street. On the same bench, northeast of the Basin, is the Sweet Spring, so called from the peculiar taste of its waters. Next in order and in importance to the Basin is Harding Spring. Congress Spring, in the immediate vicinity was discovered in blasting rocks, and its entire flow is utilized by the Crescent Hotel. Continuing on Spring Street, Crescent, the Twin Springs and Dairy Spring are successively passed. The latter was formerly utilized in the business which its name implies, but has been opened to the public, and is protected from contamination. The Hollis Spring is a half mile northwest of Dairy spring, and thence, southwest, are the Johnson and Oil Springs. The waters of the latter have peculiar oleaginous qualities. The Sycamore, Arsenic and several others are also in this vicinity. The Little Eureka east of the Basin, remains unchanged by the heaviest rain-fall. To the northeast, in the direction of the railroad station, are the Iron and Sulphur Springs, so named from their mineral qualities. The Magnetic Spring, whose waters have the property of rendering an ordinary piece of iron magnetic, is in this vicinity.

Careful analysis has demonstrated that the waters of the various springs differ but little in their essential elements.

[Tables showing chemical analysis, volume, and temperature readings of the springs have been omitted from this transcription.]

Meteorological. -- The climatic conditions prevalent at Eureka Springs constitute one of the strongest considerations in its favor. The following table was compiled from original observations by A. H. Foote, Esq., for the year 1887:[Temperature table omitted from this transcription.]

Mean temperature: Spring, 60.85; summer, 74.79; autumn, 58.01; winter, 42.08; annual, 58.93. Annual average precipitation, 32.79 inches. Relative humidity, 59.4 per cent. Average number of days per annum, clear, 209; fair, 90; cloudy, 66. Death rate per 1,000 living population, 10.33.

Discovery of Curative Properties. -- Thus located in that happy mean between the extreme cold of the Northwestern States and the tropical heat of the south, the springs existed to no purpose, apparently, until comparatively recent years. But the story of their discovery is no less interesting than the subsequent growth of the city has been remarkable.

The earliest traditional history connected with this part of the State is associated with the springs. There is reason to think that the "Fountain of Perpetual Youth," of which Ponce de Leon received such glowing accounts from the Indians of Florida, and for which he explored a large part of the southern country in vain, was none other than the Basin Spring, described with the powerful figures of the Indian language to a credulous listener. Prior to their migration westward, the Cherokees had a tradition of wonderful springs in the mountains far to the west of the "Father of Waters." They were said to possess virtue in the healing of various maladies. Years after the settlement of this tribe in Indian Territory it was their custom to hunt through the valley of White River, when such as were afflicted with various diseases drank the waters of these springs. It would also appear that similar knowledge was possessed by the savages of the north. Jean Baptiste, who mother was the daughter of a Sioux chief, related to Col. Gilbert Knapp, of Little Rock, the following tradition of that tribe: Many years ago, during a long and severe winter, many of them perished, and the chief, thinking to save the remainder, set out upon a journey south. They reached the forks of a great river, where game and corn abounded, and would have been supremely happy but for the fact that the daughter of this chief was blind, or almost so. Her father was told of a stream of water flowing through beds of rock to a natural basin, two days' journey distant, and prevailed upon by a medicine man to take his daughter thither. They remained six moons, when she was entirely cured. Hon. J. M. Richardson, of Carthage, Mo., in a conversation with "White Hair," chief of the Osage Indians, in 1847, learned of a remarkable spring in this vicinity, at which any Indian might be cured of sore eyes by washing and bathing a full moon. The basin was said to have been scooped out by "Black Dog," a chief, about seventy years before.

Dr. Alvah Jackson was the virtual discoverer of the springs, so far as their medicinal qualities and present wide reputation are concerned. One of the earliest settlers in this part of the county, he found little exercise in the practice of his profession among its sparse population, and turned his attention to the more exciting pleasures of the chase. It is related that while thus engaged, in the summer of 1858, he camped with his sons upon the present site of the Southern Hotel. One of the sons was suffering from a painful inflammation of the eyes, and having none of the usual remedies with him, his father directed him to bathe in the Basin Spring. He obeyed, from desperation rather than faith, and in the course of a few days was agreeably surprised at a favorable change in his condition. Having thoroughly satisfied himself of the efficacy of the water in such cases, the Doctor extended his practice in this direction. "Dr. Jackson's eye-water" acquired a wide reputation in this and adjoining States.

The springs first reached the dignity of a health resort toward the close of the Civil War. Dr. Jackson was frequently called upon by the sick and wounded of both armies, among whom was Maj. J. W. Cooper, of Cooper's battalion, Cherokee brigade, Confederate army. This officer contracted rheumatism and chronic malarial poison while campaigning in the Southwest, and having obtained leave of absence, he came to Dr. Jackson, in February, 1865. As this section was then occupied by the Federals it became necessary to take refuge in the mountain fastnesses; and a party, consisting of the Doctor, the Major, William Nichols, Sine Creeley, and two others, took refuge in the "rock house," near the present site of the Southern hotel. Here they lived in archaic simplicity, and in a few months the soldiers had completely recovered.

The curative properties of the springs were not utilized from this time until May, 1879, when Judge Sanders, of the county court, who suffered from erysipelas, was induced by Dr. Jackson to test their efficiency. He did so, and in ten weeks was completely cured. He was widely and favorably known throughout this section of the State, and the fact of his recovery induced others to follow his example in coming here. It is to this remarkable cure that the existence of the city is directly traceable.

Settlement and Growth. -- The region about the head-waters of Leatherwood Creek was an almost unbroken wilderness in 1878. Farther down the valley of the creek there were cultivated sections, but the whole of Cedar Township was very sparsely settled. The hills and gulches about the springs were covered with a forest of pine and oak, and with an almost impenetrable growth of scrub and bushes. Rocks of every geological formation lined the hills, and loose stones of every conceivable shape rolled down the sides of the gulch below. Within less than a decade the forests have been transformed into habitations, and the stones lend comfort and permanence to the streets of a city whose wonderful growth might well cause the sanguine observer to ascribe creative, as well as recreative, properties to its far-famed waters.

Judge Sanders built the first house July 4, 1879. The sides were formed of poles dove-tailed together at the corners, and the roof consisted of rough boards. The first team was driven to the vicinity of Basin Spring by Burton Sandeers, son of the judge. The first occupants of the first house were two lady members of his family. July 6, 1879, O. D. Thornton built a rough board shanty, and occupied it as a general store. At this time there was a small band of invalids, to the number of 150, probably, collected around the Basin Spring, and living in tents and wagons. Before the close of July the number of houses had increased to a dozen. August 10, 1879, there was a population of 180; fifteen houses had been built, and as many more were in process of erection. The stores of ol D. Thornton and T. Jackson were in operation; there were also a meat market and a blacksmith shop. A week later the population had increased to 300. Measures were taken to have the streets laid out and passable roads opened, and to this end H. S. Montgomery, with twenty men, cleared away the trees and opened Main Street half a mile down the gorge from the Basin. William M. Sanders was one of the blacksmiths. In the autumn of 1879 a Mr. Van Winkle established a lumber yard; A. D. Mize opened a hardware store; Dr. Hoge became the first druggist; one Jefferson opened a saloon, and a Mr. Wahlquist introduced himself as a tailor. The first bath-house was established in August, 1879. Dr. McCarty was the first resident physician, and likewise the first postmaster. William Conant was the first liveryman. A Mr. Cook, a helpless invalid and cripple, with no other tool than a jack-knife, began the manufacture of canes, and did quite a business. The first death occurred August 8, 1879. Prof. I. A. Clarke, of the Berryville Academy, was among the early visitors, and his wife was killed by the falling of a tree that had been burned at the roots by a camp-fire.

The nearest railroad point in 1880 was Pierce City, Mo., on the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway, fifty-five miles distant. Liverymen here did a thriving business, and a line of coaches, known as the "Nine-hour-line," was established in 1880. The fare was $3.00. In a distance of nine miles this road crosses Roaring River nineteen times. There was also a regular line of coaches from Ozark, Ark., eighty-five miles distant. This journey required nineteen hours, and the fare was $8.00. After the extension of the Frisco line to Fayetteville, Seligman, Mo., eighteen miles distant, became the nearest railroad point.

Population. -- In May, 1881, Mayor Carroll had a census taken, when the population was found to exceed 8,000. The Federal census of the previous year showed a population of 3,984. The number of visitors in 1883 was estimated at 9,000, and the actual resident population at about the same. Under the severe police regulations, and from other causes, the town has been relieved of an undesirable element. The permanent inhabitants number 5,500, with a steady and substantial growth. "Life at the Springs," says a writer in 1881, "is to a great extent most primitive. The furniture is of the rudest, the accommodations few, and the inconveniences many. The cooking is much of it done out of doors, in the old-fashioned skillet and bake-oven. Many wealthy families prefer tent life, and the site is peculiarly favorable for the experiment. The loan of a drinking cup at the spring, or a fire-brand at the camp, often leads to a lasting friendship. There is little conformity to fashion, though many stylishly dressed people throng the streets. You speak to everybody you meet, whether you know them or not, and are sure of a courteous, cordial return. * * * * * * * The preliminary steps at meeting are the questions as to whence you came, when you arrived, how long you will stay, your malady, and your name. To some, this wholesale prying into your affairs may seem impertinent; but to the lonely camper, miles and miles away from familiar faces, sick and longing for sympathy, it is very pleasant."

The town is thus described: "Everywhere that a human abode could be constructed, houses of every description, tents and shelters, sprang up all over the mountain tops, hanging by corners on the steep sides, perched upon jutting boulders, spanning the gulches, or nestling under crags and in grottoes. It is a most peculiar looking place, presenting an apparent disregard to anything like order and regularity of arrangement, with its 'two-story' streets, its winding thoroughfares and circular pathways."

Fires. -- A destructive fire broke out at 4:50 A. M., November 3, 1883, in a building claimed by one Cushingberry, whose right was disputed by his son. The origin was undoubtedly incendiary. The burnt area extended on both sides of Mountain and Eureka Streets, covering five acres, and involving a loss of $25,000. Vigorous preventive measures were at once taken, and no similar catastrophe has since occurred.

Municipal Organization. -- Town committee: August 8, 1879, Hugh Montgomery, T. Montgomery, Jacob Mills, Q. Bennett, J. Hooker, Alderson, McGuire, Nuby, Hardin, Tatum, Cook and another were elected at a public meeting a committee for the general management of such affairs as concerned the public in the incipient period of town development. The most important act of this committee was the appointment of I. N. Armstrong, of Benton County, town surveyor. Under instructions from the committee, a reservation of 100 feet around the basin spring was laid off, from which an avenue sixty feet wide was surveyed to the intersection of Main Street. Maj. Armstrong continued his work until the middle of the winter, laying out the principal streets of the town. The original committee was superseded [sic] by another, which dissolved without transacting any important business.

Incorporation: October 8, 1879, the petition of twenty citizens of Eureka Springs was filed in the county court of Carroll County, for incorporation as a town. January 2, 1880, the petition was dismissed, because there was not the required number of voters within the proposed limits. January 9, 1880, seventy-one qualified voters signed a second petition, which was favorably considered by the court February 14, 1880. Section 15 and the south half of Section 10, Township 20 north, Range 26 west, thus became the incorporated town of Eureka Springs. The first election of town officers occurred April 6, 1880. In 1882, the population having sufficiently increased, Eureka Springs, became a city of the first class. The mayor was thus given enlarged powers, and the number of aldermen increased to ten. There are five wards.

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