From Abilene we head about 110 miles east to the town of Mineral Wells, home to around 14,800 residents, which, as its name suggests, had its origins as a health resort.
The first to settle in the area, in 1877, were James and Amanda Lynch. As they were some 4 miles from the Brazos River, the closest water source, they sank a well on their property and noticed that the water which came out of it had a strange taste.
Mr and Mrs Lynch both suffered from rheumatism and they soon noticed that consuming the water alleviated their symptoms. As news of this “cure” spread, other wells were dug and the town of Mineral Wells was laid out in 1881. The healing properties of the water were heavily marketed, most famously as Crazy Water, and by 1913 there were 21 water companies in the town.
Mineral Wells developed as an international health and spa resort which at its height welcomed half a million visitors annually. The 1920’s saw the building of the jewel in Mineral Wells’ crown, the Baker Hotel, an edifice of 14 floors and 450 rooms which attracted the great and good of the day.
However, by the 1930’s the mineral water mania was starting to fade and visitor numbers began to fall. The opening of a military base in 1941 gave the town a shot in the arm for a while but it eventually closed in 1973, a year after the Baker Hotel shut its doors for the last time.
The town’s heritage is kept alive by the Famous Mineral Water Company and the revived Crazy Water brand. There are also plans to refurbish the Baker Hotel which has lain derelict for over 40 years.
Today’s song is from Amanda Shires, who spent some of her childhood years in Mineral Wells.
“I’ve tried drinking water from the Gibson well
Folks before me say, “it cures what ails ya.”
I think it might be true
That there’s something in the well
In Mineral Wells”