Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way
Walnut Room? This way, please.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stovall Hot Wells


First, a post script on the Mineral Wells "crazy water:" Additional research uncovered that one of the minerals in the water was lithium, discovered to help stabilize the moods of people with bipolar disorder. It would stand to reason, then, that someone suffering from mood swings would have benefited by drinking the mineral water, particularly as the discovery of lithium's effects on mood disorders was a major breakthrough in mental health treatment.

Continuing the theme of mineral water treatments, and "taking the baths" or "taking the cure" I made a brief visit to the remains of the Stovall Hot Wells, at South Bend--a few miles out of Graham on the Brazos River. This was oil country, and one well resulted in mineral water. Stovall, the driller, capitalized on the boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s of taking the baths, and opened his hotel/baths. Little remains at this time, though I recall my few visits to the hotel in the 70s to try the baths.
On driving up the curving road, the first thing--and only remaining structure--one would see was one of the motor courts and the sign pointing to the main hotel structure. It was also made primarily of tin, with concrete floors and little in the way of decor.
A fire in 1994 claimed the remains of the building--which was already pretty dilapidated at that point. The bathing rooms were separated by gender, and the pools were concrete tubs sunk into the floor. The high sulphur content made the pools smell, and the water had a black, oily sheen to it. Yes, I actually submerged myself in it, believe it or not. The water was so hot coming out of the ground that it had to stay in a "cooling tank" before it could be pumped into the bathing pools.
The hotel itself was a sparse two floors of simple rooms with nothing more than a single bed, small dresser, and a single chair. As a young girl, I also recall visiting with my family for the monthly "singings" when local musicians would gather and play and folks would drive over to spend an evening outside listening to the music.
I don't recall which church this was, but I would guess Methodist as generally the Methodists and Baptists were the only churches in small communities in this area, although one would find the occasional other if the community was large enough. This design is more similar to the area Methodist churches, and the Baptist church still stands in operation in South Bend.
Another common site would be the 'travel courts' once motoring became popular. Here, it also likely had to do with taking the baths, as the hot wells were only a short distance up the road from South Bend.

My great grandparents settled in this area briefly at one point. My mother tells stories of the Indian raids on the farm (to steal the corn from the corn crib) and has the lock my great grandfather used on his corn crib. There is also a small cemetery near by where my grandmother's grandfather is buried. I suppose being from Texas, it was inevitable that he would have fought for the Confederacy in the war. His tombstone carries the identification of his service. I find it of interest that a Scotsman would have felt that degree of loyalty, given that the family immigrated from Scotland to escape persecution and seek religious freedom.

3 comments:

Gigi said...

I love your travelogue and these photos. It's all so interesting to me. I might have enjoyed the lithium water at some point, too. :)

Suzassippi said...

Frankly, I could use a little lithium right now.

Gigi said...

:-)