Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990 Page: 12
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Story of mineral springs flows
Postcard depicting San Antonio's Hot Wells bath house and hotel in 1907. Photo courtesy of the Texas Archives and Records.
By Phil Parisi
From earliest times, dozens of mineral
springs have percolated naturally
from the Texas bedrock. Others in
the 19th and 20th centuries have been
discovered by settlers, travelers seeking refreshment,
and the sick seeking the promise
of health that mineral waters long have
The story surrounding the use and
exploitation of these sometimes hot, sometimes
odorous waters, runs parallel to significant
periods in the development of the
state. From the stone-gouged tubs dug by
Indians in prehistoric times to the magnificent
bathhouses of the Victorian age, from
the ornate, elegant hotels during the early
20th century to the current popularity of
bottled spring water, the story of Texas follows
the story of mineral water.
Mineral springs produce a special kind
of water valued highly for its therapeutic
qualities. Mineral waters contain high
amounts of calcium carbonate, iron oxide,
12 HERITAGE * WINTER 1990
sodium chloride (salt), fluoride, iodine,
lithium, sulphates, and bicarbonate in different
proportions, depending on their
source. No doubt there are some therapeutic
effects from drinking and bathing in
these waters, which are often geothermally
warmed to over 100F. However, exaggerated
claims about the powers of mineral
waters to cure such ailments as dropsy,
tuberculosis, insomnia, blindness, and
lameness have always attracted people, both
those who are ill and those who are healthy
and wish to stay that way.
One of the early springs of Texas, known
today as Indian Hot Springs, is located in
the remote desert in Hudspeth County. It
had long been used by Indians for purgative
purposes and for bathing; in addition, mud
packs from the mineral springs were used
for their curative powers.
The first attempt to commercialize the
springs occurred about 1907. In 1929, an El
Paso corporation built a one-story stone
hotel and cabins for visitors. It also built a
bathhouse over the rock tub Indians had
carved, and hired two physicians and a staff
of nurses to look after ailing visitors. Plans
for a large European style hotel, however,
did not materialize.
Settlement of another spring, Boquillas
Hot Springs, met with small commercial
success. Early in the 1900s, J.O. Langford,
a 31-year-old traveling salesman from
Mississippi, worked his way west in search
of health. Attracted by the rumor of the
healing powers of the mineral water and
the cheapness of the land ($1.61 per acre),
Langford quickly filed his claim on the
homestead with a spring, which was located
in a remote area of southwestern
Texas (now the Big Bend National Park).
The land was considered to be of little
value, but Langford gladly made his down
payment, committing himself to a 44-year
mortgage at three percent interest. He and
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 1, Winter 1990, periodical, Winter 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45426/m1/12/: accessed April 19, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.