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Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums

Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums image Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums image Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums image Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums image Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums image Ypsilanti's Mineral Water Sanitariums image
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Ypsilanti Historical Society
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(Note: This article appeared in a 1973 issue of the Gleanings.) The Ypsilanti Commercial of Saturday, October 6, 1883, contained the following: “OUR CITY: Last January when the merchants of Ypsilanti came to figure up the result of their year’s business they found that the trade of the City had never before been equaled the sales of the year just past. As this fact was whispered from ear to ear the talk of the town, which for years had been pessimistic, began slowly to change. In the spring the Ypsilanti Paper Company, which, thanks to Mr. Clark Cornwall, has always been an enterprising concern, began to bore for mineral water near their lower mills. After a time the labor was crowned with success and water of unusual strength (and smell) was struck. The water found is strong enough to eat up a tin dipper in a couple of hours’ time, and in color has the appearance of milky water. Immediately all the lame and halt of the town began to bathe in this veritable Poll of Siloam, and when the cures were noised abroad there came a struggle to see who should be first to use the limited accommodations of the town. Then strangers began to flock to the City and such was the potency of the water and so great the number of Strangers who came to be cured of their infirmities that an enterprising citizen, Mr. George Moorman, getting some aid, began the erection of a $30,000 bath house, which is now fast approaching completion. In a short time ample accommodations will be provided for all who care to take the baths.” Between the years of 1880 and 1917 there were two successful Mineral Water Sanitariums in our city, each supplied with mineral water from local wells. In an article in The Ypsilanti Commercial of December 15, 1883, entitled: “Ypsilanti, a Review of the City and Its Industries, ” we read: “… The Ypsilanti Paper Company completed a well on their premises for the purpose of obtaining a supply of pure water for use in the manufacture of paper. The well reached a depth of nearly 800 feet, when it struck a vein of water that had a peculiar taste and was acknowledged to possess some medical properties. The real value of the water was not known until several very remarkable cures of cancer, rheumatism and other kindred diseases could be traced to the effects of the water. The reputation of this mineral water spread very rapidly, and hundreds of our citizens can testify as to its beneficial effects. It became the one theme of conversation on our street, and the demand for treatment from this water became more and more apparent every day. Our citizens became interested in the matter, and, seeing it would be a great addition to the city, offered a donation of $5,000 to anyone who would start a suitable establishment where persons suffering from disease could receive treatment from this water. After due consideration the proposition was accepted by George Moorman and Clark Cornwell . These gentlemen began the erection of a building on the eighth of last May. They have pushed its construction as fast as weather would permit. It will be ready for occupancy about the first of January, and when finished, be the finest building in the city…” In the archives of the City Museum we have the original invitation to the opening of the Ypsilanti Mineral Bath House, (Huron North of Congress (Michigan) . There were speeches given, music provided by the Ypsilanti Quartet Club and refreshments were served by the Ladies’ Library Association. On January 12, 1884, The Ypsilanti Commercial copied a report of the opening ceremonies. The speeches were praised, the Ladies’ of the Library Association were congratulated on the refreshments and it was proudly noted that a reporter from The Chicago Times covered the event for his paper. Six months later Tubal Cain Owen announced that he, too, had a mineral well and claimed that his “waters” had even more curative powers than that of the Cornwell-Moorman well. The fact that frequent articles concerning the mineral wells appeared in The Ypsilanti Commercial seems to point up the fact that the townspeople, particularly the business men and landlords were keenly interested in the success of the Sanitariums. For instance, on July 26, 1884, there appears yet another article, entitled, “The Mineral Wells.” …These wells are rendering Ypsilanti famous the world over. The healing waters flowing free from these wells seem destined to be an untold blessing to affected humanity…Ypsilanti has already come to be the center of attraction for the halt, the lame and the blind, the palsied and paralylics. It is by no means a crippled city, but a city of cripples. The cry every day, “still they come.” Let them come! The Hawkins House, the Follette House, the Barton, and all the other hotels and numerous nice boarding houses are full. Ere another season a mammoth hotel may be in the process of erection. About this same time the paper started listing the names of those registering at the Sanitariums. Helen McAndrew had water from the Owen well piped to her “Rest for the Weary” establishment on South Huron Street. The editor of the paper proudly called especial attention to the names of “guests” of the Sanitariums who came from outside the state. Tubal Cain Owen, the owner of the Forest Avenue Mineral Well, was not only a good business man but he was a wonderful promoter of his products. He erected a tall building over his derrick and in it established a factory for making soap (“Sapon”), salts, ointments and other products of the well besides bottling hundreds of bottles and barrels of the mineral water, which he named “Atlantis,” the name being in black lettering that reached from the ground to the top of the building. His charged mineral water he called “Paragon.” He had various brochures prepared for the purpose of advertising his products and from one entitled, “Natures Remedy; Natural Mineral Water From the Owen Mineral Well at Ypsilanti, Michigan and the DISEASES IT WILL CURE together with Directions for Treatment.” It read as follows: “TO THE PUBLIC: The waters of the Owen Mineral Well is on the market to fulfill its errand of mercy, and we wish everyone to know just exactly what he is using, that he may use it intelligently and rationally. We have no myths nor Indian legends to relate to appeal to the public’s credulity. We sank our well on scientific principles in search of HEALING WATERS. We use the most approved modern machinery; we believe that waters of untold value to suffering humanity were below us, and we wanted to bring them to the light of day and utilize them for their legitimate purposes. Our expectations were high, and we believe they have been fully realized. We base the claims for our water upon the medicinal value of its mineral salts as demonstrated by the actual experience and testimony of the highest authorities.” In the same brochure the treatment of cancer was outlined as follows: “The water must be taken freely, three or four glasses a day, no matter how nauseating it may be. Sponge the entire body twice a day with moderately warmed water. Apply to the affected part thick cloths saturated with the water at its natural temperature, renewing them as ofter as they become at all dry. After the disease shows signs of yielding, by no means cease the treatment, but continue it faithfully until the cancer is entirely healed. Besides applying the water by means of the cloths before mentioned, the diseased part should be bathed freely and frequently with the water. We cannot impress too strongly upon the mind of the patient, the absolute necessity of drinking freely of the water…” The cost of the Owen Mineral Water was as follows: Per Barrel $8.00 Per Half Barrel $4.50 Ten Gallon Kegs $3.25 Pints (per doz.) $3.00 Quarts (per doz.) $5.00 In jugs, five gallons and under, the water will be sold at the uniform price of twenty cents per gallon, and ten cents per gallon for package. In yet another Owen brochure are listed testimonials from those cured plus a list of local people who claimed cures and the ailments of which they are cured are also listed. Of course, the Ypsilanti Sanitarium (Occidental Hotel) also had its brochure. It was lavishly illustrated with pictures of the building and of its various rooms. The introduction to its brochure reads as follows: “THE YPSILANTI SANITARIUM was designed especially for the rational treatment of cases which require the constant attention of competent physicians and trained nurses. The natural advantages of Ypsilanti, viz.; high altitude, picturesque wooded country, and what is of most importance, The Ypsilanti Mineral Springs, make it especially adapted for a health resort. The thorough equipment of its laboratories for research and study and its complete departments for the treatment of various diseases make it particularly desirable for cases that cannot practically be treated at home. Experienced physicians and professional nurses are in constant attendance. The Sanitarium will maintain perfectly equipped departments…From all boat lines touching Detroit, it is but a short trip. It is on the main line of the Michigan Central R.R., 45 minutes’ ride from Detroit and a little over 6 hours ride from Chicago. It is the eastern terminus of the Ypsilanti branch of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern R.R. and its connecting lines viz. the Detroit, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor trolley lines. From Ann Arbor on the trolley line it is 30 minutes and from Detroit 1 hour and 30 minutes distant. On the Wabash R.R. Ypsilanti may be reached via. Belleville…” The interesting question is, why did Ypsilanti’s flourishing and comparatively well known sanitariums close? An article in the Ypsilanti Press for September 9th, 1945, tells us that a Mr. J. M. Chidister ran the Occidental Hotel and Spa for the Cornwell-Moorman group during it first years of existence. Patronage declined and the spa was closed for a time. “About 1902, however, the mineral industry was revived by Dr. C. C. Yemans, prominent Detroit physician and long time professor in the Detroit College of Medicine. He repaired the well casing, restored the baths and opened part of the old hotel. Hospital equipment was installed and rooms were renovated and furnished for patients. Old students of Dr. Yemans sent patients from all over the country and business flourished. The Hospital, long needed here was filled. However, the hotel part, separately operated was carelessly kept. Patients were admitted without Dr. Yemans’s approval and netted too many dt. victims. Their yells annoyed other patients and Mrs. Yemans. That appeared to be the last straw and Dr. Yemans retired. His successor, a young man whose chief interest was in breeding fancy dogs at Mt. Clemens, spent too little time here and the whole concern soon collapsed. About the time of World War I, Tracy Towner, Bert Moorman, and others again opened the well and the baths with Dr. G. F. Clarke, Bay City, in charge. There were patients but not enough for profit and new trouble appeared when the well casing started to collapse. The cost of 220 feet of casing was considered prohibitive, and again Ypsilanti’s chance of increased income and mineral water fame went glimmering…” On the decline of the Owen Mineral Sanitarium, operated by Dr. M. S. Hall, the same article states: “…To utilize the water baths, Dr. M. S. Hall put up a bath house, next to 510 W. Forest Avenue, about two blocks from the well and fitted up the adjoining residence for a hotel. He had a large patronage for several years and amazing cures for many different diseases were reported. About 1890 he sold the buildings to Dr. O. E. Pratt, but he, because of advanced age, finally closed it and sold the building for residences. After Mr. Owen’s death, his son Eber, continued for many years to ship quantities of the Owen water in bulk to Chicago and Boston in response to a steady demand.” In the closing paragraph of the same article the writer attempts to explain the decline and failure of the spas thusly: “…Just why Ypsilanti’s mineral water, equal in medicinal properties to other popular resorts, failed to become a permanent municipal asset seems unexplainable. Opinions of older residents brings out two possible factors. 1) Indifference of management including too frequently insufficient regard for comfort and entertainment of patients. 2) Determination on the part of several of the more wealthy and conservative residents that Ypsilanti should remain a quiet residential community and that industry of every kind should be discouraged.” There are good and valid reasons for the failure and closing of the Sanitariums of Ypsilanti; but something happened in 1906 of nationwide importance which in all probability was the most important factor in tolling the death bell for these centers of miraculous cures. In June 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Federal Pure Food and Drug Act which became a law on January 1, 1907. Stewart H. Holbrook tells us in his book, The Golden Age of Quackery that Harvey W. Wiley, Chief Chemist of the United States Department of Agriculture had been trying since 1883 to have a law passed to regulate the labeling of foods and medicines. “Tell the truth on a label,” said Wiley, and “let the consumer judge for himself.” The legislation of 1906 required honest labels. One of the prime instigators for the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Law was Samuel Hopkins Adams who, early in 1906, wrote a series of articles for Collier’s magazine entitled, The Great American Fraud in which he ruthlessly unearthed and named concerns and people who were advertising falsely. The reading public became awakened, and perhaps terrified, when they read Hopkin’s shocking exposes. Common sense forced them to realize that no quick cure salts or waters would replace medical drugs as a cure. In The New York Times for October 8th, 1966, there is a very interesting article about spas which shows that although they have gone from our section there are many still in existence in our country. But the article also points out the changes which have taken place in their make-up. The final passage reads: “…Spas reached their hayday in the 19th century when their special function was as important as the therapeutic activity. Today the less severe European spas still offer operettas, concerts, balls, parties and casinos to divert guests in search of pleasure with therapy.” On January 19, 1884, shortly after the opening of the city Mineral Water House, the following poem by “A Farmer” appeared in The Commercial: Ypsilanti Water Come all ye weary, sick and sore, Who want to suffer pain no more, And take a drink of Cornwell’s bore, Beside the Huron River. Let Smith and Sampson keep their drugs, Fetch on your glasses and your mugs, Your barrels, bowls and your jugs, And get the healing water. If you are sick, just try our cure, Drink Ypsilanti’s water pure, That health and life may long endure, And all your friends rejoice. Moorman’s put down another bore, For water, gas and something more, They say it’s better than before, To drive woe and pain away. If you are sad with sickness worn, And have the headache every morn, Just come and drink a healing horn, Of Ypsilanti’s water. There’s forty new baths agoing, And all the healing waters flowing, Better days and health bestowing, On many a weary one. If you are growing weak and lean, Just come and try our healing stream, And splash till you are pure and clean, And your troubles washed away. They will bathe you either cold or warm, It will do you good and never harm, And it may come o’re you like a charm, And double all your joy. You need not travel far and long, To drink Saratoga’s water strong, We have the real thing at home, Down on the books of Moorman. It’s true, it has a woeful smell, But if your stomache don’t rebel, It’s just the thing to make you well, And praise up Ypsilanti.

Photo Captions:
Photo 1: The Owen Mineral Well, named “Atlantis”, was located on the back of the Eber Owen homestead off Forest Avenue.

Photo 2: Tubal Cain Owen was a great promoter and marketed his products to a wide audience.

Photo 3: Owen called his charged mineral water “Paragon” and advertised that his “Paragon Ginger Ale” was “excellent tonic for the stomach.”

Photo 4: An advertisement for Ypsilanti Mineral Water.

Photo 5: Trademark for Ypsilanti Mineral Water Company.

Photo 6: Claims were made that Natural Mineral Water successfully cured a variety of diseases.

Photo 7: The Owen Sanitarium Company tried to raise $1,250,000 to build the Sanitarium Building shown above.

Photo 8: Ad claiming that “The King of Mineral Waters…is natures greatest remedy for disordered blood.”

Photo 9: Ad for Owen’s Salicura Soap. Also sold were Atlantis Toothpaste, Atlantis Shaving Soap and Atlantis Youth Soap that had “…potent curative properties in every kind of skin desease, burns, bites or poisons, yet so harmless that it will improve the skin of a new-born baby.”