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Friday, November 21, 2008

Mineral Springs at Stafford Springs, CT

Here are some views of Stafford Springs, Connecticut. It is a quiet community now, but long before the quiet of this autumn day, long before its rise as a manufacturing town, even before it became known for the mining of bog iron ore, this place had the interesting reputation as a resort town based on the healing properties of its mineral springs.

The young lawyer and future President John Adams traveled west from Braintree on horseback in 1771 after overwork and exhaustion left him in a precarious state of health. He wrote in his autobiography,

“I was advised to take a journey to the Stafford Springs in Connecticutt, then in as much Vogue as any mineral Springs have been since. I spent a few days in drinking the Waters and made an Excursion, through Somers and Windsor down to Hartford and the journey was of Use to me, whether Waters were or not.”

One of the first published accounts of Stafford Springs as resort location is noted in Connecticut Historical Collections by John Warner Barber, (self published, New Haven, 1836). “The Indians first made themselves acquainted with the virtues of these springs…It has been their practice, time immemorial, to resort to them in the warm season, and plant their wigwams round them. They recommended the water as an eye water; but gave their own particular reason for drinking it, that it enlivened their spirits.”

By 1899 when another account of Stafford Springs was published in The Minerals Waters of the United States and Their Therapeutic Uses by James K. Cook, A.M., M.D. (Lea Brothers, NY, 1899), we are informed that the area was known as a resort since at least 1750 for travelers seeking to restore their health. The author notes, “During the latter part of the last and for many years of the present century the place was held in high favor throughout New England and the neighboring states.” At the time of this publication, the author notes that the spring water was now being bottled.

“The water is clear and sparkling and excellent for table purposes. It has attained its greatest reputation in the treatment of blood and skin infections. It is said to be actively diuretic.” This publication lists the mineral contents: sodium chloride, potassium sulfate, sodium sulfate, sodium bicarbonate, sodium phosphate, iron peroxide, iron protoxide, alumina, lime, silicic acid, and magnesia.

By 1938 when the WPA state guidebook for Connecticut was published, the heyday of the mineral springs were long past, and we are informed only that there had been two mineral springs around the Hyde Park area from which the town got its name, and which were “in the early 19th century the center of a flourishing health resort.” The unique feature which brought native people, colonial settlers and future Presidents to visit on a health pilgrimage is reduced to a single line of type.

Stafford Springs is still as charming a town as you will find on a country drive, but there is no longer a flourishing health resort to restore you to vigor. But a quiet walk across the bridge up along Spring Street to Hyde Park and the remnants marking an old springhouse may certainly enliven your spirits.

For more information on Stafford Springs, have a look at this website.

Been there? Done that? Let us know.

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