Monday, March 21, 2016

Stivers Springs Part 1

Some time ago, John Hamilton wrote an article about Stivers Springs.  Because it  intrigued the readers, the  Exhibit Committee decided to include Stivers Springs  as a companion exhibit to the Smithsonian Water/Ways Exhibit coming this Fall.  It will be part of a trio of exhibits on How Water Has Shaped the Way We Play.  The other two are Lake Lawrence and Red Hills. 

Moses Stivers was born February 10, 1835 in Kentucky to Robert and Ruth (Barnes) Stivers.  The family moved to Lawrence County, IL in 1845. By 1858 Moses had fallen in love with his neighbor, Martha, the young daughter of Widow Priscilla Travis. After their marriage, they made their home in Christy Township with their one year old son Millard. 

The young father became the first of the Stivers brothers to enlist in the Civil War.   Moses joined Company I of the 130th Illinois Infantry; his brother John followed about a month later.  In February of 1864, the 130th Illinois Infantry began the Red River Expedition.  At the battle of Mansfield, the regiment saw several killed or wounded and most of the regiment was captured and taken to Camp Ford, Tyler, TX where they remained as POWs for thirteen months.  Moses was one of the few to avoid capture.  In January, he was transferred to Company I of the 77th Illinois Infantry temporarily, and later discharged as a Corporal on August 31, 1865. However, the happiness Moses felt at returning home was saddened just a couple of weeks later when his four year old daughter, Ruth died on Sept 12, 1865.

While Moses’ service was important to the country as a whole, his most important contribution to Lawrence County history may have been that he sent his pay home to his young wife.  Martha used that money to purchase property near Shiloh Church southwest of Bridgeport unbeknown to Moses. He was, of course, delighted to learn of this upon his return. He set about promoting the natural spring on the property that eventually became known as Stivers Springs.

The following advertisement was found in the Robinson Constitution on August 17, 1880
THE STIVER’S SPRINGS: While the diseased are seeing relief and restoration at many of the watering places of the country,  we are advised that they could not do better than to spend two or three weeks at the Stiver's Springs of Lawrence County, Ill. While it is true that these springs have been very extensively advertised, they possess much for healing and relieving the diseased as Springs of much more notoriety. The Springs are of easy access, and the accommodation for boarding or camping is good. For further particulars address, Moses Stivers, Bridgeport, Ill., Lawrence County

The Edward, Lawrence and Wabash County History book written in 1883 states that “Stiver’s Mineral Springs, located about 1 ½ mi SW from Bridgeport, was gaining some popularity.  “The waters are strongly impregnated with valuable medical properties, to the curative effect of which many can testify.  They are situated in a beautiful grove of natural trees, and the surrounding scenery is pleasant and interesting.  A hotel and bath-houses have been erected, and other conveniences made for the entertainment and comfort of the guests. Moses Stivers is the proprietor.”

An early brochure said: “The water has been analyzed by chemists who pronounce it wonderful in medicinal qualities, especially for persons afflicted with lumbago, diseases of the stomach and kidneys, rheumatism and a great tonic for the blood….”

On February 11, 1884, Moses offered the property for sale. However, finding no buyers willing to pay his price he continued to operate it and promote the resort for another fourteen years.

On August 13, 1885 Moses placed an ad in the Vincennes Daily Commercial: Attention-- pleasure seekers-- all aboard for Stivers Springs – the most healthful and pleasant summer resort in this section. Accommodations are complete and water perfect which has never failed to give relief to those suffering from liver complaint, lung and stomach troubles, chills, etc. Stivers Springs is situated 14 miles west of Vincennes and 2 miles south of Bridgeport Lawrence County Illinois.  Borders are charged only five dollars per week; campers one dollar per week.

By June 1889 he had lowered the price to $4 per week for accommodations.
.....Continued tomorrow
Stiver's Springs boasted a luxurious 14 or 15-room hotel frequented by guests from long distances who came to drink from the spring-fed well beneath the little trellis-work frame (lower left corner of the picture.)