The Michigan Mineral Bath Boom, 1870s-1900s
Mineral springs, mineral baths, artesian wells….they all flourished in Michigan beginning in the 1870s. That’s right…step right up, dive right in, and your health will improve.
Michigan’s first mineral spring was discovered in St. Louis by accident: a man found his knife blade was sticking to a piece of iron after being in the water. Of course magnets are good for you, right? Very soon afterward a health spa was centered around this spring where people from all over could come and bathe in the "healing, magnetized mineral water.”
Game warden Chase Salmon Osborn, who eventually became Michigan’s governor, believed “aligning the ions of one’s being with the magnetic poles of the earth promoted longevity.”
Seeing the popularity of the St. Louis mineral baths, other Michigan towns and cities decided they should have their own….and they did. A good handful of the state’s small towns and many of Michigan’s top cities – Albion, Alpena, Bay City, Flint, Grand Ledge, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Midland, Mount Clemens, Port Huron, Spring Lake, Traverse City – began touting their own miracle baths. Approximately sixty mineral spas in all. Many of the hotels in these cities featured mineral baths, a feature that appealed to travelers.
All of a sudden new towns were appearing with their own hotels with mineral baths. And people flocked. Yes, bathing in the waters supposedly made you healthier, but it was also safe for drinking. “Come drink the healthful water and breathe the healthy air” was what travelers kept hearing about Michigan.
Otherwise known as artesian wells, these springs came from underground streams that came to the land surface after traveling through the earth’s natural minerals.
So what happened to them? Where did they go?
Evidently, the mineral water was so plentiful, that people bought land near the waters and dug their own mineral wells. Also, the “miracle healing” of these waters were replaced by new medicine practices at the turn of the century– including x-rays – that people began relying on instead of dipping their tootsies in artesian waters.
Many of these old wells still exist, many with Historical Markers attached, and there are still some that cater to the bathing whims of those looking for a medicinal swim.
The Mineral Baths of Michigan
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