When we think of “healing waters” or medicinal springs, our first thoughts are typically of
or perhaps , made famous by President
Franklin D. Roosevelt. There is, however, another spot where springs of
“miracle water” flow and it’s found in my own state of Hot Springs, Georgia . Indiana
In the southern most part of
Indiana in Orange
County sit the twin towns of French
Lick and West Baden. There, tucked amid the
scenic wooded Hoosier hills flow springs of mineral water once touted as
Long before the arrival of the French settlers, the native people and wooded animals were already availing themselves of the area’s mineral salt “lick” deposits. The native people considered the springs a gift from the Great Spirit.
In 1829 the land on which the mineral springs flowed were purchased by brothers Thomas and William Bowles. A physician, William not only recognized the virtues of the mineral springs, but also saw it as a business opportunity. In
|French Lick Springs Hotel 1800s|
Both health resorts remained in business throughout the 1800s under the ownership of different physicians. 1901 ushered in not only a new century, but the heyday of the French Lick and
Distributed nationally, French Lick’s
Pluto Water became famous for its healthful properties, particularly as a natural laxative. It’s advertising slogan claimed “When Nature Won’t, PLUTO Will.” French Lick’s “miracle water” became wildly popular all over
|Harry Houdini beside Pluto Water sign, Indianapolis, IN 1907|
In 1901 Dr. Lane’s West Baden Springs Hotel burned, but the property was then bought by a Mr. Lee Sinclair who rebuilt the hotel in grand fashion. Opening in
|Historic West Baden Springs Hotel|
By the Roaring Twenties, celebrities of all stripes began to flock to French Lick/West Baden, Indiana to enjoy Taggert’s and Sinclair’s magnificent resorts and spas. I’m guessing that mineral water wasn’t the only liquid refreshment sampled by visiting A List patrons during those prohibition years. Illicit gambling was also rumored to have taken place at both resorts. I’m shocked!! The stock market crash in 1929 dealt a fatal blow to the West Baden Hotel and it closed in 1932. For the next fifty years the property was a Jesuit seminary, then a private college.
|FDR at French Lick Resort in 1931|
In 1971 the production of PLUTO Water halted when the FDA classified Lithium, a naturally occurring element in the water, a controlled substance.
The French Lick Hotel and Resort languished in disrepair for decades until a group of preservationists bought both the French Lick and
properties in the mid 1990s with an eye toward restoring the resorts to their
earlier grandeur. Once again patrons can avail themselves of the mineral waters
as well as the world class golf courses and even gambling. I’m shocked!!
While bottled PLUTO Water is no more, visitors to French Lick can still view the mineral spring that started it all, now housed within the
They called it “Miracle Water.” Was it a cure-all for myriad ailments? Probably not. But that a back-woods mineral spring could precipitate the building of world-class hotels and spas, attracting a clientele of the most rich and famous to the southern
sticks. . .well,
maybe it was miracle water after all. Indiana
Ramona K. Cecil is a poet and award-winning author of historical fiction for the Christian market. A proud Hoosier, she often sets her stories in her home state of