Mineral Wells History

Judge James Lynch and family came to Palo Pinto County in 1877. Soon after settling in, both of his oxen died. Without the animals to pull a wagon, the family had to haul water 8 miles from the Brazos River.

 

By trading the now unusable wagon to a well digger, soon the Lynch family had a well on their own property. Imagine their disappointment when the water that sprang forth was not only yellow, but smelled horrible. Surely any water that smelled so strong and turned anything washed in it red must be undrinkable!

 

One of the sons drank from the well. By luck, he didn't die...or even get sick. Mrs. Lynch who suffered from horrible arthritis began to drink the water as well. Soon, all symptoms of her illness disappeared. News traveled fast. Judge Lynch recognized a true opportunity...and the mineral water rush was on!

 

People flocked to the area. More wells were dug. The town that sprung up was named "Ednaville". The population exploded as throngs of people traveled to the town in search of the waters and their curative powers. Shortly, the new town was renamed "Mineral Wells" in honor of the magic waters.

 

By 1882, a stage line from Millsap to Mineral Wells had been opened. By the late 1880's, numerous bath houses and hotels sprung up to shelter those searching the curative powers of the mineral water.

 

Uncle Billy Wiggins, an early resident, dug the third well, named "The Crazy Well". This is the well that gave birth to so many of the town's tales. One woman, rumored to be crazy, began drinking the water. (Testing on the mineral waters does show lithium, a drug use to treat some mental illnesses, to be present. This may have actually been enough to "cure" the crazy woman.) Soon, her mental illness was cured. Stories of illnesses, including epilepsy, arthritis, kidney problems, liver disease, and many others, detail those ailments either being curtailed or outright cured circulated not only through Texas but through the entire South.

 

By 1910, Mineral Wells was shipping over 3 million bottles of mineral waters across the south annually. The town was widely known as a national health spa. By 1920, more than 400 mineral wells had been dug, and more than 4000 people per day visited Mineral Wells by train, bus, or by any means possible.

 

The burgeoning population called for culture and entertainment. Auditoriums, theaters, bowling alleys and billiard rooms appealed to the varied needs of the crowds.

 

A group of investors gathered in the early 1920's to raise funding to build a grand hotel resort. They raised $150,000 with the help of over 200 stockholders. T.B. Baker, who was one of the most successful hotel entrepreneurs in the whole state of Texas, was tapped to create the resort.

 

Construction of the Baker Hotel was begun in 1926, and after a few delays, was completed and opened in 1929. Ironically, the $1.25 million dollar building opened just two weeks after the devastating stock market crash. Despite the dark financial outlook, the Baker opened to great fanfare. (See more information on the Baker, here.)

 

Mineral Wells has seen more than its share of financial hardships since the heyday of the mineral waters and its great resort hotels. In 1952, T.B. Baker decided it was time to retire. He left the hotel business to his nephew, Earl Baker. Earl Baker vowed to run the hotel until his 70th birthday and April 30, 1963, he closed the doors. Civic leaders did manage to re-open the Baker in 1965, but with very little profits, close the doors for good.

 

In the 1960's, the main flow of traffic between Fort Worth and Abilene (and points west) was re-routed about 14 miles south of Mineral Wells. I-20 cut off the main artery of traffic through the town.

 

If losing the cornerstone of the hotel economy and the pass-through traffic was not bad enough, the Army closed Fort Wolters in 1973. Fort Wolters was the home to the U.S. Army Primary Helicopter School. If you were in the Army and flew a helicopter between 1957 and 1973, then you were probably schooled at the Fort Wolters training center. (More information about Fort Wolters can be found here.)

 

By the late 1970's, Mineral Wells had lost nearly one-third of its population. Although the gas and oil industry moved in, the town has struggled to regain its economic momentum.

 

More recently, the town has been visited by history buffs and those interested in the paranormal. The Baker Hotel and many of the downtown buildings are rumored to be haunted.

 

(A side note: The Baker Hotel remains closed and its grounds are off-limits to the public. However, many photographers do enjoy snapping shots of the grand hotel's architecture from the sidewalks surrounding the hotel.)