(Editor's Note—The following article
was written by Mrs. Fred Klein and printed through the courtesy of the Union
County Historical Society).
A few rods east of the Bath Springs church, on the farm of Clyde Newkirk near the southern boundary of Harmony township, Union county, may be seen the once famous Bath Sulphur Springs.
A number of springs gush from a steep bank, leaving a deposit of sulphur. The water tastes slightly of sulphur, but is cool, and pleasant to the taste.
The first incident of interest of which we could learn, occurred about the year 1800. A man walked from Boston (Indiana) to this county, and became deeply interested in the mineral properties of the water of these springs. He added enough sulphur to a sample of the water to double the strength, and sent it to his friends in Boston. They were delighted with the medicinal properties of the sample that he sent, and many Boston people came in big wagons to the community, that they might use the water constantly. His deception caused them deep disappointment, and it is said that his sense of guilt caused him to lose his mind.
By reading some old letters written as early as 1810, which were in the possession of Samuel Harbine, we have learned that Judge John Whitworth owned the northwest quarter section of land where the springs are located. John Riley, of Hamilton, afterward bought out a share of this quarter section, making the second payment in full in September 1816. For several years, these two men owned the land in partnership. Mr. Riley thought this a favorable location for a town, and in the course of time, town lots were laid out, some of which were spoken for.
Not long afterward, a tavern was built, where the Newkirk home now stands. It was a double hewed log house, the main part being two stories high. Like many buildings of its kind, it had a bar room. A few years later a frame summerhouse was built, with a dining room between the new part and the old.
The establishment was popular health resort and was patronized by many people.
A short distance northwest of the tavern, a ninepin alley was built. It was about 25 feet long and five feet wide.
Ten or 12 stone steps were made extending from the top of the bank to the springs at the foot. The steps were cut in the ground, and paved with common stone, quarried from the hills near by. A hand railing was placed on each side of the flight of steps. About 150 yards northwest of the tavern, and west of the stone steps, stood the shower house and bathhouse. On the top of the hill stood two beech trees; between them was built a wooden swing, which was perhaps 30 feet high and 10 feet wide. A woman fell while swinging here and sustained a bone fracture.
A small frame church was erected about the year 1822, and a burying ground laid out in the churchyard. The daughter of Judge Whitworth was the first person buried in this cemetery. The church building is still in a good state of preservation. Its upkeep was provided for in the will of a Mr. DuBois, of Fairfield. This endowment serves to keep the building in first class repair. The church belongs to the Presbyterians, but was used for worship for many years by the United Brethren.
At about this time, John Riley wrote to Judge Whitworth, telling him that in the previous session of Congress, provision was made for a post route from Hamilton, to Oxford to Bath and Brookville, but it was never established.
In 1840, a mile racetrack was built northeast of the tavern. The most important racing lasted three days in the early part of November 18-10. It differed from the racing of today; in that it was a running race. The first prize was a purse of $100. It was won by N***** (Racial Slur) Baby, a black horse owned by a gentleman from Kentucky. The second prize was taken by a bay horse, named Bald Hornet, owned by the same man. There was no racing of any importance after the first year.
An amusing incident is related of a stranger who stopped at the tavern for lodging at the time of a race. The people at the tavern were much interested, and the horses were on the track, warming for the race. The stranger requested that he might enter his horse in the race. His request was granted and the strange horse won the race. The other men felt that the traveler had taken advantage of them and a fistfight resulted.
In 1849 the farm and resort was sold to Louis Mullin, Mrs. Harriett Newkirk's father. No public business was transacted there after that date.
Water from these springs is still used occasionally for its medicinal qualities. It is said to be beneficial to sufferers of rheumatism.
A visitor to the historic spot today will see a well kept, attractive homestead, several never failing springs that are the source of Brier's Creek or Logan Creek, flowing from a shady bank in the woods, and a neat little white frame church building, surrounded by a. quiet God's acre, where rest many of the pioneers of early days. The glory and fame of the Bath Sulphur Springs of a century ago, is undreamed of by the younger generation and even by older people too, but to those who know something of its history, it is a most interesting and attractive spot
© 2010 Union County Public Library
Questions or Comments send to: Webmaster
Site Maintained by the UCPL