OPINION | Randy McCrory: Nothing left of 1880s community of Esculapian Springs

Randy McCrory
Randy McCrory

There was once a community called Esculapian (or Esculapia) Springs not too far from present-day Rogers. It disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared, and it is believed that Esculapia Township was named after this little community as its only legacy.

No one knows for sure where the name Esculapia came from. Perhaps it came from from the Greek god Aesculapius, who is said to have founded all medical practices, and reflected the reputed medicinal qualities of the spring water. But in 1880 the community of Esculapian Springs put lots up for sale to be sold by E.J.A. Dickson of Bentonville. The water had been analyzed and compared to the water at Eureka Springs, and hundreds of people were flocking to the newly found spring. By May of 1880 a store house was being built and foundations for several houses had been laid. Also, a photography gallery had been set up there. Remember, at this time, Rogers didn't even exist.

Today, we don't believe water can cure people. I am not saying this water and the surroundings of the resort didn't cure some people, though. At that time the water you were drinking where you lived may not have been good, so when you started drinking clean water, a lot of your aliments may have gone away. Also, the peaceful surroundings may have calmed the nerves.

The following are excerpts from an article out of The Fayetteville Democrat from Aug. 14, 1880. "We the people of Benton County, Arkansas, realizing the fact that there are duties we owe to ourselves and the people, and especially to the sick and afflicted, have thought it a duty to give a brief discription [sic] of the Esculapian Springs, and the wonderful cures the water effected.

"These springs are situated about ten miles east of Bentonville, the county site of this county, about four miles north-east of Cross Hollows, and about two miles east of the stage road [Old Wire Road today] leading from Alma, Crawford Co., Arkansas, to Pierce City, Mo." (which was the end of the railroad line at that time.)

"The scenery for miles around is grand beyond description, and the springs are situated in a valley of about 30 feet wide. The springs are not more than one hundred yards from the peak of the tallest mountain, and are easy of access. Good roads have been made so the afflicted can have access to the water without exertion.

"Mingling everywhere are vast quantities of as fine timber as ever gladdened the eyes of lumbermen. The White River hills are covered with linn, walnut, buckeye, ash, and sugar maple, with shumake, paw paws and hazle as an undergrowth; and pine on the hill tops is sufficient to furnish lumber for centuries to come. Gigantic white oak timber is in abundance, and cedar can be had from 18 inches to two feet in diameter. Ash, elm and wild cherry grow in abundance.

"These springs were discovered by one Mr. Archer, in the month of October, 1879. He spent several weeks in making rails in the mountains, and the weather being very warm and dry he was compelled to visit the springs often, and after drinking and washing in the water [for] days, he found the neuralgia that had troubled him for years had disappeared.

"He then, to try its healing effects more to his satisfaction, recommended his brother to try it, who had been afflicted with rheumatism for years, and could not walk without assistance, and drawn almost to a double position, and in three weeks was cured perfectly well.

"To further try the virtues of the water, Mr. Levault, of Washington County, brought his 12 year old son, who had been afflicted with scrofula all his life, and was matted all over with sores. In three weeks he was cured perfectly well, and his hair began growing on his head again which the disease had taken off.

"Mrs. W.C. Winningham, having been in a distressed condition for 14 months with dropsy, tried three physicians, who gave her case up as hopeless, and after using Esculapian water five weeks, could do her own house work. Her certificate can be had by addressing her at Bloomington, Benton County, Arkansas.

"This country has been blessed in many respects. Its magnificent scenery; its fertile valleys, in which vegetation grows with almost tropical luxuriance, its climate, blessed with the ever fresh breath of mountain breezes, and beyond the reach of all epidemics, all combine to make its future bright with promise. Its mineral wealth can only be guessed at by the result of slight development. These justify the opinion that there is not on this continent a more desirable country.

"The people here are hospitable and kind, and as intelligent as the masses of any population. There is in their dealings a primitive virtue which has long since fled from more populous regions of the country.

"They are liberal in their donations to all good causes among them, and in the care of the unfortunate and the ministry of every form of charity, they are singularly warm-hearted and tender. Come to the fountain and live life. "

It was said in an 1881 article that the healing water would cleanse the disordered stomach, move to healthy action the torpid liver, quiet the overstrung nerves, clear the befogged brain, cure the inflamed eyes or fever sore.

But the town quickly disappeared, like a lot of towns did when the railroad came through. About the time Rogers came into being in 1881, Esculapian Springs was disappearing. The building in Esculapian Springs was torn down and moved to a new location in the new town of Rogers. My wife and I looked to find the community and spring many years ago. We almost drove into Beaver Lake on that adventure. We did find the spring that was encased in a masonry structure along the road. Around it was just a forest. No signs of any civilization except for one more modern house nearby.

By 1905, the town of Esculapian Springs had been abandoned. A petition went to the state legislature that would permit the sale of the streets and alleys in the town. Most of the lots went to the state for non-payment of taxes. The only way to legally vacate the streets and alleys and clear the abstracts to these tracts was by a special act of the legislature. This would allow the land to be sold to the highest bidder and put back into circulation.

  photo  A spring encased in a masonry structure along the road is all that is left of Esculapian Springs near Rogers. In the 1880s, it boasted a reputation for healing waters. (Courtesy Photo/Randy McCrory)

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