Water of Life
The environment of the desert and arid land in most of the Middle East is harsh making the stranger and traveler extremely vulnerable. Only the force of the customs of hospitality protected him. For a traveler, access to water and food was a matter of life and death. Most settlements were built near available water or wells.

Water of Life

The environment of the desert and arid land in most of the Middle East is harsh making the stranger and traveler extremely vulnerable. Only the force of the customs of hospitality protected him. For a traveler, access to water and food was a matter of life and death. Most settlements were built near available water or wells. In the desert, a host is obliged to provide strangers entering their midst with food, water, and shelter because failing to do so may cause their death. Water is essential to life therefore highly valued.

Life depends on potable water which accounts for its association with God, the ultimate source of life. Thus, natural springs of water throughout history have typically been associated with religious connotations and temples. When the Romans built baths in the Valley of the Avon in what is now Bath, England, they also included a temple to their gods.

Waconda Springs, Kansas

Native American tribes often visited Wakonda Springs, an artesian spring in north central Kansas which they believed was inhabited by the “Great Spirit.” Whites discovered it in 1870 , anglicized its name, and bottled and sold its waters under the name “Waconda Flier” with the slogan, “it will clean your works until your works work.” By the 1930’s Waconda had a 60-room sanitarium. It’s all gone now underneath Waconda Lake.

Bade-Baden, Germany

Baden-Baden [bath-bath] Germany was built by the Romans about 210 A.D. who came there in the belief the hot springs would help their arthritis. Originally named Baden, the second Baden was added to distinguish it from several other cities of the same name.

Crazy Waters, Texas

Late in the nineteenth century, Texas had the second most mineral springs of any state and some of the most luxurious spas. Between 1890 and 1919 over 100 new spas were established. In 1877 a well yielding funny tasting water was drilled in Mineral Wells that its owner thought healed the owner’s rheumatism and made the entire family feel better. That began a pilgrimage of folks to their farm for the waters. The owner sold its bottled waters for 5 cents a quart. By year’s end 3,000 people were camping out for the waters. Four years later Mineral Wells was founded with the well’s owner its mayor.

Soon 125 wells had been dug with a demented elderly lady sitting beside one all day. Word got around that the waters helped the “crazy lady”, people began lining up for water, and the Crazy Water Company was formed followed in 1912 by the Crazy Hotel. “

The water was later tested and found to have in it lithium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfate and advertised to relieve or cure dyspepsia, neuralgia, sore eyes, paralysis, insomnia, liver and kidney problems, rheumatism, scrofula, and improprieties of the blood. By 1900 Mineral Wells hosted 150,000 visitors a year. [The hotel was eventually converted to a retirement home.]

Claremore, OK

My wife Elaine’s father suffered from a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis in the time before they either understood it or had any effective medicines to alleviate its pain. In desperation he tried the baths in Claremore which contained trace elements of radium when even less was known about it. He also went to Mineral Wells for their water. Ignorance of the disease was so great they pulled all his teeth in a futile attempt to treat it.

Hot Springs, Ark

Native Americans in Central Arkansas named the area the “Valley of the Vapors” because of natural hot springs. [143 degrees. ] It became the unofficial first national park when in 1832 Andrew Jackson declared it a federal reservation. They even commercialized the religious part by turning it into a temple of horse racing and gambling.

Sulphur, OK

Sulfur smelling waters near present Sulfur, Oklahoma were so valued by warring Native American tribes that they declared it neutral territory to be shared peacefully by all tribes. It began as Platte National Park and recently was given back to the Indians as the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. The area has natural artesian springs which throughout most of the twentieth century fed two public swimming pools in Sulfur. [We kids at Falls Creek where ‘mixed bathing’ was prohibited went into Sulfur and swam in these pool with camp pastors.]

I can report that in the years when I swam in those pools I never suffered from arthritis.

Comment

Scientific medicine’s arrival in this country came slowly beginning in the final decades of the nineteenth century and not fully embraced until the thirties. Until rationality prevailed in the medical system, hope drove people to quackery in all its forms e.g., baths, sanitariums, spas, patent medicines, etc. People, no longer go to spas for health but to pools and hot tubs in their bathrooms, decks, back yards, “Y’s,” and clubs. Most motels and resorts have them for leisure and pampering. They certainly are useful for those with severe, chronic arthritis and related aches and pains. Our affluence allows us more private and luxurious waters, massages, and oils to retain health and beauty in the hope of outwitting nature and science.