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~ Kathy M.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Boswell Mineral Springs Resort:

It is Sepia Saturday time once again.  Sorry that I skipped last week, but I did get quite a bit done on some other projects.

This week, the picture of the people gathered around the creek are actually at a spa, or are on their way to one.  That one old lady is probably one of the maids, or the wife of the guy who is running the ferry, if that is indeed what they are waiting for.

In November of 2011, I posted about The Hotel McCredie, the history of a hot springs resort near Oakridge, Oregon that is no longer there.  It is one of my favorite Sepia Saturday posts, so when you are done here, please check it out if you have time.  

This post is about Boswell Mineral Springs Resort, which was located near Yoncalla and Drain, Oregon (a skip and a hop from Tin Pot Valley).  


I have always been fascinated by the place, which was destroyed forever in a "burn-to-learn" fire in May of 1991.  The picture below is one that I took in 1975, on an outing with my high school boyfriend, Roger.  We stopped there and dug around in the debris, and I found a pottery chip that I brought home with me.  I'm not sure if I still have that or not.  But, I still do have the picture ... and I am wishing once again that we had digital cameras back then.  I would have a taken hundred pictures of the place.  I don't think that Roger and I knew that this was a mineral springs joint, or we would have been trying to figure that part out also.  We just thought it was an old hotel.

The Yoncalla Historical Society published a book in 2001 named, "Yoncalla Yesterday".  There is a chapter in the book about Boswell Springs, and I scanned page 518 to show you what the place looked like in it's heyday:

Boswell Springs - two miles south of Drain, owned by Captain Benjamin Boswell. Post Office 1895- 1909.

Mom says that Granny Talitha Lestom Hedrick loved drinking the mineral water that came from Boswell Springs.  Nobody at her house was very interested in keeping her in good supply of it, but when her son-in-law (my grandfather) Floyd Traylor came to visit, he would always bring her several bottles of the stuff.  She would then comment, "That Floyd is such a nice man."  She is right, he was.

I have spent hours on the internet and am having a very hard time coming up with much about the resort itself, though there is a lot of information on one of the owners, Captain Benjamin D. Boswell.  He was the one who brought the ROTC to Oregon State University.  I'll make a separate post about him one day soon.

Courtesy of Lane County Historical Museum Website
 Courtesy of Lane County Historical Museum Website
 Courtesy of Lane County Historical Museum Website

Some of the highlights from the "Yoncalla Yesterday" chapter tell us the history about Boswell Mineral Springs Resort:

  • Conrad Snowden was the first owner of the 320 acre plot, on May 20, 1874.  He noticed that the deer enjoyed licking the ground near his home and soon after discovered the springs.  Snowden's land adjoined Jesse Applegate's.
  •  Mr. Snowden interested Dr. Daniel Payton from Salem into setting up a commercial spa on the property.  They developed the grounds and built the large three-story hotel.   The train stopped at the front door, and the stage coaches drove there too.
  • There was a lake on the property that was formed by William Palmer's sawmill.  All kinds of activities were offered at the resort, including "boating, swimming, dancing, cabins, hiking, fishing and golf-putting".  Drinking the mineral water was thought to cure just about anything that ailed you.
  • In 1877, Captain Benjamin D. Boswell and his wife bought the property, and changed the name.  It was a real destination point.  Even John D. Rockefeller visited, and was so impressed that he invested $10,000 of his own money into Boswell Mineral Springs Resort.
  • The hotel and grounds were very beautiful.  Mrs. Boswell was an artist and quite the decorater.  There was a large swimming pool full of the spring water.  Unfortunately, the hotel burned to the ground in 1901.  The Boswells were devastated, but carried on.  They remodeled the former ballroom and guest house and kept things going until the Captain died in 1923 and his wife moved to California.
  • Eventually, Mrs. Boswell sold the resort to Frank and Ernest Helliwell and Bill Harding.
  • In 1932, a Eugene firm sought to sell the bottled water, but that never got off of the ground.
  • 1949, Dr. Harrison Folk bought the property and turned it into a chiropractic clinic.  This lasted for around 10 years, but things became very run down.  Some had visions of making it a home for crippled children in the 60's, but the place just needed too much work.
  • A Yoncalla family, the Harold Kinneys, used the building as an antique and ceramic store for awhile, and then it was abandoned.
  • As mentioned above, the fire department burned it down in May of 1991.     

I did find this short article on the Benton County Museum's website. Though there was not a picture of "The Castle" attached, it must have been similar to those photos above:


The swiftly deteriorating old building you see here - known locally as "The Castle" - is the second grand resort hotel on this site. Conrad Snowden, who took a 320-acre claim here - joining Jesse Applegate on the south - realized the possibility of developing a spa. With a Dr. (John E.?) Payton, who eventually became sole owner, he built a 3-story hotel adjacent to the railroad and widely advertised the curative powers of the mineral springs.

In 1887, Captain Benjamin D. Boswell, USA Ret., and his wife bought the property. A native of Indiana, Boswell had risen in rank from 1st Sergeant to Major in the West Virginia Volunteers between 1861 and 1864. After the Civil War, he received a commission as a 2nd Lt. in the regular army with promotions to Brevet 1stt Lt. and Brevet Capt. "for gallant and meritorious service in the Siege of Vicksburg" and other wartime service. On June 18, 1873, the Board of Trustees of Corvallis College elected him military instructor, and for four years he was the first commandant of cadets and professor of military science at Corvallis State Agricultural College. The Army retired him in 1878.

The Boswells developed the handsome Boswell Mineral Springs Resort hotel in the 1890s with Mrs. B's paintings adorning the walls, potted palms on the wide veranda, and a well tended rose garden. They featured good food, built a swimming pool, and provided recreation for those who came "to take the cure": croquet, tennis, golf, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. The potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and iron compounds in the water were said to provide "Nature's Own Remedy for the Relief of rheumatism, stomach disorders, kidney troubles, and blood diseases."

A disastrous fire in 1901 destroyed the original building. This one, which had been built as a dormitory and ball room was converted into a hotel and sanatorium. After the Boswells, several other owners continued to operate it off and on as late as 1950.  Source:  Benton County Museum
I hope that I have covered it!  If anybody out there has memories of Boswell Mineral Springs Resort, please email me at: and I'll add them to this post.  Remember to check out The Hotel McCredie!

~ Kathy M. 

UPDATE:  I just got an email from Chris Adams today (Jan. 23, 2015).  

Chris wrote this:  "Hello, my grandfather is Harold Kinney, the one you mentioned in your story about Boswell resort, and he was just telling me about when he lived there that people came and swam in the mineral ponds and how much wood it took to heat the place when he lived there. 

I'm wondering if you know where I can find other pictures and information on the resort.  I saw some many, many years ago in the museum but can't find much online about it.  Thanks.

So, there you are, my friends.  If you enjoyed this story, please visit my Sepia Saturday friends by "CLICKING HERE" to find other neat photos and stories.  To read more about my family and other stories featuring old photos, memories and more, please look for this picture of me and my dad on the left-hand sidebar and read whatever else catches your fancy.  Thanks so much for visiting!

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy ~ Kathy Matthews

At Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy, if you miss a day, you miss a lot!  All material on this post is copyrighted and not for use without my permission ...Please click here to go to my home page and see what is happening in Mayberry today.
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Wendy said...

Kathy, this is a wonderful post. I enjoyed the history and the photos. I think the owners are to be congratulated on claiming to cure "90%" -- every business needs a little loophole!

Hart Johnson said...

Hotel and sanatorium! HA! Love how they mix it up... It's too bad the McMenamins didn't get to it. I would have loved to see it restored. (have you ever been to any of their restored places? I love the Edgefield (once a poor farm) and the Kennedy School--they do a beautiful job.

Teresa Wilson Rogers said...

What an interesting piece of history! I particularly like the part where you were there with an old boyfriend digging around in 1975. Exploring old places is so much fun at any age. And amazing that you still had the photo!

Connie said...

Hi Kathy, I am so happy that you are back writing and recording local Northwestern history. You have such a wonderful way of bringing the past to life. It is evident that you do a lot of research and put a lot of time and love into your posts.
Wow!!! I have not realized how long it has been since my last visit. I have been going through the posts that I missed reading. I'll be back to read more, but I am getting ready to go to town and buy groceries . . . by way of the Goodwill Store . . . that's my favorite route, LOL.

In regard to the comment you left:
Chalkboards are pretty easy to make . . . just last night I was on ( I ordered one of those wood-burning irons that they are using to transfer graphics on to wood . . . I can not wait to try it). Anyway, while on Amazon, a thing popped up for a roll of chalk board contact paper (?) it's the first time that I've heard of it. But how easy would that be? I am delighted that you like my kitchen wall . . . I had a ball re-doing it :)
Have a wonderful weekend.
Your blogging sister, Connie :)

nutschell said...

great pictures! I loved learning a little history today:)


barbara and nancy said...

Hi Kathy,
I loved this post. Especially that you had taken a photo of the place in 1975. You can almost see the old bones of the original building.
Sad that they burned it down.
It sounded like such a great place in its day.

Postcardy said...

I wish I could take a train and chug right up to the front door of a spa.

Peter said...

This Conrad Snowden must have been a clever guy. I mean seeing deer licking the ground and then drawing the conclusion that there must be a spring somewhere, that is imaginative to say the least.
It has been said before but SS is a fine tool to revive old memories. Thanks for sharing these.

Liz Stratton said...

It is too bad the old hotel is not longer there. It would be great fun to escape to the spa on a steam locomotive. Wonderful history!

Karen S. said...

Wow, what an amazing find you have already. I know how those hours on the computer can go, and you always stumble on something else too, it's like looking up a word in the dictionary! It is a very interesting place, and I'd dig further too, it's a shame when they can't keep things in the spirit of history so folks can come and see and learn! It seems back in the day they had lots of those places and some (around here anyway) with mud baths! I posted tonight, I have a little munchkin sleeping over (my daughter's little girl) and two of my son's boys are coming tomorrow, for some Halloween adventures out and about...then a sleep over and off for a bit more on Sunday! Their ages, almost 3, 3 and 4! Fun right? Gonna pop on to FB for a quick look :) and got to get some sleep! Have a fun weekend too!

Bob Scotney said...

A very interesting post,Kathy. You must have wished you had seen the place in its prime before it was burnt to the ground. Great photos and especially the one you took yourself.

Little Nell said...

Wonderful stuff Kathy. It's so easy to be drawn into spending hours on the internet in pursuit of facts and getting diverted by one of them. So good to know that Granny Talitha liked the stuff (somebody had to!). I take it she never suffered from constipation, rheumatism etc? Look at the mineral contents on that chart!

Meri said...

I'd like to know how Drain got its name. . . .

Kathy A. Johnson said...

She was brave to drink the mineral water--most of the mineral springs I've been to have been pretty smelly!

Jana Last said...

Wow! Such an interesting place! I love that the train provided front door drop-off service!

Kathy said...

Really interesting! I enjoy your tours through Oregon!

Kat Mortensen said...

For a post featuring water, there sure were enough fires. What is "burn-to-learn"; I've never heard that expression.

I'm with Meri, do you know the origin of "Drain"?


Anonymous said...

All those beautiful pictures you could have made with a digital camera, if only it existed in past times! Luckily you have this photo of your own and some you've collected. Making this good story along them. Thanks for sharing!

Life Goes On said...

great post, I love the vintage pictures and the history you have shared. Grace

Queen Bee said...

You did a wonderful job describing the history of the Boswell resort. Interesting to see the contrast between the 1975 photo and the image from so long ago. Imagine it was a enjoyable place to visit in the 1890s.

Helen Bauch McHargue said...

Great research. Interesting the health claims they could make before there was an FDA. One of my old uncles sold an elixir, just herbs mulled in alcohol with some color and claimed it cure "coughs and colds and sore ass-holes, spots on the belly and spinal decay". Many years later, this became a kind of family toast recited before any alcoholic beverage went down the hatch.

Tammy said...

Wonderful history and photos, and I had to laugh when I read about the minerals in the water - that sounds a lot like the tea I buy at the health food store!

Anonymous said...

Do you ever wonder if some of the "healing properties" of such spas was drinking more water than usual, less stress, no hard work and being outdoors? :-)

Joy said...

How I would have loved to visit in the 19th Century especially to arrive on that steam train. The US does have some great names, I'm quite taken with "Tin Pot valley" which both makes me laugh and wonder how it got its name.


When even the train stops at your doorstep, you've made it big, I take it... Me, here, they just pass by!!

Mike Brubaker said...

A great local history. There have been a lot of spa history this weekend and it's been fun to discover so many in unexpected places. The idea that salty or sulfurous water was good for what ails you seems a strange idea, but then look at all the vitamin water and energy drinks that gets sold today.

Nicholas Mote said...

My great great grandfather is Earnest Helliwell (who you mention above). I have a few things that have been passed down to me including a sales brochure for the water, the hotel guestbook from 1923-1928, and financial ledgers. I'll scan and share in the near future. I would like to start a site dedicated to the history of the spa.


Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

Thank you, Nick. I tried to find a contact email on your web page but couldn't. That is a great idea, to dedicate a site for Boswell Mineral Springs.

Kathy M.

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