Eureka Springs History

Eureka Springs, Arkansas has welcomed visitors for hundreds of years. Legends of several tribes spoke of a Great Healing Spring in the mountains of what later became known as "Arkansas." Early visitors believed this spring to be Basin Spring itself, and the magical waters drew the afflicted in such numbers that Eureka Springs transformed from an isolated wilderness to a flourishing city in a few short months. The waters would gain national acclaim with the beginning of Ozarka Bottling Company which continues today.

The City of Eureka Springs was founded and named on July 4, 1879. As word of Eureka's miraculous, healing waters began to spread, thousands of visitors flocked to the original encampment of tents and hastily built shanties.

By late 1879, the estimated population of Eureka Springs reached 10,000 people and in 1881, the town was declared a "City of the First Class," the fourth largest city in Arkansas. Stories of its founding and much of the heated history that followed is re-told daily on the Eureka Springs Walking tours.


"There is a story, very popular with the health-seekers camped around the spring they called The Basin, that Sioux Indians brought the young daughter of a great Chieftan to the Spring in search of healing. She suffered from an eye affliction which had taken away her sight, and the people were deeply saddened that such a fate should befall their beloved little princess. The young girl bathed her eyes in the waters, and within a short time her eyesight was fully restored, to the great joy of her people who told the story far and wide until it reached the ears of the first white men exploring the region."

--The Eureka Chronicles by June Westphal

The first white settler to "discover" the healing springs is reputed to be Dr. Alvah Jackson, who used the healing waters to cure his son of an eye ailment in 1856. The waters were used at "Dr. Jackson's Cave Hospital" to care for combatants during the Civil War and, following the war, Dr. Jackson set up a brisk business selling "Dr. Jackson's Eye Water."

Pawnee Visitors at the Turn of the Century

Eureka's miraculous cures remained a local marvel until 1879 when the doctor's friend and hunting companion Judge J.B. Saunders was cured of a crippling disease by a visit to Basin Spring, and subsequently put his considerable influence behind promoting the Springs to friends and family throughout the state.



Weaver Cottage

The City of Eureka Springs was founded and named on July 4, 1879. As word of Eureka's miraculous, healing waters began to spread, thousands of visitors flocked to the original encampment of tents and hastily built shanties.

By late 1879, the estimated population of Eureka Springs reached 10,000 people and in 1881, the town was declared a "City of the First Class," the fourth largest city in Arkansas.


impractical building ideas

"The location of the city is the last one in the world which would ordinarily have been chosen. The impossibility of presenting a striking and vivid picture of Eureka Springs has been fully realized by every person who has made the attempt, and the most powerful descriptive writer would rise from the task dissatisfied with the best efforts of his pen. To group and present a few of its most prominent features would utterly fail to do justice to a city without parallel--unique, phenomenal, picturesque and beautiful."

Eureka Springs Descriptive & Historical published 1892

The Eureka Springs Improvement Company was formed in 1882 to bring the railroad to the city and to develop amenities to service the growing visitor population. Founded by carpetbagger, General Powell Clayton after his term as Arkansas Governor, Clayton would use his ties to the railroad and financial connections to the wealthy of St Louis to build his own town. Thousands of residences and commercial structures were built in just two short years with the construction of streets, water & sewer lines, an electric trolley and the world famous Crescent Hotel, serving as pinnacles of the Improvement Companies accomplishments. Many of these structures (nearly 2000) still exist today--so rigorously preserved that the entire town of Eureka Springs is on the National Register of Historic Places with national significance.

The Crescent Hotel, 1886

More Eureka Springs History
Excerpts from the I Didn't Know That! Kindly provided by Susan Schaefer. All Rights Reserved.
Information presented here is used with the permission of the author.
The Artists' Bridge Studio
An early example of the kind of inspiration Eureka Springs offers to artists and writers. Eureka is still a community of creativity, and our commitment to the arts continues today.
The Barefoot Ball
Truth: A beloved tradition of the Ozark Folk Festival since 1948.
Consequences: You'll have to read this snippet to find out.
Myrtie Mae Barrett *
Long before "The Colonel," Myrtie Mae was serving up her famous fried chicken to Eureka Springs travelers. Read about this fast-food pioneer, the matriarch of one of Eureka's most popular local restaurants.
The Crescent Hotel *
Read about some of the earliest accounts,from the Eureka Springs Times Echo, one of Eureka Springs' earliest newspapers. Don't forget Dr. Norman Baker, the one-time owner of the Crescent Hotel who ran his infamous
"Cancer Hospital" there.
The Basin Park Hotel
Find out why this downtown Eureka hotel is featured in Ripley's Belive It Or Not. Visit the Basin Park Hotel Yesterday and Today.
Bath Houses
Turn of the century visitors to Eureka Springs came to take the waters, and many bath houses and spas were built to accommodate them.
Powell Clayton *
The ninth governor of Arkansas made his home in Eureka Springs. Entrepreneur, poet, statesman. . . and one of the most famous political "villains" of his era. The original Clayton residence is the present-day home of Crescent Cottage Inn.
Eureka's City Streets
Our city streets and rock walls are an adventure all on their own. Find out what to expect when you ask a local for directions.
Eureka's Springs
Are there springs in Eureka Springs? Of course! Here's the definitive guide.
Eureka's Victorian Founding
Find out what brought thousands of people to this corner of northwest Arkansas--and what brings them here today!
Hotel Allred
When budget vacationers didn't take a bath: those were the days at The Hotel Allred, present day location of the New Orleans Hotel.
Lake Lucerne Resort
Call it "Crystal Lake," call it "Sanitarium Lake," call it "Lake Lucerne. . ." by any name, this resort has been a popular destination for generations.
The Ozarka Water Company
What made Eureka Springs famous? It's the water!
Pond Mountain
is a natural mystery at one of the highest points in the Ozarks.
St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church
Eureka Springs gives its own interpretation to the most venerable institution--the Roman Catholic Church.
 
* Historical information from other sources, not a part of Ms. Schaefer's wonderful books about our fair city.








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