Wednesday, January 18, 2012

James Lynch, "Crazy Water," and Mineral Wells, Texas

In 1877, James Lynch and his wife, Amanda, left the North Texas town of Denison, Texas with their nine children and fifty head of livestock. The Lynch’s were searching for a drier climate because their family had been in poor health. Both James, who was fifty, and Amanda suffered from rheumatism.

As they traveled, news of Comanche attacks further west stopped their journey. On Christmas Eve, 1877, one of their oxen collapsed and died after crossing the Brazos River and lightning struck  another. They decided to settle down where they were, in a pretty valley tucked in the hills of Palo Pinto County.
Mr. Lynch purchase eighty acres of land and began to settle. From 1877 until the summer of 1880, the Lynch’s hauled water from the Brazos River to their land, some four miles away. That summer Mr. Johnny Adams happened upon the Lynch Ranch. Mr. Adams, a well driller, agreed to drill a well on the property for Mr. Lynch in exchange for a yoke of oxen.
At first the Lynch’s were hesitant to drink the water, because it had a funny taste and they were afraid it might be poisoned. Hauling water four miles, though, was difficult, so they began sampling the water. Finding that it was not harmful, the Lynch’s began drinking the well water. An unexpected thing happened. Mr. and Mrs. Lynch’s rheumatism was cured, and Mr. Lynch, once frail and gaunt, began putting on weight. In fact, the entire family became healthier.  
News of the improvements in the health of the Lynch family spread fast. Neighbors began trying the water, and within a month strangers were coming to the Lynch Ranch inquiring about it. Mr. Lynch began selling the water for five cents a quart. The water grew in popularity very quickly, and by the end of the year 3,000 people at a time were camping on the Lynch property.

The town of Mineral Wells was laid out on the ranch in the fall of 1881, and Mr. Lynch became the town’s first mayor. People arrived by the hundreds, and by November it looked like a small army had moved in. A boom town had sprung up. Because of the enormous demand, Mr. Lynch and others began to dig more wells.
The water got its name of "Crazy Water" from an elderly lady who suffered from a form of dementia and sat by the well all day, asking people to draw her up a pail of water. The water apparently had some positive effects on the “crazy lady’s” illness, and soon others were lining up for the water. The well was named the “Crazy Well" and a pavilion was built at the site. Today, the Crazy Water Retirement Hotel sits on that spot on Main Street.

The Crazy Water Company became the most well known of the Mineral Wells water companies. Today, visitors can find the Crazy Water Company a couple of blocks behind the Crazy Hotel.
The Crazy Water Crystal Plant was built in 1919. "Crazy" water was boiled down until only crystals remained. These crystals became an early version of "instant food" to be dissolved in water. The crystals were sold all over the world.

This is a recent photo of Mineral Wells, Texas today.
Please read these notes:
NOTE #1: A significant amount of lithium can be found in some of the town’s wells, indicating that the "Crazy Water" story may have significance. Lithium is used today to treat some mental illnesses.

NOTE #2: As a very young man, my daddy worked in the Crystal Plant. When he met Mother, I believe he was working there at the time. My mother, as a young girl, worked in the basement laundry of the famous Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. They courted by going to dances held for young adults. My daddy always said of Mother: "Another fellow took her to the dance, but I took her home."

NOTE #3: I was born in Salesville, a small village eight miles north of Mineral Wells. I grew up in West Texas, but all through the years, we traveled back to Minerals Wells and Salesville to visit both sets of grandparents. I've known about the Crazy Hotel and the crazy water..and the Baker entire life. 
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas             


  1. What fun, Celia! I can see a series of short stories set in Mineral Wells. I know you could do this town proud.

    And I wouldn't mind coming there to partake of the waters. Sounds like it would be just the thing to put zip in my joints!

    I enjoyed the pictures too!


  2. Interesting! My daughter fusses about the taste of our well water and I keep telling her it's probably worlds healthier than chemically treated city water!

  3. Good tale, Celia. The story behind the founding of many a town is equally revealing. My own hometown owes its origin to a horse thief and counterfeiter who bought the site to spite an enemy sheriff who'd gone bankrupt.

  4. Celia, this is just brilliant information! You've got so much history in your area. I'd love some of this for my poor bone-spurred toe that needs an operation soon.

    I too love the story behind a town. Centennial by Michener is one of the best books I've ever read. I'm finding out some fun stuff in my own area. Not as fool as this, but I love thinking about the place when there were just the Chumash Indians and a few farmers here. oxoxox

  5. Interesting story Celia. Other than lithium what other chemicals did they find in this water? Funny taste means it may contain iron, and maybe copper. Maybe also silver if it improved arthritis. When I was doing my Ph.D. my professor worked on a grant to prove the positive effect of silver on rheumatism. I am sure they must have analysed it by now. If I still had my lab, I would have told you send us a bottle.

  6. Love the post. Love the history of our native state and Texas is full of 'em!! Thanks for sharing with everyone.

  7. Now you're in my backyard, Celia, When Palo Pinto County Heritage Society used to have tours, I've been through both the Baker and Crazy Water Hotels, as well as the water company. The Crazy Water Hotel is now an assisted living home, and the Baker is vacant. So sad, because the Baker used to host big name entertainers like Bob Hope, Tommy Dorsey, Andrews Sisters, etc. I hear that someone is trying to purchase it with a goal of restoring it, but it would take many millions to do so. We're all hopeful, though. It's a rare landmark, and President Franklin Roosevelt came there for the baths and to drink the waters.

  8. Celia what a wild, fun story. I loved how you used the pictures to set the mood of the story well. Do they still sell crazy water today?


  9. Hi, Maggie--That could work, since it does have a colorful past--and presence. Do you know, even been born 8 mi. away and have gone back to MW my entire life--and still doing it--I have never tasted that water! By golly, I'm going to buy a bottle the next time I visit.
    Glad you liked the photos.

  10. LK--you're probably right. We have a well, only filtered for small creatures, etc. And it definitely has a different taste. We do put it through a softner because it's very alkaline and will ruin a hot water heater and pipes. I like to drink it from the porch faucet--I like the taste.

  11. John--you are so right--many, many towns have very colorful beginnings. What stories they would make!

  12. Tanya--Centenntial is a wonderful book. Around Mineral Wells, the Comanche pretty much had that area dominated when the farmers started moving in.
    My sisters and I have roamed through old cemeteries trying to locate graves of distant relatives, and many times we've found crude headstones with "Kilt by Indians." Cynthia Parker lived in the area--the Comanches got her. Parker county--next to Palo Pinto County--is quite interesting.

  13. MOna--I read the list of chemicals in the water but didn't include it in the post. I'll find it--now I'm curious--and I'll let you know.

  14. CARRA--thanks so much for stopping by!

  15. CAROLINE--you know, I began writing about the Baker, but became more interested in the Crazy Hotel, and that led to James Lynch. There's just so much I wanted to add...but it would have a very long post.
    If you read the Notes at the bottom, you'll see that my mother, around age 14-15-16--worked in the basement laundry of the Baker, and her stepmother ran that laundry.
    At the same time, Daddy worked in the Crazy Water Crystal Company. He went to a dance held for young people and met Mother. He always said, "Another fellow brought her to the dance, but I took her home."
    Ahhhh, I just love that.

  16. Steph--yes, the still sell the water. One of the photos was of the Crazy Water Company today--popular tourist stop. Thanks!

  17. What a cool story, Celia. It's fun to find out how things and places are discovered. How remarkable the water could hold all that goodness and heal people like that.

  18. Great story! I want a bottle of that water! Amazing how enterprising some people were back then. Reminds me of Wall Drug in SD with their free water beginnings.

  19. Celia,
    I just love this story about Mineral Wells. Here I live one state north of you and had no idea about this place. What a great story! Thanks so much for you informative post, just, as always, excellent with the pictures and personal touches you give. I really enjoyed this.

  20. Paisley--I think there may be wells like this in other parts of the country. This one just happened to gain noteriety. It's still going strong, too. Thanks for commenting.

  21. Lauri--you know, I have read about the Wall Drug in NS--was that the one about a town that sat away from the train tracks..or a road...and to bring people to their town, the drug owners took water over for free...and inticed them to come to the town.

  22. Cheryl--the town has a lot of weird history. It's gone down in recent decades, but lately it's started a little boom and is doing much better.
    My mother was born there--Daddy 8 miles north where I was born--a one land community with no commercial things.All that area is "old stomping grounds." Haha.

  23. Celia,
    Wall Drug in South Dakota was started in the 1930's and as a ploy to get people off the highway and into town, they put up signs along the highway advertising free ice and water. Wall is on the outskirts of the badlands and the countryside is very desolate. In no time people were stopping and now it's one of the larges tourist attractions in the world. (Or so they claim.) We were just there again this summer.

  24. LAURI--okay, that's the one I was thinking of. Did you post about that? If not, somehow I found an article or a blog about it. I thought it was a wonderful story. Thanks for the information, and confirming what I had in my memory.

  25. Celia, how did I almost miss this? What a great story. And you simply must write a story set in this place. I believe Wish For The Moon mentions some of these places, but I hope you'll build a story around that sweet romance of your parents. I'll be waiting eagerly to read it. Linda

  26. Linda--bless you for remembering these places from Wish for the Moon. Mineral Wells has a unique history, and yes, I'm sure there are many stories to tell. Mother and Daddy did have a sweet love story--at least I thought so. Thank you for coming over to read this. I do appreciate it.

  27. I found a Palo Pinto, Texas Property Tax receipt dated November 8th 1897. It is signed by what looks to be a "O Lynch", possibly relative to James Lynch who came to Palo Pinto in 1877.

    1. Victor--I'm surprised you found this post--it's three years old! But I glad you did. Apparently you live in Mineral Wells. My mother and my older sister wer born there and my dad was born in Salesville--as was I and my younger sister...and my daddy. You have found a real treasure. I agree, O Lynch is surely the James Lynch in this post. Thank you.


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