about everyone has heard the expression “sick as a dog,” and most people have
occasionally felt that way, but folks in the town of Hubbard
once credited their economic heyday to a sick pooch.
Founded in 1881 when
the Cotton Belt Railway came through eastern Hill County and named for former
Gov. Richard B. Hubbard (who bought some of the new town lots), by the early 1890s
Hubbard had a water
problem. In 1894, at a cost of $25,000 back when that was a lot of money, a commercial
driller hit water at 3,100 feet. Under its own pressure, water flowed up through
the new pipe at 200,000 gallons a day.
Hubbard’s water needs
would have been set for the imaginable future except for a couple of things: The
bubbling water was hot and it stank, the odor coming from its strong mineral content.
Residents were not happy. If their town had any hope of becoming a city, another
well would have to be drilled to serve the water needs of the community.
happened next has been attributed to that sick dog. Old and ill, the fiest had
been seen hanging around the puddle of water surrounding the new well. Like all
dogs, he lapped up the stinky water with as much gusto as modern city dogs relish
toilet water. At some point, the story goes, folks began to notice that the dog
had begun to look much healthier. Its once mangy coat now shined.
smelly water could make an old dog as frisky as a new pup, it dawned on folks
that the water bubbling up from the new well might have curative powers for humans
as well. At least that’s the local lore.
More likely, Hubbardites figured
out on their own that they might be able to convert the smelly hot water into
cold cash. The truth is that back then Texas was
dotted with communities enjoying a good a reputation for their healing waters.
Mineral Wells and Marlin
in particular had flourishing resorts where people came from all over to “take
the waters,” and there were smaller operations in Lampasas,
San Antonio and other places.
some entrepreneur built a small shed over Hubbard’s
new well and began charging people to partake of its healing water. With cash
beginning to flow along with the hot mineral water, next came a substantial wooden
structure with a wide porch, gabled roof and ornate twin towers. The new building
featured 36 baths.
The water that brought Hubbard
its prosperity still stank, but for a time everything else smelled like roses.
The two rail lines then serving Hubbard
brought in a steady flow of people looking to improve their health. And thanks
to the yet-to-be-discovered placebo effect, many of the ill and infirm left town
feeling much better after soaking in or drinking Hubbard
One man who had been afflicted with sciatic rheumatism happily
wrote a letter declaring that only five treatments had allowed him to throw away
his crutches. Another said the waters at Hubbard
had rid him of serious kidney disease.
According to a 1906 booklet hyping
the bath house, the recommended treatment included 21 massages and mineral water
baths at $18.50. Roman baths went for $13.50, while alcohol rub baths, vapor baths
and what was called the “tub and rub” cost only $9. Each treatment came with the
services of a same-sex attendant. Indeed, no hanky-panky was allowed. Women and
men were relegated to separate ends of the bath house.
For those requiring
more help than mineral water alone could bring, Drs. John and Willie Woods operated
a two-story brick hospital and sanitarium nearby that had been fully equipped
with the latest in curative devices, from machines providing electrical therapy
In 1918 the town caught the attention of Gov. Will P. Hobby.
Newly sworn in as the state’s chief executive following the impeachment of James
Ferguson, Hobby invested in the health resort. But he ended up having to foreclose
on the property.
That’s when local residents formed a company capitalized
with $30,000 in shares to operate the resort. Just about every businessman in
town owned some of the stock on the premise that what was good for the hot well
business was good for business in general in Hubbard.
Under local ownership,
the well did well until 1926 when the water stopped flowing due to heavy mineralization
in the pipe. Drilling another well would be too costly, so the company went bust
and the bathhouse stood vacant until 1934 when fire destroyed it.
time, most people had come to realize that while a rubdown and a hot bath always
feels good, it takes real medicine to make people well.
Mike Cox - April
19, 2012 column
Stories | Texas Animals
| Texas Towns |
People | Columns | Texas