21Country: The Abbott Magnetic Mineral Well
Fort Wayne’s healing spa between 1888-1913
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Near the corner of what is now Edsall and Raymond Avenues, once sat a popular place of healing: the Abbott Magnetic Mineral Well. Hobbyist historian Mark Linehan spent months compiling obscure information after discovering the topic, during his research on the gas boom in Indiana.
“In 1888, William T. Abbott… he owned al this land here,” Linehan said, gesturing to large acreage southeast of downtown Fort Wayne. “All the locales wanted to strike a natural gas well, because that’s essentially free power.” Nine deep bore wells were drilled, though no gas was found. But Abbott wasn’t close to giving up. “He was spending a lot of money and time and had experts come out. At one point, the newspapers started to kind of make fun of him for going so deep, and not finding gas,” he added. “Finally at about 1900 feet down — that’s pretty deep — he found a well of artisan water.”
The entrepreneur sent samples off to be analyzed, and after seeing the mineral content, he planned on opening a sanitarium. “A water strike is a poor consolation to a gas strike, but he was an opportunist,” Linehan told us. “There’s nothing inherently magnetic about the water itself, whether he knew that or not — I don’t know. But it would come out slightly magnetized, and the mineral content was standard in what you would find in in deep well water.”
Abbott began to build around the well, but noticed one problem that would persist through the mineral well’s entire existence; location. It was too far away to attract customers. He later employed a horse-drawn carriage from what is now Lewis and Walton — an extremely bumpy, dirt road ride — taking customers from town to his healing spa.
But the struggle to get people in the sanitarium’s door was too much, and eventually new people took control by 1894. A big solution to their foot traffic problem, was putting a stop nearby, on Fort Wayne’s interurban railway. An ad in the city directory boasts the healing affects of the mineral water: rheumatism, gout, asthma, kidney, stomach, liver, skin, nervous system, female and blood diseases, paralysis and sciatica! “One of the things they did that was curious today,” Linehan shared, “they would print the name of the patients and their ailments — no such thing as patient confidentiality back then! That was great advertising and endorsement for the facility.”
But in April of 1905, the sanitarium burned down. Proposals were pitched to build a new structure downtown, where the current Three River Apartment buildings now sit, but it remained in limbo. “How they were ever going to pump water from here, three miles into town?” he said. Another city directory shows the building that sits at Edsall and Raymond was built in 1920, and operated as a sanitarium until 1936. Though decaying today, it serves as one last reminder, to the Abbott Magnetic Mineral Well that fell just short of success so many years ago. “As time went on there was more and more skepticism of the healing qualities of mineral baths, but it’s significant that they still thought enough of it,” Linehan concluded, “this was really, way out in the country. And what killed the effort was location. They just could not get the traffic out here to support this in numbers enough.”
To read the complete research of Mark Linehan, including maps, illustrations, photos and and more — you can see his book at the Allen County Library Genealogy Center. A digital copy is also available here.
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