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Great Spirit Spring Company records

Call Number: RH MS 1521


This collection contains correspondence, draft articles of incorporation, agreements, and other records related to the management of the Great Spirit Spring Company, a bathhouse and mineral water company operating at the Great Spirit or Waconda Springs near Cawker City in Mitchell County, Kansas.


  • 1870s-1890


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

History of the Great Spirit Spring Company

The Great Spirit Spring Company was incorporated circa 1874; the board of directors included A.J. Dietrick, Eli Burton Parsons, A.J. Mitchener, and A.A. Thomas, among others, all individuals who resided in Pennslyvania (Troy, Wilkes-Barre), New York, Washington, D.C. and other locations in the eastern United States and who primarily held occupations as lawyers. Eli Burton Parsons (1824-1910) had been involved in businesses located at the Minnequa Springs in Bradford County, Pennsylvania and the Watkins Glen spa in New York; Mitchener resided in Watkins Glen, New York.

The purpose of the corporation was to furnish bathhouses at the Great Spirit Springs (also known as Waconda Springs) near Cawker City in Mitchell County, Kansas and to transport and sell mineral water from those springs elsewhere in the United States. "Waconda" comes from a Kansa word meaning "Great Spirit," and the springs were used by several Great Plains Native American tribes as neutral territory and a religious site. After Mitchell County was opened to Euro-American settlement in 1870, these white settlers used the site as a health spa and the water as a medicinal to cure a variety of ills. The Springs were purchased by the Cawker City Mineral Company to harvest salt. That endeavor failed, and the Springs were purchased by a bottling company. The Great Spirit Spring Company built a resort in the 1880s on the land.

A.J. Dietrick died in the 1880s; A.J. Mitchener then served as president of the Great Spirit Spring Company. [John] Piper (he typically signed his letters "Jno Piper") was local agent, overseeing the resort and the bottling operations in Mitchell County; Kelley and Thorp of Cawker City served as local legal counsel. The company struggled with delinquent taxes for several years.

In 1907, Dr. G.F. Abraham of Mankato, Jewell County, Kansas turned the resort into a health spa. The Abraham family ran the spa until 1964. In the 1960s the springs were flooded after a dam was built on the Solomon River in order to create a reservoir for flood control. The springs are now part of Waconda Lake at Glen Elder State Park.

[Information for this note retrieved from Kansapedia, "Waconda Springs," and Humanities Kansas, "Waconda Springs, From Sacred to Submerged,"]


.25 Linear Feet (1 document case + 1 oversize folder)

Scope and Contents

The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence between members of the Great Spirit Spring Company's board of directors, particularly A.A. Thomas, who served as secretary; John Piper, local agent for the Company in Cawker City; Frank J. Kelly of Kelley & Thorp, lawyers for the company in Cawker City; and other individuals and companies, either seeking information about operations related to mineral springs or requesting bottles of the Great Springs mineral water. Much of the correspondence is directed to Eli Burton Parsons, but there is also correspondence between other individuals involved in the company not directly involving Parsons. When correspondence does not include Parsons, this is noted in the description.

Topics found in the correspondence include managing the real property at Great Springs, including taxes, acquisition of additional land, the resort on the site, etc.; trials involving the company in Mitchell County district court; sending and receiving mineral water; stocks and increasing the numbers of shareholders in the company; and other related topics. At times, the correspondence turns personal or regards business matters that do not appear to relate to the Great Spirit Spring Company. Some of the correspondence surrounds A.J. Dietrick's estate after his death in the 1880s and his involvement in the company.

The collection also includes some administrative documents from the company, including a draft of the company's articles of incorporation; railroad receipts for transporting bottled water; agreements and contracts; a chemical analysis of the springs' water; and other related documents.


Correspondence appears first in the collection and is arranged alphabetically by family name, with a folder of miscellaneous correspondence at the end. Other documents concerning the company appear at the end of the collection. One oversize folder, located at RH MS Q474, contains a public notice about delinquent taxes in Mitchell County for 1882.

Physical Location

RH MS 1521

Physical Location

RH MS Q474

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift, Catherine Parsons Smith, 2004.



Guide to the Eli Burton Parsons Collection
Great Spirit Spring Company records
Finding aid prepared by mwh. Finding aid encoded by mwh.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Great Spirit Spring Company records, RH MS 1521, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States