A Brief History of the Famous Arlington Mineral Wells
A story from the Arlington Journal, September 27, 1929
In 1891 R. W. Collins, of the firm of T. W. Collins & Co., saw the need for a public water supply for the fast-growing little town of Arlington and started a public subscription for funds to drill a well in the center of town. After much labor, this task was accomplished and the contract for drilling was let.
Early in 1892 the well was completed and much to the disgust of the entire city it was found that the water was not suitable for drinking purposes. It seemed that their efforts had been in vain for they had worked so long for a well and on its completion the water was unfit for use. A large wooden trough was built around the well and people were invited to water their stock here. The well flowed very freely and after the trough was full, from 150,000 to 175,000 gallons of water daily ran down Center Street. The water was used to sprinkle the streets and it was soon discovered that just after the streets had been sprinkled with this water that mineral would appear very much like frost on top of the streets. This was how it was discovered that the water contained mineral and why it was not suitable for ordinary drinking water.
In 1896, J. W. Hammack, a merchant of the town bought a number of hogs and brought them to Arlington. He was very much in need of water for them so he built a wooden tank above the well and by means of crooked pipe ran the water into the tank. He then piped the water from the tank to his home which was located in the west part of town. After one year he sold the hogs and had no more use for the water. Then it was that W. B. Fitzhugh, pastor of the Presbyterian Church, bought an interest in the piping which Mr. Hammack had run to his home and they piped the water to about a dozen homes, charging them $1.00 per month for its use. They only used the water, however, for their stock, and to water their gardens as they believed that it was poisonous for drinking purposes. Later it was piped to perhaps forty or fifty homes in that part of the city. This was the first real use that had been made of the water.
In 1900 the first drinking fountain was erected at the well. It was a very crude affair but served the purpose for the few who chose to drink it. Also at this time a new wooden tank for watering horses was erected. In 1907 Dr. Collins conceived the idea of building a sanitarium here and using the water for treatments, Turkish baths, etc. Collins erected a sanitarium on South Center Street and secured a permit from the City to run the water to this sanitarium and also to sell it throughout the State. The fountain was then removed and the only place that free mineral water could be obtained was at the Middleton Drug Store which was located where Knapp’s Barber Shop now is and a cement watering place for horses was built in front of the Middleton Drug Store.
In the winter of 1927, the fountain which now stands in the center of the square was erected and made to conform to the paved streets. A covering was built over the well which protects the keeper and customers from sun and rain. Before this was done trouble was encountered by old casing way down deep in the well and it was necessary, in order to save it for further use, to drill a new hole several feet east of the old one, and it was in this new drilling and construction of the well that the present attractive fountain was built. It is beautifully and artistically designed and adds a great deal to the appearance of the business section of the city. Hundreds of people from Dallas and Fort Worth and even from every part of the United States, in visiting Arlington, go to the well and drink of its waters from the sanitary fountain. Citizens of Arlington are allowed small amounts of the water free of charge and people from everywhere are allowed all they can drink without charge. For one gallon or more a charge is made and thousands of gallons are sold daily. This revenue runs in the neighborhood of $500 per month and is a material aid in financing the city’s affair.
This well, which was such a disappointment to the pioneers who worked so faithfully to promote the general welfare of the people and furnish a city water supply, has proven after all to be one of our greatest assets, both in finances and in health.