When sampling mineral springs, apply the rule of thumb, "Good story, bad water." The springs here are said to have remarkable curative properties, a story started a hundred years ago by Memphis physician Heber Jones, for whom the springs are named. At best, though, forcing this water down your gullet will cure you of your credulity.

These seven springs, housed in four springhouses in Spring Park on Main Street in the town of Heber Springs, are labelled variously "Red Sulfur," "White Sulfur," "Black Sulfur," "Magnesia," "Iron," "Arsenic," and "Eye Water." They didn't make me sick, but I don't feel cured of anything, either. Names on springhouses speak for themselves. Seasonal flow variations prevented me from tasting all the springs, but I figure I'd have to be some kind of idiot to drink from a spring clearly labelled "ARSENIC."



The first mention of these springs in print was in the Arkansas Gazette in 1815 by a correspondent who went by the name "Potomac."

A map of Arkansas in Yoseloff's Confederate Army Civil War Atlas refers to the springs as Sulphur Springs. A description of a local mail route in 1879 also used the name Sulphur Springs as a landmark.

So much for the miscellaneous stuff. Here comes the part that folks out of politeness forget to mention. Heber Jones, the "prominent Memphis physician" credited with discovering the medicinal properties of the spring just happened to be the son of the guy who owned the land, John T. Jones. I'm almost afraid to look up Heber Jones and find out exactly how prominent he was and what he might have been prominent for. Not only did John T. Jones own the land when the miraculous springs were "discovered" by his youngest son, he had actually gone to a lot of trouble to acquire the land in a complex series of real estate transactions.

The original owner sold the tract in 1837 to four men, Jones, McKim, Lee and Collins. In 1838 Jones, Lee and Collins incorporated as the "White Sulphur Springs Company" for the purpose of creating a "healthful, commodious and elegant watering place...." McKim, a partner in the land, sold his undivided quarter interest to the corporation. So now Jones has bought two deeds on the same land. The venture never developed beyond the hypothetical stage.

Collins died in 1846, and the state sold off his share as part of a judgement against the administrator of his estate. Two men from Little Rock bought the property and immediately sold it to Jones. So now Jones owned two-thirds interest in the land and the partnership plus a tract of adjoining land previously owned by Collins. This makes Lee a suddenly silent partner, since Jones can now outvote him on any issue two votes to one. Such a partnership isn't going to last very long, and in 1851 Jones went to court to obtain a partition of the property. A three-man commission was sent to look over the land, and they reported that could not divide the land without prejudice.

The Judge ordered the property to be auctioned off so that an equitable division could be made. There were no bidders. But at a second auction later that year, Jones bought his own land for the fourth time, bidding $189.

Jones's share of the original purchase was $375. He bought the McKim share for $700. He ended up paying $250 to get the Collins property. Then he bought the whole thing from the remaining partnership for $189 and Lee got only $63 of that. And after all this wheeling and dealing and finally obtaining full ownership of the land AND the springs AND the corporation, Jones simply sat on it for the next thirty years.

I guess you could say his do-nothing strategy paid off, because in 1881 he sold the tract to Max and Sally Frauenthal of Memphis for $10,000. Frauenthal formed the Sugar Loaf Springs Company, the purpose of which was to build the town of Heber Springs.

The post office for a while was called "Heber" because an 1894 post office regulation prohibited the use of the words "north," "south," "east," "west," "old," "new," "burg," "center," "corner," "creek," "hill," "hollow," and "springs" among others in the naming of post offices. That rule persisted for about ten years. In 1909, the name of the post office was chanbed from Heber to Heber Springs and the next year the name of the town was changed from Sugar Loaf to Heber Springs so that the name of the town would match the name of the town's post office.

Folks around here still informally refer to Heber Springs as Heber. By the way, all you Canadian readers note the pronunciation is HEE-bur, not AY-bare.



Berry, Evalena; Time and the River, A Centennial History of Cleburne County, Little Rock: Rose Publishing Co., 1982.

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