At one time Mill Creek Park had at least a couple springs that drew people from throughout the area who brought bottles to take the water home to drink. One of these was the Sulphur Spring. The Sulphur Spring was located on the east side of the Mill Creek Gorge below the Idora bridge. Dr. Timothy Woodbridge, who used the Old Log Cabin near Lake Glacier as his medical office, recommended the water as “spa water” to his patients. In a statement given in the July 23, 1900 Vindicator, Volney Rogers said, “I am glad so many persons are visiting this place. We intend to fix up the springs as soon as possible.”
The August 8, 1900 edition of the Vindicator reported, “There is a demand for electric lights, and the Vindicator has been requested that the necessity of such an improvement be called to the attention of the park commissioners.” Apparently people came from early in the morning to late at night to fill bottles with water from the spring, going on hands and knees to grope their way there at night. Crowds brought their own problems though. There were sanitary concerns as many dipped dirty bottles in the spring, making it less palatable for others.
Apparently Dr. Woodbridge’s claims were validated by many people. The August 8, 1900 article goes on to mention, “The water has worked such a world of good to so many people, that they cannot stay away, and the recommend the water cure to all of their friends for anything from an ingrowing toe nail to a broken leg.”
My grandmother swore by the health properties of a different spring, located near Slippery Rock Pavilion, filling a water trough. I remember going with her and my grandfather to fill up jugs of water. She claimed that it cured her of digestive ailments. I tasted some but didn’t think there was anything special about it. In “Mill Creek Park Remembered,” Robert A. Douglas writes, “At the bottom of the hill was the spring water trough. The cold refreshing water cascaded up or flowed down from an unusual faucet. We would always see how high we could make it rise. This was a really natural treat that attracted many people from all around. On hot summer days, people would bring lots of bottles to fill with the cold, clear spring water.”
Volney Rogers foresaw problems when the city decided to channel overflows from storm and sanitary sewers into the park’s waters. With the southward expansion of the city going into Boardman township, Rogers’ fears became reality and problems when high levels of e. coli and other bacteria in the waters made the lakes increasingly unsafe as well as the springs. In 1967, Mayor Anthony Flask recommended substituting city water in all drinking fountains, and subsequently the Sulfur Spring and the water trough at Slippery Rock were capped.
I have no idea why these waters were so popular and believed to have all kinds of curative effects. My grandmother swore by them, as did others I knew growing up. I suspect that whether there was water pollution or not, people today would not have been allowed to fill bottles and consume the water. I suspect liability concerns would have ruled this out. But these springs were yet another feature that made Mill Creek Park an attraction to area residents.