Can you picture Hamilton County as another French Lick? Believe it or not, people in the 19th century thought it could be — and, as I learned, with some reason.

I knew about Noblesville’s Llewellyn Spring and the springs at Cicero’s Magnetic Springs Park, but I didn’t realize how many more springs once existed in this area until Lisa Hayner sent me a clipping from the August 8, 1890 Hamilton County Ledger, “Hamilton County’s Famous Springs.”

The article begins, “This county is fast taking front rank as having within its borders some of the finest medical springs in the world.” It goes on to describe an “immense geyser” that had appeared the previous February on the Anthony Johnson farm, about four and one-half miles northwest of Noblesville.

One evening the Johnson family heard a rumbling noise. The following morning they discovered water gushing out of the ground near their home in an eruption so powerful it threw sand and dirt 20 feet away.

But, that wasn’t the end of it.

The next day, while neighbors were checking out the new water source, a second spring shot out of the ground about ten feet from the first!

Reading about the Johnsons’ springs made me curious to see what other springs were mentioned in the old newspapers. Surprisingly, I found several.

In August of that same year the Hamilton County Ledger noted that another Noblesville spring had been discovered by pump maker George S. P. Smith somewhere between Cherry and Division Streets. Unfortunately, it was located below the bed of White River, so it didn’t do anyone any good.

Three years later, the newspaper reported that a medical spring had been found on the Rena Jessup farm, one mile northeast of Hortonville. (“Great things are expected of the water in the way of healing many diseases that flesh is heir to.“)

The February 29, 1884 Hamilton County Democrat stated that a “medical spring of no mean pretension” was located on Milton Tomlinson’s farm three miles north of Westfield. (This wouldn’t have been far from the Jessup farm.)

Westfield itself once had several mineral springs “of medicinal qualities” on the west and south sides of town. According to the March 22, 1871 Hamilton County Register, an Ohio chemist who analyzed the water declared it equal to Ohio’s sulphur springs. The newspaper boldly predicted that within a few years “suitable buildings will be erected and quite a bathing place will grow up.”

During the early years of the 20th century, Hollet’s Park, located one mile west and one-half mile south of Arcadia, was said to have a fine mineral spring.

The best known mineral springs in the county, however — apart from Llewellyn Spring — were located on the John Underwood farm, one-half mile northeast of Sheridan.

Seven distinct springs of various sizes were discovered there in 1881. Some had a stronger mineral content than others, but the water each produced was described as bubbly and crystal clear.

Two years later, Underwood had the water analyzed by an Indianapolis chemist, who pronounced it chalybeate (containing iron salts) and said it probably possessed “diuretic and aperient properties” (it would increase the passing of urine and relieve constipation.)

Underwood graciously allowed thousands of visitors to use the water without charge and even improved the site, but although there was talk of building cottages and turning the area into a summer resort, I found no evidence that project ever got off the ground.

These are just the naturally occurring springs I managed to find. I suspect there were more. (And that’s not counting wells, such as Carmel’s flowing well.)

What happened to all those springs? Your guess is as good as mine.

-Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at