The Discovery of the Spring and Birth of the Town

El Dorado Springs, Missouri Centennial Edition, Golden Nuggets of History 1881-1981

  Long before the Hightowers found out about the curative powers of our iron springs, the Osage Indians camped here and looked upon it with reverence. spring_loc-ninewonders It was to this spring they brought their sick and wounded. They remained here until the white man began to settle this part of the country, forcing them to move on to safer grounds.

After the Indians left the area, the spring was forgotten except for a few early settlers who used the branch near the spring to water their livestock.

Then one summer day a mover's wagon containing a party of two men and a woman was led to the spring by John A. Jackson, Sr. a farmer who lived two miles northwest of the site, and knew of its existence.

The travelers were Joshua Hightower, his wife, Carmelia, and Mr. Hightower's brother.  Mr. Hightower, a prominent farmer from Vernon County, was on his way to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, for his wife's health, and had planned to remain only a day or two to rest before resuming their journey to Arkansas. Instead of moving on as planned, they remained for two weeks because of the marked improvement in Mrs. Hightower's health.

When they broke camp, they returned to their farm in Vernon County and spread the word of this miracle spring.  Needless to say, the news spread rapidly via newspapers and word of mouth.  By the time they revisited the spring, they found several hundred campers there.

Frank Anderson of Nevada, was one of those arriving the first week after the news began to spread.  He stated his first glimpse of the area was picturesque with the white tents gleaming in the summer sunset, while overhead the dark green foilage of the oak trees cast shadows of phantom forms over all those encamped around the spring.

The land upon which this spring is located was owned by N.H. and W.P. Cruce, two young men who lived on a farm several miles northeast of the site.  The title to this land had passed from the government directly to the Cruce familly and had no value except for pasture land, for which it had been used for a number of years.

Learning of the great excitement occasioned by the curing of Mrs. Hightower, the Cruce brothers arrived at the site to find hundreds of people drinking from the spring.  They at once decided to lay out a town.  On July 20, 1881 El Dorado Springs, Missouri became a reality.

pony_parade_eldo_smallThe town was laid out in such a manner that the spring and about ten acres (actually, 1 city block) surrounding it was designated as a public park.  An area from  Martin to Joe Davis and from High Street to Kirkpatrick Street was the original size of the town.  It was surveyed, streets were laid out, and the rest of the area was broken up into lots which sold for $10 to $600 each, according to size and location.

The Hightowers made a total of three trips to the spring before they decided to move here.  They erected the first house in El Dorado Springs on August 10, 1881.  It stood on the ground where Wix Hardware stands now (1981).  It was a small four room house that stood in a grove of trees.

Later in the 1890's the Hightowers built another home at 115 West Broadway. This house still stands (1981).

Since the area east of the park was designated for business buildings, it created the necessity of cutting down a sizable hill and leveling of the street.  This was a long tiring task, working with horses, wagons, crude scrapers and many hours of manual labor.

Grindstone Branch, that crosses Main Street at Gay, was covered with a wooden bridge.  During the process of building the streets within the city limits, more wooden bridges were erected on Spring Street, Hightower, Hickory, Joe Davis, and Jackson Streets so they could be opened to traffic.


The Flying Huff Brothers, from El Dorado Springs, high wire and flying trapeze artists.  Early 1900's.

Defintion of El Dorado

1.  Legendary place of fabulous wealth; a legendary place in South America where the streets were said to be paved with gold; and wealth and riches were to be had in abundance.
2.  place of riches; a place of great wealth or where great wealth can be acquired
Synonyms:  heaven, cloud nine, bliss, ectasy, seventh heaven, nirvana, utopia
Spanish meaning:  The golden one