Listen to the podcast of this article at Lebanon’s Magnetic Well
Did you know that Lebanon used to have a magnetic well? Oh yes, magnetic water. That was a thing in the late 19th century. Let me tell you the story.
In 1869, a magnetic well was discovered near St. Louis, Michigan. The first reports said that a knife dipped in water from the well became magnetized in the water. The craze began. People started saying the water had healing properties and tourism around the well began. The water was sold and shipped all over the area. By February of 1870, it was reported that the land value within the city limits of St. Louis, Michigan had increased from $300,000 to $800,000, thanks to the well.
By mid-1870, magnetic wells had been discovered in various places in Michigan, Chicago, St. Louis in Missouri, and various other locations. In 1887, a magnetic well was discovered in Lebanon, Missouri. As with previous magnetic well discoveries, this one was allegedly discovered when workers drilling a well noticed that their tools had become magnetized after coming into contact with the water. It didn’t take long for word to spread that Lebanon had its own magnetic well. The curative properties of the water were proclaimed far and wide, and tourism began.
On November 3rd, 1890, the Gasconade Hotel opened in Lebanon as a “Famous Magnetic Water and Bathing Resort”. The hotel was located where present-day Gasconade Park sits. The hotel could accommodate 500 guests. There was even a trolley that would bring visitors from the train station to the hotel.
Sewell, a druggist on main street, had bath rooms available for 25 cents each for customers to soak in the magnetic water.
A department store in the 1890s, run by D. T. Aughe was named the “Magnet”.
The well did not draw as much attention as had been expected, however. The tourism brought in by the well was not enough to sustain the Gasconade Hotel. By December of 1893, the hotel was losing money. That winter, the hotel closed for the season, opening again in the spring. By the fall of 1894, there were rumors that the hotel would close for good. By September of 1894, the hotel closed for good. By October, there were rumors that a sanitarium was looking to purchase the hotel. By 1897, the hotel had been turned into Hamilton White College. It closed and another college came to take its place.
In April of 1899, Rev. J.B. Culpepper of Springfield was in negotiations to purchase the building. The hotel, built at a cost of about $80,000, was sold for about $10,000. $65,000 was spent on renovations and it was renamed the Culpepper-Shannon College and opened on September 6, 1899. The college burned on September 21.
Lebanon’s magnetic water continued to be sold in bottles for many years.
Lasting Magnetic Culture
The Lebanon High School yearbook is called “The Magnet”.
The Lebanon Police Department has a magnet on its officer uniform patches.