As It Was: Hundreds took the baths at Cinnabar Springs

    Courtesy of Southern Oregon Historical Society, image No. 9920Cinnabar Springs, discovered in the winter of 1889-90, is nestled in the rugged Siskiyou Mountains, just south of the Oregon-California border. It was the age of the water cure: a salt spring was supposed to cure stomach trouble and sick headaches; a sulphur spring was thought to cure rheumatism and respiratory diseases. The resort was also a popular dance hall, saloon and gambling den, 1902-1910.

    One old man was the champion drinker of Cinnabar Springs water in 1907 when Drew Clarin’s family came from Portland to spend two months at the resort, located just two miles from the Oregon-California border above Beaver Creek. He could drink a quart-size tomato can of spring water in one touch to the lips.

    Clarin remembered the bubbly water was ice-cold and tickled the nose. It took time to get used to the sulphur smell, but the old men who sat on the benches around the octagonal structure over the six-foot pool kept a tally of the amount of water they drank each day. The goal was 20 quarts.

    Cinnabar Springs had a hotel, boarding house, dance hall, restaurant and campground for the hundreds of people that came each year for the waters. The springs were said to cure blood diseases, rheumatism, ulcers, and venereal diseases. One could drink the water for free, but a bath that required heating the water cost 25 cents.

    The reputed magic in the Cinnabar Springs water cure was supposed to be in its composition of iron, soda, and cinnabar. Cinnabar is mercury sulphide — a poison that can lead to madness and death.

    Source: Williams, Evelyn B. “Cure-alls at Cinnabar Springs.” Applegater Fall 2009. Print. As It Was is a co-production of Jefferson Public Radio and the Southern Oregon Historical Society. As It Was stories are broadcast weekdays on Jefferson Public Radio and are available online at

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