Towns Of Robertson County" is a collection of interesting facts
concerning the earliest settlements in Robertson County.
Although all traces of these early towns no longer exist, their memory
is honored and preserved with Texas Historical Markers. This
booklet is published as a special edition for the 1975 Robertson County
Springtime Pilgrimage and in celebration of the bicentennial year.
08 17 N / -96 43 11 W
6 & FM 1373, 2.5 miles west of Bremond)
historic marker reads: "Famous early
health spa and resort. First well was dug 1878 by landowner Francis
Water tasted good, but turned dishes yellow and clothes red. Even so,
to possess amazing curative properties. Wootan soon built a hotel and
in 1879 a
resort town made its debut. He formed a promotion company with T. W.
more hotels, a bottling works, dance pavilion, and school sprang up.
socialites came from miles to 'take the waters'. Disaster struck in
fire swept the town. In 1921 the last buildings also burned." (#10958/1969)
town Wootan Wells was the most famous health spa and resort in Texas
between 1880 and 1910. Its development was the result of
conditions that existed in the late 1860s and early 1870s, during Texas
Reconstruction. Its growth may be attributed to a general
desire on the part of people to escape the boredom imposed on them
during the years following the Civil War.
to the Civil War, the northwestern corner of Robertson County was
sparsely settled and land between present Bremond and the Brazos River
was virtually abandoned. When the railroad passed through
Hearne and Calvert and the town site for Bremond was staked-off in
early 1869, thousands of people moved westward. When Bremond
came into existence as a roaring boom town and railroad terminus,
settlers flocked to the place.
first settlers in Bremond were railway workmen and merchants of all
kinds who had followed railroad construction from Houston.
Within a year after the first train, Bremond had a population of over
2000 and the overflowing population spread into the
countryside. While the new town prospered, much of the land
surrounding it was cut into farm land and cotton growers came to be
near the shipping plant.
was an interesting time in Texas history. Reconstruction was
ending; the telephone was one year from invention (1877); Thomas Edison
had started manufacturing electric lights; ox-wagons were disappearing;
and the Texas frontier was gone. Medical science was
improved; travel by railroad was convenient; newspapers were filled
with interesting advertisements guaranteeing restoration of health by
new drugs and mineral baths; and their was money in the
country. Barbed wire was in use in the late 1870s and farmers
protected their crops and homes. They dug wells and confined
their prized stock near their dwellings.
Wells appeared in this first decade of Bremond's history.
Thirty years later, is would be one of the most interesting ghost towns
in the state. The town was located on the Hugh Davlin and
Richard Moffitt surveys and was "split into halves" by the farm road
that ran from Bremond to the Brazos.
is no real mystery to the birth and death of the town. It
came into existence for people seeking health in its mineral waters,
prospered during a generation of superstition, and then died when
medical science improved and economic conditions changed. The
town and resort were the brain child of several men, including Francis
Marion Wootan, T. W. Wade, Ralph N. Wade, Allen S. Lane, and a number
of enterprising land traders in Bremond.
to W. B. Ethridge, authority on "Ghost Towns In Texas," the resort had
a very humble beginning in 1878. This was when Francis
Wootan, who had farmed 51 1/2 acres of land for five years, decided to
dig a well to supply his family and stock with water.
Wootan's well was completed, the landowner took a barrel of it to his
home for family washing. To his surprise, the water turned
the dishes yellow and the clothing red. The curious Mr.
Wootan then tasted the water and pronounced that it "tasted
good." The news of the strange water spread over the area and
friends of the family gathered to examine it. Because the water tasted
good, they drank cups of it and told the world that the water had
"amazing curative properties."
Wootan wasted no time with his discovery. He drew a sample
from his first well and sent it off to Dr. W. M. Mew, a U. S. Navy
chemist. The good doctor sent a sample to Professor C. F.
Chambler of New York. The Wootan family awaited the return of
the analysis with interest. When it arrived, the findings
were given to the newspaper editor in Bremond. The report
ended with the following words: "The water contains several
minerals, making it suitable for drinking and for baths in a health
the 51 1/2 acres became famous. Interests in the plot were
sold over and over again; parcels were divided into smaller
plots. Wootan Wells Company was organized for the purpose of
placing the health restoring waters on the market.
first, the enterprise grew slowly. Then, according to
Ethridge, there was a "great awakening" that resulted in the building
of bath houses, hotels, camp grounds, stores, and a private
railroad. Then, years after the first well was dug, Wootan
Wells was a formidable city, with more than 200 permanent residents and
a spring and summer population of over 2,000. The Texas
Business Directory wrote of the place, "It derives its name from the
celebrated wells located there which gained an enviable reputation
throughout the country."
truth, Wootan Wells had an enviable reputation in the 1890s and people
from several states came to it seeking health and beauty.
Western Union put a telegraph office at the place; Wells Fargo guilt a
station from which water could be shipped over the nation. A
United States post office was authorized. In 1884, F. M.
Wootan, for whom the spa was named, was the first postmaster.
was a depot in the town, several streets of cottages, a park, several
hotels, and billiard halls. There were two-story bath houses
over the wells.
hotels at the health resort were famous. The Wootan,
two-storied and L-shaped, was of frame front and brick
basement. It had a large dining room with a porch that ran
the length of the building. This hotel had a brick section
with a park between it and the main office. There was a well
and bath house in the court near the hotel.
in 1880, and continuing over twenty years, Wootan Wells experienced the
ups and downs of the time. Many thousands, including well
known people, came to visit the wells and were transported to the spa
over the narrow gauge railroad in a mule-drawn car. They were
housed in hotels or cottages or they were free to camp on the grounds.
Mexican band was always on hand to welcome guests and to send happy
visitors back home. When not soaking up health in the waters,
guests and visitors had picnics, played games, shopped in the several
stores, or they were free to go by buggy to Flag Lake to fish or
hunt. The strong and sick alike came to the wells.
In the summer, the prairie was covered with wagons and
campers. There was a hospital at the place. A few
who came died and were buried there.
the first decade of the twentieth century, Wootan Wells
prospered. Then, things happened and it began to
decline. The first sign of the end was the destruction of one
of the large hotels by fire. When the famous bottling plant
burned, it seemed fire would destroy everything.
1916, the wells began to fail. The improvements of mineral
water baths at Marlin caused further decline. The cottages
built in the 1880s were run-down and in need of repair. The
hotels and grounds were less beautiful than in former years.
Wootan Wells Company struggled through the World War I years and hoped
for better times after the war was over. Good times, however,
did not return. In financial difficulty, the operators of the
enterprise -- Wade, Wootan, McKinley, and others -- sought to rebuild
the resort by borrowing money. This too failed.
According to Mrs. E. A. Muret, "the old place seemed doomed."
Cummings wrote: "Large hotels burned, then another fire, and
another. Balls and dances were not attended and the great
tent shows that had called on the Wells regularly cancelled
out. The Chautauqua missed the wells in 1918. The
last doctor at the place was Dr. F. W. Stoltje. An effort to
sell lots in the town failed in 1919. Interest in the resort
continued to decline until there was nothing left."
1923, the place was gone. Only the foundations of the old
buildings and the underground cistern remained.
Wootan Wells cannot so lightly pass from the scene of Bremond
history. During its 44 years of existence, the health resort
rose to greater fame than Bremond itself. The many fires at
the place destroyed valuable and interesting records.
Letters, newspapers articles, and memories, however, remain to tell its
of the first settlers at Wootan Wells were from distant
places. As the importance of the resort declined, many of the
people who resided there moved to Bremond. Until of late,
there were many people who could tell interesting stories about Wootan
Wells. Now, a half century after the town disappeared, this
number has been reduced. For sure, there is interest in this
ghost town. An historical monument will mark the place for
future generations to see and wonder about. But, only those
who lived at Wootan Wells will ever know what it was really like.
the ghost town of Wootan Wells, according to J. L. Turner, was indeed a
part of Bremond's history. It appeared, remained a while, and
then vanished from the prairie. Even the old cemetery cannot
be found. Except for buried brick foundations, a few square
nails, rail spikes, and incomplete stories of life at the place, it may
never have existed. Like all ghost towns, Wootan Wells has
its legends and myths.