Mineral Spring & Lagoon
David L. Newman with Elaine Weeks
in 1864, the townspeople of Sandwich had high hopes that salt and
oil deposits seen on the surface of the ground near the far south
side of town meant they were about to strike it rich.
most enthusiastic of Sandwich's citizens was John B. Gauthier who
operated a general store, brickyard and potash operation and just
happened to own the property in question in the Brighton Beach area.
For years, he had urged the town to sink an oil well.
in 1866, he rallied enough support; the mayor, Charles Baby, believed
that if oil were struck it would benefit the community immensely.
meeting was held at the Western Hotel, next to the courthouse (now
MacKenzie Hall). After much discussion and speechifying it was decided
to form an oil company called "The Sandwich Petroleum Oil Company".
Selling shares for $100 each netted $10,000; $4,000 was gathered
made arrangements for the new company to buy an engine and well
boring machinery. Peter Sleeman was put in charge of the operation,
and the well was sunk on Gauthier's property. Day after day, locals
were on pins and needles anticipating the oil strike. Finally, at
900 feet, a giant plume shot 30 feet into the air. They had struck
something all right! It wasn't oil, but would prove to be almost
of the strike spread like wildfire through town. Within a few days,
thousands of people from all over Canada and the United States arrived
to see what had proven to be a magnificent mineral spring. The Sandwich
Petroleum Oil Company had the water tested with astonishing results.
The water was pronounced the most valuable and best in the world!
after the discovery, the town experienced a tourist boom. Gauthier
built a giant hotel on the site and the Oil Company erected a bathhouse.
People from all over North America flocked into town to see the
Sandwich Mineral Spring.
and other forms of transportation did a thriving business, transporting
visitors to & from the spring; in fact, the Sandwich Windsor
& Amherstburg Railway Co. set up service along London Street
(now University Avenue) to accommodate many American tourists visiting
the spring (see "The Junction" Apr/May 2000, The Walkerville Times)
encourage more visitors a large canal wide enough to accommodate
a ferry was dug from the Detroit River to within a few yards of
the spring. The ferry ran from the foot of Woodward Avenue in Detroit
to the Sandwich Mineral Spring- 25 cents round trip.
became a common site to see as many as 10,000 to 25,000 people in
Sandwich on a Sunday or holiday. Many were afflicted with diseases
and believed the mineral water would cure them. They bathed in it
several times; some found their ailments, ranging from asthma, rheumatism,
neuralgia, scrofula and liver problems, disappeared. Many left their
crutches and canes behind. Could the mineral water have actually
cured these people?
a few years of unrivalled business problems arose between owners
of the mineral spring. Gauthier and a Mr. Clark, who had become
his business partner, were at odds as to how the business should
be run. Clark wanted to open a giant resort on the property and
purchased stock in an attempt to gain majority ownership.
became most unsettled one night. Eight large boulders were placed
at the mouth of the canal leading to the spring. When the ferry
came across the next day, it became trapped on the boulders for
thereafter, Gauthier brought a lawsuit against Clark, deemed the
culprit in the boulder affair. In court it was determined that eight
boulders were placed in Detroit on two ships owned by Clark, known
as the Twin Scows, and sent to the canal, under Clark's authority.
Clark was fined just one York Shilling and notified he had to remove
the boulders to Gauthier's satisfaction.
the late 1880's, the Sandwich Mineral Spring, which underwent several
name changes, including Manhattan Park, attracted large crowds but
ferry service ended during this time so fewer people attended the
spring. It is believed that the spring dried up at the end of the
1891, after several ownerships, the original company wound up its
affairs and closed. The property was sold back to Gauthier.
original Sandwich Petroleum Oil Company never did strike oil. However,
their discovery of a natural mineral spring brought more pleasure
to the town in general than oil could have to a few.
for this story included the "Township of Sandwich, Past & Present"
by Fredrick Neal, of Sandwich, 1909.