The Miracles of Potton Springs

The Miracles of Potton Springs

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In 1828 Bolton Spring noted for its medicinal properties was discovered in North Potton, Quebec on the farm of William Green. Its value as a remedial agent wasn’t realized until 1844 when it was used in a case of scrofula. Scrofula was a form of tuberculosis of the neck, and when word got out  about the cure people came to drink from this miracle water.

 

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Potton White Sulphur Springs, Que Quebec Canada-BANQ-CP 15995 CON–0002645701–1926

 

Local legend goes that 14 year-old Nathan Banfill discovered these waters looking for a drink at the bottom of a cliff at the base of Peeve Mountain.  Little did Banfill know that such a huge gush of sulphur water from three springs would become popular in the future and people would come to enjoy its benefits for miles. I remember as a little girl, my grandparents would take me to this small covered bubbling spring out in the middle of nowhere in the Eastern Townships and the air smelled like rotten eggs. My grandparents filled up a couple of milk jugs with the smelly water, but I wanted no part of it, and I had no idea what it was similar to young Nathan Banfill.

 

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Association du patrimoine de Potton–Potton Springs Hotel. Circa 1900. A lovely picnic.

 

One must remember that in 1830 the north of Potton Township was slow to be settled, the local roads were scarcely passable, and the area very uneven for people to come and visit the future spa culture. It wasn’t until 1862 that the upper class folks came to enjoy what C.F. Haskell from Stanstead had named Mount Pleasant Springs.  After several variants of Haskell’s title for the area were forgotten, Potton Springs became the official name.

In 1875, the Potton Springs Hotel was built by ancestor N.H. Green and word spread internationally about the sulphur water’s supposed healing properties. Eastern Townships historian Gerard Leduc has written that there was possibly another structure before Green’s building as it seems he might have built his first building on top of a former field stone foundation. Merely two years later, the new hotel took advantage of the extension of the railway line of the Missisquoi and Black Rivers Valley Company. The hotel was purchased by J. A. Wright who supplied it with electricity from a generator and seeing the potential of his investment opportunity he enlarged it  in 1912 to accommodate 75 guests.

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Potton Springs Hotel. Circa 1915–Association du patrimoine de Potton
At a rate of two dollars per day visitors afflicted with liver, stomach, kidney or urinary tract ailments were among those who could expect help and “female diseases” were reported to be greatly benefited by the use of the waters and baths.

Three sulphur springs originated from a deep aquifer, and the waters were tapped from the mountain springs into a wooden tank and delivered to the hotel below only by gravity. Baths could be taken in a variety of forms, including shower, sitting, and spray, and word was even a pool fed by the springs was available.

Sulphur baths were given for the care of rheumatism or eczema and sulphuric mud packs were applied to troublesome joints. The day at a sulphur spa would begin by drinking as much water as they could, followed by breakfast. After lunch, the guests would take a nap followed by four o’clock tea and a walk in the woods as only a Victorian era lady could possibly attempt.

 

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Potton Sulphur Springs Hotel after asron fire, December 1934–Interclik

 

They say people drank it, bathed in it, and even brought it home similar to my Grandparents who did the same in the 50s. The spa flourished and the McMannis Hotel which was situated at the corner of Mountain Road and Route 243, did an excellent business with the seasonal patrons who journeyed to Potton Springs. Business began to decline at the end of the 1920s, during the Great Depression and J. A. Wright finally sold the establishment to F. Larin in 1930, but a fire, (possible arson was mentioned) gutted the hotel in 1934.

 

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From McGill Studies

 

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BANQ–CP 041745 CON–0005019568– 1926

 

They say there isn’t much left of Potton Springs today, and only a few deteriorating remaining foundations have been left exposed to the elements. The foundation made from Lennoxville bricks remain, but even the 6-7 metre Potton Springs Hotel sign that was found by the new owners was stolen in 1990.

Potton Springs is now private property owned by la Fondation Poorna-Jnana Yoga and moments you try to put into words no longer exist. When I look at these old photos it’s pretty overwhelming, memories are now devastation, and there are no longer the original buildings to speak for themselves. Someone asked me if I had ever been there and seen the remains, and if I had a time machine a million memories would now flash through my mind. But, we can never go back and now the only clues to what happened at Potton Springs only remain in photographs and the carvings among the rocks.

 

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Masonic etching 1863- Youtube

 

 

 

 

 

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Clipped from The Caledonian-Record,  21 Aug 1920, Sat,  Page 5

 

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From McGill Studies