Friday, July 25, 2014

Sepia Saturday: A Cure For What Ails Ya

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.



This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a street scene with imposing buildings, most with signs announcing the work offered by their tenants.  When these drivers posed in front of their trucks in 1941, the Elkton Lithia Bottling Company had been in business for about 35 years. 

Elkton Lithia Bottling Company, Elkton, VA 1941
Elkton Lithia Bottling Company
photo courtesy of Casey Billhimer


Bottling lithia water was a logical enterprise for Elkton.  After all, the town is situated near three lithia springs.  These natural mineral springs were unique in that they contained lithium salts known for various health benefits. 

ad in New York Daily Tribune Dec. 1901
from Chronicling America


Newspapers of the late 1890s and early 1900s are full of humorous testimonials affirming the wonders of lithium water.  Eminent doctors with glowing credentials claimed immediate relief from gout, gravel in the bladder, insipient Brights Disease, nervous dyspepsia, rheumatism, “female complaints,” eczema, and just about any disease associated with the kidneys and digestion.  And those claims weren’t in support of just any ol’ mineral water.  No, water from Bear Lithia Springs in Virginia was the best, so there should be no reason for anyone to look elsewhere.

Bear Lithia Springs Hotel 1890s
Hotel at Bear Lithia Springs 1890s
photo courtesy of Casey Billhimer


In the early to mid-1900s, resorts boasting the presence of hot springs and mineral springs were almost guaranteed a steady flow of tourists in search of relaxation and better health.  Elkton was right in the mix with several large hotels advertising not only being close to the lithium springs but also having it available right in the hotel itself.


from Richmond Times Dispatch 1920
Genealogybank.com




An ad for the Elkton Hotel in 1917 promised modern conveniences including private bath, water pumped from the springs, and “no malaria, always cool.”










Bear Lithia Springs is midway between Elkton and the town of Shenandoah where my relatives lived for many generations (and some still do).  They visited Bear Lithia Springs often for picnics, fresh air, and maybe even to cure that nagging nervous dyspepsia. 

This photo was captioned "Bear Lithia Springs Sept. 1924"
Second grandaunt Laura Jollett Sullivan, 2nd grandaunt Victoria Jollett Breeden,
Laura's husband Will Sullivan, Laura's oldest daughter Minnie Sullivan Breeden,
unknown child, unknown woman in glasses, unknown man
grandaunt Violetta Davis holding her hat, Laura's daughter Leota Sullivan in glasses and hat,
grandaunt Velma Davis in hat








While it is now spelled “Bear,” the spelling was originally “Baer” for the family who lived there originally:  Jacob and Barbara Baer, who were among the first German settlers in the Shenandoah Valley.  Small world factoid:  my sister’s college roommate from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania is a descendant of the Baer family of Virginia. 




For more signs of the times, please visit Sepia Saturday



© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.

46 comments:

  1. Wendy, this is a delightful post. Makes me thirsty! However, as someone who lives near Saratoga Springs NY which has its own mineral springs, I suppose I better save my thirst for Saratoga Springs water. ha!

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    1. Yeah, it would be a long drive for you, but next time you're in Virginia, we might have to make a trip.

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  2. I remember Grandma talking about her mother always wanting to stop at the springs.

    Great picture. I never saw this one!

    YAY, Mel made it in the blog.

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    1. I remember Violetta talking about Bear Lithia, but I never paid much attention.

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  3. I can spend hours going through newspapers just reading the adverts!

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    1. I know! Some of the testimonials are just shameless. But maybe they're not so different from some of the ads and infomercials today.

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    1. Aren't they! I was glad to meet Casey Billhimer online and to be able to use his pictures.

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  5. A fascinating post linking local and family history.

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    1. You're the champion at that -- I wish I could provide that link more often.

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  6. I checked on my story about the family band of Mineral Wells, TX and see that you mentioned this photo in the comments. Medicine water cures were certainly a big business around the country. I bet a lot of it was developed by German immigrants too.

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    1. I did? What a memory you have. Like a BEAR trap.

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  7. So cool! My dad was a truck driver for 7 Up in the 50's. I do not have a photo but I do have one when he was a bus driver, Great post...I love the history.

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    1. I had to double-check to see if I mentioned 7-Up because the Elkton Bottling Co in more recent years was a 7-Up bottler (not now though).

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  8. Lithium?! I cringe to think what the down side might be to all these effervescent endorsements...

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    1. Well, supposedly low doses were good in fighting depression and preventing suicide. ???

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  9. What a wonderful cure-all for all those unhappy ailments. Great pictures.

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    1. I love the ad for neutralizing those bad effects of whiskey.

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  10. People used tp have great faith in Mineral Water. What a happy looking family. And that first photo was interesting too Most of the time without reading you can place which part of the world the photo was taken. That first one could be nowhere but in America.

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    1. I had to think about that last comment. I'm not sure I could place buildings in the right country if challenged to do so. But as I look at that photo, it "feels" very American but I don't know why.

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  11. Very interesting. I'd never heard of lithium water before now, or of Bear Lithia Springs. I'd say the English word Bear is fine as a translation for the German Bär, written as Baer when you don't want to use an umlaut.

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    1. I don't think Bear Lithia Springs is a big tourist draw anymore, so there's no surprise in your not hearing of it.

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  12. There's a little park in the Riverview/Brandon area near Tampa FL called Lithia Springs. The spring itself is beautiful clear water with a sandy bottom which flows into a small river, where Manatees like to spend the winter. I've floated around the cool water on summer days and enjoyed it. Thanks for letting me know other Lithia springs are out there too!

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    1. In my research on lithium water and springs, I found quite a few in Georgia and Florida.

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  13. I wonder what lithium water tasted like. I'm not a fan of flavored beverages. If it had a flavor I may have just continued along with whatever ailment I had. Was the water used only for drinking or was there also an advantage to bathing in it or smelling it? (Lithium sounds smelly, doesn't it? It makes me think of batteries.)

    I think this post was a great tie-in with the family photo you have, Wendy.

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    1. I can't imagine that it tasted TOO bad or nobody would have wanted to drink it. So it obviously didn't have that sulfur smell. If the hotels had it pumped in, it must have been good.

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  14. Very interesting Wendy. We have some mineral springs not far from us (not lithium however) but people swear by the health benefits, but they just soak in it, they don't drink it. I assume at some point they quit drinking the lithium water, but I wonder if people soak in those springs today?

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    1. Good question -- I'll ask my cousin. She lives not far from there and would surely know if the springs are still open to the public.

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  15. Got a good laugh from this one! A remedy for all those maladies! All in one drink!

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    1. Yeah, who wants to be bothered with nervous dyspepsia?

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  16. Cheers, here's to drinking fine water! Very interesting I enjoyed it and once again you have family included too! Great family photo too.

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    1. Thanks Karen. If I'm going to write, I want to include something about the family. Then I feel like I've accomplished something.

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    2. I am with you Wendy. Struggling with the next couple of weeks prompts though!

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    3. Sharon, I have next week's done -- pretty easy once I stopped focusing on the woman in the prompt. But the week after -- man, that's a different story!

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  17. I hadn't heard of those springs before. I love the bear trademark.

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    1. Yeah -- much better than those silly dancing bears in the whiskey ad!

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  18. The best tasting water comes straight off the granite rocks of the Sierra Mountains. Crisp, cold, & delicious! One must be careful about consuming lithium in any form. Yes, it can help alleviate depression, but if you stop drinking or taking it, the opposite happens. Been there, done that, & it's no fun!

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    1. Your Sierra water sounds delightful and is making me thirsty. I hope you didn't think I was recommending everyone run out and stock up on lithium. No telling what those springs are like today.

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  19. I like the bear trademark too! I've just googled Lithium, as you do...lazy I know BUT for what it's worth it does say in the Wikipedia article that "any of several lithium salts has proved to be useful as a mood-stabilizing drug in the treatment of bipolar disorder, due to neurological effects of the ion in the human body." - so there you go, they might have been on to something.

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    1. Maybe so -- they did seem to be a happy bunch.

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  20. Ah.. the health benefits are hilarious. I did not know you could get gravel in your bladder. I love the photo of the drivers with their trucks. They almost look like a stylized chorus line. Fun post, as always.

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    1. I know -- I found myself just loving the sound of "nervous dyspepsia."

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  21. Wendy, really liked your post on Lithia water. Our little town of Ashland also has a spring of lithia water. One of the locals form of entertainment is to watch the tourist spit and sputter when they take a swig of lithia water at the fountain in the plaza.

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    1. HA -- it's always fun to watch tourists experience what the locals take for granted.

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  22. I glad it wasn't originally Bear. I wondered about that.

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  23. Nicely matched once again Wendy. It always makes me wonder how tge advertisers of old got away with listing so many ailments as being cured by their product. I expect what we now know as the placebo effect had something to do with it.

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