Sneed’s Sulphur Springs History

Three quarters of a mile south and half mile west of Creal Springs is a black sulphur spring flowing into a small stream beside the road. It was around this spring, with its hydrogen-sulphide odor, that the village of Sulphur Springs was located. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries trappers and hunters discovered this spring. They told of it in settlements and people became interested because sulphur water was a cure for many ills. Many fur traders testified to the healing power of the strong scented water.

People came for some distance to the spring. First the sick and their kin camped at the spring. A tavern was built there in 1840.

Levi B. Casey opened a post office in his store September 22, 1846 and gave the village the name of Sulphur Springs. This hamlet became the medical center of Southern Illinois. It had a large hotel with a bathhouse in which one could get a mineral bath. Doctors F.G. Clark, John J. Graham and N.S. White practiced medicine in Sulphur Springs. There was a large drugstore owned jointly by the three physicians. There was a tavern where one could receive meals, lodging and whiskey. There were about 40 houses and a population of over a hundred.

The tavern was less sophisticated than the hotel. It was often a place of overdrinking and occasional brawls. Gun play flared up occasionally. One young man was shot and killed in the tavern in the late 1860s. The argument was over who would take a young lady home. One man was killed and another seriously wounded in a gun battle in the tavern in the 1860s. The argument was over politics; one was a Republican and the other a Democrat.

The farm of Edward G. Creal joined the village on the north. Creal began investigating the springs on his farm and discovered they contained iron, magnesium, and other valuable minerals. Creal plotted off lots, built a hotel and named his town Creal Springs. The doctors moved from Sulphur Springs to Creal Springs, taking their drugstore with them. Sulphur Springs Post Office was moved to Creal Springs and the name changed to conform to the new village, February 8, 1883. Creal Springs overshadowed Sulphur Springs and it melted away.

Today the tavern building stands. It is the farm home of a Webb family. Ray Heart owns most of the land where Sulphur Springs stood. The public well is now at the end of Mr. Heart’s barn. It is still used for the Heart’s water supply for livestock. The sulphur spring is choked with mud and debris but it still flows into the small stream, leaving its worm-like sulphur deposits on twigs and stones. Sulphur Springs is now farmland.

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(Ghost Towns of Southern Illinois, by Glenn J. Sneed, published 1977)