All Things Stewart Mineral Springs
Mystery of the
a sideways look at
by Stuart R. Ward
volunteer Stewart Springs assistant manager 2000-2002; work/trade bathhouse plunge-keeper 1999-2014; withdrew support late 2017
"If you would understand anything, observe its
beginning and its development." -- Aristotle
"...the past is never truly past...it is always tugging up both
its treasures and its tragedies and carrying them insistently into the future."
(note: if on computer and page appears with ginormous images, it's a temporary glitch in search engine listings beyond Google. Manually re-enter site address to view in proper computer format)
Ever wonder why there's never been a book written about so rare a place as Stewart Mineral Springs? On hearing snippets of its colorful history you'd think surely there must be one out there, but no.
After a fair amount of sleuthing and deduction, many likely reasons surfaced. In course of telling, scraps of history that were unearthed are shared here for a crazy-quilt journey through Stewart Springs's elusive past -- a most singular, circuitous, sometimes tragic one -- that's brought it to be the way it is now.
Writer can't claim total objectivity; it's said such a thing is impossible, anyhow. Though trying to avoid over-coloring facts with personal, strong-felt takes borne of former deep-insider involvement, sometimes found effort a losing battle.Attempted to corral most subjective writing within editorial sidebars so readers wanting only to glean factual history of place can scroll past to gain a relatively rant-free understanding of that super-natural healing realm, until recently long cleverly disguised as a rustic spa retreat.
Few Written Records
For starters, in the early 1850s far west region was super remote when Henry Stewart, in dire straits, was brought up to the Springs by natives taking pity on him. There obviously weren't people around in pioneer days to document the place's evolution, as in more populous regions, or areas that later became populous. Result: to this day there's a pronounced lack of published source material from which to cobble together an even half-way thorough history of the Springs.
Many invaluable historic records, writings and photos that almost certainly did exist no doubt perished in the fire of July 4, 1948 that destroyed the on-grounds home of founder Stewart's daughter, Katy Stewart Lloyd, and her late husband, former Weed barber and British immigrant Edward Lloyd. They'd been managing operation wcwe since her father'a passing in 1914. (His story to come.)
Fire may well have devastated her so much that she lost heart to continue
service operations much longer. She'd already lost her only offspring, Stewart Lloyd, a year after her husband, in 1941, likely a World War Two casualty. Maybe she'd been thinking of retiring anyhow. In any event, she would divest of the place a few years later.
Born in 1880 a few years after her father bought the Springs land, bespectacled Mrs. Lloyd was 68 at the time of the fire -- age her Jersey-born mom, Julia Newman Stewart, passed in 1911. She herself would live to be 92, possibly learning through channels how the Goodpasture family in early 1970s had rescued place from what true healing spa fans considered inappropriate use of place once assuming their 11-year stewardship. (Their story later)
After the grounds fire, dedicated momentum was likely lost and dashed any possible plans to pen some account of her California pioneer father's colorful life and the mystical healing springs to which he devoted his remaining 39 years.
see old newspaper article about fire (check index and scroll down)
Factual Side Story
One Vexed Vanderbilt
George Vanderbilt, son of robber baron Cornelius Vanderbilt, was interested in spas and living in the area. After the fire he offered Katy pots of gold for place. He felt every respectable gazillionaire should have his own rustic mineral spring, a then-fashionable bauble among the uber-wealthy. He no doubt thought it a fire-sale offer she couldn't refuse.
She knew he'd close the place down to public and turn it into private playground retreat for the rich and famous -- as his opulent estate on second-choice site a half-mile down road, built in 1949 for $250,000, would indeed become.
In the 1950s and 1960s he reportedly hosted such notables as Harry S Truman, Clark Gable, Alan Ladd, Audrey Hepburn, Spencer Tracey, Van Heflin, Ginger Rogers and John Wayne, one imagines at least some of them must've taken the waters, maybe at special off hours time, grounds being only short ways uphill. (If known for sure, one could've posted signs like "Audrey Hepburn Soaked Here" outside various tubrooms.) Van Heflin's daughter, Katy, visited with dad as a girl and reported finding Vanderbilt a most disagreeable man.
In 1990, Vanderbilt's widow, Louise,then living in Hilo, Hawaii, sold the place for $1.9 million. The mansion burned down in the night January 3rd, 2012 on the wings of new owner's restoration work, old faulty electrical wiring deemed likely culprit.
Wagonloads of shame
There are even fewer records than one might expect, due to settlers' and descendants' likely calloused feelings and shame over hell-bent campaign during 1870's peak of racial/cultural intolerance to wipe out region's First Nations people. The latter heard white man's war drums after being accused of widespread violence when likely it was only stray renegade or two involved in an isolated tragic incident that sparked primitive blood lust and resolve to be rid of them all.
Tribal members sought refuge by fleeing to their hallowed medicine grounds, a place of peace and healing for time untold, where even warring tribal members left weapons on hillsides and soaked under truce. Those unable to get away from outnumbered, out-armed forces that soon found them there, or who chased them down as far away as Castle Lake, were duly massacred. Such a despicable legacy didn't exactly lend the place any subject to wax nostalgic about in hidebound regional-history annuals like the Siskiyou Pioneer.
It's likely Henry got wind of the extermination plan, and while refusing to have anything to do with it, he was no doubt powerless to stop it. One story has it that secret advance warning of the imminent attack leaked out, at least enabling warriors to steel themselves (or, possibly, hoping there was no need to, being sanctuary land) and reportedly spirit women and children to safety across valley to near present-day Carrick Addition off Highway 97 the a few miles north of the town of Weed.
If true, perhaps it was Stewart who got word to the peoples who a generation earlier had very possibly saved his life. In any event, the ensuing horrific slaughter around current resort grounds cast a long and deep shadow over the once peaceful and sacred place.
Metaphysical thinking holds that psychic residues of the tragic energies of massacre linger on the spot to this very day on the subtle, lending the place its at times somewhat eerie, almost mournful, vibe, crimping any fuller healing potential. It has no doubt directly contributed to the unfortunate tendency of various legal stewards to get so far off track with inappropriate operational schemes and dreams. hindering both the accessibility and ability of mindful visitors to any more profoundly tap into the realm's pronounced healing and rejuvenation properties.
Spring purists note that pursuing monetized and/or private-minded use of the land results not only in straitjacketing its potential to help greater humanity but also in slowing the healing of the grievous invisible scars yet festering on the land. (More on this below. Also Co-manager's exorcism story [top article], and towards end of More rants & Raves page.)
It's just water,
and the long and winding road
Natural healing methods like taking the waters fell out of fashion during 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. With advent of materialistic reductionist thinking, to medical science divorced from holistic awareness of nature's curative powers, water was just water. Any claims of health benefits by soaking and steaming and drinking mineral water were obviously pure poppycock, shameless attempts to fleece a gullible public and divert them from their own magic pills and eager blades.
Who'd want to read about such an obscure place anyhow? There was only the two-lane State Highway 99 until advent of 1950s' grand interstate highway system. Unpaved before 1960s, Stewart Springs Road's dirt surface no doubt discouraged all but more determined souls. It was paved when it was only due to a county supervisor's efforts after his ailing son was helped by visits to the waters; he felt the place worthy of easier access.
Historic phone number trivia: while well known that Native Americans called gold the yellow stone, less known is that in the 1950s the Springs's phone number prefix was YEllowstone (YEllowstone 8-7955) and YE converts to 93 in current Weed, California area's 938- prefix
Dizzying ownership turnover
over 28 years
Once place left dedicated Stewart family hands of 78 years from 1876 to 1954, there was frequent turnover of Springs owners, four, up to 1982:
- Sacramento Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge (15 years) - c. 1954-1969
- Group of three Weed, CA businessmen - (brief) c. 1969 - 1971
- Goodpasture family (11 years) - c.1971 - 1981
- Whitney couple (brief) c. 1981 - 1982
Before long holding by fifth post-Stewart owner, San Franciscan John Foggy -- from early 1982 through January 2016, some 34 years, over twice as long as any other post-Stewart holder -- either none of various owners were around long enough or had any inclination to absorb place's saga and pen a chronicle. Fragments of history were all we had -- and appears all we still have...that is, beyond oral histories passed down by tribes and possibly some elusive treasure-trove of diary journals buried and forgotten in bottom of an attic trunk in Eerie, Pennsylvania, or gathering dust in Smithsonian's vast basement storage acreage (Stray fact: it's said there's only room to display one percent of enormous holdings at any given time.)
Masons - first
A few years after refusing Vanderbilt's offer, Stewart's daughter, Katy, in astonishing move essentially gave the place away. In 1954, the Sacramento (CA) Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge, recipient of her largess, took over, so momentously ending the extraordinarily dedicated Stewart family service run.
She'd receive a modest $100/month stipend from Lodge and reportedly extracted a solemn promise from new stewards to keep the place forever simple and affordable for all who sought its curative waters and mystic land.*
* Siskiyou County Historical Society in May 2012 newsletter reported, in Sacramento Bee reprint, that "The Scottish Rite paid approximately $40,000 for the property." However, since Rite's own newsletter says the land was a gift grant to them, writer tends to believe their version, since a gift is only a gift if one doesn't pay for it. Maybe figure was new assessment value, made whenever property changes hands, and reporter assumed they'd paid that for it, masons having kept secretive terms of transfer, figuring it was nobody's business, and reporter never considering that someone might've actually given away the property.
She, like her father, no doubt believed it essential that operation of one of earth's powerful healing spots be kept simple, affordable and service-oriented. No room for get-rich-quick schemes, unseemly preoccupation ramping up revenue with lure of fancy lodgings and restaurant, or subsidizing cost of re-purposed, semi-private use of land by suffering sharing it with the public.
Only enough to cover everyday costs maintenance, live-on grounds manager's living expenses and modest salary, maybe a modest improvement or two now and then. Operations under the Stewarts, and later the masons, seemed to often run close to break-even or at a modest loss...apparently more or less acceptable to all concerned.
For the place was never about making money; it was dedicated to providing genuine, affordable purification and healing as a public service to benefit the greater good.
It was essentially a love of service, nonprofit-in-spirit enterprise, devoted to enabling city-choked travelers to rejuvenate in easily-accessible wild nature, roughing it, with only basic amenities provided, while focusing on detoxing, unwinding, and healing by nature's simple yet time-proven method.
"It's a 24-hour day. It's like a child - you're always caring for it, nurturing it, trying to make it better." -- Crystal Foggy, co-manager with sister Astra, 2004-5, daughters of former owner John Foggy
With Sacramento masons running the retreat from 1954 to 1969, lodge member couples drawn to the place themselves benefited from water treatments while living on grounds and managing the then seven-month open season spanning April Fools Day through Halloween.
Beyond hosting visitors at a then still uber-rustic retreat and providing bath and sauna treatments, they busied themselves in constructing new lodgings, like the row of present day apartments #1 - 6 running below the Cottage. (Still uncertain who built Cottage, or dorm units #7 - 10, for that matter, but it had to be either masons, following Weed investors, or Goodpastures. If anyone knows, please email.) Such lodging expansions enabled more to enjoy extended benefits of waters. A focused series of 21 daily baths was then recommended to turn around the more troubling maladies. see Masonic bulletin excerpts in Vintage News Articles
Synchronicity? Henry Stewart and his daughter each successively devoted 39 years of service to place. Stairway up to dorm rooms 7-10 above bathhouse, built by others long after their reigns, has, excluding later-added cement landing pad...39 steps.
In 1969, after some 15 years' operation, the masons sold the place for reasons unknown. Maybe they got tired of it not paying for itself any better do to a fitful visitorship and/or
< A-frame group lodging,
built with NFL earnings
managers got cabin fever and wanted to move on and no replacements could be found.
In any event, it was soon sold to a consortium of three local Weed, California businessmen: Joe Aquia and Fred Pillon (both of whom died about 2011), and head, former NFL football star Aaron Thomas, Jr. (Still kicking in Grants Pass,Oregon as of February 2021). He'd played tight end for the S.F. 49ers and New York Giants from 1961 through 1970.
And if new 'ownership' didn't, well, it was on them.
If so, fat lot of good it did. Besides immediately carving up acreage for own private vacation fiefdoms, there was talk by new 'owners' -- no doubt among other fantasies -- of turning place into a football training camp. (As not too far away, recently-resurrected Harbin Hot Springs was once long ago a boxers' retreat, stranger things have happened. Farmers downstream who'd divert water from creek might've earned extra money fishing out and returning errant throws bobbing their way into their onion fields.)
After 78 years of earnest straightforward dedication to healing under Stewarts, plus another 15 of what might be called dedication-lite by Masons, things got sketchy...fast.
While triumvirate did make improvements to aid in the enjoyment by public visitors during their tenure of 19 months, including building current cabins #13 - 17 (unplumbed until later owner), they also subdivided the land...legally lopping off the top and bottom quarters of former 40-acre parcel between themselves.
The A-frame house that's now rented to large groups (front shown two pictures up) was built as Thomas's own private vacation home, on topmost 10 acres separated out. To this day it remains a legally separate parcel from the main 20+ acre chunk, though has always been tacked on to larger piece in Springs property transfers.
What's known as Green Springs House just outside entrance gates, appearing as the Springs gatehouse or maybe a manager's residence, was in fact built as another private vacation home for another of the three. It too was legally separated out, becoming its own narrow ten acre slice of former Springs property.
In contrast to A-frame parcel, it wasn't ever tacked back onto rest of Springs property in future transfers, but stayed under different title. The massive gated wood fence built between it and rest of property -- and, much later, a surreal wire spanning high across creek with 'No Trespassing' sign weirdly swinging out over waters -- underscored the fact in no uncertain terms. In time the house became longtime home of 1970's co-owner Carol Goodpasture's sister, renowned polarity massage therapist Elizabeth Wagner (crossed over in 2012).
In the early 1980s it was briefly the leased residence of world-renowned Findhorn's Peter Caddy. He was then interested in possibly setting up a new kind of Findhorn, very possibly at Stewart Springs (then tenuously on the market at a speculative price), a teaching and retreat center of sorts, and did some workshop conferences on grounds. For reasons uncertain things never panned out. see Book Excerpts
What's now known as the Cottage, above apartment row #1-6, was possibly built by the third member and kept within the main parcel, its original dweller maybe agreeing to serve as caretaker for the occasional guests and running the bathhouse between enjoying one of the best sites on land bar none for enjoying the white noise water music, being located right above seasonally thundering creek.
In any event, on the subtle planes such divisive parceling out of of land could easily be viewed as having further handicapped the spirit of oneness of operation and any more holistic enjoyment of realm by more psychically attuned, awakened, or just naturally sensitive visitors.
Stewart family's pure intent to keep the place simple, essentially nonprofit, and dedicated to affordable healing and rejuvenation -- focus apparently more or less honored by the masons for as long as they ran it -- faded like a rose cut from life-giving roots the instant the masons (apparently) abdicated their stewardship trust.
It's an everlasting pity they couldn't have taken the time to find more suitable buyers, ones who'd naturally want to keep alive the essential dedicated focus of honoring the land by running a
good-karma, benevolent public service...rather than one going off the deep end on inappropriate diversionary trips while copping the mundane attitude of, "Well, it's our property now; guess we can do with it whatever the heck we want...man oh man, the possibilities!"
Did the triumvirate -- or various other 'owners' following them through time -- perhaps consider the Stewarts fools for never having exploited the prime property for profit? Possibly. That, or assumed -- as have many of uninformed public -- that they'd merely been bumbling operators with no real head for business, and so never made the pace a viable going concern, when in fact (and as noted elsewhere), Henry Stewart was already a quite successful businessman from several related ventures.
He had no doubt bought and started the Springs retreat as a relaxing retirement service while living closer to nature again...a way of giving back after all his good fortune -- in the process acknowledging and honoring the earth wisdom and land reverence by the native culture, whose members decades earlier had possibly saved his life. His daughter and her husband appeared to have followed in the same attitude of gratitude, wanting to share the healing gift of the land and so dedicating themselves to affordably help serve ailing humanity in offering a simple, nourishing retreat in quiet, unassuming manner amid the blessings of wild nature.
Maybe over time the masons came to resent being saddled with such a remote operation. Possibly it had become something of a white elephant, sapping lodge's energy, focus, and funds...and, again, they simply wanted to be shut of it after the latest caretakers/operators had burned out on the uber-rural scene.
Possibly the actual masonic members reportedly said to have made a solemn vow to Stewart's daughter Katy to forever preserve and perpetuate her family's 78-year service mission had by then died or retired...and current heads just didn't feel any of the same solemn responsibility to continue honoring the given trust.
That, or, for all anybody really knows for sure, maybe she'd simply told them to just do the best they could, for as long as they could, crossing her fingers and hoping for the best, that it might thus remain locked in to offering the public simple but high-minded service in perpetuity.
One might've wondered if she or her British-American husband had ever considered making the place a legal nonprofit service operation. Or at least encouraged masons to pursue such a change in order to lock in protection, guaranteeing the healing realm would never be used for anything else. If so, maybe she'd concluded any such legal move was unnecessary in an age when one's word was their sacred bond and so there was no need to pay any high-priced lawyer for a convoluted paper chase that would've likely required spelling out in exacting terms how to run what had always been a super relaxed, old-timey operation.
It's likewise unknown exactly why the three Weed businessmen didn't make a longer go than their 19 months. Maybe they'd snapped up the place cheap, a bargain they couldn't resist, then were never quite sure what to do with it beyond making speculative improvements while enjoying place for themselves awhile in newly-built vacation homes before reselling for a presumably tidy profit once things got old and they itched for new financial ventures.
It's fairly safe to assume they were never as a whole keen on running some quaint old bathhouse. Maybe they'd hoped to get place to pay for itself by becoming more of a rustic resort and less a mineral spa retreat, lodging becoming the central attraction through building the five hillside rental cabins plus their own larger structures. Then maybe one or more ultimately felt a tad guilty for breaking up the tea set, as it were, realizing the place had been such a historic operation that after all it deserved to be kept going by parties that could actually get into running a rural healing spa retreat like the founding pioneering family.
Or, again, being practical businessmen, it's possible they'd all simply agreed beforehand to flip it within a certain time frame...all too willing to part with it to the first comer down the pike plunking cash down on the barrel head.
In any event, as fate would have it they sold it to a party that to date came the closest to honoring the land by resurrecting the original love-of-service spirit and healing energies of the realm.
Grand Goodpasture Era
Far and away, the most colorful and thriving post-Stewart ownership reign unfolded when Carol and Winston Goodpasture's family arrived to take the helm in early 1970s.
They'd moved up from South Pasadena in Southern California on the tidal wave of late 60's-early 70's rebirth in natural healing ways and popular resistance to oppressive forces wherever they lurked. It was a season of miracles. Visionary thinking held that those rarefied times were no less than Infinite Spirit giving all receptive lucid, super-technicolor previews of coming attractions of a planet transformed. Carol said she felt guided to the place. They called the A-frame home. (Unknown if they felt unaccountable urges to watch NFL games.)
During those purple haze days, the Springs enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, becoming something of a relative earthly paradise by some accounts of longtime locals. Upbeat steward-resident family graciously hosted visitors to immaculate grounds, zenned-out bathhouse operation and plentiful natural food in grounds restaurant that they reported built, all at friendly prices. They did the same in City of Mt. Shasta once building another restaurant building there that would eventually become the current Lalo's.
Revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom either asked or was invited to do regular full-moon sacred sweat lodge ceremonies on a spot just above the bathhouse, thus beginning a tradition that lasted some 45 years, eventually becoming a weekly Saturday sweat...until December 2017, when present 'ownership' effectively told them to leave, claiming otherwise prohibitive fire/liability rider would be tacked onto new insurance policy that the lodge couldn't even begin to cover.*
There wasn't a car bridge much (any?) of the time. Everyone parked on upper road and approached bathhouse across covered the foot bridge spanning Parks Creek, once known as Angels Bridge. Carol sometimes greeted newcomers there with cup of cold mineral water to drink and start healing regimen -- if one could accept mild sulfur taste. Drinking mineral water was traditionally deemed as important as immersing in and breathing in the steam from the waters.
What was until about 2014 the main bathhouse parking area back then offered inviting soft grass for clothing-optional sunbathing and picnicking.*
Further decline & fall of
The Goodpastures' divorce -- there was trouble in paradise after all -- prompted a hasty selling of the place in 1980. They obviously were in no mood to write any book (or "How my Husband Merrily Blew My Fortune" might've been the title). The Springs had the misfortune of being 'sold' to a couple, the Whitneys, who either didn't appreciate treasure, know how to care for it, and/or seriously lacked any means to. They weren't good for the $300,000. balance due soon after initial $30,000. down apparently exhausted their ready resources.
Was Whitney related to S.F.'s Sutro Baths owner George Whitney?
Pure speculation here, but... wonder if ephemeral Springs 'owner' Robert Whitney was any relation to San Francisco brothers Robert and Leo Whitney, who at various times owned and ran The City's Ocean Beach Playland-at-the-Beach, the Cliff House...and the famous Sutro Baths.
Whitney, The City's "Barnum of the West," purchased the place and attempted rescue of the renowned but perennially money-losing Sutro Baths operation after Sutro's death, keeping it going a few decades more (thus enabling writer to enjoy roaming the fanciful, sprawling realm during carefree youth), before throwing in one of ten thousand towels stocked for the masses who never came.
Later-day Robert Whitney connected with John Foggy in San Francisco, where Foggy was based.
Combine these facts and curiosity's aroused. Granted, Whitney's not that uncommon a name, but one can't help wondering if perhaps Springs's defaulting Whitney owner was a grandson or some such to regionally prominent Whitney family. If so, and in the genes as it were, he'd perhaps become irresistibly drawn to rescue yet another historically famous but financially-indifferent bathhouse operation, this time one at top of state and tucked up in the woods, but lacked the wherewithal to succeed.
If true, it would further solidify place's historic San Francisco connection, as back in the day visitors flocked to Stewart's from the Bay Area, taking a train up for grand outing in wilds of state's sparsely populated northern region (or to nearby Dunsmuir's Shasta Springs). If not, it's still a good story.
San Francisco's Foggy
(well of course it is)
It's rumored the floundering Whitney couple actually tried to get mafia financing at some point for the looming hefty balance due.They finally snagged last-minute investment loan from San Francisco entrepreneur John Foggy.
Foggy no doubt sensed business opportunity if the couple defaulted, as it must've seemed very possible they would.
In less than two years, during which time the over-their-heads (and reportedly bit whacked-out) couple let place go to wrack and ruin, they indeed gave up on their misguided efforts, threw in towel, and the place went into foreclosure.
Foggy promptly snapped up the property at county auction for $20,000. He was basically buying the place from himself, obviously not about to lose his investment. He thus became absentee owner for next 34 years, until early 2016. Hereby put to rest are rife rural legends how he picked the place up for a song on the county courthouse steps or won it in some high-stakes poker game -- unless one considers original speculative investment a poker hand of sorts, and, as it turned out, an incredibly long one. (More on Foggy years later.)
Pioneer Henry Stewart
According to 1890 census reports, founder Henry S. Stewart stood six feet even and was a blue-eyed gent. He came out west in 1851 on wings of California gold rush in his early twenties, no doubt seeking fortune, fame, and adventure.
He had trekked from northeastern Pennsylvania's coal-barging canal hometown of Honesdale, newly built to help sate New York City's voracious fuel appetite. For historic perspective, the year he was born, 1827, was mere year after July 4, 1826 deaths of U.S. founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson (famously on nation's 50th anniversary).
Arriving in California by oxen wagon via Salt Lake City, after possibly first giving gold panning a try he found himself exploring the top of the state. The story goes that natives secretly watched him exhausting himself futilely trying to get his heavy-laden wagon unstuck from the mud. They took pity on him after he keeled over in total prostration and faced possible death (winter conditions?) if not rescued. They carried him up to their sacred mineral waters sanctuary to soak in healing waters made hot by throwing in rocks super-heated in fire, similar to sweat lodge heating method still used today.
He credited the healing waters along with their kind ministrations for saving his life.
Stewart returned East during American Civil War years in first half of 1860s. (Undetermined whether or not he enlisted, as so many Henry Stewarts of Pennsylvania did.) He came back in late 1860s, sailing around Horn this time, with new wife, Julia Newman, plus milling equipment. He then reportedly started the region's first grain mill in Edgewood and over time prospered through milling, farming, cattle ranching and dairy.
Long after having been cured by mineral springs on first visit and becoming a staunch believer in waters' healing powers, after lengthy legal delay he purchased Springs from the federal government in 1875. Apparently there'd been some dispute whether it was indeed government land or rather land given away by government to Central Pacific Railroad as part of incentive to build the rail line.
Such further contentious energies present around founding of the charitable enterprise might linger on the subtle as well to metaphysical thinking, further hobbling place's fuller potential as a genuine healing retreat...until such karma's fully erased by a full-tilt, long-term dedication to provide the greater public with compassionate purification, healing, and rejuvenation service once again, as in the days of of old.
< Poster from unknown year. maybe 1910s.
Note exorbitant bath price!
His was a labor of love, pure and simple. A fulfilling retirement gig, perhaps, at age 46. (While this doesn't sound old today, average lifespan then was considerably shorter.)
With no interest in making the retreat any sort of cash cow, happy to break even or subsidize operation costs when need be, he and family between themselves dedicated 78 years to fostering affordable rural retreat for purifying, healing, and peaceful recreation (apart from possibly killing non-human residents for sport, that is) amid wild alpine surroundings, with often-lively Parks Creek coursing its merry way through.
Trivia: Henry Stewart's middle name was Stella. Back then it wasn't uncommon to honor female family member by bestowing name into male's.
Resourceful, self-made millionaire, John Foggy, becoming the fifth post-Stewart family (absentee) steward for some 34 years, had likely never before dealt with such an operation...one whose bottom line -- very reason for existence, even -- was, historically, NOT to generate profit, but rather to offer affordable purifying, healing and retreating as a benevolent public service. While the two post-Stewart owners before him had tried making a go of things, the operation was still world's away from gaining any real commercial viability.
What to do with such a philanthropic oddity? Re-sell it? Or -- as he did after briefly putting it on market and intuiting from ready responses that the place was undervalued and perhaps worthy of building up as a long-term investment -- figure a way to make it a going concern.
To his everlasting credit, while indeed aiming to build place up to be a profit-generating mineral springs resort, one which would take it further away from the original spirit of Stewart's good-karma enterprise, he was at least open-minded enough to allow clothing-optional during last 16 years of ownership. And had the wisdom to keep place's historic and quaint rustic charm intact -- even if (dubiously) adding to it obliquely by building the neo old-fort entrance (see below. And, despite occasional grumbling, let by-then weekly Karuk sacred sweat lodge ceremonies continue doing their thing on the spot above the bathhouse weekly.
A future Frommers Guide would call the place "...one of the most unusual health spas in California."
Of course, Foggy wasn't always an absentee 'owner.' Early on he came up and stayed in the A-frame with his family on working vacations. Future co-managing daughters Crystal and Astra reported having fond childhood memories of the place. He no doubt tuned into the grounds, sussing possibilities and brainstorming ways to upgrade it into a more upscale rustic springs resort, hoping to attract a broader variety of visitors beyond the then-limited base of natural healing devotees and often thin-spending countercultural trekkers.
Over time he'd produce radio and TV ads using management personnel. Manager Mary Hildebrand's front office manager mom, Pat, reportedly offered folksy pitches ala Motel 6 chain's Tom Bodet. (And, also like Motel 6, management had staff turn porch light on before leaving for home if a guest planned on arriving after nightfall.)
Side Story: Iconic, Ironic Fort Entrance
One dramatic change: building the wooden faux fort entrance that to this day greets visitors, replete with massive plank gates, iron bracing, and crenelated watch towers. Impressionable no doubt half-expect to see towers manned.
It possibly strikes some as a misplaced movie set from a '50s western, or a bygone bizarre attempt to create a rural Frontierland amusement park out in the boonies. One unlikely story has it that it was created to hopefully somehow attract investment interest from Hollywood.
Then, too, it's possible the absentee steward appreciated how John Wayne and other westerns film stars formerly visited a mile down the hill at Vanderbilt mansion and perhaps thought it a fitting symbolic tribute to frontier times of retreat founder Henry Stewart. Be that as it may, massive gates did serve to help protect grounds from vandals, thieves, and would-be squatters, as place always closed for winter until late 1999.
Entrance stands as supreme irony on one level: Old West forts were built to protect white men from marauding red men who refused to abandon their deep-rooted homelands, while natives ran to sacred springs seeking king's x's refuge from marauding white men determined to exterminate them. Some, especially Native Americans, might view entrance note as more than a tad historically insensitive -- if not plumb nuts -- appearing as it does to be symbolically protecting Native Americans' ancestral healing grounds from themselves. Say what?
In any event, entrance is a mind-boggler for every first-timer:
"Now entering Fort Stewart, safe at last! Let our cavalry help you find respite from slings and arrows of modern times by enjoying our refreshing spa. (Kindly check any attitudes at front office.)"
Managements under Foggy reign:
Early 1980s thru 2016
Having other, larger businesses to run -- Foggy reportedly once held custodial contracts for every U.S. Air Force base west of the Rockies -- he switched operations to macro-management, hoping to build it up as going concern by relying on modestly-paid, living-on-grounds managers' business acumen and creative innovations -- all within his hardnosed guidelines, of course. He told them that since he lived so far away and would seldom visit, they should act as if they owned the place in order to gain the best sense of what likely needed to be done to increase business. Of course, any illusion of owning it often clashed with reality as place straggled by with fitful, small staff working on starvation budget.
He'd apparently often flirted with the idea of selling it -- reportedly soliciting offers, then withdrawing from market once essentially getting real-life appraisals (and possibly having a few almost-sells). Hollywood action Hollywood actor Steven Seagal, for instance, once made a ridiculously low counter-offer on the place -- reportedly about $60,000 -- that was rejected out of hand.
Again, this led to an epidemic of false rumors of some mysterious new owner having snapped up the place every time a new manager appeared at the front office desk displaying pronounced proprietary airs. (Absentee owners, it seems, all too easily cause such faulty assumptions. Over the decades, reviewers frequently referred to place's hired managers as the actual owners -- still do -- when, of course, they're only employees doing the absent owner's bidding.)
He finally DID let go of operation, on January 19, 2016, after 34 years of alternately sitting on place and building it up. (His daughter, two-year co-manager Crystal, had earlier passed on offer to take over the place permanently as not her cup of tea.)
For how much? Trip to county court house where it's public information revealed that place went for $US 2.6 million.
Foggy managers over years:
~ (Earliest managers unknown)
~ Couple: Susie Frank and Joe Helweg, lived on grounds, 11 years, 1989-1999
~ Mary Hildebrand, Susie's cousin, five years, 1999-2004 (died 2004), lived 12 miles away, both tenures with Susie's and Mary's mothers, CeCi and Pat respectively, taking turns managing front office
~ Foggy's daughters Crystal and Astra (latter lived on grounds in Cottage), two years, 2004-2006
~ Couple: Ted Duncan, 2006-2015, ten years; (died 2015); and wife Rowena Pantaleon, 12 years, 2006-2017; lived on grounds in Cottage much of time until Ted's passing, then mostly remote managing last two years for new 'ownership' from distant home
(see story of 1989-2005 family management and writer's eventual role in it in second tale of Something about Mary)
Warning: Long opinionated sidebar. Scroll past if of no interest
New, still inappropriate 'ownership' focus
Will place ever get it right again?
As most everyone knows by now, Springs finally got its first new 'owners' in ages. Title transferred January 19, 2016. Individual names are unknown to writer (which fact speaks volumes).
As mentioned, vague rumors of new 'ownership' were rife over decades, resulting every time some officious new front desk manager appeared. Many visitors apparently couldn't distinguish between absentee 'owner' and various managers
hired by them who must, in absence of owner, ACT as though they 'own' the place. Perhaps notion of proprietor not being there or at least popping in now and then to mingle with guests was -- and remains -- too weird and unsettling a reality to willingly wrap one's mind around.
New Pneuma-Institute-involved 'owners' live as far away as L.A., Mexico and South America -- making for way-y absentee 'ownership' indeed. (And one thought San Francisco was a far piece.) New grounds management only coalesced two years after sale, again, old manager Rowena P. having stayed in charge two years past legal property transfer, acting mostly by remote from Chico, California, hundreds of miles away, relaying new 'owners'' policy changes for grounds' rubber-stamping staff to follow rigorously, no questions asked:
We want to cut down all those hillside trees... (?) well, okay. Tell people they can't skinnydip anymore... ya gotta be kidding! -- okay, okay, don't get your undies in a bunch... Sign this nondisclosure agreement if you want to keep your job... jeesh...well, okay (something's really fishy here, but hell, it's a paycheck...)
Long before sale to present 'owners', a hidden microphone was craftily planted in office by old management. It was aparently done, among other reasons like security, to try to nip in the bud any staff member who dared grumble about sometimes-draconian marching orders. Mic seemed to continue serving much the same function with new 'absentee stewards.' It worked to keep any office staff from talking out of school, as it were, those inclined to commiserate with dumbfounded longtime visitors, without dire consequence once sea-level operational changes methodically began gutting the former unassuming benevolent spirit of the place.
At least one office worker was fired as a result (Had planned to quit anyhow, unable to deal with unfolding nightmare).
Is that spooky or what? Writer suspected such a device existed long before 'owner' change, ever since a personal incident. One day no sooner had I started voicing bit of constructive criticism in office (as was my wont) to front desk Linda Boyle's sympathetic ear*, than suddenly head manager Rowena rushed in out of nowhere for no apparent reason, trying to act all nonchalant standing there looking about, the very picture of (feigned) innocence.
* Sad to report, office manager Linda and husband Joe, vital SMS handyman for many years, lost everything but their lives in tragic fire a few years after retiring to Paradise, California, site of state's devastating 2018 Camp Fire.
More sensitive visitors, especially those treasuring memories of mellower times, might almost have surreally felt that some springs gestapo had abruptly taken over the place. The same basic thing happened after Foggy bought place in early 1980s before later mellowing, as related further on. see new owner article
'Owner' change at first seemed so pregnant with possibility. Writer had optimistically hoped it would prove a golden opportunity to finally redeem the legacy of the pioneer founding family and fully re-activate the healing spirit of the land. New ostensible stewardship was, after all, involved in quasi-spiritual field, and before sale had reportedly told manager that they basically liked the place just the way it was. (see home page). Of course, it's possible this was only a fabricated story to keep the natives from rebelling until she was safely out of the picture.
It had surely seemed a golden chance to re-dedicate place and fine-tune operation to affordable, profound purifying, healing and rejuvenation, in process drawing in renewed involvement of wider community with all its varied talents, skills, and resources. Place could've become a thriving cultural healing center for community, local, national and global.
Sadly, time has obviously proven new absentee stewards were not the least bit interested in keeping place 'just the way it was.' For they'd apparently only been biding their time, all the while busy spinning private-minded, diversionary plans. Soon enough they proved their intent to SERIOUSLY change the operation, essentially re-purposing it to suit their own conservative organization's private shtick and mindset.
Apparent aim: revamping visitor base to Spring-unsavvy traffic (at least for a while) to better support outfit's psychoanalytical shtick, the public effectively defraying 'rental' cost to have place also serve as their Pneuma world headquarters (they have branches in several countries). Plus, of course, enable its various groups and family members to enjoy the place for themselves from time to time as their own little shangri-la.
Forget any altruistic, unassuming effort to provide general public with former 100% dedicated, genuine, affordable healing spa and simple lodging for longer enjoyment and benefit. Forget the spa, period.
Gone with the wind...at least for a while.
Spring-purist visitors on finding the cornerstone of the progressive spa atmosphere, clothing-optional, suddenly verboten, plus sacred sweat lodge kicked off land, viewed changes as little more than place having, tragically, morphed into no less than some ersatz, convention-bound, watered-down tourist trap with weird commercialized new-age overtones.
One would think that over $26,000 a year in county property taxes to scrape together would've provided incentive to stay with proven formula that was solidly supported by longtime, loyal customer base. But they seem to have made a gamble they could in time generate more (and be more comfortable) with an entirely different visitorship, so blew off the huge bohemian-leaning base, whose support, again, was largely responsible for putting operation well into the black in recent times -- possibly for the first time in its long history.
That, or they had intended all along to segue place into becoming their own thing, callously indifferent to the general public and legion of former fans, and were resigned to the high 'rent' for having legally taken over the place to suit their own private-minded purposes, willing to risk or were resigned to place becoming a perpetual money pit...or had finagled some convoluted tax write-off.
As related on home page, soon after new actual-on-grounds management arrived in December 2017 on wings of 'ownership' board members' visit, place's sporadically powerful medicine wheel ground to a screeching halt. They'd thrown a boxful of monkey wrenches into it when essentially kicking out the sweat lodge and erasing the springs gazebo love and prayer offering altar, all on top of a year earlier scrapping old-management unsupported but 'owner'-okayed, wildly popular clothing-optional policy of long 17 years' standing.
No great surprise, visitor volume tanked overnight.
Misguided changes obviously mark a grievous crimp in place's healing energy and precipitous decline of place as the tenuously open-minded, service-focused healing refuge it had so unassumingly been for ages.
Place had lost every cultural touchstone that had helped make it the extraordinarily popular place it was in recent decades.
Actions utterly devastated myriad former supporters. Sweat lodge was deep tradition at springs, keeping alive spirit of thriving cultural diversity, including -- critically -- original pre-white-man descendants' tapping the natural medicine of sacred grounds, in ritual connecting participants with prehistoric roots of American land.
Gazebo altar reflected heartsong of grateful visitorship and enabled thoughtful, spontaneous sharing. And clothing-optional policy was crucial, to many people's way of thinking, to foster most profound, enjoyable and effective purification regimen...lest spa experience feel like taking a bath with your clothes on. It showed compassion for humanity in allowing one to more readily heal through experiencing deeper communion with nature and one another (who are, of course, and, lest one forget, as much a part of nature as the trees and water and deer and bears).
Current woefully inappropriate intent, again, seems to be bound and determined to totally re-purpose place...to serve, among other things, as academic teaching center for practicing therapy professionals to gain extra credentials, enabling one to add transpersonal psychology methodology to tool chest and hang yet another framed certificate on wall to gather dust and reassure patients paying small fortunes for long-term psychotherapy that their money's well spent.
Stripping out former vibrant, bohemian-leaning culture to accommodate buttoned-down mindset and super-structured, clinical approach to healing patients in distant cities obviously alienated myriad long-time Springs aficionados to point of de-facto boycotting place en masse.
Countless fans around the world soon refused to support the place as run.
Prayers are for appropriate future ownership to rescue realm after anticipated abysmal failure of current misguided effort to mindlessly alter place to serve private psychology shtick -- one that in so many ways can't begin to hold a candle to mother nature's own simple effective ways to dramatically uplift and reintegrate body-mind-spirit. (One of ostensible central goals of Pneuma approach...ahem.)
In short, action is seen as too bizarre for words. It's a severely unacceptable departure in light of how place has served for most of its 145 years as an affordable, public-friendly rejuvenating spa retreat. It's an abysmally misguided effort that time will almost certainly prove unsustainable.
Not that that would necessarily be the best solution. Perhaps better if future benefactor steward legally set up the place as a charitable nonprofit operation in perpetuity, as reportedly was done long ago at nearby Jackson Wellsprings in southern Oregon, and as did California's Harbin, creating the nonprofit Church of Heart Consciousness -- thus quashing any possible future inappropriate notions of would-be 'ownership' ever again trying to co-opt place to run in dubious variance from simple tradition: perennial public-minded dedication to providing affordable purifying, healing, and rejuvenating amid the glad tidings of nature.
Any so inclined former fans of place might bestir themselves and think of finding possible new benefactor(s) for place...ones both conscious and affluent enough to afford to 'buy' place if and when current 'owners' throw in towel, enabling Springs to become a good-karma operation once again...re-established as a nonprofit, perhaps eventually self-supporting --brainstorming ways regional community can plug into place, volunteering its diverse talents, ideas, and resources, at long last make place everybody's baby.
More synchronicity: amazing indication that universe is on our side is that said Harbin Hot Springs, one of the U.S. West Coast's most popular and free-spirited, clothing-optional spa facilities, busy rebuilding after devastating fire, re-opened on January 19, 2019 -- the same exact date that three years earlier new Stewart 'owners' took legal control. Some kind of grand neutralization effect in effect, perhaps?
(Stewart Springs History, cont'd)
in early 1980s
As noted, Whitney owner couple before Foggy let place go to wrack and ruin over short 20 month tenure -- a state it seemed to take decades to recover from. Some who remember halcyon Goodpasture days or momentous millennium-fever times might say it was still struggling to recover when latest ownership changed everything once again.
Of course, the former were euphoric times, the massive first flushes of humanity's latest cycle of spiritual re-awakening, replete with giddy possibilities after slumbering through abysmally dark and violent times.
Far easier to build positive energy flows with spiritual bar set so ridiculously low. Some hold that the early '60s marked spiritual low point in grand 26,000 year spiritual cycle and then the only way was up...that all the over-the-top psychedelic hippie hoopla only reflected a full-tilt, outsized celebration of a historically staggering cosmic moment.
The latter turn of the century period was a similar euphoric time, if nowhere near as earth-shaking, one that fostered wildly free, liberating notions like enjoying the spa, sunshine and creek non-encumbered by needless cloth if one so chose.
Place had earlier turned a hard 180 degrees from being a lighthearted bohemian oasis to murky wayward backwater -- even rednecky* -- leisure resort. No doubt nature spirits who'd once enchanted place fled in terror, no longer feeling loving kindness of humans resonating with land.
*In writer's first time in bathhouse in 1980s, encountered a rough, unkempt man slouching in chair behind desk, just hanging out and idly chewing the fat with another. Trying to get handle on new place and feeling totally lost at sea, sensing that chaos and confusion reigned supreme, for want of any better question I asked if he was the owner. "Wrong color," he snorted in contempt. (Absentee 'owner' was black.)
Findhorn's Peter Caddy &
French Chef Serge Margot discover Springs
There were fitful spiritual retreats and workshops, aided by nearby Mount Shasta's powerful metaphysical energies, calling forth healing forces to reactivate sanctuary's positive frequency -- notably in 1983-1984, when Peter Caddy of international Findhorn fame held workshops on grounds while living at Green Springs house outside fortress gate, and sussed possibilities of buying place, then tenuously on market, and creating a "New Findhorn" teaching center. see Book Excerpts
Unknown how long it lasted or why such a solid addition to place ended (if far from plant-based focus as befits any genuine radical-healing place); possibly inability to find right management for Springs as a whole. Or maybe Foggy tried upping lease into the stratosphere on wings of operation's roaring success. Anyway, building soon reverted to accustomed forlorn empty-building status. see Jenny Coyle's newspaper article.
Despite such extraordinary happenings at Springs, the overall trajectory of place was downhill, not enough abiding positivity to keep negativity from eclipsing and dominating scene in the long run. Too often visitors seemed more interested in hiding out in the country a spell, perhaps going on a bender, than in focusing on any silly purifying spa regimen.
While some indeed did keep coming to soak and sauna, others simply liked to get drunk off their butts in their rented cabins* -- or nurse a bottle of Jack Daniel's and puff stogie in the outdoor Jacuzzi outside office, thereby neatly accomplishing both at once. Until 2000, ashtrays were scattered throughout sundeck area -- even directly outside main massage room off deck, smoke drifting underneath door making getting relaxing massage a bit problematic. It seemed all for smokers' convenience lest, perish the thought, one started feeling too healthy. Rumored reports of a prostitution bust on grounds further scandalized place.
*As evidenced by surprising number of hard-liquor empties writer found in dumpsters during remedial recycling efforts in early 2000s as caretaker
History trivia: word 'SPA' was born as acronym for Latin phrase Salus Per Aquas, meaning "Health through water". Who knew?
Local free spirits briefly claimed place a de facto free hippie summer camp after then-gateless business operations ceased and personnel vanished between owners Whitney and Foggy. They were finally ordered off grounds by unpleasant ex-Marine packing a sidearm whom Foggy had brought in. It was felt by those who'd loved place for decades and remembered mellower times that once Goodpastures abandoned ship all the carefully built-up good will and loving care and open-minded, progressive spirit were destroyed wholesale. (Not unlike now; Springs history seems to be rhyming.)
Place went through scary times of lost vision -- sterling century-old track record tarnished like silver jewelry left on during mineral water soak. Things got so bad at one point that a hard-drinking custodian patrolled the grounds at night with double-barreled shotgun.
Seems place can be either heaven or hell, with precious little in between.
(see second Something about Mary story, in part about the dedicated 1989-2004 family management by cousins Suzy and Mary, mothers CeeCi and Pat, respectively, latter's sister Mary, plus longtime bath attendant in-law Linda, married to sisters' brother.)
Managers under Foggy had work cut out for themselves. They dealt as best they could on often over-tight budget. Managements over decades varied approaches from gracious benign neglect and micro-manged no-nonsense with spirited teamwork to chaotic macro management and near-anarchy with surreally casual hirings and capricious firings. Each according to owner and management intent, awareness, lifestyle, budgetary support of owner, management skill or lack thereof, and, of course, that major wild card, changing times.
Everyone pretty much flew by seat of their pants trying to revive the patient and get new -- hopefully profitable -- handle on institution, then seemingly ailing almost as grievously as young Henry had been a century and half earlier.
(History cont'd after sidebar)
Editorial esoterica sidebar
In metaphysical teaching, each calendar day has a unique blend of subtle yet pronounced astrological influences. Property officially changed hands January 19 (2016), a powerful prosperity day -- on all levels, not just material but spiritual and emotional as well. (As it turns out, it's birthday of no less than wild-child powerhouse singers Janice Joplin and Dolly Parton, and, in amazing synchronicity, January 19 (2019) was re-opening date of Harbin Hot Springs.) One might've hoped this would bode well for new, prosperous, feel-good Springs chapter.
Also though, Mercury was retrograde, which, oddly enough, can reportedly have positive effect on existing businesses, as truth is potentially brought to fore, giving chance to correct course and refine operation.
As time has revealed, this is not always case, especially for what had long been in spirit at least if not legally, a nonprofit charitable operation. And if well-centered, forthright, integrated intent is lacking at gate, then uncertain, potentially chaotic, and mentally confusing energies might seem inevitable result. Especially if harboring intentions at such drastic odds with Stewart Mineral Springs's long-dedicated reason for being, utterly betraying it.
Planetary influences might thus ultimately serve to make current ownership a brief one indeed.
New, ideally appropriate owner(s) might then rescue place and invite community to seriously plug in, sharing diverse talents, resources, and brainstorms, at last redeeming place's historic legacy, serving as down-home, affordable healing and rejuvenation mineral springs retreat that every true-blue lover of genuine spa retreats.
Stewart Springs History cont'd
It was a steep and rocky climb getting even tenuous positive energies back after place's first unscheduled detour through hell. This in part due to putting off countless needed repairs and upgrades until increased business volume could justify outlays -- or to avoid lawsuits over unsafe conditions. Example of latter: before car bridge was finally rebuilt, there were planks so rotten that a heavy person could've jumped down hard at one spot and conceivably crashed right through into creek. Situation was also in part due to elusive efforts to find fresh management not dragged down by inertia of place's sometimes-gnarly past, willing to work cheap and roll with owner's sometimes hard-nosed directives.
Just smelly water, revisited
After the Stewart family's 78-year tenure, spanning 1875 to 1954, each new 'owner' scrambled to re-define place according to their own lights. Even the most earnest efforts could be hampered by a faster-paced materialistic world that no longer gave credence to clear water. So little, there wasn't time, interest, or inclination to write any history of place -- one, again, so vested in such perceived quaint folk cure remedies that it was simply ignored, if not ridiculed, by more nature-alienated and unenlightened minds.
Crystal Foggy, during her brief general manager tenure along with older sister Astra, before, as said, deciding it wasn't her thing, had been interested in the idea of writing some book on the place. She'd recently graduated from San Francisco State University with a masters in international business and had various creative ideas kicking around. They implemented some during few-years tenure, including expanding office to include renovated gift shop, creating a wellness cabin, adding custom tile design work to office and changing-room floor, building new, wider stairway from sundeck to creek -- and a biggie, rebuilding and enlarging the sauna.
Rebirth of Sauna
Before Foggy sister managers Crystal and Astra flew off to Rio for Carnivale with brother in winter 2006, they told contractor John Monk to have the venerable but badly-aging old sauna torn out and a new, larger one up and running in its stead by time they got back one short week later. This involved among other things repurposing space of tub rooms #5 and 6 by tearing down walls and building new ones and LOTS of poured concrete.
Design spun on the fly, a local crew of ten-- including carpenters Ohbe and Lewis, stone mason Tony, and electrician Andy -- miraculously manifested it on time despite working with a foot of fresh-fallen snow on ground. Crystal brought back large heart-shaped double crystal that was worked into sauna's stone wall behind wood stove and backlit for a magical, slowly color-changing accent. (When daily programmed, that is; left to its own devices it soon began to flash like an over-caffeinated neon sign, driving sweaters hoping to relax nuts -- perhaps serving as a dead giveaway of the underlying over-commercial focus of the operation).
Crystal had considered separating noisy laundry room from bathhouse, as it detracted from soakers achieving any more serene state. At one point, discouraged by ailing infrastructure needing so much money constantly poured into it to bring it up to snuff, writer once heard her mutter, "Sometimes I think it'd be easier to tear the old place down and just start over."
On wings of sudden demise of longtime manager Mary Hildebrand in 2005, things were in too much upheaval with struggle to get grip on basic everyday operation to even think of taking on any such nonessential project like writing some history of the place. See something about Mary
Significantly, and closely related to earlier reason no book's ever been written, is an apocryphal American Indian curse -- one apparently attributed to many native-revered mineral springs, and almost certainly to Stewart's -- that white men never profit from wrested sacred healing grounds.
As droll wits pointed out, curse wasn't all-inclusive enough, as former 'owner' Mr. Foggy, black, indeed actually started turning decent profits (perhaps for first time in long Springs history). Towards end of tenure, he reportedly cleared over a quarter-million dollars a year. Of course, he'd sporadically plow loads of revenue back into improvements and upkeep like rebuilding car bridge, replacing bathhouse flooring, rebuilding stairways, installing new plumbing, creating new walking bridge below conference hall...
Add to original white 'owners' the longtime black remote steward, former yellow manager, new brown 'co-owners' and, of course, sweat lodge's and prehistoric red non-owners, and Springs might appear to be gaining some powerful harmonizing cultural rainbow energy for the most diverse, all-inclusive, global culture to flourish sometime in the not too distant future. see New Day Dawning
Tragic Lore: Renaissance rock star David Crosby's brother Ethan, also a guitar musician, once worked at Stewart's and later took his life, as did at least two other then-current or recent Springs employees, plus manager Mary H., all female. (None at property, small mercy.) Place's violent-legacy influence, maybe?
Curse or no, Mother Nature's protective elemental forces no doubt rebelled whenever man's covetous hopes for bountiful investment return by trying to cash in on special waters and natural environ superseded desire to serve and heal. Maybe natives, so rich in earth wisdom, didn't so much cast a curse as merely point out obvious. Obsession with accumulating yellow rocks and "dead frog skins" (paper currency) had inevitable consequences.
However, since there was such a hellacious effort by intolerant settlers, again, possibly stirred up and led by hired railroad guns, to wipe them out -- as fate would have it in and around long-established sacred healing ground -- there was almost undoubtedly one mighty curse cast. As mentioned elsewhere, many believe that angry ghosts of slain warriors served as enforcers by haunting grounds beyond time, casting dark shadows over the place and seriously crimping potential for healing visitors.
Psychic visitors with ability to sense presence of earthbound discarnates reported tuning in to incredibly hostile energies. One such gifted person, Sequoia, who earlier had to quit a hospital job for all the restless spirits encountered there, related to often being screamed at to go away during her bathhouse attendant work tenure. Understandably, she had trouble focusing on work.
Late revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom led exorcism of ancestral tribe's slain spirits from grounds on request for help from late co-manager Ted Duncan, who was having violent nightmares. Charlie's grandfather and father, then a boy, were spared massacre only because they were camped further up snake canyon (as they called it) during a weather hot spell. They heard prolonged gunfire and came down later to witness massacre's unspeakable aftermath.
Fast forward and Charlie was considered too sickly a child to bother trying to brainwash in culture-destroying boarding schools. He was left undisturbed at home to receive treasure trove of tribe's wisdom and ways. He would spend his life imparting special knowledge, spirit at one point telling him it was time to share sacred medicine with all who were respectfully interested. (Some tribal members strongly disapproved; to this day there's a serious split in Karuk circles -- new casino in Yreka is product of those not approving of his open sharing, nor of Walking Eagle's continuing sacred sweats that remain open to all earnest and respectful to sacred ways of the red road.)
Time and effort helped place get back to some semblance of healing grounds by more mindful modern-day 'owners.' But as it was long revered as sacred land, a mystical realm where even warring tribe members laid down their weapons and soaked together peaceably, it remains to this day ambitious climb to regain anything even remotely approaching original prehistoric scene -- one purely dedicated to purification, healing and rejuvenation in profound respect for nature and in complete harmony with it -- before greed and intolerance, frequent ugly handmaidens of so-called civilization, came along.
Sharing the Misery
There was only a small, modestly paid staff to work through often gnarly winters. Complicating operations further were periodic disasters on grounds due to only partially winterized plumbing and daunting efforts to keep roads cleared and paths shoveled after periodic deep snowfalls blanketed land. Also, a serious lack of sunshine in steep alpine canyon after October could greatly lower staff's serotonin levels, further depressing work morale. It was as if land wanted to hibernate and humans were only meddling.
It almost seemed, at lowest moments, that the violent vibration of grounds' tragic past re-surfaced. Then an angry climate prevailed with hair-trigger tempers and attitudes of "Why do I even bother? Nobody appreciates my efforts" and "I'm not getting paid near enough for this," among staff and management alike. Whenever they fell down such black holes of despair, feeling overworked and underpaid, then day visitors, and especially overnight guests, who experienced the resulting indifferent to rough sketchy treatment, reacted variously with furious disdain, grave disappointment or stupefied disbelief.
It made for everyone being unhappy campers indeed. see Rants & Raves
Medicine Wheel Slows
Many deemed the tightrope act of management -- trying to balance place as a healing ground while attempting to generate maximum profit -- an impossible one. It lent exquisite irony to old businessman quip, "Well, I'm not in business for my health."
There were dark days, days anyone who experienced them tried to forget. Writer was once threatened with being thrown off covered bridge for trying to politely but firmly hoping to enforce a new 'no smoking on bridge' policy to a Nam vet local with PTSD.
Violent energy could all too easily prevail whenever too few people held an intent to reactivate place's healing energy, potential majestic motion of land's medicine wheel hampered by the over-worldly, covetous owner/management focus.
To the degree remote stewards, managers, workers -- visitors, too -- didn't attune to sacred power of land and waters, region's medicine wheel slowed, too much for most to appreciate or even recognize its existence and its timeless potential for extraordinary healing. Or want to write about it. Not beyond occasional newspaper articles like thoughtful mid-1970s series by Emilie Frank for decades preserved on yellowed wall plaques on bathhouse lobby and restaurant walls. It painted a vivid picture of place during renaissance
Goodpasture years of 1970s for visitors, reminding everyone of the jewel -- diamond in rough -- place was and remains.
Viva la Musica!
During more together times, the healing retreat land hosted repeated popular gatherings, workshops and music events. A bevy of regional and visiting healing musicians, recording artists, and entertainers graced Springs over the years, Eric Bergland, Matisha, Kathy Zavada, Carolyn Hedger, and Anton Miserak among them. Some event organizers (not all musical) would go on to greater renown, like best-selling author Gary Zukav and peace troubadour/author/film producer James Twyman.
The region is so rich in musically transcendent talent and Stewart Springs such a natural locale for people far and wide to enjoy them in a nature-rich, healing atmosphere, it seems a shame that place's current 'ownership's' non-community-minded intent appears light years away from enabling any such continued cultural coming together of wider community...as currently done regularly with great success (in pre-Covid times) at hour-away Jackson Wellsprings in northern outskirts of Ashland, Oregon.
(History cont'd after long sidebar)
Warning: yet another long opinionated sidebar
(will they never cease?)
plus, dread clothing-optional ban
Is for-profit operation self-defeating
at healing resorts?
Over-focus on turning profit obviously can all too easily erode any ostensible healing place's potential. In times past, management and staff's brisk cordial business surface often masked a callous drive to feed ever-hungry maw ever more revenue, management possibly incentivized through profit-sharing bonuses if exceeding some annual-set financial goal.
All involved could end up compromising finer natures and personal integrity for the sake of job security, financial reward, free baths, maybe the power trip of running a renowned institution. If so doing, they naturally became the poorer for it. They mortgaged chance of ever grokking what place was all about: healing body and spirit and coming together into closer harmony with nature and other beings while receiving soul-enriching blessing from universe for performing dedicated service (while working for peanuts).
This is why so many of northwest's most popular mineral spring resorts are set up as nonprofit, like Harbin and Ashland, Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings -- sometimes collectively owned and/or operated like central Oregon's intentional community Breitenbush. Such setup potentially allows deeper focus, providing more-grounded and heart-centered service, unalloyed by any off-putting, growling profit hunger.
Of course, nonprofit as business model can have its own problems -- like over time possibly experiencing grave disconnect between the original intent and
current operation, becoming a bureaucratic machine, or cliquish social scene more dedicated to perpetuating themselves than offering genuine service. Example: when huge outfit Volunteers of America booked a lavish party junket at Springs in 2001, writer was shocked at giddy spending from donated funds, including luxuriant terrycloth robe giveaways at blow-out cheese and wine tasting party in A-frame -- likely a corporate donor tax write-off or some such.
That said, the way nonprofit springs keep revenues pegged to actual running costs and building improvement/replacement reserves rather than running place to generate wealth, it can tend to inspire and empower staff and management to create a far more relaxed and nurturing atmosphere...one more dedicated to the joy of service in mindfully fostering the increased well being of humanity.Where is this more important than at place existing to purify and heal while offering retreat from stresses of everyday world?
Barring such a set-up, only with enlightened compassionate capitalism, like Stewart's was early on hoped to have by some with the new 2016 stewardship (scroll down past long editorial), can the place ever excel and unfold greatest potential as a healing retreat...one that keeps place from turning into yet another superficial spa for the spiritually challenged and nature alienated seeking pampering to compensate for having let their higher selves be compromised in uneven playing field's systematic scramble for mammon.
Though some, like writer, bemoaned the fact that the operation wasn't nonprofit like Harbin or collective like Breitenbush, Stewart's came along nicely in some ways during last years under Foggy. He had by then unlimbered wallet and lavished many improvements; place made notable strides beautifying grounds and upgrading facilities while also allowing c/o last 16 years.
Nicer grounds can of course foster greater peaceful relaxation and sense of well being. Even if perhaps more motivated by wanting to sell it faster and at better price, such improvements likely helped those pursuing lightwork to better tune out any untoward business energies floating about around the edges and tune in to place's original harmonious healing and purifying vibration. (And let better flourish its infectious popularity among bohemian-friendly.)
Some say last managers tried as best they could, given strictly-business directive within 10-year contract to maximize revenue, even amid one's critically failing health, to build a more healing-focused, albeit conventionally-leaning, operation. But, again, it was on impossible tightrope act. Predictable mixed-bag result of miracles and disasters was the inevitable result, as so dramatically reflected in place's polarized reposted online rants and raves reviews.
Bottom line: Regardless of financial structure, intent is always the crucial factor. Ironic case in point: new 'ownership's' Pneuma Institute is a nonprofit. See how much good that's doing for place, being run as a for-profit adjunct acquisition by its nonprofit parent as allowed by California law.
Clothing-optional: gone with the wind?
More than mild cause for concern among countless now-estranged friends of Stewart Springs was how new absentee 'ownership' so mindlessly junked clothing-optional policy. Countless instantly found the new mandatory cover-up by turn laughable, depressing, and intolerable.
It went into effect 11-1-16 after 17 years of bathhouse being low-keyly clothing-optional (in sauna, sundeck and creek area, wrapping up in between places).
Ban possibly came about from some erroneous perception bred of buttoned-down conservative lifestyle, aided and abetted by likely Machiavellian maneuvers of old manager, that opting freebodies were mostly low-spending wild local hippies, kinky voyeurs, and shameless exhibitionists -- obviously bad for business -- rather than in fact representative of respectable broad cross-section of awakening global humanity mindfully embracing radical body freedom in appropriate public places as a basic human right on our fair planet.
Truth is, Stewart Springs management never gained any real conscious handle on clothing-optional policy, as did other regional rural spring resort permitting simple nudity. (Current layout isn't optimal, besides.) As mentioned elsewhere, past manager Mary finally permitted it, on approval by owner Foggy, but was so bummed over office-manager mother's sudden death that she never hammered out any solid policy (and possibly lacked the mindful awareness on such a delicate issue to have ever created one anyhow).
So all along scene was semi-anarchistic, allowing loads of wiggle room for abuse by any so inclined to ogle (including, mea culpa, writer, in less conscious times) and exhibit selves, succumbing to body-objectifying of warped 'culture', rather than lift up consciousness by attuning to higher body-mind-spirit re-integration simple mindful nudity so easily fosters in a properly set-up, mindful environment.
One would've hoped new management would've resurrected policy once seeing the light, how such simple nudity worked hand-in-glove with healing oasis Springs when pro-actively working to raise respectability of clothing-optional scene -- as, again, had virtually every other more popular regional rural mineral springs resort in the northwest US.
That is, unless, to more cynical thinking, new 'owners' banned it, along with sweat lodge, to intentionally alienate old customer base and make self-interested designs on privatizing
and/or exclusively upscaling the historic 145-year, public-minded place easier to suit own intent, taste and ambitions...
...and the public be damned.
Some returning visitors, not knowing what had triggered such a drastic policy change, only being told lamely that it was to make things "more comfortable for everyone", understandably saw it as a surreal throwback to enforced body shame that so many came to Springs at least in part to get away from.
Prayer had been ownership would reconsider, before finally realizing they were dead-set against it.
Again, being involved with seeming spiritual organization Incarre, which claims dedication to "re-integrating body-mind-spirit on profoundly higher levels", one would've reasonably thought that present 'ownership' would've realized how simple, mindful nudity was amazingly effective and easily implemented tool towards realizing that very aim. Obviously, there was a glaring, exasperating disconnect somewhere.
Sounds like it was all talk. Mere sizzle, calculated selling point for enrolling people in long pricey workshops. Why allow people the opportunity to experience dramatic, affordable healing through simple mindful nudity, so liberating and re-integrative of mind-body-spirit in course of bathhouse visit, and thus have less need for any pricey long-term psychotherapy?
That'd obviously be bad business.
It'd make their shtick perhaps look more than a tad superfluous. Get rid of unfair competition that made them feel uneasy, making energies too liberated to keep any iron handle on any visitors to 'their' new acquisition, as seems to be their want. It's essentially the same self-interested energy that refuses to recognize the startling efficacy of medical cannabis in treating a host of diseases while so many respectable mad-scientist pharmaceuticals are on scene sucking up life savings, pushing sometimes truly dangerous drugs. (Ever notice how often products' endless legal disclaimers end with "May cause death"?)
In contrast, perhaps the only real danger of excessive nude sunbathing is, at worst, risking skin cancer later down the road. And admittedly it's easier burning your butt on a hot sauna bench. Can't think how skinnydipping could ever be dangerous, though, unless getting so used to it that one risks hassle at other public places if trying to further practice such easily accustomed-to body liberation.
(Springs history, concluded)
No time to write
Finally, for some reason it appears few other historic Northwest mineral spring resorts ever published their stories either. Harbin Hot Springs's in-depth book and Breitenbush's booklet are only known exceptions.
To writer's knowledge, neither Orr, Wilbur, Jackson Wellsprings, nor Sierra Hot Springs have ever written their histories in any published form. see Other Resorts This, though some are older than Stewart's and possibly even richer in lore (and for sure less tragic). Possibly both Orr and Wilbur were stagecoach rest stops in 1800s. One wonders if maybe Black Bart liked to unwind with good mineral soak amid redwoods at Orr after latest Wells Fargo stageline holdup.
Perhaps it's not so much a mystery after all that there's never been a book on Stewart Springs.
With ongoing operations in it for long haul, mineral spring resorts' focus is of necessity kept on present and future to stay on top of operations and plan constant fine-tuning of things. No time to divert limited energies trying to unearth and make sense of any elusive, vanished past.
More's the pity, though. As every conscious being knows (and writer reminds self), past, present and future are all one on the spiritual plane -- each constantly influencing others in myriad ways.
Knowing the place's past, its beginnings and evolution, can allow visitors fuller appreciation and keener enjoyment of Springs...and give any aware stewards more solid foundation of understanding for charting viable new projects to further place in ways allowing visitors to better experience healing affects of the rare portal.
Beyond often dreary human politics of place and current muted policies and diversionary intents possibly inhibiting visitors becoming any more one with realm's wild healing beauty, if one listens closely one can hear the land's timeless history in the rushing of the creek and wind through the trees.
It's perfect after all
Seventy-eight years under the Stewarts' dedicated care and over 65 years under various other land stewards since -- each with
Mendera and spirited Mexican-American>
crew's new bridge near A-frame
different visions and intents creating varied land improvements, all overlays on original pre-historic use as sacred healing ground -- have made for the grand crazy-quilt rustic springs operation we have today.
Disregarding the unfortunate and misguided notions any new 'ownership' might harbor to re-purpose or privatize place, no matter what man attempts to do to the realm it remains perfect in its imperfection...an exquisite jewel of sacred ground and healing waters that have drawn people for centuries, formerly for free, now for coin of realm, to heal, rejuvenate, and, not infrequently, connect with kindred spirits amid glad tidings of nature in the optimally relaxed way that mindfully losing one's clothes can so magically foster.
Even when place loses its way and jumps down a rabbit hole of grossly inappropriate ventures like now, on crucial level the mystic realm's supernatural powers ALWAYS transcend any human-use intent.
With new 'ownership' connected to apparent spiritual and quasi-spiritual organizations and earth's vibrational frequency increasing, one would've naturally hoped that the medicine wheel of the sacred land would now be gathering serious new momentum.
That instead it's regressing further away under self-interested, private-minded intent doesn't mean it can't bounce back in the future.
Either new 'ownership's' hearts will melt or, barring that seeming unlikelihood (writer sgive hundred to one odds against), they run place into ground until Infinite Spirit eventually foils wonky intentions to wrest healing lands away from the people.
Then they'll throw in towel, maybe redeeming selves and ultimate Springs legacy by finding and selling place at fair price to one or group who will gladly honor restoring land to former ways of culturally-diverse, open-minded ways, ideally as perennially protected, nonprofit operation.
One enjoyable by all on mindful paths, as land merrily resonates with grand, albeit fitful, rebirth of our little blue ball in space.
The place deserves no less.