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Sheldon's Hotels and the Mineral Springs
Emergence and Demise.

We live in the era of mobility, accommodation & entertainment, yet in our small rural town who can account for a single public lodging accommodation? Tourists seeking overnight housing can travel elsewhere within 20 miles and find a motel available, but in Sheldon they would find no place to lodge at except with a relative.

Now step back with me to the mid 1800s and imagine if you can the lodging establishment to the left with four stories offering guests plush accommodations and a full aray of services.

Stand with me at the corner of Shawville Road and Mill Street in Sheldon Springs and look closely at St. Anthony's Church. Now close your eyes and imagine that this hotel sits there. Congress Hall built in 1868 and opened in 1869 stood here until in burned in 1908

This section of our web will hopefully convey to you the aura of tourism in Sheldon during the mid to late 1800s.

A fear of disease and plague along with a hope for a cure to cancer and TB along with other diseases decimating the population lead to the "Mineral Springs" as a curative power and the flourishing of Sheldon around it many springs.

Congress Hall Sheldon Springs
 
Newspapers, and books written close to the timeof the "Tourist Boom" help authenticate the facts presented by historians
   
The Burlington Weekly Sentinel (Burlington, VT) Friday 22 Feb 1867 Page 3
The Burlington Free Press (Burlington, VT) Thursday 16 July 1868

Sheldon Springs - "The healing virtues of the water of these Springs is rapidly acquiring celebrity as the wonderful cures it accomplishes multiply. So great is the demand for it from abroard that three or four men employed for the purpose are unable to suppy the demand, although using the most improved apparatus for filling bottles and packing. Sheldon is making a preparation for a large influx of visitors with the coming of the warm season. Mr. Wright, the proprietor of the Central House has nearly completed a large addition to this hotel and will no doubt be overrun with guests. Mr. G. D. Thomas is also preparing the old 'Squire Sheldon Place' for the reception of summer boarders."

 

"Franklin County has already become justly celebrated as a place of summer resort, and the hotel accomodations of the county are now crowded to the utmost with the periodical pleasure and health seekers attracted by the now almost forgotten cool mountain air, the virtues of the various mineral springs, and the recreations which the county affords.
The Missisquoi, Vermont, and Sheldon Springs, at Sheldon, are by far the most popular favorites of the public, and that little village is crowded to the upmost capacity. Boarding houses , like Jonah's gourd, spring up in a day, and are as rapidly filled."

 

The Central House (below)
The Vermont House (below)
   
The St. Albans Weekly Messenger (St. Albans, VT) Friday Aug 27 1869
The St. Albans Weekly Messenger (St. Albans, VT) Friday Aug 27 1869

 

Sheldon - Its Springs and Hotels "The overflow of every house in Sheldon that could afford food and shelter last year, caused a general construction and reconstruction to be commenced as soon as the season was fairly over. Last year (1868) the Central House, the Valley House, and Goodspeed's were all public houses that would take summer boarders, and their capacity was very limited for the demand. Now in addition to al these, a part of which have since been enlarged and improved, there are four hotels alredy occupied, and one other that will be ready for the season next year. "

 

Sheldon - Its Springs and Hotels - Recapulation "Thus they have in Sheldon four leading mineral springs, four bottling houses and two bath houses. They have seven hotels in full blast, one other in the process of erection, and one tavern that does not take boarders from abroad. The capacity of these houses is equal to the accommodation of more than six hundred persons and their term, style, and location are sufficiently diverse to accommodate the tastes and purses of all .... (continues) But the channel made by the waters of these springs is a new one. They used to run into the Missisquoi, and they were then 'a neglected spot in the wilderness'. They now run into the great arteries of the world, for 'the healing of the nations,' and civilization begins to smile where once their waters ran to waste and the farmer let his hedge grow. A little more time, a few more cures, a little more printer's ink, and a railroad are all that Sheldon now requires."

 

In August 1868 "The Vermont Record and Farmer" (Brattleboro, VT) reported
"During the month of July there were shipped from St. Albans 4,392 tubs of butter, 1.304 boxes of Missisquoi Water, 262 boxes Vermont Springs and six kegs of water from other springs, including both the Welden and The Sheldon."

In February 1870 The" Vermont Chronicle" , Brattleboro, VT reported
"The Sheldon Springs and the Vermont Spring are bottling and sending abroad their healing waters in considerable quantities for the winter season."

Bottling House at Sheldon under construction.
Vermont Springs Bottle
   

The Winter 1976 issue of the Vermont Historical Society covers the statewide boom in greater detail. PDF Format Adobe Reader required.

"The Waters of Sheldon" by Margaret Crowe Kimball, a long term resident of Sheldon covers the tourism development. (PDF)

   
"The History of Sheldon, VT" by H. R. Whitney St. Albans 1872

This book published by Stephen E Royce from The Stereotypes of Miss Hemenway's Vermont Historical Gazetter, Vol II in 1872 covers the Mineral Springs and the Summer Resort during the first two years of the boom and is an extremely authentic resource.

 

Mineral Springs P 381 reads "In Sheldon, the following are the principal mineral springs:

  • The Missisquoi, 8 or 10 different springs within an area of half an acre; proprietor C Bainbridge Smith, Esq. New York City
  • The Sheldon; proprietor Sheldon Springs Co., S S F Carlisle, agent
  • The Central proprietor Green & Co
  • The Vermont proprietor Saxe & Co

He then goes into an analysis of the mineral content of the springs ending with "Of these different springs, only the Vermont is new. This was discovered in 1867. The others have been known more or less for 50 years.
They are located, with the exception of the Central quite near the banks of the Missisquoi River, and are included within a distance of about 3 miles. They lay mainly to the north of the village; the farthest beihg about 2 1/2 miles distance from it. The Central is in the village. In connection with The Sheldon there is an elegantly furnished bathing house.
........ The shipment of the "Missisquoi" particularly have been very large - amounting, in 1868, to 14,792 boxes or 24 quart bottles each. Of "The Vermont" during the months of August, September, October and November 1868, there were 1650 cases of 24 quart bottles each

 

Summer Resorts P 381 to 382 reads as follows:
For the two seasons past, a large number of visitors have been drawn to the town from all parts of the country, very much over-crowding the accommodations, in many cases finding board among the farmers, and riding a distance of 5 or 6 miles and back every day to the springs.
To meet the want for better accommodations for visitors, and in view of the generally improved business prospects of the place, in consequence of the projection of the Portland and Ogdensburgh R. R. through it, quite extensive improvements have been undertaken in the past year.
The principal new buildings erected recently, or in the process of erections, are the following: 2 stores, a grocery, a private hospital (by N R Miller, MD), 10 private dwelling houses and 6 hotels. Besides these, many private homes and other buildings have been refitted and enlarged.
The hotels in town are as follows:

  • The New Missisquoi near the Missisquoi Springs
  • The Sheldon near the Sheldon Spring
  • Goodspeeds and Langdons near the Plank Road Bridge on the north side of the river
  • The Vermont and the Keith House in the village refitted
  • The Central and the Mansion in the village
  • The Valley House south side of the river below the bridge, and
  • Fish's in North Sheldon
 

We will undertake a closer examination of each of these resort accomodations and the assoicated springs, bottling plants, and bathing houses