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
(Note: if on computer and lines appear weirdly stretched out, you've accessed mobile format. To view on computer screen, click here, then click History on left-side menu)
"If you would understand anything, observe its
beginning and its development." -- Aristotle
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 fair amount of sleuthing and deduction, many likely reasons surfaced. In course of telling, scraps of history that were unearthed, at regional museums and libraries, are shared here for a crazy-quilt journey through Stewart Springs's elusive past -- a most singular, circuitous one, sometimes tragic, sometimes glorious -- that's brought it to be the way it is now. Speculative thinking and surmises try to fill in in some of the many gaps in its obscured past.
Writer doesn't claim total objectivity; it's been said such a thing is impossible anyhow. Though trying not to over-color facts with personal opinion and former deep-insider perspective, sometimes found the effort a losing battle. Attempted to corral the most-subjective views inside editorial sidebars, which readers wanting only to glean factual history of place can simply scroll past. Either way, hope is for reader to gain a better understanding of one of nature's mystical healing realms, cleverly disguised as a wayward resort.
Few Written Records
Region was so remote and sparsely settled, there weren't enough people around -- especially in pioneer days -- to bother documenting and recording the Springs's evolution as an organized service. To this day it seems there's a pronounced lack of published source material from which to cobble together even a half-way thorough history of the place.
Many invaluable historic records, writings and photos that almost certainly did exist no doubt perished with fire of July 4, 1948 that destroyed on-grounds home of founder Henry Stewart's daughter, Katy Stewart Lloyd, and late husband, former Weed barber and British immigrant, Edward Lloyd. They'd been managing operation since her father Henry's passing in 1914. (His story later.)
Fire may well have devastated her so much that she lost heart to continue operations much longer. She'd already lost her apparent only offspring, Stewart Lloyd, a year after husband, in 1941, likely a World War 2 casualty. Maybe she'd been thinking of retiring anyhow. In any event, she'd divest of the family-run healing retreat a few years later.
Born in 1880 a few years after her father 'bought' Springs land, bespectacled Mrs. Lloyd was 68 at time of fire -- age her Jersey-born mom and Henry's wife, Julia Newman Stewart, died in 1911. Mrs. Lloyd herself would live past 90. She possibly learned through channels how the Goodpasture family in early 1970s were busy rescuing place from what many regarded as inappropriate use by various owners once they assumed their dedicated 11-year stewardship. (Their story to come.)
After grounds fire, dedicated operations momentum was likely lost and dashed any possible plans to pen some account of her California pioneer father's colorful life and the rarified healing springs to which he devoted his last 39 years.
Factual Side Story
One Vexed Vanderbilt
George Vanderbilt, son of American 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 no doubt felt every respectable gazillionaire should have his own rustic mineral spring, a then-fashionable bauble among uber-wealthy. He surely thought it a fire-sale offer she couldn't refuse.
She knew he'd close the place down to public and turn it into a private playground retreat for the rich and famous -- as his opulent estate on second-choice site a half-mile down road, built in 1949, indeed became.
In 1950s and 1960s he'd host 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 exact facts were known, one could post signs like "Audrey Hepburn Soaked Here" outside various tubrooms.) Van Heflin's daughter Katy visited with dad as girl and reported finding Vanderbilt a disagreeable man.
The mansion burned down on night of January 3rd, 2012 on wings of current owner's restoration work, old faulty electrical wiring deemed the likely culprit.
Wagonloads of shame
There are even fewer records than one might expect due to settlers' and descendants' likely calloused feelings or shame over hell-bent campaign during 1870's national 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 locally, when likely it was only stray renegade or two involved in isolated tragic incident that sparked primitive blood lust and resolve to try to get rid of them all.
Tribal members sought refuge by fleeing to the hallowed medicine grounds now known as Stewart Springs, a place of peaceful healing for time untold...sacred land where even warring tribal members left weapons on hillside and soaked in temporary truce. Those unable to get away from outnumbered, out-armed forces that soon found them there, or chased them down as far away as Castle Lake, were duly massacred, bodies of latter thrown into water. Such a despicable legacy didn't lend the place a subject to wax nostalgic over in any regional-history annual like the Siskiyou Pioneer.
It's likely Henry got wind of the extermination plan and, while refusing to have anything to do with it, was powerless to stop the massacre. One story has it that secret advance warning of imminent attack leaked out, at least enabling warriors to steel themselves -- or possibly thinking there would be no need to once safely reaching sanctuary land -- and to reportedly spirit women and children to safety across valley to near present-day Carrick Addition, off Highway 97, 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 most likely saved his life. In any event, ensuing horrific slaughter around current resort grounds cast long and deep shadows over the once peaceful and revered sacred land.
Metaphysical thinking holds that residues of tragic energies of the massacre linger on spot to this very day on the subtle, lending place its at times somewhat eerie and mournful vibe, crimping any fuller healing potential. It has no doubt directly contributed to the unfortunate tendency of various legal stewards called owners to get so abysmally off track and hinder ability of mindful visitors to tap any more thoroughly into realm's special healing power. Spring purists hold that pursuing monetized and/or private-minded use of land results not only straitjackets potential to help greater humanity, but also to heal the psychic scars 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 dollars 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 winding through region until advent of 1950s' grand interstate highway system. Unpaved before 1960s, Stewart Springs Road's dirt surface no doubt further discouraged all but more determined souls. It was only paved when it was due to a county supervisor's efforts after an ailing son appeared to be cured by visits to the waters. He felt place was worthy of easier access.
Historic phone trivia: while well known many Native Americans called gold the yellow stone, less known is that in 1950s, Springs's phone number prefix was YEllowstone (YEllowstone 8-7955). YE converts to 93 in current Weed, California 938- prefix
Dizzying ownership turnover
Once property left dedicated Stewart family hands of 78 years, from 1876 to 1954, there was a 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, or over twice as long as any other post-Stewart holder -- either none of various owners were around long enough or apparently had any inclination to absorb the saga and pen a chronicle. Fragments of history were all we had, and 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 attic trunk in Eerie, Pennsylvania or gathering dust in vast catacombs of Smithsonian Institute.
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, momentously ending the extraordinarily dedicated Stewart family service run.
She'd receive a modest $100/month stipend* from Lodge and reportedly extracted solemn promise from new stewards to keep place forever simple and affordable for all who sought its curative waters.
* Siskiyou County Historical Society in May 2012 newsletter's Sacramento Bee reprint, stated 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 obviously a gift only if one doesn't pay for it. Maybe figure was new assessment value, made whenever property changes hands, and reporter, doing the math, assumed they'd paid that for it, masons having kept secret terms of transfer, figuring it was nobody's business. Reporter maybe never considered someone might actually give away property. (That or, though hate to even suspect it, could masons themselves have created price tag to obscure having been gifted land as solemn trust in perpetuity and then later reneged?)
She, like her father, believed it essential for the custodian of one of earth's powerful healing spots for operations to be kept simple, affordable and service-oriented for the good of the public at large. No room for get-rich schemes, unseemly preoccupation ramping up revenue with lure of fancy lodging and upscale dining, or subsidizing cost of re-purposed, semi-private use of place by seemingly only 'suffering' the paying public. Only enough to cover everyday costs, maintenance, and live-on-grounds manager's living expenses...maybe a modest improvement or two now and then. Operations under Stewarts and, later, Masons, seemed often to run break-even or at a loss, apparently more or less acceptable to all concerned.
For the place was never about making money. It was dedicated to providing genuine, affordable purifying healing and rejuvenation as a loving service to the public. It was a nonprofit-in-spirit enterprise... an altruistic endeaver devoted to letting city-choked travelers push re-set button in easily-accessed, wild nature's special place, roughing it, with only basic amenities provided, while focusing on detoxing, unwinding, and healing the natural, age-old way.
"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 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 with constructing new lodgings like the row of present day apartments #1 - 6 next to the Cottage. (Uncertain who built Cottage, or dorm units #7 - 10, for that matter, but had to be either masons, following Weed investors, or Goodpastures.) 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 most troubling maladies. see Masonic bulletin excerpts
Synchronicity? Henry Stewart and daughter each successively devoted 39 years of service to the 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.
Weed consortium following
Masons shifted energies drastically
In 1969, after some 15 years' operation, Masons sold place for reasons unknown. Maybe they got tired of the place not
< A-frame group lodging,
built with NFL earnings
paying for itself any better with the only fitful visitorship, and/or managers got cabin fever and wanted out and no replacements could be found. In any event, it was soon sold, for unknown price, to a consortium of three local Weed, CA businessmen: Joe Aquila and Fred Pillon (both passed around 2011), and head, former NFL football player Aaron Thomas, Jr. (still kicking in Grants Pass, OR as of mid-2018). He played tight end for S.F. 49ers and New York Giants 1961-1970.
While it might just be coincidence, Thomas was himself a mason. Possibly it was a token gesture by Sacramento lodge to keep place in the family, so to speak, with clutching-at-straws rationale that by finding a fellow mason to take over they would have somehow kept word given to founder's daughter Katy to forever keep place simple, affordable retreat, dedicated to healing, under masonic protection and guidance.
And if new head steward didn't, well, it was on him.
If so, fat lot of good it did. Besides new owners immediately carving up acreage for their own private vacation-home fiefdoms, there was talk -- no doubt among other fantasies -- of turning place into some football training camp. (As not too far away, resurrected Harbin Hot Springs was long ago once a boxers' retreat, stranger things have happened.) Farmers downstream who diverted 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, forthright dedication to healing under Stewarts, plus another 15 of what was perhaps dedication-lite by Masons, things got sketchy...fast.
While triumvirate made improvements that would aid future enjoyment of public visits during tenure of 19 months -- including building current cabins #13 - 17 (unplumbed until later owner) -- they also divided up the land ...legally lopping off top and bottom quarters of former circa 40-acre parcel among themselves.
The A-frame house that's now rented to large groups (shown two pictures up) was built as Thomas's own private vacation home on topmost land separated out. To this day it remains legally separate from main 20+ acre parcel, though has always been tacked on to larger parcel in Springs property transfers.
And what's known as Green Springs House just outside entrance gates, somehow appearing as Springs gatehouse or manager's or owner's residence, was in fact built as another private vacation home for one of the three. It too was legally separated out, becoming its own narrow ten acre slice of former Springs property.
In contrast, it wasn't tacked onto rest of Springs property in future transfers, but kept under different ownership. Massive gated wood fence built between it and rest of property -- and much later, surreal wire spanning high across creek with No Trespassing sign weirdly swinging out over waters -- underscored the fact in no uncertain terms. In time, house became longtime home of 1970's co-owner Carol Goodpasture's sister, renowned polarity massage therapist Elizabeth Wagner (crossed over 2012).
In the early 1980s it was briefly the leased residence of world-renowned Findhorn's Peter Caddy
What's now known as the Cottage above apartment row #1-6 was possibly built by the third member and kept within main parcel, dweller maybe willing to serve as caretaker for occasional guests, possibly run the bathhouse between enjoying one of best sites on land right above seasonally thundering creek.
In any event, on subtle planes such divisive subdividing of land could easily be viewed as having further handicapped the spirit of oneness of operation and any more holistic enjoyment of realm by the more psychically attuned visitor.
Stewart family's pure intent to keep the place simple, essentially nonprofit, and dedicated to affordable healing and rejuvenation -- a focus apparently more or less honored by Masons so long as they ran it -- faded like a rose cut from its life-giving roots the second the latter abdicated stewardship trust for reasons uncertain.
It's a pity Masons couldn't have taken the time to find suitable buyers, ones who'd naturally want to keep alive essential, historically-dedicated focus of honoring land as sacred and healing visitors affordably as a good-karma, benevolent public service...rather than ones going off on inappropriate trips, copping mundane attitudes of "Well, it's our property now; we can do whatever we want with it. Shall we toss to see who gets what for their home site?"
Possibly the owner triumvirate and various other owners through time considered the Stewarts fools for never having exploited place for profit. That, or assumed -- as have many of uninformed public -- that they were just bumbling operators with no head for business and so never got ahead...when, in fact, as noted elsewhere, Henry Stewart was already a successful businessman from several related ventures. He had bought and started Springs retreat as a relaxing retirement service...a way of giving back after all his good fortune -- and in process possibly acknowledging and honoring the earth wisdom and land reverence of native culture whose members decades earlier took pity on his dire straits and saved him. His daughter and her husband appeared to have followed in same attitude of gratitude, dedicating efforts to help serve ailing humanity and offer a nourishing retreat amid the blessings of wild and free nature.
Maybe over time masons came to resent being saddled with such a remote operation. Possibly it had become a Trojan Horse or white elephant possession, sapping lodge's energy, focus, and funds, and they simply wanted to be shut of it after latest caretakers/operators burned out on the uber-rural scene.
Maybe the actual masonic members who had reportedly made a solemn vow to Stewart's daughter Katy to preserve and perpetuate her family's 78-year mission had by then died or retired...and current heads didn't feel any of the same same solemn responsibility to continue honoring solemn commitment. That, or, for all anybody knows, maybe she'd 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 high-minded purpose for perpetuity.
One might wonder if she or husband had ever considered making place a legal nonprofit operation or had encouraged masons to pursue such a change. More likely she would've felt any such legal moves unnecessary in a time when one's word was their bond and there was therefore no need to pay some high-priced lawyer for a convoluted paper chase that would require spelling out in exacting terms how to run what had always been a super relaxed, casual, and informal operation.
It's likewise unknown exactly why the three Weed businessmen didn't make a longer go than 19 months. Maybe they'd snapped up place at bargain price they couldn't resist, then played it by ear, never quite sure what to do with it beyond making improvements and enjoying new vacation homes a while before flipping the by-then three improved parcels at presumably a tidy profit.
It's fairly safe to assume that most, if not all, were not at all keen on running any bathhouse. Maybe they'd agreed on short-term investment, hoping to get place to pay for itself by becoming more of a rustic resort than a mineral spa retreat per se. Lodgings would become the central attraction, once building five hillside rental cabins to augment Mason's existing row of five apartment units. Maybe one or more felt a tad guilty for breaking up the tea set, as it were, realizing place had been such a historic operation that after all it deserved to be kept going by someone who could get into running a rural healing spa retreat in a similar spirit as had its founders.
Or, again, as profit-minded businessmen maybe they'd simply agreed beforehand to make improvements, enjoy place privately awhile, then flip, all too willing to part with now-segmented lands to the first comer down the pike plunking cash on the barrel head.
In any event, as fate would have it they sold place to a party that would come closest to date to resurrecting the original love-of-service spirit and healing vision 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 helm in the early 1970s.
They'd moved up from South Pasadena in Southern California on tidal wave of late 1960's-early 1970'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 any and all a receptive lucid, super-technicolor preview of coming attractions of a planet transformed. Carol said she'd felt guided to the place. They called the A-frame home. (Unknown if they felt some unaccountable urge to watch NFL games.)
During those purple haze days Stewart Springs enjoyed a renaissance of sorts, becoming something of an earthly paradise by accounts of longtime locals. Upbeat owner-resident family graciously hosted visitors to immaculate grounds, zenned-out bathhouse operation, and plentiful natural food at friendly prices in newly-built restaurant...doing the same with latter in City of Mt. Shasta after building and running restaurant that eventually became present-day Lalo's Mexican cuisine restaurant.
Revered Karuk medicine man Charlie Thom was in due course invited to lead regular full-moon sacred sweat lodge ceremonies on grounds. It began a tradition that would last some 45 years...until December 2017, when present ownership effectively told them to leave, claiming an otherwise prohibitive fire/liability rider would be tacked onto new insurance policy, which medicine lodge couldn't even begin to cover.*
* Likely it was the tragedy in an ersatz, non-native 'sweat lodge' outside Sedona, Arizona by private empowerment workshop event leader some years earlier that led insurance companies to skyrocket coverage for any business operation that included a sweat lodge ceremony open to public.
There wasn't a car bridge much (any?) of time. Everyone parked on upper road and approached the bathhouse across covered foot bridge spanning Parks Creek that some called Angels Bridge. Carol might greet newcomers there with a cup of cold mineral water to drink and start healing regimen -- if one could accept mild sulfur taste. Drinking mineral water was traditionally deemed just as important as immersing in waters and breathing its steam.
What was until about 2014 the main bathhouse parking area back then offered inviting soft grass for clothing-optional sunbathing and picnicking.*
* Unknown if any low-key body freedom was afoot there earlier, especially in years following late 1929, when nudism, as part of radical new lifestyle movement, first reached American shores from Germany. Called the Natural Man movement and predecessor to late 1960's advent of global counterculture, it began at start of last century. Besides radical body freedom, it promoted mineral water soaking, sauna-ing and steaming, hiking in wilds, rural living, raw food diet, draft and public school resistance, loose-fitting clothes, communalism and feminism...all of which the '60s countercultural movement would resurrect with wild passion.
further decline & fall of
The Goodpastures' divorce -- there was trouble in paradise after all -- prompted a hasty selling of place in 1980. They obviously were in no mood to write any book (or "How my Husband Merrily Blew My Fortune" might've been title). 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 means to. They weren't good for $300,000 balance soon due after initial $30,000. down had apparently exhausted their 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 Sutro Baths.
Whitney, The City's "Barnum of the West," purchased the place and attempted rescue of renowned but perennially money-losing Sutro Baths operation after Sutro's death, keeping it going a few decades more (thus enabling writer to enjoy fanciful sprawling vestige of another era during youth), before throwing in one of ten thousand towels stocked for the masses who never came.
Later-day Robert Whitney connected with Foggy in San Francisco, where Foggy was based.
Combine these facts and curiosity's aroused. Granted, Whitney's not that uncommon a name, but can't help wondering if perhaps Springs's defaulting Whitney owner was the grandson or some such to regionally renowned Whitney family. If so and in the genes as it were, he'd perhaps become irresistibly drawn to rescue yet another historically famous yet financially-indifferent bathhouse operation, this time one at top of state and tucked in the woods, but lacked the wherewithal to succeed.
If true, it would further solidify place's historic San Francisco connection, for back in the day visitors flocked to Stewart's from Bay Area by the trainload for a grand outing and "taking the waters" in the wilds of state's sparsely populated north lands.
If not, it's still a good story.
San Francisco's Foggy
(well of course it is)
It's rumored that the floundering Whitney couple actually tried to get mafia financing at some point for looming hefty balance.They finally snagged a last-minute investment loan from San Francisco entrepreneur John Foggy.
He no doubt sensed business opportunity if couple defaulted, and it must've seemed very likely that they would. Indeed, in less than two years, during which time over-their-heads (and reportedly a bit whacked-out) couple let place go to wrack and ruin, they gave up misguided efforts, threw in towel, and place went into foreclosure.
Foggy then promptly snapped up property at county auction for $20,000. He was basically buying the place from himself, not about to lose his investment. He thus became absentee owner for next 34 years, until early 2016. Hereby are put to rest rural legends how he picked place up for song on courthouse steps or won it in high-stakes poker game -- unless one considers original speculative investment a poker hand of sorts...as it turned out, an incredibly long one. (More on Foggy years later.)
Now, what about the man who started it all?
Pioneer Henry Stewart
According to 1890 census reports, founder Henry S. Stewart stood six feet tall 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'd trekked from northeastern Pennsylvania's coal-barging canal hometown of Honesdale, newly built to help sate New York City's voracious fuel appetite. For historical perspective, the year he was born, 1827, was a mere year after July 4, 1826 deaths of U.S. founding fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, famously both on fledgling 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 top wilds of state. Story goes that natives secretly watched him exhaust himself futilely trying to get his heavy-laden wagon unstuck from the mud. They took pity on him once he keeled over in total prostration and faced possible death (winter conditions?) if not rescued. So they carried him up to their sacred mineral waters sanctuary to soak in healing waters, heating it by throwing in rocks super-heated in fire, similar to sweat lodge heating method still used today.
He later credited the healing waters, along with their kind ministrations, for saving his life.
Stewart returned East during American Civil War years. (Undetermined whether or not he enlisted, so many Henry Stewarts of Pennsylvania did.) He came back in late 1860s, sailing around Horn this time, along with new wife, Julia Newman, and bringing milling equipment. He reportedly started first grain mill in region, around Edgewood (some five miles downhill from Springs, across from present freeway) and over time prospered through milling, farming, cattle ranching, and dairy.
Long after having been cured by mineral springs on first visit and becoming staunch believer in place's healing powers, he purchased Springs from federal government in 1875, only after lengthy legal delays. Apparently there'd been a dispute whether it was government land or land given away by government to Central Pacific Railroad as part of incentive to build line.
Such further contentious energies present around founding of charitable enterprise might linger on subtle as well to metaphysical thinking, further hobbling place's fuller potential as healing retreat until karma's fully erased by full-tilt dedication to purifying, healing, and rejuvenation in altruistic spirit of nonprofit operation.
< poster from unknown year, but after 1913, as Stewart is age 86 in photo. Note exorbitant prices!
His was a labor of love, pure and simple. A fulfilling retirement gig at age 46. While this doesn't sound old today, average lifespan then was of course considerably shorter.
With no interest whatsoever in making retreat any sort of cash cow, happy to break even and cheerfully subsidizing operations cost when need be, he and daughter between themselves would dedicate 78 years to fostering affordable rural retreat open to the public for purifying, healing, and peaceful recreation (apart from possibly killing non-human residents for sport), amid wild alpine surroundings, with the often-lively Parks Creek forever coursing its way through.
In 1914 he passed over a few years after his wife at the ripe old age of 87 in a time when the average American lifespan was 46, possibly strong testament to the healing power of waters and land. (His wife's obit noted how she passed at "the advanced age of 68.")
His daughter and her husband carried on running place until momentously it left Stewart family hands in the mid 1950s, whereupon place slowly began losing dedicated, pure-minded focus to heal humanity at large. The perceptive visitor, drinking in old shingled bathhouse and logwork foundation supports of covered bridge, can still feel their energies imbued in grounds.
Trivia: Henry Stewart's middle name was Stella. Back then it wasn't uncommon to honor female family member by bestowing her name in male baby monikers.
Resourceful, self-made millionaire, John Foggy, fifth post-Stewart family steward, 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 to offer affordable purifying and healing retreat as public service. Profit-minded post-Stewart owners before Foggy had tried, unsuccessfully, to make a go of things. (Unknown whether the Goodpastures operated in the black or not; with all the improvements they lavished on the place, it might seem unlikely.) Operation when Foggy got it was still a far cry from ever becoming commercially viable.
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 place was likely undervalued and perhaps worth building up as 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 resort that would, on critical levels, take it further away from the original spirit of Stewart's good-karma, strikingly dedicated love-of-service enterprise, Foggy was at least open-minded enough to let local family management resurrect service-minded tradition of place just so long as money stream built up a flow, plus allowed 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 in peculiar way with neo old-fort entrance. (see below) And, despite occasional grumbling, let by-then weekly Karuk sacred sweat lodge ceremony continue doing its thing above bathhouse all along.*
* Rumor is former sacred ceremony spot is now added parking space. Whether true or not, one actual fact is perhaps even more daunting: sweat lodge was set up directly over a septic system. Long-time local Bill Buffalo told writer he was once with a group doing ceremony inside the lodge when suddenly waste started oozing up out of the ground! Spot was thus perhaps handicapped from the get-go in making any more powerful and pure medicine than it did.
A future Frommers Guide would call place "...one of the most unusual health spas in California."
Of course, Foggy wasn't always an absentee owner. Early on he came to stay in A-frame with family on working vacations. Future co-managing daughters Crystal and Astra reported having fond childhood memories of place. He tuned into grounds, sussing possibilities and brainstorming ways to upgrade it into more of an upscale rustic springs resort, hoping to attract broader variety of visitors beyond the then-limited base of natural healing devotees and sometimes 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 clocking out and going home if guest said they'd be 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 gates, iron bracing and crenelated watch towers, the more impressionable might expect to see towers manned. It possibly strikes some as misplaced movie set from a '50s western or bygone, bizarre attempt to create some rural Frontierland amusement park in the boonies. One story has it that it was created to attract investment interest from Hollywood. Then, too, it's likely owner appreciated how John Wayne and other westerns film stars formerly visited a mile down hill at the Vanderbilt mansion and perhaps thought it a fitting symbolic tribute to frontier times of retreat-founder Henry Stewart. Be that as it may, it did serve to help protect grounds from vandals, thieves, and would-be squatters, as place closed each winter until November 1, 1999, when it finally went year-round. see Something about Mary
But entrance stands as bitter irony on a crucial level: Old West forts were built to protect white men from marauding red men who refused to abandon deep-rooted homelands, while natives ran to sacred springs seeking kings x's refuge from marauding white men determined to exterminate THEM. Some, especially Native Americans, might view entrance note as more than 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 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 current times by enjoying refreshing spa. (Kindly check any attitudes in front office.)"
Managements under Foggy reign:
early 1980s thru 2016
larger businesses to run -- Foggy reportedly once held custodial contracts with every U.S. Air Force base west of the Rockies -- he switched operations to
macro-management, hoping to build it up as a going concern by relying on modestly-paid, living-on-grounds managers' business acumen and creative innovations -- within his hardnosed financial guidelines, of course. He told them that since he lived so far away and could seldom visit, they should act as if they owned the place in order to gain best sense of what needed to be done to increase visitor flow. Of course, any such-encouraged illusion of actually owning it often clashed with reality, as place straggled by under fitful, small staff operating on a frequent starvation budget.
He'd apparently often flirted with idea of selling it -- reportedly soliciting offers, then withdrawing from market once essentially getting real-life appraisals, possibly having a few almost-sells. Hollywood action actor Steven Segal once made an insultingly low counter-offer on place that was rejected out of hand.
Again, this led to epidemic of false rumors of some mysterious new owner having snapped up place every time a new manager appeared in front office displaying pronounced proprietary airs.
Absentee owners it seems all too easily cause such faulty assumptions. Over decades, online reviewers frequently referred to place's hired managers as the actual owners -- still do -- when, of course, they're only salaried employees doing the bidding of absentee owner(s).
He finally did let go of operation on January 19, 2016, after 34 years alternately sitting on place and building it up. (His daughter, two-year co-manager Crystal, had earlier passed on offer to eventually take over place as not her cup of tea.) For how much? Trip to county court house, where it's public information, revealed place went for princely sum of $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, CeeCi and Pat, respectively, taking turns running 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 late 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 Chico home
(see story of 1989-2005 dedicated family management, along with writer's own involvement, in second tale in Something about Mary)
(History continued below sidebar)
Long, opinionated sidebar
(scroll past if of little interest for more history)
New, still inappropriate ownership focus
Will place ever get it right again?
As everyone knows by now, the Springs recently got its first new owners in ages. Title transferred January 19, 2016. Individual names are unknown to writer (which fact speaks volumes).
As said, vague rumors of new ownership were rife over time, resulting every time some officious new front desk manager suddenly appeared, like mushrooms after a rain. Many visitors apparently couldn't -- and often still can't -- distinguish between absentee owners 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 a reality to wrap one's mind around. People perhaps like to imagine the quaint operation still being family owned and operated.
Maybe such faulty imagining has something to do with powerful dreamlike quality of the realm. People it seems can very easily embrace sketchy and irrational notions of place, dreamstate of course making no distinction between rational and irrational, so comfortably clinging to various misconceptions of place's actual operational reality and history. It all becomes a hazy blur in one's mind, unimportant, after all, to the enjoyment of the place. (Recent example: one online reviewer spouted with authority how the Springs was arbitrarily named after some influential bigwig who once lived in area, rather than in fact the place's dedicated creator and longtime operator.)
In any event, Pneuma-Institute-involved owners live as far away as L.A., Mexico and South America -- making for way absentee ownership. (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 ownership transfer, acting mostly by remote herself, from hundreds of miles away, relaying new owners' policy changes for grounds' rubber-stamping staff to follow rigorously, no questions asked:
We have to cut down all these 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...okay (something's fishy here, but hell, it's a paycheck...)
Long before sale to present owners, a hidden microphone was planted in office by management. Apparently done, among other reasons like security, to nip in bud any staff member who might dare grumble about sometimes-draconian marching orders, mic seemed to continue serving the much the same function with new owners. It worked to keep any office staff from talking out of school, perhaps over-commiserating with dumbfounded longtime visitors, without dire consequence, once sea-level operational changes all but gutted the former spirit of the place.
At least one office worker has been fired as a result.
Is that spooky or what? Writer suspected such a device existed long before owner change, after a personal incident. One day, no sooner had I started voicing bit of constructive criticism in office as was my wont, to stalwart 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, just standing there looking about, very picture of (feigned) innocence.
* Sad to report, 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've felt as though some surreal springs gestapo had abruptly taken over 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 hoped it would prove the golden opportunity to finally redeem legacy of pioneer founder and fully activate healing spirit of land. New ownership 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). It's just possible that this was only a fabricated story to keep natives from rebelling until she was safely out of the picture.
Owner change had seemed promising. It was the 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 would become a thriving cultural healing center for community, both local and global.
Sadly, time has obviously proven owners were not at ALL interested in keeping place just the way it was. They'd apparently only been biding their time while busy spinning private-minded, diversionary plans. In fact, they appeared intent on SERIOUSLY changing it, essentially re-purposing place to suit own organization's shtick and mindset.
Apparent aim: revamping visitor base to more upscale/mainstream traffic, reflecting own lifestyle, to better support focus of outfit's psychoanalytical shtick, the public effectively defraying costs of having place also serve as Pneuma world headquarters (they have branches in several countries). Plus, of course, enable its various groups to enjoy 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 and affordable healing spa, along with simple lodging for longer enjoyment and benefit of place.
Gone with the wind.
Spring-purist visitors, on finding the cornerstone of progressive spa atmosphere, clothing-optional, suddenly verboten, plus sacred sweat lodge kicked off land, viewed changes as little more than the place having sadly morphed into some ersatz, convention-bound, watered-down tourist trap with commercialized new-age overtones.
Again, many, including writer, suspected that new bathhouse and lodging operation appeal to more like-minded upscale and/or conventional visitors was simply means of subsidizing diverted focus of operation that's now tellingly referred to among selves as "Pneuma retreat center" and world headquarters. And now ostensibly permanently closed bathhouse is being touted as future Shambala House for future classes and retreats (though suspect such might only be another ruse to further alienate general public to enable at some future time bringing back spa operation strictly for private use without a storm of public protest). home page
One would think that over $26,000 a year in county property taxes to scrape together would've provided good incentive to stay with proven formula 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 different visitorship, so blew off the huge bohemian-leaning base, whose support, again, was largely responsible for putting operation into black in recent times, possibly for first time in place's history.
As related on home page, soon after new actual-on-grounds management arrived in December 2017 on wings of ownership board member's visit, place's sporadically powerful medicine wheel ground to a screeching halt. They'd essentially kicked out the sweat lodge and erased the springs gazebo love and prayer offering altar, on top of a year earlier scrapping old-management unsupported but owner-okayed and wildly popular clothing-optional policy of 17 years standing.
No great surprise, visitor volume tanked overnight.
Misguided changes marks a grievous crimp in place's healing energy and precipitous decline of place as, at the least, a tenuously open-minded, unassuming, service-focused healing refuge open to general pubic.
Place has now lost every cultural touchstone that helped make it so extraordinarily popular in recent decades.
Actions devastated myriad former supporters beyond measure. Countless fans around the world refuse to support the place as now run.
Sweat lodge was deep tradition at springs, keeping alive spirit of thriving cultural diversity, including, critically, original pre-white-man descendants' tapping natural medicine of grounds in sacred ceremony, connecting participants with prehistoric roots of American culture and spiritual ways.
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 profoundly relaxing purification regimen...lest spa experience feel like taking a bath with your clothes on. Besides allowing for more profound healing, it showed compassion for humanity by allowing one to experience deeper communion with nature and one another (who are, of course, and lest one forgets, as much a part of nature as trees and water and deer and bears).
Recent woefully inappropriate intent, again (at least before pandemic hit, changing everything) seemed bound and determined to 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 treatment that it's money well spent.
Stripping out former vibrant, free-spirited culture to accommodate visitors of own more buttoned-down mindset and super-structured, clinical approach to heal patients in distant cities just seemed too far-fetched for words...and reduced visitorship, even before coronavirus eventually prompted closing bathhouse permanently, seem to bear out view.
Prayers are for appropriate future ownership to rescue realm after either abysmal failure and/or karma wake-up call over misguided effort to alter place to support psychology shtick...one that, in many ways, can't begin to hold a candle to mother nature's own simple and effective ways, with its healing waters and transformative vortex energies, and allowing becoming one with her via clothing-optional, dramatically uplifting and reintegrating body-mind-spirit. (One of ostensible central goals of Pneuma approach...ahem.)
Action was, again, seen as too bizarre for words...a thoroughly unacceptable departure in light of how place has served most of its 145 years as affordable, public-friendly rejuvenating spa retreat. It was a sorry change, one that time will almost certainly prove unsustainable and/or ethically untenable, if any justice in the world and ownership having an ounce of conscience.
In other countries (sometimes even in U.S, like Virginia's Berkeley Springs, nation's oldest mineral springs resort -- Washington soaked there), such a rarity as Stewart Springs would've long ago become a protected public holding, something like a dedicated trust or working historic state park.
Not that that would necessarily be the best idea. Perhaps best if future, public-minded owner legally sets up place as a charitable nonprofit operation in perpetuity, as long ago nearby Jackson Wellsprings in southern Oregon reportedly did, and Harbin similarly did by creating nonprofit Church of Heart Consciousness.
Thus quashed would be any possible future inappropriate notions of would-be ownership ever again trying to co-opt place to run it in misguided variance from simple de-facto nonprofit tradition: perennial dedication to affording the public at large affordable, unassuming purifying, healing, and rejuvenating amid glad tidings of nature.
So-inclined fans of place might think of working on finding possible new benefactor for place (writer already approached one)...one both conscious and affluent/connected enough to afford to buy place once current owners throw in towel. If pandemic is still on, it would provide great opportunity for the leisurely re-imagining of the place and making beneficial layout changes and infrastructure upgrades.
Hopefully current ownership is conscious enough that they might find appropriate buyer themselves, thus redeeming their honor -- and ultimately gain positive place in Stewart Springs legacy, continuing to enjoy place themselves in future. But the more people sussing possible new, appropriate stewards, the better.
Then Springs could become a good-karma operation once again as legal nonprofit, perhaps eventually self-supporting -- regional community plugging into place, volunteering talents, ideas, and resources, at long last making place everybody's baby.
More synchronicity: indication that universe is perhaps on our side is that Harbin Hot Springs, one of the U.S. West Coast's most popular, free-spirited clothing-optional spa resorts, busy rebuilding after devastating fire, re-opened January 19, 2019...the same exact calendar date that three years earlier the present Stewart owners gained legal control. Could this be some kind of grand neutralization effect at work? It's appears too amazing to be mere coincidence.
(Stewart Springs History cont'd)
Ball dropped in early '80s
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 again.
Of course, the former were euphoric times of 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 so ridiculously low. Some hold that early '60s marked spiritual low point in grand 26,000 year spiritual cycle and now the only way was up, that all the over-the-top psychedelic hippie hoopla only reflected a full-tilt celebration of historically staggering cosmic moment.
The latter turn of century period was a similarly euphoric time, one that fostered wildly liberating notions, like enjoying spa unencumbered by needless cloth if one so chose.
Place had earlier turned a hard 180 degrees from 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 lovingkindness of humans resonating with land.
*On writer's first ever visit into bathhouse, in 1980s, encountered a rough, unkempt man slouching in chair behind desk, obviously just hanging out, chewing the fat with another. Trying to get handle on new place and lost at sea and sensing utter chaos, for want of any better question I asked if he was the owner. "Wrong color," he snorted. (Absentee owner of time was black.)
Findhorn's Peter Caddy &
French Chef discover Springs
There were fitful spiritual retreats and workshops, aided by nearby Mount Shasta's powerful metaphysical energies, calling forth healing forces to reactivate and hold 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. He sussed possibilities of buying place, then tenuously on market, and creating a "New Findhorn" teaching center. see Book Excerpts Also in 1980s-early 1990s, an amazing dining addition to place unfolded. Certified French chef Serge Margot, wanting to simplify life after having run ritzy restaurant in Bay Area, after having earlier working in Paris and then cruise line, moved up to region. He'd discovered Springs restaurant building going begging, as if just waiting for him to rescue it. He signed lease in heartbeat...to benefit of soon-delighted gourmets everywhere. Place quickly became destination for fancy dining, sometimes serving over a hundred people for Sunday brunch. (Writer was lucky enough to enjoy one of his delicious veggie sandwiches on very first visit to Springs.) Unknown exactly how long it lasted or why such a solid addition to place ended (although it was far from plant-based focus, as befits any genuine healing place); possibly Foggy tried upping lease into stratosphere on wings of operation's roaring success. Anyway, operation folded and building soon reverted to accustomed forlorn, empty-and-locked status. see Jenny Coyle's newspaper article.
Despite such extraordinary happenings at Springs, overall trajectory of place seemed downhill, as if there wasn't enough abiding positivity to keep negativity from eclipsing and dominating scene over long run. Too often visitors seemed more interested in hiding out in the country a spell and perhaps going on bender than in focusing on any silly purifying spa regimen.
For while some indeed did keep coming to soak and sauna, others simply liked getting drunk off their butts in cabins* or maybe nurse bottle of Jack Daniel's and puff stogie in outdoor Jacuzzi gazebo outside office (converted later to massage studios), thereby neatly accomplishing both at once. Until year 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 prostitution bust on grounds further scandalized place.
*as evidenced by writer who, when custodian, found surprising number of empty hard liquor bottles in dumpster shed during remedial effort to divert waste stream for recycling.
Historic 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 believed then-gateless business operations ceased and personnel vanished between owners Whitney and Foggy. They were finally ordered off grounds by unpleasant ex-Marine packing lethal sidearm who 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 being destroyed wholesale. (Not unlike now; Springs history indeed 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, a hard-drinking custodian patrolled grounds at night with double-barreled shotgun. It seems place can be either heaven or hell, with precious little in between.
(see second Something about Mary story, in good part about dedicated 1989-2004 family management by cousins Suzy and Mary, sister mothers CeeCi and Pat, respectively, their sister Mary, plus longtime bath attendant in-law, Linda.)
Managers under Foggy had work cut out for themselves. They dealt as best they could on 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 skills 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, one seemingly often ailing as grievously as had young Henry.
Short editorial esoterica sidebar
In metaphysical teaching, each calendar day has 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 again, 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, 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 any wrong courses and refine and fine-tune operation.
As time's revealing, this is not always case, especially in what had so long been, in spirit at least if not legally, a nonprofit, public-minded operation. And if centered, forthright, integrated intent is lacking at get-go, uncertain, potentially chaotic energies might all too easily be result...especially if, again, harboring intentions at such drastic odds with Stewart Mineral Springs's long-dedicated reason for being in first place.
Planetary influences might thus ultimately serve to make current ownership a brief one indeed.
New, appropriate owner(s) could then rescue place and invite community to seriously plug in, sharing talents, resources,and brainstorms, at LAST redeem place's historic legacy for serving as down-home, affordable healing and rejuvenation mineral springs retreat...one that every true-blue lover of place is convinced it's meant to be.
Stewart Springs History cont'd
It was steep and rocky climb getting even tenuous positive energies back after place's latest unscheduled detour through hell. This in part due to putting off countless needed repairs and replacements 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, a heavy person could've jumped down hard at one spot and 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 Stewart family's 78-year tenure spanning 1875 to 1954, each new owner scrambled to re-define place according to their lights.
Even 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, vested in such perceived quaint folk cure remedies that it was simply ignored, if not harshly discredited and ridiculed, by minds limited to three-dimensional thinking of material world.
Crystal Foggy, during brief general manager tenure along with older sister Astra before, as said, deciding it wasn't her thing, had been interested in idea of writing some book on place. She'd recently graduated from San Francisco State University with master's in international business and had many creative ideas kicking around. She implemented some during few-years tenure, including expanding office to include renovated gift shop, creating wellness cabin, adding custom tile design work to office and changing-room floor, building new, wider stairway from sundeck to creek -- and biggie, rebuilding 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 venerable but badly-aging old sauna torn out and a new, larger one up and running in its stead by time they got back a 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 pouring lots of concrete.
Design spun on the fly, local crew of ten-- including carpenters Ohbe and Lewis, stone mason Tony, and electrician Andy -- miraculously manifested it on time despite having to work with foot of fresh snow on ground. Crystal brought back large heart-shaped double crystal that was worked into stone wall and backlit for magical, slowly color-changing accent. (When daily programmed, that is; left to own devices it soon began to flash like some over-caffeinated neon sign, driving sweaters nuts... and serving as dead-giveaway reminder of profit-minded focus of place).
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 back up to snuff, writer heard her mutter, "Sometimes I think it'd be easier to just to tear it down and 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 a book. See something about Mary
Then there's the apocryphal American Indian curse -- one apparently attributed to most any 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, who was black, indeed actually started making decent profits, perhaps first in Springs history. Towards end of tenure he reportedly cleared 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... Even so, it had reportedly at one point become his main money-maker. Add to original white 'owners' the longtime black owner, former yellow manager, new brown co-owners, and, of course, sweat lodge's prehistoric red non-owners, and Springs might appear to be gaining powerful harmonizing cultural rainbow energy, enabling truly diverse, all-inclusive global culture to flourish in future. see New Day Dawning
Tragic Lore: Renaissance rock star David Crosby's brother, Ethan, also guitar musician, once worked at Stewart's. He 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?
Curse or no, Mother Nature's protective elemental forces no doubt rebelled whenever man's covetous hopes for bountiful investment return trying to cash in on special waters and natural environ, so easily accessible, superseded desire to serve and heal. Maybe natives, so rich in earth wisdom, didn't so much cast a curse as merely point out the obvious. Obsession with accumulating yellow rocks and dead frog skins at price of upsetting ecology of planet had inevitable disastrous repercussions.
However, since there was such a hellacious effort by intolerant settlers, likely 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 almost undoubtedly was one mighty curse cast. As mentioned elsewhere, many believed angry ghosts of slain warriors serving as enforcers haunting grounds beyond time, casting dark shadows over place and seriously crimping potential for any more healing energy to manifest.
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 work tenure there. 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 about place. Charlie's grandfather and father, then a boy, were spared massacre only because camped further up snake canyon (as they called it) for hot season. They heard prolonged gunfire and came down later, witnessing massacre's unspeakable aftermath.
Fast forward and Charlie was considered too sickly a child to bother trying to brainwash in culture-destroying boarding schools. So 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 respectfully interested. (Some tribal members disapproved; to this day there's a serious split in Karuk circles -- the new casino in Yreka is product of those not approving of his open sharing...or of Walking Eagle's sacred sweats that remain open to all earnest seekers.)
Time and effort helped place get back to semblance of healing grounds of wiser modern-day owners. But as it was long revered as sacred land, where even warring tribes laid down weapons on hillsides 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.
There was only small, modestly paid staff to work through often gnarly winters. Complicating year-round operation 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. Also, 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 meddling with the plan.
It almost seemed that at lowest moments the violent vibration of grounds' tragic past re-surfaced. At such times 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 both staff and management. Whenever they fell down such black holes of despair, feeling overworked and underpaid, day visitors, and especially overnight guests who experienced resulting indifferent to rough sketchy treatment reacted variously with furious disdain, grave disappointment and stupefied disbelief.
Medicine Wheel Slows
Many deemed the tightrope act of management -- trying to balance place as healing ground while attempting to generate maximum profit -- an impossible one. It lent exquisite irony to old businessman's quip, "Well, I'm not in business for my health."
There were dark days indeed. Days anyone who experienced them tried to forget. Writer was once threatened with being thrown off covered bridge for trying to quietly enforce new no-smoking policy on bridge to Nam vet local with PTSD. Violent energy could all too easily prevail whenever too few people held intent to reactivate place's healing medicine wheel, potential majestic rotation hampered by over-worldly, covetous owner/management focus.
To degree owners, 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 with 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 paints vivid picture of place during renaissance Goodpasture years in 1970s for visitors, reminding locals of jewel -- diamond in rough -- place was and remains.
Viva la Musica!
During more together times, place hosted countless popular gatherings, workshops and music events. Many regional and visiting healing musicians, recording artists, and entertainers graced Springs over the years, among them Eric Bergland, Matisha, Kathy Zavada, Carolyn Hedger, and Anton Miserak. 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 visitors to enjoy it in harmonious, healing atmosphere, it seems a travesty place's recent ownership's non-community-minded intent has felt light years away from ever enabling any such culture-rich coming together of wider community...as currently done regularly with wild success at hour-away Jackson Wellsprings in northern outskirts of Ashland in southern Oregon.
(history continued below)
Yet another long editorial sidebar
(skip if of little interest)
plus current nudity Ban
Is for-profit operation self-defeating at healing resort?
Over-focus on turning profit obviously can all too easily erode any ostensible healing place's potential. In times past, Stewart's management and staff's brisk cordial business surface could mask callous drive to feed ever-hungry maw more revenue, management possibly incentivized through profit-sharing bonuses if exceeding annual-set financial goal.
All involved could end up compromising finer natures and personal integrity for sake of job security, free baths, and maybe power trip of running a renowned institution. If so doing, they naturally became poorer for it. For they mortgaged chance of ever grokking what place was all about: healing body and spirit and coming into closer harmony with nature and others while receiving soul-enriching blessing from universe through performing dedicated service.
This is why so many of northwest's most popular mineral spring resorts are run nonprofit, like Harbin and Ashland, Oregon's Jackson Wellsprings -- sometimes collectively owned and operated, like central Oregon's intentional community Breitenbush. Such setup potentially allows deeper focus, providing more-grounded and heart-centered service, unalloyed by off-putting, growling profit hunger.
Of course, any nonprofit business model can have its own problems -- like over time possibly experiencing disconnect between original intent and current operation, becoming a bureaucratic machine or cliquish social scene, more dedicated to perpetuating itself than offer any genuine service per se. Example: when Volunteers of America booked lavish party junket at Springs in 2001, writer was shocked at giddy spending from donated funds, including luxuriant terrycloth robe giveaways to all 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 can keep revenues pegged to actual running costs and building improvement/replacement reserves, rather than running place to generate wealth, it tends to inspire and empower staff and management to create more relaxed and nurturing atmosphere...one more dedicated to quiet service. Where is this more important than at place existing to purify and heal and offer retreat from stresses of everyday world? Barring such a set-up, only with enlightened compassionate capitalism, like Stewart's at first appeared to have with new 2016 ownership (scroll down past top editorial), can place excel and unfold greatest potential as healing retreat...one that keeps place from turning into yet another superficial spa for spiritually challenged and nature alienated seeking pampering to compensate for having let higher selves be compromised from mad scramble to accumulate piles of mammon.
Though some, like writer, bemoaned fact operation wasn't nonprofit like Harbin or collective like Breitenbush, Stewart's did come along nicely in some ways during last years under Foggy, who had by then unlimbered wallet and lavished many improvements. Place made notable strides in beautifying grounds and upgrading facilities.
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 untoward business energies floating about around edges of realm and tune in to place's original harmonious healing and purifying vibration. (And let better flourish infectious popularity among bohemian-friendly.)
Some no doubt felt that last managers tried as best they could -- given strictly-business directive within 10-year contract to maximize revenue amid critically failing health of one -- to build more healing-focused, albeit conventionally-leaning, operation. But, again, it was impossible tightrope act, trying to serve two masters. Mixed-bag result of miracles and disasters was inevitable result, dramatically reflected in flurry of polarized reposted online rants and raves reviews.
Bottom line: Regardless of financial structure, intent is always crucial factor. Ironic case in point: new ownership's Pneuma Institute is a nonprofit. See how much good that did for Stewart's, being run as a for-profit adjunct acquisition by nonprofit parent, as allowed by California law.
Clothing-optional: gone with the wind?
More than mild cause for concern among countless estranged friends of Stewart Springs was how new absentee ownership indifferently junked clothing-optional policy. Countless found new mandatory cover-up by turn laughable, depressing, and intolerable. They felt their holistic, super-natural lifestyle had suddenly been excoriated, deemed nothing short of perverted, utterly unacceptable for decent, God-fearing, perma-dressed folk. It went into effect 11-1-16, after 17 years of bathhouse being selectively clothing-optional -- in sauna, sundeck, and creek area, wrapping up in between.
Ban possibly came about from erroneous perception, bred of buttoned-down conservative lifestyle and aided and abetted by Machiavellian maneuvers by 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 that mindfully embraces radical body freedom in appropriate public places as basic human right or was at least open to considering such a notion.
Truth is, Stewart Springs management never gained any real conscious handle on clothing-optional policy. This in contrast to every other regional rural spring resort permitting it. (Current layout isn't optimal.) As mentioned elsewhere, past manager Mary finally allowed it, on approval by owner Foggy, but was so bummed over office-manager mother's sudden death that she never hammered any solid policy (and possibly lacked crucial awareness on matter to have ever created one anyhow).
So, all along, c/o 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 make exhibit of selves rather than lift up consciousness and attune to higher body-mind-spirit re-integration that simple mindful nudity so easily fosters in properly set-up environment.
One would've hoped new management would resurrect policy once seeing the light, realizing how such simple nudity works hand-in-glove with healing oasis Springs when pro-actively working to raise respectability of clothing-optional scene -- as, gain, have virtually every other more popular regional rural mineral springs resort in 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 semi-privatizing/upscaling historic 145 year public-serving place easier to suit own intent and taste...and the public be damned.)
Some returning visitors, not knowing what triggered such drastic policy change, only being told lamely that it was to make things "more comfortable for everyone" and how "we were getting a lot of perverts here" understandably saw it as surreal throwback to enforced body shame many came to Springs in good part to get away from. It drastically inhibited becoming truly one with realm's wild healing beauty.
Prayer had been ownership would reconsider before realizing they were adamantly against it all along.
Again, being involved with seeming spiritual organization Incarre, which claims dedication to "re-integrating body-mind-spirit on profoundly higher levels," one would think that present ownership would've realized how simple, mindful nudity is an incredibly effective and easily implemented tool towards realizing such aim. There was a glaring, exasperating disconnect somewhere.
Maybe it was all talk, mere sizzle, calculated selling point for enrolling people in long pricey workshops. Why allow people opportunity to experience dramatic, affordable healing through simple body freedom, so liberating and re-integrating of mind-body-spirit in course of bathhouse visit, and thus have no need for any pricey long-term psychotherapy?
That'd be bad business.
It'd make shtick look superfluous. So get rid of unfair competition. It's essentially same self-interested energy that, as said on home page, has adamantly refused to recognize 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, only real danger of nude sunbathing is getting a sunburn and, at worst, courting possibility of skin cancer later down the road if really overdoing it. And admittedly it's easier burning your butt on hot sauna bench. Can't think how skinnydipping can ever be dangerous...unless getting so used to it that risk hassles at other public places if trying to further enjoy accustomed body freedom.
(Springs history concluded)
No time to write
Finally, for some reason it appears few other historic Northwest mineral spring resorts have 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 written 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 near future, trying to stay on top of operations and plan fine-tuning of things. No time to divert limited energies to attempt unearthing and making 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 spiritual plane -- each constantly influencing others in myriad ways.
Knowing the place's past, its beginnings and evolution, can allow visitors much fuller appreciation and keener enjoyment of Springs...and give aware stewards more solid foundation of understanding for charting viable new projects to further place in ways allowing visitors to better experience healing and rejuvenating.
It's a rare portal, worthy of keener understanding. If one listens closely and gets beyond often dreary human politics and policies of place, you might hear the land's timeless history in the rushing of the creek and the wind through the trees.
(end of history)
It's perfect after all
Seventy-eight years under the Stewarts' dedicated care and over 65 years under various other land stewards since --
Mendera and spirited Mexican crew's new bridge near A-frame >
each with different visions and intents and creating varied land improvements, overlays on original pre-historic use as sacred healing ground -- have made for the grand crazy-quilt of a rustic springs operation that we have now.
Disregarding unfortunate notions any new ownership might harbor to re-purpose or privatize place, no matter what man attempts to do to magical healing 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. Hopefully place will allow this once again, in post-virus future in which current sorry diversions have been abandoned, kindred spirits connecting amid glad tidings of nature in optimally relaxed way.
But even when place seems to lose its way and jump down rabbit hole of incredibly egregious, inappropriate ventures, becoming so gnarly a row to hoe for any with bohemian leanings that they give up on place, on crucial level the mystic realm with its profound energy vortex properties and healing waters always transcends any human operational intent.
With new ownership connected to apparent spiritual and quasi-spiritual organizations and earth's vibrational frequency increasing, one had naturally hoped medicine wheel of sacred land would have gathered serious new momentum by now.
That instead it appeared, up to time of virus, to be regressing further away under self-interested, semi private-minded intent obviously doesn't mean it can't bounce back in future.
Either new ownership's hearts will miraculously melt or, barring that seeming unlikelihood, they run place into ground as Infinite Spirit foils any wonky plans to co-opt healing lands longterm for narrow-focused, non-public-minded, quasi-spiritual use -- or they finally get a giant karmic wake-up call. Then they'll throw in towel, ideally redeeming selves -- and ultimate Springs legacy -- by finding and selling place at fair price to one or ones who will honor restoring land, ideally as legal nonprofit, to former open-minded, culturally all-inclusive ways of affordable, purification, healing and rejuvenation.
An progressively-minded one, enjoyable by all on positive, growth-minded paths on our mother earth.
Countless believe that a place bearing such a rich legacy of healing deserves nothing less.