During the Springs Era in Waukesha, in which the town was known nationally and worldwide for its healing spring water, it almost seemed as if there was a mineral spring in everyone's backyard. Of course, this is an exaggeration, but with over 60 mineral springs, having a spring in the backyard was a reality for many people. An example of one of these springs would be the Avoca Mineral spring. This spring was discovered a well was dug for the home of Rev. Dr. E. Purdon Wright. Although the spring was actually an artisan well, as it was dug and not naturally occurring, it was still referred to as a spring, and marketed as such. The home was built on what is the present site of that is now the Carroll University Student Union1.
Backstory and Context
The water from Avoca Spring was commercialized most during the 1870s, however large quantities of water were never shipped from the spring compared to larger spring companies in the area at the time. Rev. Dr. E. Purdon Wright and Mrs. Wright came to Waukesha in 1872, as the word of Waukesha's healing spring water was just becoming more well known. They came to Waukesha in search of a cure for Mrs. Wright's diabetes, hoping to have the same luck as others and be cured by drinking the spring water. They bought a home on the site of what is now the Student Union of Carroll University. On this property, in May of 1875, they dug a well for household use. They struck an abundance of water flowing through the layers of rock below, and commercialized upon it. More accurately, this so-called spring was more of an artisan well, as the water was not naturally breaking the surface through underground pressure, but was instead dug to the source. Nevertheless, it was referred to as a spring in advertising. They claimed the water from the spring was a specific cure for diabetes and kidney diseases, and also stated that bathing in the mineral water would be beneficial.
A sample of water from Avoca Spring was sent to Milwaukee Chemist Gustave Bode in the summer of 1875 shortly after its discovery. Gustave Bode also conducted tests on several other Waukesha springs such as Henk Spring. The water from Avoca proved to be relatively the same in mineral composition and purity as other notable springs in Waukesha, being most similar to Silurian Spring in terms of total dissolved solids2.
Dr. Wright put his home and the spring up for sale in 1876, but did not leave Waukesha. Avoca Spring was never advertised on the same level as many of the other springs in the town, and eventually faded out of existence. Mrs. Wright ended up living to 102 years old, seemingly cured of her diabetes by the Waukesha water.
- Schoenknecht, John Martin. Great Waukesha Springs Era 1868-1918. Edition 1. Waukesha, WI. John M. Schoenknecht, 2003, p.30. - Chicago & Northwestern Railway Summer Tourist Guide, 1890.