|Courtesy of Alison LimaRipley’s Believe it or Not called it the “Eighth Wonder of the World” in 1984. To Abenaki American Indians, it is a sacred spot with natural healing powers. Over the last two centuries, people with enterprising ideas have envisioned it as a place of business. Four hotel fires later, they were left to wonder: was it coincidence that led to their failure, or the curse of Brunswick Springs?|
|Brunswick Springs is located well off the main road in Brunswick, Vt., a town of approximately 100 residents in the Northeast Kingdom. There are six individual springs at the spot, and each allegedly contains a different mineral-iron, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, bromide and arsenic-that flow into the Connecticut River 65 feet below.The curse of the springs
The story of the curse begins in 1748, when Abenakis lived near the springs and relied on the natural healing powers of the waters. When a soldier was wounded in the French and Indian War, his Abenaki companions brought him to Brunswick Springs.
The springs were called the “Eighth Wonder of the World” due to the belief that the springs from the same source split into six unique mineral waters. (Margaret Lima photo)
“Legend has it that they brought him and put him under the springs, and lo and behold, he was cured,” says Beverly Kettle, a resident of North Stratford, N.H., a town just across the river. Kettle’s father, Henry Savage, built the last hotel that fell victim to fire.
Hotels rise over the water
The view from the top of the ridge includes the Connecticut River and the White Mountains. (Margaret Lima photo)
Kettle says the first house was built on the hill above the springs in 1832. The first hotel, called the Brunswick Spring House, followed in 1860. An early hotel brochure boasts the “medicine waters of the Great Spirit” and “60 guest chambers piped with the water from Brunswick Springs.” The hotel stayed in business for several years.
Stairs lead to the cellar of the last hotel. (Margaret Lima photo)
Just past a clearing above the springs lay the remains of the 1931 hotel, a cement foundation and stairs leading down to a cellar. The place is still frequented and honored by Abenaki Indians, and they leave tokens of their appreciation and awe at the spot that is sacred to them.
Never to be developed again
Abenakis often return to the springs and leave remembrances, such as these beads. (Margaret Lima photo)
“A conservation easement is the right to develop land,” says Kathleen O’Dell of the Vermont Land Trust. “It says that you can’t add more buildings to the land or have other business operations besides those that already exist. As a land trust, we legally say that that land can’t be developed again.”
Healing powers: fact or fiction?
This staircase leads to the top of the hill, above the springs. The hotel was on the other side of the ridge. (Margaret Lima photo)
“I’m telling you that stuff will heal. A lot of people use it,” he says. “My back used to hurt so I’d cry, but that’s what did it: the Brunswick Springs.” Kettle says that when she was a child, an old man lived in a cabin near the springs and walked in every day to get water. “He lived to be 90-something, or close to it,” she remembers. “Maybe I need to go down there and start drinking that water.”