(Anaheim Daily Gazette, June 15, 1876)

Hot Springs, June 12.

            Eds. Gazette: – As it has been noticed in some of the dailies of this county, not excepting the Anaheim Gazette, that a number of gentlemen have retired to this locality to drink of the waters of life, and by other means improve and recruit their tired frames, some little account of what they see, hear and enjoy may be interesting to those whose curiosity has been excited by the little notices alluded to.

            The Hot Springs of San Juan Capistrano have for many years past been a favorite resort for health seekers, pleasure seekers, hunters and others; and have the reputation of being a sovereign remedy for nearly all the “ills that flesh is heir to.” How much of the healing power is to be attributed to the beautiful climate, to the clear, pure air, the perfect rest and freedom from duties, claims and needs that bark along our track, and how much to the peculiar properties of the waters, is a question which I leave to the physicians to discuss. One thing, however, is proved by ocular demonstration – that causes almost marvelous are of daily occurrence here. From rheumatism to love-sickness, there seems to be nothing but finds relief from a visit to the springs.

            The unsettled condition of the Mission Vieja Rancho, on which these springs are situated, preclude the establishment of permanent improvements, and the number of tents and grotesque structures in the place of houses, gives the vicinity a quaint appearance, reminding one of old mining camps, during the early days of the gold fever in California. There are at present about fifty persons residing here, and each has followed the bent of his own sweet will in regard to the structure and locality of his abode, and the beautiful cañon in which the springs are located is dotted with tents and brush huts of every size, shape and description.

            There are several springs in this cañon to which medical properties are attributed. The spring mainly used for bathing purposes is a large one, supplying water sufficient for all the bath houses that can be crowded around it. The water is hot and has a strong smell of phosphorus. It is said to contain both iron and sulphur, and is not at all agreeable to the smell or taste; but as the fluid is mingled with wholesome medicinal things it is rendered palatable.

            Our party, with the Bohemian freedom peculiar to its members, located themselves under the hospitable care of Mrs. Larkin, and were not long in discovering that their lines had fallen in pleasant places – especially pleasant to those of the party who are fond of the society of the fair sex. The company thus strangely thrown together combines all the contradictions of character and disposition calculated to promote sociability and good feeling. There are the grave and the gay, the sentimental and the practical, the dreamer, the philosopher and the student. The sticklers for Hygienic regiment, and the lovers of good living, associate with a hearty good feeling, reminding one forcibly of one of Barnum’s happy families.

            The long, beautiful days are being pleasantly passed in the varied occupations of sleeping, eating, reading, croquet and conversation, and when the bright sun hides behind the hill, and the sentiment-impressing twilight gathers the company into the small circle, many and strange are the sentiments expressed and the subjects brought under discussion, and your silent correspondent finds much of interest and amusement in the various ideas advanced from the little party.

            The wonderful properties of the waters (?) have had a beneficial effect upon our company and all are rejoicing in the prospect of returning health and strength, and the rapidity with which the loaded dinner table is cleared, is convincing of improved appetites and digestions.

            Nothing has occurred to mark the lapse of pleasant days, and the coming of the mail wagon seems to be the only important point in our existence. The happy expression on the countenance of one of our number as she receives from the hands of the mail-carrier the precious letter that assures her that “though lost to sight she is still to memory dear,” and the supreme disgust depicted on the faces of your correspondent when he receives the information that no Anaheim Gazette has arrived, form pictures which would delight an artist, and puzzle him to portray.

            Anaheim is well represented here, and could you overhear the remarks, you would be satisfied that its representative newspaper was appreciated, and you would immediately order the mail clerk to write Hot Springs in large letters upon his mailing-book and with unmistakable lines underscore the name of your correspondent, Skip

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Fourth of July at the Hot Springs

(Anaheim Daily Gazette, July 8, 1876)

            Eds. Gazette. – No doubt our little party at the Springs was entirely forgotten by its friends in Anaheim and elsewhere on the great Centennial 4th. I dare say it never occurred to you that we could have a grand celebration in this secluded valley. But we did, and I doubt it there was more enjoyment in proportion to the number attending at any celebration in the country than at our little frolic yesterday. All but about thirty had left the Cañon to enjoy the anniversary in some more populous place, but though few in number, we all entered into the spirit of the day with a hearty good will, and had a first rate time, which you would hardly have expected, being aware, I suppose, that we lost an Ey(e) last week.

            Hoping to have venison for our barbecue, Mensenkamp started hunting on Monday morning. He did not go to the potrero, but a little ways down this cañon and a little ways up another, and in half an hour he saw a deer on the side of a mountain and shot it.

            About noon on Tuesday most of the campers assembled at Mrs. Larkin’s tents bringing with them their edibles. The table was really loaded down with good things and a great variety of them. After all were decorated with the national colors, they sat down in the shade and proved that this mountain air gives every one a good appetite. The dinner being over, we adjourned to a shady grove near by, and mindful of the hour when the Declaration was first read, the reader, Jas. Goodwin, commenced at exactly 2 o’clock. Of course we have listened to the same thing once a year ever since childhood, but its rendering yesterday made it fresh and interesting.

            The reading was followed by prayer by Mr. Rodgers, a short speech by Mr. Reavis, a few songs, and a humorous select reading. The exercises occupied just an hour, and at the very minute when John Hancock commenced the signing of the Declaration of Independence a hundred years ago, all the gentlemen, with a lady at the head, stood in rank, and shot in turn for each State and Territory. Then the party broke up, though most of them went back to Mrs. Larkin’s, sang more songs and read a little poetry. After that, croquet for an hour or two, and then “good night.”  [s] M.S.P.

San Juan Capistrano July 5th, 1876

[San Juan Hot Springs (now closed to the public) is along the Ortega Highway, at the upper end of Caspers Wilderness Park. – P.B.]