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Spring Park
1975 Signboard donated by Xi Epsilon Lambda Chapter of Bega Sigma Phi
1975 Signboard donated by Xi Epsilon Lambda Chapter of Bega Sigma Phi

The legislature formed Mitchell County and established its boundaries in 1850-51. In the fall of 1851, Leonard Cutler and his son, J.B. Cutler, passed through Mitchell County, prospecting. They were the first to observe the area’s beauty and suitability as a permanent settlement. In the spring of 1852, they returned and the first claims were made. Leonard Cutler staked the first claim in the county at the site of the present spring at Spring Park. The first settlers in both St. Ansgar and Osage arrived in 1853.

In the early years, people of Osage went on camping trips to Nim’s Ford, about 10-12 miles south of town on the Cedar River. Equipped with tents and provisions, the family might camp out for a week or more. Transportation was by horse and buggy and a trip of this distance was too much for daily trips. It wasn’t possible to make the trip too often, and people began looking for a place closer to town where they might go camping. They needed a safe place for children, offering good water, shade, and a bathing beach.

In the late 1800’s, Jacob Haight owned part of the land where Spring Park is now located. He lived on his farm south of the river. The spring on his land was called Jacob Haight Spring.

A committee was formed to look over some of Haight’s land. It was near town and had a good wagon road running out to it. The men talked with Haight and decided to buy 20 acres of land for $60 per acre, for park purposes.

The land was purchased and the deed was signed by Haight July 2, 1894. The articles of incorporation for the Spring Park Association were drawn up that day, also. The association had a capital stock of $12.50. The articles of incorporation provided that each stockholder was to contribute $50. Upon this payment, a certificate would be issued.

There were 24 charter members in the corporation. Later, that number grew to 55.

At first, the entrance to the park was on the east. A wagon road went to the east side of the park. A place to keep horses was provided near the entrance. A dam was built on the river to make swimming safe for the children. When the wagon road was used, the drivers had to take their horses through the grounds, unload the tent and equipment, and then go back across the grounds to the barns. After a while, the entrance to the park was moved to the northeast corner of the land.

The association members built a road down the hill west of the spring. It proved too steep even for horses, so they extended it further west. They moved the barns from the east gate to just south of the spring, where they remained until automobiles replaced the horses and they were no longer needed.

The park area was originally divided into a number of lots, mostly fronting on the river. In its early years, the association would hold a mid-winter campfire at the old Sprague Opera House and at this time the members drew lots for their summer camping sites.

The first season in 1894 was a glorious one. As soon as school was out, parents and friends began to move down to the park. Tents with tight floors and screened front porches were used. They were placed along the high ground near the river.

The spring was cleaned out and cased in. The creek was cleaned to the river. Each family had a container that was left near the spring in the cold water, providing "refrigeration" for their food. There were holes on opposite sides of the box, letting water through and keeping food fresh and nice. Milk would keep nicely for 5 days.

Usually,

The Spring at Spring Park
The Spring at Spring Park
the families would gather around the campfire in the evenings for a community sing.

From Mary Haight Salisbury’s diary: "My father,Jacob Haight, ran a sorghum mill across from Spring Park, making sorghum for several families who brought sugar came each fall and piled it up. Many campers came over to our house to buy eggs and chickens. Chickens, not dressed, were 25 cents each. Eggs were 7 cents per dozen."

Mary’s half-brother, Horace Haight, took 2 or 3 cans of milk to the park each night for the campers, who put it into pails or glass jars.

Since Spring Park was a private park, the gates were locked to all but members. Each year, however, the park members would hold a "Farmers’ Night" for those who weren’t members. Friends and neighbors were invited to the park for an evening party.

In the late 1890’s, Mrs. Ida Spicer, Mrs. Pet Cleveland’s sister, had a restaurant called "The Vendome" at the park and many of the campers ate there on weekends. They made reservations and came to meals rather formally dressed.

From an 1897 copy of the Press News: "A living spring of water has been confined and its never-ceasing flow is picturesque as well as convenient to use. The water has been analyzed and found to be the purest spring water. It has medicinal values, but its great virtue is its purity. Such waters are always an object of interest to the scientifically curious. Its immense volume, unvarying flow, and icy temperature make it a great attraction."

Fearing that the 21 acres of land west of their land might be sold and the timber cleared off, the association bought the land from Arthur M. Brush on July 21, 1904, for $1,260. This was the same amount, $60 per acre, as the first purchase in 1894.

Helen French and Mazie Stearns remembered that, as soon as school ended for the year, their family headed for Spring Park where they stayed until fall when school opened again. They had a big, good tent. There were about 4 beds and a separate kitchen with a kerosene stove and an oven that set over a couple of the burners. One day per week, their mother, Mrs. Stearns, came back into town to do washing, ironing, shopping, and baking, with the help of a hired girl. Their memories of Spring Park were of great fun spent at the park. It was their grandfather Tupper, who was in the hardware business, who put the first casing around the spring.

In about 1916, K.J. Johnson built the first cottage at the park. H. M. Nichols and Herbert Stoughton built summer homes there in 1919 and Later Cora Johnson, George Tupper, and the Penney Brothers (Earl and Hartley) put up cottages along the river.

As time went on, many of the original stockholders moved away, died, or lost interest in the park. Automobiles made other summer resorts more accessible, and interest in Spring Park began to lag. Few members were left to pay for the care of the park and it soon became a burden. Many annual assessments were past due and some changes had to be made.

In 1935, the park property was leased to Mitchell County for a period of 15 years, with the agreement that they would take care of the roads and the spring. In 1937, the county wasn’t keeping it in good condition, so the directors of the Spring Park Association decided to deed the property to the City of Osage. In 1938, the park was officially given to the City and it has been well maintained as a city park ever since. (Information gathered by Dora Biederman for 2006 Osage Sesquicentennial)