Fair Haven Park was once the site of a mineral spring that drew crowds
FAIR HAVEN, MO. – What did people use for medicine in 1885 when there were no antibiotics or any of what we call modern medicines? They sought natural remedies, and mineral springs became popular places for healing.
On Aug. 8, 1885, a town was laid out at the site of some mineral springs along the western line of Bacon Township in Vernon County, Mo. The owner of the land, Mr. J. W. Connely named the town Connely Springs. The name was later changed to Fair Haven Springs.
A hotel was constructed for people to stay in until they found their homes in the area. The water was considered to be very healthy. The people didn’t have to worry about having water to drink as there were five springs. Analysts have determined the water in each spring is of a different character. If one did not find water from one place suitable to their constitution, they did not have to move, they could just change springs.
In the early days, there were two stores, a mill, post office, blacksmith shop, a grade school, church, the hotel and the park. A tabernacle was constructed on the south side of the park, which was used for home talent plays and for the worship services before the Presbyterian Church was built.
A blind man by the name of Steele was one of the early ministers. Tent meetings were often held in the park. Sunday school was held each Sunday afternoon, with an attendance of around 150. Sunday was a day for visiting in the park at Fair Haven. Large crowds came and sat round the pagoda listening to the local band and enjoying the fellowship of friends.
An annual celebration brought a large number of people to Fair Haven Park around Aug. 8 for three days for more than 60 years. The picnic was accompanied by a carnival. It was the principal attraction of the year for the area. One of the main attractions to the children especially was the horse-drawn merry-go-round.
The Kessler Tent Show was a special feature at the picnic each year with out-of-town talent presenting entertainment for the whole family and admission was 10 cents. People came in covered wagons and camped in the park. The hotel also served many guests, as there were 20 rooms to accommodate the celebrants. However, the hotel burned not many years after it was constructed.
The Walker Herald newspaper of July 24, 1924, stated: “The Fair Haven picnic will be held Aug. 7, 8, and 9, three days of entertainment and fun.”
On Aug. 15, 1929, The Walker Herald said: “The Fair Haven Picnic was a pronounced success. Although very warm, they ran up to more than five hundred and there was ample accommodations for all. There were several amusements on the grounds and a number from around Walker who attended reported a pleasant time.”
With the advancement of modern medications, and the automobile in rural Missouri, small towns began dying – Fair Haven Springs became one of the causalities. However, a small, but dedicated group of neighbors have made the effort to preserve the park and keep the Fair Haven community alive. A breakfast has been held in the summer months as a fundraiser for many years, and a place for neighbors to gather.
A modern building was constructed in the 1970s, which will seat upwards to a 100 in warm weather. The breakfasts are held there as it has an enclosed kitchen. The building is for rent by the community.
Kids still swing in the park and there is a permanent merry-go-round which is self-propelled. Due to the Amish population in the area, there is usually a buggy or so in sight as well as the automobile.
So, maybe we’ve come full circle at Fair Haven Park. People love to be with friends and have a good time no matter what the year, or even the century.