Before the era of air conditioning, it was common to seek an outside location for meetings where it was cool. One of those locations near Wilmington was the Dover Mineral Springs on Dover Road, about four miles north of Wilmington.

Not only was this location wooded, it was home to a much-celebrated mineral spring, and just a short walk from the Dover Friends Meeting, one of the earliest settlements in the county.

The Mineral Springs are first mentioned in the Wilmington Journal as a meeting place on August 1, 1872 and the occasion was the Clinton County Temperance Association:

“At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Clinton County Temperance Association, it was determined to hold a TEMPERANCE MASS MEETING, at Dover Mineral Springs, on Saturday, the 10th day of August, 1872, commencing at 10 o’clock, A.M.

Ministers of the Gospel, their brethren, and all the Temperance Organizations of the County, are urgently invited to attend.”

I recently visited the springs and I have the clear impression that the spring today is nothing compared to what it was some 150 years ago. No doubt there are seasonal variations, but this spring it is simply drip, drip, drip!

Using our local newspaper as the source of information, it is clear that a most active time at the springs was during the election for governor of Ohio in 1873, and the local focus was on the Prohibition candidate, Mr. Gideon T. Stewart. A Mass Convention was to be held on September 13at Dover Mineral Springs with Mr. Stewart present.

This was big news for Clinton County!

Unfortunately, Mr. Stewart turned out to be a fraud! The Journal says the following of the man: “A man of this name is cantering over the State, like a wild Ass’ colt, professedly in the interest of Temperance and Prohibition, but really in the interest of … the Democratic party. He is a candidate for Governor without a party – a head without a tail, and but very little of the former. He addressed a mournful crowd of a few dozen, shivering with the cold, at Dover Springs, on Saturday afternoon, and at the Court House, in the evening; on both of which occasions, he made up, in malignancy and falsehood, what he evidently lacks in honesty and brains.” (He garnered just over 2 percent of the vote.)

After this disappointment, the Dover Mineral Springs continued to be the special place for the annual meetings of the local Temperance Association (see the picture of the 1893 poster advertising the annual meeting at the Dover Mineral Springs).

But it also serves several other functions. Several family reunions are announced — most often it is the Haworth-Bailey, but like other functions over time, they are moved to the Dover Church or the old school.

Dover Mineral Springs is referred to as a mineral springs, and especially during the late part of the 19th century there is talk of its healing qualities. At the same time there is talk of it not being cared for by the owner or the community.

In 1879 a lengthy article about the spring was published which appears to be a parody, or at least with a tongue-in-cheek. It goes on extolling the merits of the mineral water (some unrealistic) and its health benefits for both man and animal and projects the possibility of it being turned into a resort, but nothing seems to have happened.

However, the Murphy movement became a theme in the late 1870s and the search for converts provided impetus to continue the meetings still at the Dover Springs location.

The idea spreads to “Sign the Pledge” which means you will not drink alcoholic beverages. For me this becomes quite personal, as I am old enough to remember signing the pledge which was popularly known as “Lips that touch mine will never touch wine!” Now that is powerful stuff!

In a June, 1877 Journal article, the success is noted, “The Murphy wave which struck Wilmington over ten days ago has neither lost its force nor power. Every meeting held since our last issue has been eminently successful. Most of those numbered to the ranks of the habitual drinkers have turned over a new leaf, signed the pledge, and are keeping it, up to this writing. There have been between twelve and fifteen hundred signatures obtained in this village alone. Last sabbath a meeting was held at Port William, when one hundred and forty signed the pledge. At Dover Springs another meeting was held on the same day, when one hundred and thirty signatures were obtained.” (January, 1877.)

The appearance of events at the Dover Mineral Springs leveled off as the 20th century proceeded – a few marriages and reunions continued. By October of 1928 the Dover Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was being held at the Dover Church and schoolhouse. The last mention of the Dover Springs as a meeting place is a “jolly picnic” for the women employed in the offices of the Clinton County Courthouse.

The final mention of the Dover Mineral Springs is reference to one of the many reunions of the Haworth-Bailey family and the location is “the Dover Church Sunday near the springs where was the first settlement of the forefathers.”

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus of Wilmington College.

An 1893 poster for the Dover Temperance Meeting. 1893 poster for the Dover Temperance Meeting. Courtesy of Neil Snarr of Neil Snarr

Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist