The City of LaGrange has seen a lot of change since the late 1800s. The city was once home to a booming button factory, creamery and college. LaGrange College merged with Hannibal College in 1928, which is now known as Hannibal LaGrange University.
But there's one thing that's remained constant in this Mississippi River town -- water from the LaGrange Artesian Well, also known as the LaGrange mineral well.
It's been flowing non-stop from more than 800 feet below the earth's surface since 1887. A company drilling for oil along the Mississippi River struck this spring instead. It wasn't black gold or Texas Tea, as Jed Clampett would say, but it did turn a profit.
"They bottled this and shipped it all over the country," LaGrange historian Curtis Farr said. "C.N. thomas who was one of LaGrange's business men marketed it all over the country and touted it for its medicinal purposes. It was known to cure diabetes. It was a cure-all from everything from stomach disorders."
LaGrange's city water department said crews bottled 50- to 90,000 gallons of this mineral well per day and shipped them to Chicago on a railroad car. LaGrange had two mineral wells, but one of them dried up in the 1920s. This one, however, continues to flow.
Although it's not as popular as it was in the early 1900s, Farr said people continue to drink and bottle the mineral water for its health benefits.
"I drink out of it all the time," he said. "I just love it."
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources said the water was last analyzed in the late 1800s. At that time, a geologist found potassium, calcium, magnesium, alumina and sodium in it. The city's water department has no records on file for water analysis since the mineral water is not considered a public water supply.
"I'm still alive after all these years," Farr said. "It's been good for me. I don't drink, smoke or chew, but I am addicted to the mineral water down here. It's always good for a good night's sleep. When you're sick and desperate for a cure, you'll try anything. The water always covers it during a flood, but it never hurts it. You don't have to sandbag the mineral well. It's self-maintaining."
Farr also said people used to bathe in the mineral water, claiming the minerals helped their skin.