THE NEW RESERVATION
Sulphur Springs Reservation began in 1902 with 629 acres. In 1904 it grew to the size of 858 acres. Another tract bought in 1941 brought the total to 912 acres. Still the smallest national Park it was the seventh oldest. Sulphur Springs Reservation changed its name to Platt National Park in 1906.
Platt did rank for many years as the second most popular by the number of annual visitors. The only Park's to rank higher in visitation than Platt were Yellowstone, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park's. In 1929 Platt actually beat Yellowstone in attendance.
The fact that the little Park was served by two railroads brought early day visitors in masses from a four state area before the advent of the automobile. After the auto became common, the Park overflowed every weekend during the summer camping season. It has served as host to boy scouts, church groups, veterans and a million family reunions.
Falls Creek Baptist Assembly grounds opened in 1917 but the group used the Park as early as 1907 for their annual camp meetings.
The reason for Platt's quick and early popularity was simple. First, it was a popular tourist destination before it became a national Park. Second, it was the only national Park for hundreds of miles around. During the summer, in an otherwise hot and dry, barren prairie was a unique collection of mineral and fresh water springs with cool creeks hidden in shady valleys. There were no giant redwood trees or grand canyons. There were no geysers shooting into the sky or any giant caverns to explore. It was just a place of cool water and shade for the entire family to relax.
Many of the early day visitors truly believed that the mineral waters could cure everything from asthma to arthritis. Maybe it did, who knows. One of the reasons the cattlemen liked to water their stock at the sulphur springs is that when they drank the water the cattle had fewer ticks. Those residents who watered their lawns with sulphur water had fewer chiggers in their yard. It is well known that if one drinks enough sulphur water chiggers and mosquitoes will not bother them as badly.
Of the Seven Springs in the Pavilion area, Big Tom flowed at the highest rate of forty gallons per minute. There were three springs that surfaced on the west bank of Rock Creek just north of the juncture with Travertine Creek. These were known as The Beach Springs since they came up on the beach of Rock Creek. A well house was built and the water piped to a small pavilion where they became know as the Black Sulphur Springs in 1926.
During the parks existence the Antelope and Buffalo Springs have gone dry eleven times but have always came back after the dry spell. These two springs get their water from the Simpson Aquifer Group. One who travels around perimeter road can see the city wells and tanks through the trees on Limestone Creek just outside the Park boundary. The wells are drilled into the same aquifer that supplies Antelope and Buffalo Springs.
The Simpson Aquifer is an area of about 12 square miles and has a storage capacity that is quite small and is quickly depleted unless there is frequent rainfall. The water flowing from Buffalo and Antelope Springs comes from a depth of about 400 feet.
In October of 1903, Supt. Swords receives a petition from the citizens of Sulphur in regard to building a bridge over Rock Creek on Baseline Street (later Davis Avenue and even later Broadway Avenue). The citizens complain that when Rock Creek 'gets up' it is three or four days before the mail or they can get to the other side of town. The citizens tell Swords they will build a timber frame bridge on government land and then present it to the reserve at no expense to the government. The citizens are granted permission and the bridge is built for a cost of $1,000.
Work began in the spring of 1904 trying to improve the reserve. Supt. Swords ordered Bermuda grass seed and lotus plants from the Department of Agriculture. These were to be used to beautify Central Park, the area today we call Flower Park.
The name of the new reserve caused some visitors problems. Many of them complained to the Superintendent that their mail was being sent to Sulphur Springs, Texas. In a letter to the Secretary, (March 17, 1904), Supt. Swords suggested that with the current debate in Congress to rename the reserve, they might consider his suggestions.
Swords related that in 1904, The United States Postal Guide indicated that there were 32 towns commencing with the word Sulphur. Swords suggestion was that Perry Froman, an early pioneer in the area, should be honored by re-naming the Sulphur Springs Reservation the Froman Springs Reservation and further suggested that the town have its name changed by the post office to Froman.
On July 4th of 1904, The Sulphur Post newspaper reported that the holiday was pretty quiet with the exception of a couple incidents. One was that Ranger Forrest Townsley discovered a "darkie" swimming in the nude in Sulphur (Travertine) Creek near the Buffalo-Antelope Springs and was escorted to the reservation boundary. Swimming was not allowed in the creeks. The editor of the paper asked "if the Park is not for the people then what good is it?"
On the 4th of July, Supt Swords passes out fireworks to the children who live in the reservation.
There was an incident where some unknown assailant threw a firecracker in the midst of a burro ride causing a young lady to be thrown to the ground, striking her head. Another incident was that the caretaker, Willis Townsley, of the Antelope-Buffalo springs area suffered a 'severe gash' over his eye as the result of an exploding firecracker.
As a result of the incident with the nude black man swimming and several other incidents of people swimming, on July 7th Supt. Swords sent a letter and requested the Secretary of the Interior revise the Rules and Regulations of the Sulphur Springs Reserve and allow swimming in the pools on the west end of Sulphur Creek.
Cleanup of the debris from the house moving continued with 1,500 dray loads of rock and debris being removed from the reservation. Many of the remaining houses were rented for one to two dollars per month so as to have somebody watching them against theft and vandalism.
Ranger Townsley is ordered to do a count of the remaining buildings inside the reservation. He reports that as of July 13th there are still 101 houses and 12 stores with one of those used by the town site surveyors.
The summer gives time to repair some of the roof damage that has occurred and the heavy summer rains have soaked the inside of the buildings. A livery stable with 60 horses is ordered moved down Rock Creek. The stable was only a few feet from the Pavilion springs and heavy rains often washed the refuse of the stable into the springs.
By August the very large two-story Old Pavilion had been torn down and a new single story, much smaller Pavilion had been erected over the Seven Springs.
The Seven Springs Hotel had been repaired, partitioned off and rented out for $25 per month.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief, October 2006.