by Archie P. McDonald, PhD
fifty years ago, I worked as a "hop boy" on a milk delivery truck that ran the
country route for Kelly's Dairy in Beaumont,
Texas. Dad was the salesman who drove the truck, so I had a sympathetic boss
and could consume all the pint bottles (once upon a time milk came in such), of
chocolate milk I wanted. I "wanted" when we served the customers in Saratoga,
in Hardin County. The reason: the water smelled highly of sulfur. It really didn't
taste bad if you held your nose, but a boy has his foolishness, so I disdained
the smelly stuff and succumbed to the seduction of chocolate. Upon reflection,
maybe Saratoga's water was just an excuse.
Anyway, that water helped
this East Texas community earn its name and gave it unfulfilled notions of becoming
a famous health spa like the one in New York from which it borrowed its moniker.
J.F. Cotton discovered a spring at the site of this future town in the
1850s. I expect he smelled it before he saw it. In the 1880s, P.S.
Watts attempted to capitalize on the water's unique properties. This was a
time in which many people placed great faith in hydropathy, or the healing
power of water. Watts may not have thought he was dealing with another Lourdres,
but he did hope for another Saratoga, as in New York, where the elite retreated
to "take the waters," sometimes seeking health and sometimes just enjoying their
built a hotel and rental cottages and such, and changed the name of the community
from New Sour Lake to Saratoga, hoping to attract customers. Not
many came, but what made the water smell the way it did eventually brought some
measure of riches anyway.
Old Cotton himself attempted to find oil in
the area of Saratoga as early as 1865, and others tried again in 1887 and located
a small well. Much larger production followed the discovery of Spindletop,
about thirty miles south of Saratoga, in 1901. And the arrival of a railroad also
enabled the expansion of sawmilling because timber produced there then could reach
Saratoga enjoyed a period of some prosperity from oil-and-timber
production, but failed to hold its advantage. From a population of 1,000 in 1925,
it fell to about 350 in 1950, though lately the number of folks who call Saratoga
home has reach about 1,000 again.
Dad sometimes got a sore back from
lifting those cases of milk and our family frequently vacationed in Hot Springs,
Arkansas, so he could take the famed baths there. He might have been as well off
Fifty years later, I don't know if the water still smells
like sulfur in Saratoga, and even if it does I might not be so persnickety now.
On the other hand, chocolate offers a powerful alternative.
July 8-14, 2001
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical
Association and author or editor of over 20 books on Texas)
Bragg Light Misnomer
Dear TE, I have lived in Saratoga, Texas my entire
my life (36 years) and grew up a quarter of a mile from the end of Bragg Road.
Everyone who grew up in Saratoga knows [the local mysterious light] it as Bragg
Light, not the ghost light, ghost road light, nothing with the name ghost or Saratoga
even mentioned in the name. The light is there and it's not swamp gas as other
people try to say because there aren't any swamps around Bragg Road. My granddad
was born in 1897 and was raised in Saratoga and always talked about the light.
So does my dad, who has spent his entire life here (since 1934). People try to
write articles about the road and light, that are not from the area and they get
so much wrong about it. Just like it is known that oil was discovered in Saratoga
way before Beaumont, but because it wasn't a boom it's not recognized as that.
I just wish someone could write a completely accurate article on the Bragg light
so it is known that it is there and what it is. My Dad tells me the story of the
headless man looking for his head is something that someone from out of town made
up and that people that descended from Saratoga never heard of it until they talked
to people from other areas. I apologize if it sounds like I'm "going off" on this
subject but as someone who has lived here all my life it's irritating to hear
people talk and write about things that they don't completely know about. I have
a magazine from years ago that featured Bragg Road and was fairly accurate on
the article because they did a lot of research from the people around here before
it was published. - Thomas Tomlinson, Saratoga, Texas,, May 03, 2007
I was born and raised
in Beaumont and heard
many stories about the "ghost" of Saratoga.... A friend of mine once told me that
her car was actually attacked and dented by an unseen force when she was in Saratoga.
.... On a double-date, I was taken out there late at night, but nothing occurred.
... I would like to know more of the story (legend), whether it be true or not.
... - Thank you, Rhoda W., January 02, 2002