by Mike Cox
tired and run down? Even after a good night’s sleep are you less-than-energetic
in the morning?
Back in the mid-1880s, J. M. Henigan definitely could have related.
But not just him. His whole brood lacked energy and robust health.
The Henigan family’s condition seemed in sharp contrast with the overall
salubriousness of their neighbors in and around the South
Texas town of Carrizo
As the local newspaper, the Javelin would put it ten years later:
“It is a well known fact that we have one of the healthiest towns,
if not the healthiest, in the state; and Texas
in this respect has almost world-wide renown. Our rate of mortality
per capita is lower than can be shown even among our neighboring towns
of the healthy southwest, and the rate of increase is immense.”
Of course, not everyone in town could claim perfect health all the
time. People still caught colds, not to mention suffering occasionally
from “chills, fever, grip…and general complaints”
For those complaints, and to maintain good health in general, the
newspaper pointed out that “we have a sovereign remedy right at our
doors in the shape of the Henigan mineral water, which is sadly neglected
for no other apparent reason than it costs nothing but the trouble
of carrying it from the well, and is, therefore, too common and cheap.”
But for the Henigans, the water had proven more valuable than liquid
In 1885, Henigan built a house near Carrizo
Springs’ brick yard, which he had acquired a financial interest
in, and moved his family there. Near his house lay a well that had
been dug to furnish water for the mixing of clay.
The water from the well worked well enough for industrial use, but
it tasted terrible.
“Water for drinking and cooking purposes had to be brought from some
distance,” the local newspaper noted.
For convenience sake, the Henigans learned to figuratively hold their
collective noses to “slake their thirst when the supply of spring
water happened to become exhausted.”
Speaking of exhausted, that word well described Henigan.
“He had always been a hard working man, never positively sick, yet
he was aware that his physical ability was gradually on the decline,”
the newspaper article continued. Too, Mrs. Henigan “for some time
before had been in a chronic state of ill health, and was prematurely
aging fast.” Nor did their children “appear to be in a thrifty, growing
Then things changed.
“After…about three or four months, Mr. Henigan awoke to the fact that
there had been an almost miraculous improvement in his health and
that of his family,” the newspaper went on. “Now he realized that
he was enjoying all the vigor of his early manhood; that his wife
had become as plump and rosy-cheeked as when he first courted her
and the children were growing like the weeds that adorn our rich bottom
Henigan soon concluded that drinking the bitter brick yard well water
had returned his family to health.
Word of the amazing restorative qualities of the water spread faster
than the contents of a spilled bucket. The Javelin said the people
Springs got so healthy that the local doctors practically fell
At least the medical community got a figurative shot in the arm financially
from an upturn in obstetrical practice. “The use of the water,” the
Javelin mentioned discretely, not only brought good health but “seemed
to increase rather than diminish” the number of baby deliveries in
The Javelin did not report whether Henigan or someone else thought
to begin peddling the Carrizo
Springs mineral water, but said “large quantities are shipped
from here each year, and used with the best of effect by persons living
at a distance.”
Even so, locals eventually lost interest in the foul-tasting if supposedly
magical water from the brick yard well. The Henigans moved on, the
brick yard went out of business and today the series of cane-lined
springs (the Spanish word for this variety of cane is Carrizo) that
gave the town its name are virtually gone, having succumbed to agricultural
These days, anyone in this part of South
Texas interested in drinking something that will quickly give
them the illusion of feeling better needs to be at least 21.
Mike Cox - "Texas Tales"
April 3, 2008 column
Texas | Online
Magazine | Texas Towns | Features
Mike Cox's "The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900,"
the first of a two-volume, 250,000-word definitive history of the
Rangers, was released by Forge Books in New York on March 18, 2008
Kirkus Review, the American Library Association's Book List and the
San Antonio Express-News have all written rave reviews about this
book, the first mainstream, popular history of the Rangers since 1935.
by Mike Cox - Order Here