Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Fountain of Youth

My Great Great Grandfather, William Lundy moved several times after migrating to Manatee County Florida after the civil war but on the last piece of land, he found according to many, what had eluded Spanish explorers over three hundred years earlier.

In 1890 he bought 120 acres that bordered the north side of the Manatee river, seven miles north of Bradenton, in a small community called Erie. On this land he found "The Fountain of Youth." A natural spring that fed the river produced curative waters that soon became famous across the country. A deep water canal was just adjacent to the shore so he built a wharf with the intention of using it to ship produce to northern markets.

The convenient riverside location meant the area, he called Ponce de Leon Mineral Springs attracted visitors from northern states who claimed the waters cured them of all manner of diseases and ailments and made them feel years younger.

William Lundy planted citrus trees and vegetables on his land and built a packing house next to the wharf. He also sold lots to those who wanted to live near the healing waters. The tourist attraction only lasted about 20 years as William Lundy died in 1903.

After his death one of his sons bought the land thinking it was about to be bought by land speculators but about the same time a decision was made that sealed it's fate. The United States and West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company built the railroad from Tampa to Bradenton and they decided to bypass Erie, instead laying the track five miles north.
The up and coming community was faced with loss of modern transportation so the residents gradually left, many of them moving to Parrish, Florida.

After William Lundy died they had to sell the land to settle his estate. This is from the ad that ran in the Bradenton Journal on August 28, 1903.

"The famous Mineral Spring Ponce de Leon. Have State chemist analysis of the water, good and sure cure for liver, blood, kidney and other diseases. Fine flow for shipping and bottling purposes."

Today the spring is only found in local history books. It long since ran dry. Seventy years after the Erie became a ghost town in the 1930s it had a revival and became a boom town, not because of the water to drink but because of the waterfront views.

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