Pictures Courtesy of The Morgan County Historical Society
Como Springs was named after a lake in Northern Italy, nestled under the foot of the Alps called Como Italy.
The springs are of volcanic origin and have been in existence for ages. During the early settlement of Morgan in the 1860’s, the river would overflow and wash around into the springs, . This formed a gutter which retained the water, forming a pool or a lake, which was the beginning of Como Lake. The warm water lake provided a great fishing hole in the early days of Morgan’s settlement.
Adventurous settlers, Mr. Samuel Francis and his wife Ester, took an interest in this lake & springs with its livestock land. Mr. Samuel Francis and Richard Fry purchased the land in Fry Hollow from the railroad company. The warm geo thermal springs was not considered to be of any value until about 1887.
No one really noticed the springs until a Dr. Kohler of Rush Medical College of Indiana came to Morgan. He analyzed the water and found that it held wonderful properties for curing skin diseases, as well as being valuable for bathing purposes.
Later a Dr. T.S. Wadsworth and Dr. C.F. Osgood made their homes in Morgan. They also analyzed the water with the same results as Dr. Kohler, and encouraged the owners to convert the springs into a swimming, resort.
This resulted in the organization of a company, consisting of Samuel Francis, Richard Fry and Dr. Wadsworth with a combined starting capital of $1500.00
Dr. Wadsworth was given charge of turning this dense underbrush area into a resort. There were many trees and overgrowth areas that had to be cleared, and an additional $1000.000 had to be borrowed. The ground under the Box Elder and Cottonwood Trees was cleared to build a small pavilion, dressing rooms, store rooms and a building for plunge baths. As little as that amount may seem now, it was a lot back then, and was used up in a hurry by the construction project.
A sizeable pond was dug out on the east side of the lake to serve as a plunge bath. (A plunge bath is a bath large enough for the whole body to be immersed.)
A lumber partition filled with soil was built to separate the plunge-bath from the lake. A small store to provide sweets and confectionery goods was built by the plunge bath. The following year a huge pavilion was built to provide a skating rink and dance hall for those that would come to the resort.
The grand opening of Como Springs resort was welcomed by all of the local people, and the resorts reputation spread as the newest place to swim, relax, rest and become healthy from the effects of the geo thermal water. Undoubtedly the 3 investors felt a proud sense of accomplishment as the resort thrived.
During the following summer of 1890 Como Springs started drawing large amounts of people to swim, boat, and picnic. One of the most notable groups in 1892 was the coming of the Salt Lake Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The 800 member choir was given special railway discounts of .50 cents to journey by train from Salt Lake to Morgan Utah.
Morgan’s own brass band was invited to perform for this grand occasion. Many other groups used the resort from businesses to church groups. (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints of Morgan Utah used the pool as their official place for holding baptisms.) Certain days were set aside for baptisms.
All the revenue that came in from the ever growing resort, was poured back into the building of the resort, including an icehouse for storing refreshments during the summer. Though the resort was thriving, still it became quite a financial burden in the same, for the owners who were trying to re-coop costs of running a public resort.
No one could possibly for see the events that would bring a nation to an economic downfall during 1893-1896. This was during Pres. Cleveland’s Administration. Many businesses closed their doors. The nation panicked, and spending for recreational purposes went into hibernation, as thoughts of surviving and basic necessities took over. The drive to keep the resort open became an ever ending struggle, and the interest faded to keep the doors open. As a result Como Springs closed its doors, and vandals took ill pleasure in destroying the property. In a few years time, the buildings were torn down and the pavilion got burned by fire.
After years of sitting in its lonely, dilapidated state, finally in 1920 Como Springs was purchased by the Heiner family. Directors of the resort were John Heiner, Frank Ulrich, Charles Heiner, Summer P. Nelson and George Sylvester Heiner.
In 1921 the grounds were once again cleared from overgrowth, and brush, and a beautiful dance hall was built, boasting of 2 fireplaces at each end of the hall and decorated with fine oil paintings on the walls. Dances were held there twice a week and the community once again thrived with entertainment.
Como Springs endured through the 1940’s, where many were just getting over the pessimism and gloom that resided from World War II. With the springing up of hope and opportunities, Como Springs Resort and the recreational spirit was again rekindled. The resort started once again rebuilding its attractions to bring the fun and life back to the valley.
Additional features were added including train rides, a bowling alley, (this was a manually operated 4 lane bowling alley), pool tables, and a snack bar set up in the bowling alley. It was in the time of World War II, and many of Morgan’s youth would gather at the bowling alley and snack bar, to visit with friends before they would serve their country overseas, hoping for a soon welcome home reunion.
Through the years, the improvements got better and better, as luxuries such as indoor plumbing became a must, an indoor pool was added and modern day sinks and flushing toilets. Three concrete pools were added, a diving pool, a kiddy pool and a slide pool. Other developments included a hamburger stand, a bar, cabins, a café, motels, a merry-go-round, a small roller coaster that went out around the lake, a rocket ride, and boat rides through the lake.
The resort stayed open for years, and generation after generation continued to enjoy the fun in the sun. However, much to the dismay of the community, Como Springs had to close its doors for good around 1986, due to rising insurance costs, and the insurance being more than what they brought in during the summer. The Café remained opened on the premise, but everything else was gone. It was later sold to a bottling company, and then as a tropical fish farm.
The historical legend of pleasure and summer fun had come to an end. However, there will always be a glimmer of hope that perhaps one day this bygone era of memories and fun will return to the Morgan valley.
We would love to hear your memories of Como Springs and Morgan Valley. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share.