Because a feeder trail to the transcontinental California Trail came up from Fort Scott and met the main trail in Douglas County, several “California Springs” were found in Franklin County. One was at Dutch Henry’s Crossing, where the Fort Scott/California Road crossed Pottawatomie Creek on the north end of Lane.
However, the best known California Springs is located about five and a half miles northwest of Ottawa along the route of the Fort Scott/California Road. At this California Springs thirsty pioneers in covered wagons and stagecoaches stopped to quench their thirst and pasture their horses on their way to California and Oregon. Some travelers caught stagecoaches at the springs for the westward trip. Deep wagon tracks extending through the pasture, barely visible today, tell of the early traffic.
The water runs from a sandstone formation. It was awarded second place in a nation-wide competition at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
A story in the Ottawa Herald, June 22, 1939, told of the early settlers Mr. and Mrs. E.W. Hume who bought the springs farm in 1900. The Humes came to Franklin County in 1872 and settled on land adjoining the springs farm. The Hume’s daughter, Mrs. J.H. Crawford, recalled early accounts of the springs by her parents, and the Crawford’s enterprise of selling California Springs bottled water in the early 1920s, transported by wagon and later by truck to Ottawa. Previously it had been used in making locally-produced soda pop, and later the spring water was sold by the Ottawa Transfer Company.
Beginning in 1937 a Civilian Conservation Corps Camp was established north of the spring, and CCC workers installed an iron pipe and built masonry at the headspring. They also ran a pipe to a 200-gallon reservoir where farmers could secure water when needed. Natural water supplies were low due to the dry years of 1934, ’35, and ’36. In the 1940s the CCC constructed a pond downstream that provided a gathering place for picnics, swimming and fishing for many years. The spring is on private property.