By Van Craddock
Two rock structures sit abandoned and mostly forgotten atop a hill just north of downtown Longview. But decades ago, folks from miles around flocked to M.F. Capps' healing 'mineral wells'.
Madison Frank Capps, born in 1850 in Monroe City, Mississippi, arrived in Gregg County in the 1870s. He married Margaret Methvin in July 1877.
Capps dug his wells in 1885 beside the family home at 420 N. Central St. (today called Center St.). It was Longivew's highest point - known variously as Rock Hill, Methvin Hill, and Capps Hill - and a site with historical significance. Supposedly, O.H. Methvin had named the new town in 1870 for the 'long view' from atop the very same hill.
The Capps raised a large family, farmed, operated a book store, and eventually opened a hotel beside the wells. The family was active in the life of Longview's First Baptist Church.
Capps' brick-lined wells were 125 feet deep. The water not only could be consumed at the wells but also available in bottles.
Although the water from Capps' wells wouldn't win any taste competitions, some residents drank it daily because of its 'medicinal' properties of iron, sulfate, potash,chlorides, and salts. The water, some locals insisted, was a cure for such diseases as rheumatism, dropsy, and dyspepsia.
(At one time, numerous Texas cities boasted mineral wells, springs, and spas. Phillips Springs outside Gladewater featured mineral springs and bathhouses.)
In 1909, the Capps became embroiled in a dispute with Longview Mayer Gabriel August Bodenheim and the City Commission. It seems the Capps had placed a fence across an 'abandoned' public road on the northern boundary of their homestead.
Bodenheim was in the midst of a civic-improvement program ... and it didn't include a fence across a road.
Bodenheim ordered the fence taken down and the Capps promptly filed a lawsuit against the city. According to the Capps, city workers 'removed the fence from the road ... and in repairing and improving the road diverted surface water onto their land, thereby injuring it.'
District Judge W.C. Buford ruled against the Capps, who appealed the decision to the Sixth Court of Civil Appeals in Texarkana. In November 1909 the court denied the appeal.
Two months later, the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear the Capps' appeal.
(Interestingly, in 1909, the city had an 800-foot well dug 'which will furnish much more water than this place will need for many years to come,' according to a Longview Times-Clarion article. 'The water is reported first-class artesian water with all the qualities necessary for drinking purposes.')
M.F. Capps, 63, died on October 23, 1913, and was buried in Grace Hill Cemetery not far from the family home.
Margaret Capps died April 7, 1943, at the age of 82. The page 1 obituary in the Longview Daily News called Mrs. Capps a 'prominent East Texas pioneer and church woman,' noting that she had 'lived at the Capps Mineral Wells for more than 48 years.'
With Mrs. Capps' death came the closing of the hotel and capping of the mineral wells atop Longview's highest hill.
Despite the taste, some longtime residents still fondly remember Capps' Mineral Wells.