Monday, May 29, 2023






Mineral water has been a rich resource of California for many years. Tucked into the lee side of Snow Mountain, and within Mendocino National Forest is a mineral spring resort first established in 1874. Established by John Fleming Fouts along with his wife Elizabeth (O’Neil) Fouts, they came to California from Iowa in 1854 and eventually established the town of Meridian, near Yuba City, in 1863. Their oldest child, Ionia Orland (Fouts) Moon , was born at Iowa Hill, Placer County, in October 1854, while their wagon train was on its way westward to Sutter County.


Among his many activities, John Fouts also acted as a Justice of the Peace for Sutter County, California after his arrival there. (Marysville Daily Appeal, Marysville, CA, 26 February 1862) 

 Fouts founded and successfully operated a ferry across the Sacramento River at Fouts Ferry, and he proceeded to lay out a town by the name of Meridian as early as May 1863. He was also the postmaster and general merchant of the town.  Three of their young children died in Meridian in the months of May and June 1866. Three more lived to be adults. He named the town, Meridian, because it lies on the Mount Diablo base meridian, which was the prime meridian for Northern California used in the Township and Range land survey system.


In his role as a general merchandiser Fouts even sold patent medicines. (Weekly Colusa Sun, Colusa, California, August 15, 1868) 

 Fouts became quite successful in his businesses at Meridian, . . . “Meridian lies ten miles above the Mill (Grand Island Mills) and is a nucleus for a village.  John F. Fouts has built a handsome brick store and dwelling house at this place. He also has a ferry that is like a mint to him.” (Weekly Colusa Sun, 4 September 1869) However, by 1872 Fouts filed a request for land patents that likely coincided with the property he would soon inhabit in Colusa County. Perhaps he was facing increasing competition with his ferry crossing on the Sacramento River as well the potential for the construction of a new bridge, which was an inevitable scenario.

 The Fouts family soon moved West into the forested lands of Colusa County where Fouts reportedly established a saw mill, and then moved nearby to a small, well watered valley, on the South fork of Stony Creek, where he established Fouts Springs in 1874.


This informative article, which sounds much like an advertisement for the newly established Fouts Springs, was published in the Sacramento Daily Union, August 5, 1874. 


During his tenure at the springs, Fouts never exploited the water beyond the resort itself, but he did champion the water’s healing properties. (Weekly Colusa Sun, 22 April 1876) 


By 1879 Fouts had leased the operation of the Springs to George H. Ware, who took over management. Fouts maintained the stage line to the springs he established about a year earlier. By 1882 the springs were leased to Alfred Sax Moon, who was the husband of his daughter, Ionia Fouts.

Fouts Springs Hotel, circa 1900, all decked out with flags for Independence Day.


After two years, for reasons that are not clear, Fouts again retained operation of the springs in 1884.   (Colusa Sun, 14 June 1884) 


 While Fouts Springs water was known to have been shipped to various retailers within the vicinity as early as 1897 there was no mention of it being bottled during that time. Probably bulk shipments were made but only for a short while.


A quart size FOUTS SPRINGS / NATURAL MINERAL / WATER bottle. Tooled blob top, with a large “M” embossed on the base. The bottle is considered rare.

 Fouts Springs prospered throughout the first two decades of the 20th century but the bottling of its waters appeared to have dried up about 1913, with no mention of sales of the water after this date. The cost of hauling the water from its source caused a cessation of the product within the year of 1913. Not until ten years later another company was formed to put the water back on the market. (Colusa Herald, 19 Apr 1923)  Besides the Red Eye Spring, Fouts also maintained Champagne, White Sulphur, New Life, and Arsenic Springs. None of the latter were mentioned as being bottled except Champagne Spring.


The Fouts bottle pictured above likely contained water from the Red Eye Spring. (Marysville Daily Appeal, February 26, 1913)


 John F. Fouts died August 30, 1913 in Oakland, California, and is buried in the Meridian Cemetery, along with his wife and four of his children.

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