Radio Springs Park

Radio Springs Park has played a large part in Cottey's history, particularly due to its proximity to the college. The park, which was formerly called Lake Park Springs and Elk Springs, is almost as old as the college itself, and has gone through countless owners and transformations. From health and pleasure resort to public park, Cottey students were there for it all.

Lake Park Springs boulders
View from the boulders, c. 1905.
The spring
White Sulphur Spring and island, c. 1910.1
Bathers in Lake Lincoln
Bathers in Lake Lincoln, c. 1915.

The Artesian Spring

There was no lake in the beginning ― just a pond and a trickle of water coming out of the ravine cliff.2 The water had been discovered and used by the Osage Native Americans long before white people settled in the area. It was not until 1888 that Joseph E. Harding, a cashier at Thornton Bank, and a host of other businessmen decided to purchase the land for recreational use. The land they bought encompassed what is now BIL Hill, the Nevada Country Club, and Radio Springs Park.

When they began drilling a well to supply the park with drinking water, half the kids in town came out to watch.2 Suddenly, the ground rumbled and water erupted 10 feet into the air. In less than a year, this artesian spring formed a lake of sulfur water believed to have medicinal properties. The well was aptly christened "White Sulphur Spring," and its lake dubbed "Lake Lincoln."2

The park owners called themselves the Artesian Well & Park Company.2 They laid walkways, planted trees, and built a boathouse. An hexagonal-walled pool was built around the well, making it look like a fountain.15 When it was feared that the expanding lake would drown the Katy railroad tracks on its southern edge, a dam was built at the east end, creating a second smaller lake.2 (See a great photo of the Katy train passing the park on Lyndon Irwin's site.)

Radio Springs Park sketch, 1892
A sketch of "Beautiful Artesian Park and White Sulphur Lake," 1892.19
Radio Springs pergola
The streetcar depot on the east hill of Lake Park Springs, 1906.
Entrance to Radio Springs, c. 1910
Entrance to Lake Park (back when you had to pay), c. 1910.2

Harry Moore's Improvements

Despite all their developments, the Artesian Well & Park Co. failed and the land was foreclosed.2 It was bought in 1892 by Harry C. Moore for $10,000. Moore was a friend of Virginia Alice Cottey and purveyor of Nevada's Opera House and general store. He changed the name to Lake Park Springs and put $40,000 into its improvement.

People traveled from miles around to boat and bathe in the healthful lake and relax among the park's flowers and groves. In 1894, a small railroad station was built on the north side of the lake, allowing people from neighboring towns easy access to the park.2 For Nevadans, horse-drawn cars ran to Lake Park every 20 minutes (right past Cottey).3 These were replaced by electric streetcars in the late 1890s.6 In 1906 the electric car fare was free in the hopes that "hundreds of people will visit the park every day instead of once a week."7 Civil war veterans held their reunions on the campgrounds of the east hill, where BIL Hill is today. Band concerts and balloon ascensions were held on the weekends. The 1901 edition of the Missouri History Encyclopedia called it "one of the most beautiful and pleasant spots in America."5

By the turn of the century, Lake Park was well equipped for crowds, boasting "a convention hall, with seats for several thousand people, a bathhouse, pagodas, rustic seats and a pavilion for music and dancing."5 Moore had added several pergolas and an arch at the entrance, and made the lake suitable for swimming. An amphitheater was erected on the west hill, where Chautauqua series (entertaining and educational lectures) were held for two weeks every summer. The most popular Chautauqua speaker in Nevada was William Jennings Bryan, who came to town in 1901.

William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan, past Missouri State Representative and Presidential nominee, spoke at Lake Park Springs on May 16th, 1901.4 (He stayed in Missouri Hall. See a photo of Bryan in front of building here.) All of Cottey was in attendance. Alice cancelled afternoon classes, and they trekked down to the park in white dresses. Two Cottey girls were chosen to present Mr. Bryan with a bouquet of carnations at the event (one of them was Virginia House).2 That night, Alice met Mr. Bryan at a banquet in his honor. He wanted to thank the Cottey girls personally, so Alice rushed back to the college to assemble them. The orator then spent an hour telling anecdotes to the students in the Main Hall chapel.

Resting on boulders at Radio Springs, c. 1908
Visitors on the boulders, c. 1908.
Island bandstand, c. 1915.
Island bandstand, c. 1915.2
Nevada trolley, c. 1915
Nevada streetcar on its way to Radio Springs, c. 1915.2 

Weltmer's Failed Resort

By 1910, Moore had decided to sell Lake Park Springs.2 Simeon H. West was visiting the Weltmer Institute at the time, and heard that Sidney A. Weltmer wanted the park to become headquarters for his sanatorium and school of healing. West promptly bought the park from Moore for $30,000 and donated it to the institute. S.A. Weltmer announced plans to turn the park into a health resort, complete with a hotel and institute building, but his proposals never came to fruition. His son Ernest did supervise improvements to the park, though, including wide steps up the southern hill.

After several setbacks to their park project, the Weltmers returned the property to West, who owned the park for the next 10 years.2 He renamed the artesian well the "Fountain of Zelda," and gave the park its current name of "Radio Springs," perhaps in honor of the "radioactive" European mineral spas that were so popular. He built a 14-room residence south of the train tracks, which he named the "Osekepa Tepee" after a Native American companion. (The building was later used as a sanatorium and clubhouse until it burned down in 1954.)


By this time, several people had died at Radio Springs Park, including some of Nevada's leading citizens.2 Many of these deaths were accidental, like that of Lee Hightower who drowned after falling out of a boat in 1908.21 Barely two months later, Mary Eliza Moore took her own life at the park, which was owned by her husband, Harry C. Moore.22 Her body was found that evening floating in the lake, having been carefully tied to the diving board. Seven years later, a Cottey student named Mary (Grace) Innis also committed suicide at the park by drinking carbolic acid.4

Cottey Activities in the Park

The park was becoming integral to the college, and was lauded in the Cottey catalogue of 1917-18:

Radio Springs—This fine health resort, located within a few blocks of Cottey College, contains one hundred and thirty-two acres of beautiful park grounds, lakes, springs, etc. It is now being greatly improved. The teachers and students of the college spend many pleasant hours rambling over the hills, boating, fishing, bathing, and drinking its healthful waters. By special arrangement with the management, the college family are allowed private use of the springs for bathing and swimming two evenings of the week during the warm season.8

During the same year, Cottey performed A Midsummer Night's Dream at Radio Springs.4 In order to accommodate every student, it included folk dances and a May pole dance in the production. Even special lighting was provided. On what was to be opening day — May 22nd — rain fell madly, but the play was presented two days later to a crowd of hundreds.

Radio Springs Park swimming hole, c. 1950
Radio Springs swimming hole, c. 1935. The boathouse is at left.
Radio Springs Park swimming pool, c. 1950
Radio Springs swimming pool, c. 1940.
Radio Springs pool
Radio Springs pool, c. 1950.10

A Litany of New Owners

The park changed hands many times in the 1920s. West sold the park to Dr. Lawrence C. Hornschu of the Electro Magnetic Health Association in 1920.2 Hornschu wanted to establish a health and pleasure resort and make Nevada the premier supplier of his "electro magnetic blankets." Hornschu had a questionable past, however, and left town quietly 13 months later.

The next owner was Harry Kohpay, a Native American who purchased the park for $17,000 in 1922. He tore down the old bandstand and replaced it with a pavilion for dancing.

Sam Carter bought the park in 1926. His wife, Mabel, and sons took over when Sam died a decade later. They converted the boathouse into dressing rooms, and built a pool into the lake in 1938 — the first one of its kind in the country. (The pool was still in use 20 years later.) When the Nevada Country Club was organized in 1930, the Carters sold the land south of the train tracks, which had been leased out as a golf course since the '20s.

Cottey's Cabin

By the late 1930s, Cottey began renting a cabin at Radio Springs to use for picnics, cook-outs, and the like. A Cottey promotional booklet from 1940 describes its purpose:

The college maintains a cabin at a park just a mile from the campus. Groups of students spend week-ends there, use it for frequent picnics, and as a base for hiking expeditions or swimming parties. An excellent pool is available in the spring and fall for those who wish to swim — or sun. On moonlight nights the dessert course of dinner is sometimes served at the cabin. First choice is always pie-ala mode.9

The idea proved so popular that by the early 1940s a more permanent situation was proposed, resulting in the purchase of BIL Hill in 1949.

Cottey girls in Radio Springs pool, c. 1941
Cottey students enjoy the Radio Springs pool, c. 1940.9
Girls on the pool tower, c. 1941
Cottey ladies relax on the Radio Springs pool tower, c. 1940.9 (Dora Dougherty is in the bottom left corner.)
Cottey girls relaxing at Radio Springs, c. 1941
Students relax at Cottey's rented cabin, c. 1940.9

Radio Springs Today

Radio Springs Park is now publicly owned and kept up by the city. The pool and bandstand are gone, as are the amphitheater and bathhouse, but a couple gazebos have been built as mementos of the park's past. The grounds are not as lushly landscaped as they once were, but the area remains attractive. The most noteworthy event at this little park is the light festival that takes place in wintertime. One can bundle up and take an evening stroll around the lake, past thousands of strings of fairy lights and other displays.

Cottey students continue to visit Radio Springs Park, but probably not as often as in the past, when there was a pool and weekend concerts. BIL Hill is used for suite nights, barbecues, and the occasional concert, but not much else. And the boulders are still there, filled with names from Cottey's and Nevada's past.2 The time of streetcars and sulfur springs was fleeting, but the imprint of all who have tread on Lake Park is indelible. The next time you visit Radio Springs, try to imagine the throngs of people who visited a century before, bathing and boating in the mineral lake, relaxing on the rocks and in the grass.

More Photos

  • Boys on the springboard at the lake, c. 1910. Boys on the springboard at the lake, c. 1920.
  • Ice cream in the park, c. 1920. Ice cream in the park, c. 1925.
  • An outing to Radio Springs, c. 1910. An outing to Radio Springs, c. 1910.
  • Bathhouse at right, amphitheater at left, and a slide in the center, c. 1940. Pavilion (left), slides, and the bathhouse (right), c. 1940.
  • Visitors on the rocks of what is now BIL Hill, c. 1910. Visitors on the rocks of what is now BIL Hill, c. 1910.
  • The bandstand and a bridge between two rocks, c. 1915. The bandstand and a bridge between two rocks, c. 1915.
  • The manicured grounds of the park, c. 1910. The manicured grounds of the park, c. 1910.
  • A similar postcard with some edits, c. 1910. A similar postcard with some edits, c. 1910.
  • A prime day for visitors, c. 1910. A prime day for visitors, c. 1910.
  • The island bandstand, c. 1908. The island bandstand, c. 1908.
  • The island bandstand, c. 1910. The island bandstand, c. 1910.
  • Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) convention, c. 1910. Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) convention, c. 1910.
  • The rocks, sulfur spring, and bandstand, c. 1910. The rocks, sulfur spring, and bandstand, c. 1910.
  • The island and gazebo, 2009. The island and gazebo, 2009. (Courtesy Randy Jiner)
  • The bridge to the island, 2009. The bridge to the island, 2009. (R.J.)
  • (R.J.)
  • (R.J.)
  • (R.J.)
  • (R.J.)
  • The lake, 2010. The lake, 2010. (Courtesy Tiffany F. '10)
  • Radio Springs plaque commemorating the gazebo built in 1977. Radio Springs plaque commemorating the gazebo built in 1977. (T.F.)
Cottey Students at the Park
Cottey ladies at Lake Park Springs, c. 1915
Cottey ladies at Lake Park Springs, c. 1915.14 The boathouse is on the right, and the Iron Spring is on the left.
Students sit by the Radio Springs Park lake, c. 1939
Cotteyites sit by the lake, c. 1939.18
Students relax at Radio Springs, c. 1939
Students relax on the rocks overlooking the pool, c. 1939.18 These rocks would later become part of BIL Hill.
Cottey students picnic at Radio Springs, c. 1939
Cottey students picnic at the park, c. 1939.18
Girls on the rocks at Radio Springs, c. 1941
Friends enjoy the view from the rocks, c. 1940.9
Cottey girls in one of the gazebos, c. 1941
Cottey ladies hang out in one of the park's gazebos, c. 1940.9
Cottey girls strolling around Radio Springs, c. 1941
Cottey students stroll around the park, c. 1940.9
Cottey girls at Radio Springs pool, c. 1947
Cottey students hang out at the pool, c. 1947.11
Dancing in the Radio Springs pavilion, c. 1966
Cotteyites dance with boys at Radio Springs, c. 1966.17
Radio Springs Park
Vernon county, c. 1904
Sights of Vernon County, c. 1904.12
Elk Springs, c. 1906
"Elk Springs," c. 1906. Note the boathouse at center.
Lake Park Springs, c. 1906
Groves and walking path, c. 1906.
Lake Park Springs chautauqua, c. 1907
Chautauqua amphitheater, upper left, c. 1907.
Lake Park Springs, c. 1908
Lake Park postcard, signed by Mrs. W.T. Ballagh, c. 1908. Note the boathouse on right.
Lake Park Springs, c. 1908
Lake Park bandstand on left, amphitheater at center, c. 1908.
Boat on Lake Lincoln
A covered boat glides over the lake, c. 1908.
Lake Park island bandstand, c. 1908
Island and bandstand, c. 1908.
Lake Park Springs, c. 1908
A view of the park from the boulders, c. 1908.
Island bandstand, c. 1908
Island band stand, c. 1908.
A crowded day at Radio Springs Park, c. 1908
A crowded summer day, c. 1908.
Keeling car at Radio Springs, 1909
Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Keeling at Lake Park Springs, 1909.2 (This was the first Buick in Nevada.)
Iron spring, c. 1910
Iron spring, c. 1910.
A crowd around the artesian spring, c. 1910
Looking down on the spring from the boulders, c. 1910.2
Lakeside road, c. 1910.
Lakeside road, c. 1910.13
Radio Springs Park, c. 1910
A view of the boathouse, c. 1910.
Lake Park Springs, c. 1910
The artesian well and lake, c. 1910.
Promenade grounds, c. 1910
Promenade grounds, c. 1910.
Island band stand and chautauqua, c. 1910  
Island bandstand and amphitheater on the hill, c. 1910.1
Views of Lake Park Springs, c. 1910
Views of Lake Park spring and grounds, c. 1910.1
Lake Park Springs, c. 1910
Trees and Lincoln Lake, c. 1910.13
GAR convention at Radio Springs, c. 1910
Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) convention at Radio Springs, c. 1910.13
Confederate camp at Radio Springs, 1910
Confederate encampment in the woods, 1910.13
Lake Park grounds, c. 1913
Lake Park grounds, c. 1913.
Radio Springs Park, c. 1915
A lovely panoramic of Radio Springs from the 1915 Sphinx.14
Scenes of Radio Springs Park, c. 1915
Scenes of Lake Springs Park, c. 1915.14
Artesian spring, c. 1926
Artesian spring, c. 1926.16
Artesian spring, c. 1930
Artesian spring, c. 1930.15
Dance pavilion at Radio Springs, 1968
Eric and the Norsemen played in the dance pavilion of Radio Springs in 1968, to a crowd of nearly 400 people.20
Radio Springs, c. 1975
Island pavilion and bridge, c. 1975.13
Radio Springs, 1987
Radio Springs, c. 1985. (Courtesy Staci Thompson Adman.)
Radio Springs winter lights, 2005
Radio Springs winter lights, 2005.
Radio Springs winter lights, 2005.
Radio Springs winter lights, 2005.
Attention Anglers, 2005
A view of Radio Springs from the southern edge, 2005. BIL Lodge can be seen in the distance.

Works Cited:

  1. "Nevada Souvenir." 1910: 36. Web.
  2. Sterett, Betty. "A True History of Radio Springs." Scenes From the Past (of Nevada, Missouri). Ed. Donna Logan. DGL InfoWrite: Boulder, CO, 1985: 7-18. Print.
  3. Crook, James. Mineral Waters of the United States and Their Therapeutic Uses. 1899. Google Books. Web.
  4. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955: 143-44, 207-08, 218. Print.
  5. Missouri History Encyclopedia. 1901: 578. Google Books. Web.
  6. "Nevada Then." Web.
  7. "The Way it Was." 2006. Web.
  8. Stockard, Orpha. Cottey College: The First 75 Years. Joplin, MO: Joplin Printing Co., 1961. Print.
  9. Cottey Junior College promotional booklet. c. 1940. Print.
  10. "Radio Springs Park Pool." Image. Nevada High School Class of 1963. Web.
  11. Sphinx, The (yearbook). Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1947. Print.
  12. Williams, Walter. The State of Missouri: An Autobiography. 1904: 530. Google Books. Web.
  13. Baker Owens, Linda. " Picture Post Cards From Vernon County, Missouri." RootsWeb. Web.
  14. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1915. Print.
  15. Bullard, Loring. Healing Waters: Missouri's Historic Mineral Springs and Spas. 2004: 212-13. Google Books. Web.
  16. Greene, Frank Cook, and Walter Franklin Pond. The Geology of Vernon County. 1926: 119-20. Google Books. Web.
  17. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1966. Print.
  18. Cottey Junior College promotional booklet. c. 1939. Print.
  19. "Beautiful Artesian Park and White Sulphur Lake." The Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 5 July 1892: 1. Google news. Web.
  20. "Norsemen Invade Lake." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 22 Apr. 1968: 3. Google news. Web.
  21. "Lee Hightower Buried To-Day." The Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 3 Oct. 1908: 1. Google news. Web.
  22. "Eternal Rest Her Heart's Wish." The Nevada Daily Mail [Nevada, MO] 30 Nov. 1908: 1. Google news. Web.
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