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Henry Babel, deceased, formerly proprietor of the celebrated springs which bear his name, and which are now the property of his widow, was born near Hanover, Germany, on August 2, 1826. In 1845 he immigrated with his parents to America, and settled in Lebanon, Illinois, where his father and mother both died within a year. After their decease Henry went to St. Louis, Missouri, and on October 8, 1849, he married Miss Elizabeth Holadway, a native of Tennessee, a descendant of Scotch ancestry on her father’s side, and English on her mother’s. Early in May, 1850, Mr. Babel and his young wife started’ from their home in Missouri to cross the plains to California, as part of a train comprising a hundred families, nearly all of whom came with ox teams, though Mr. Babel had horse teams. The trip was a trying one to Mrs. Babel, as their eldest child, a daughter, was born en route, at Fort Laramie.
They reached Salt Lake on September 17. Having lost one of their horses, and being advised that an attempt to continue their journey over the Sierra Nevada mountains so late in the season would be attended with great risk, Mr. and Mrs. Babel stopped in the Salt Lake valley, and remained there eighteen months, during which time they both worked hard to try to get a start in life. While there they at times suffered of privation, being unable to obtain some of the necessities of life, for though they had money to buy provisions with they were not to he had at any price. On leaving the valley in the spring of 1852, they were fitted out with three pairs of oxen, a thousand pounds of flour, and an abundance of other provisions. They crossed the crest of the Sierras July 10, and a few days later arrived at Shingle Springs now Placerville. There they found friends in Mr. Chase and family, whom they had known in the East: and Mrs. Babel says she never was happier than when they reached their destination after being so long on the way.
Mr. Babel procured employment with a mill and lumber company at Diamond Spring under contract for a year, for which he was to receive $3,000, but the company was not successful financially, and he lost about half his wages. At the end of the year Mr. Babel tried his fortune at mining a year, in which he was very successful, averaging $25 to $30 a day. On leaving the mines he engaged in the livestock business several years, in which he also made money. In the spring of 1857 they came to Southern California, arriving in San Bernardino about the first of July. Mr. Babel bought forty acres adjoining Babel Springs, of Messrs. Rich & Hanks, the Mormon leaders, who had purchased the Lugo Ranch, erected a house on it and occupied it with his family that same year, they being the first to settle in that neighborhood. A year or two later he bought the eighty acres on which the springs are situated, from Mr. Copewood, and devoted the remainder of his active life to farming and stock raising. About 1870 Mr. Babel purchased 888 acres of land in the San Jacinto Valley, for a stock range, and the family lived on it for a year and a half, then returned to Babel Springs.
He bought 106 acres three miles from the city of Santa Ana, and two years later he removed the family upon it and they resided there some eight or ten years, he buying some more land in that vicinity in the meantime. This homestead Mr. Babel improved from a wild state, converting it into a fine farm. At the suggestion of an Eastern physician who had received great benefit from the use of the water, Mr. Babel began to improve Babel Springs, erecting the first bathhouses in 1882. The following year he built a two-story hotel of eleven rooms at the Springs, and he and his family occupied and conducted it as a public house for the entertainment of persons visiting and wishing to remain for a time at the springs, until a short time before his death. Early in the eighties he made a visit to his old home in Illinois, and while there had a severe spell of sickness, from the effects of which he never fully recovered, and in the spring of 1885 he became so ill that Mrs. Babel took him to Los Angeles, where the best medical skill was employed; but he gradually failed, and on the 8th of July, 1885, he passed away, sincerely mourned by the community of which he had so long been a highly respected citizen.
Mr. Babel was a man of unquestioned honor and integrity of character, and noted for his generosity and kindness of heart. The widow and six of their seven children survived him, one of whom has since died. Their youngest child, a son, had previously been killed by the kick of a mule. The five living children are all married and settled in this part of California. The names in the order of their ages are as follows: Mary M., now Mrs. Webster; Emily R., Mrs. Carter; Isabella A., Mrs. T. J. Wilson; Frederick H., Timothy D., deceased, Hiram D., and S. J., deceased.
Mr. and Mrs. Babel, by industry and economy, had accumulated a valuable estate. Besides assisting the children to start in life, the widow has several pieces of very valuable property, including two farms in the new county of Orange, near Santa Ana, one of eighty-nine acres, and the other 106 acres, and also the Babel Springs property, 100 acres. These springs are situated at the terminus of the motor railroad, about five miles north of east from San Bernardino, and are a remarkable series of large springs of warm and cold water in close proximity in the space of a few square yards-discharging a volume of water sufficient to form a good-sized creek or arroyo as clear as crystal, and, as the chemical analysis shows, holding in solution, magnesia, iron and other mineral and medicinal salts in such proportions as to render the water very valuable as a remedial agent for bathing and other uses in a great many diseases both chronic and acute. The temperature of the waters as they boil up from the surface of the earth ranges from about 55° to 120° Fahrenheit, and in such quantity as to be practically inexhaustible.
A year or two after Mr. Babel’s death, the hotel was destroyed by fire, but Mrs. Babel has erected a large wooden building, which is used for a dancing, amusement and refreshment hall, and besides a large swimming pool there are a number of bath houses into which flow both hot and cold water, and which are furnished with apparatus for tub, shower and mud baths, the temperature of which can be regulated to suit the desire of the bather. The country and scenery about the springs is almost matchless in beauty; the soil very fertile and productive, with the pure mountain air descending from snow-covered, cloud-kissed peaks on the north and east, and the ocean breezes, fragrant with briny breath from the west, render the climate well nigh ideal in perfection-the invalid’s sanitarium. With the additional investment of a few thousand dollars in buildings and other improvements, Babel Springs may become one of the most attractive and best sanitary resorts on the continent. Mrs. Babel is desirous of disposing of the property to some person or persons who will develop its possibilities. She resides in her comfortable cottage home in San Bernardino.