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  The Weldon Springs Company  

The Weldon Springs Company

The Chautauqua Era 1901-1922

The first Weldon Springs Chautauqua opened on August 6, 1901. Its purpose, as stated in the charter, was "for social intercourse – the intellectual and moral elevation of the adjacent people."

The Chautauquas met in mid-August for ten days each year (from 1901 –1922) to hear a program of music, religion, politics and entertainment and to enjoy "that place in the woods where worry ceases, where health and happiness prevail and good will and neighborly love is manifest in all."

Thousands of people filled the grounds to hear union activist Eugene V. Debbs, temperance crusader Carrie Nation, evangelist Sam Jones, orator William Jennings Bryan, "the blind girl" Helen Keller, Reverend Billy Sunday, Vice-President James Schoolcraft Sherman, and President William Howard Taft. All spoke at a Weldon Springs Chautauqua – Bryan and Jones more than once.

A contemporary account described a Chautauqua at Weldon Springs as "forty acres of water, tents, and teams."

Opening Day in 1901 brought 1,000 people of all ages. Gate receipts were $150 and 125 tents were filled with campers. On Sunday, the total crowd reached 7,00-8,000 with receipts of $400. Total receipts for the ten days were $3,7000.

In the second year, 325 tents formed what came to be known as "White City". The tent city included a dining hall tent, refreshment stands, a grocery store (groceries delivered to patron’s tents), a police tent, a post office (mail delivered twice a day), an information center, a telephone station, a checkroom, a physician’s tent and feed yards for the teams of horses which brought the campers.

Three sessions per day were scheduled with programs – morning, afternoon and evening – with recesses for lunch and supper. Free use of the lake was granted for fishing, "bathing" (swimming), or boating.

Bridges over the west arm of the lake, a bath house, walkways, and an auditorium capable of seating 5,000 were eventually added.

A "fleet of rowboats" (50 in 1906) were available for use and the steam launch Columbia took excursions around the lake.

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