As Pocahontas Spring Water prepared to close its doors late last week, an impromptu gathering occurred there that represented many generations of the town's history and character.
On Friday, Reverend Dennis Bailey of brought John C. Smith to the site for a final drink from a spring whose history has been intertwined with that of his own family since 1640. Also on hand was current spring co-owner Donnie LeColst and neighbor John Sievers who bought the adjoining Smith family home with his wife Heather back in 2006.
As described , LeColst announced last week that Pocahontas would close on Saturday, citing his own health as well as a potential $200,000 price tag for bringing the business fully up to code.
During this brief gathering, some great stories were exchanged about the history of this spring and also the remarkable story of Lynnfield's Smith family. Reverend Bailey also very graciously provided some additional information from the records of the Centre Congregational Church from a previous time when Mr. Smith and his sister Marie shared their family story for posterity. The wealth of information contained in just four and a half printed pages can only barely be scanned in this article.
Mr. Smith, 86, is the son of Joseph Franklin Smith, who established Pocahontas Spring Company in 1901 at the age of 21 and who was the grandson of a Revolutionary War veteran.
John attended the Center School in Lynnfield and at times in those days was known to ride a shetland pony named Monk to school. He joined the Navy in World War II at age 17 and served for 3 1/2 years, marrying his wife, Ann, soon after. Smith served on the town board of appeals for 28 years and was also a board member of Lynnfield's senior housing nonprofit LIFE (Lynnfield Initiatives For Elders). He was honored by the town at an event in 2006.
When asked at one point about the "good old days," Smith replied "they were good but this is better."
Smith's father was born in 1881 and was a Lynnfield selectman for several terms through the 1920s, while also serving numerous other positions in town. In 1640, King Charles I granted the Smith family 640 acres of land, which included the spring, in what is now around Main and Lowell Streets in Lynnfield heading into West Peabody.
One story that particulary stood out was Pocahontas Spring's connection to the Salem Witch Trials. Another Smith ancestor, Lucy Smith, was arrested during the Salem witch hysteria of 1692 and escaped hanging only because of an order from the governor prohibiting any more witchcraft-related executions. Specifically, Lucy was accused of making the Pocahontas Spring boil.
Moving ahead several centuries, Smith told the story of how his father sold water from the spring all over the North Shore in the early days of the 1900s. In fact, his father was even in Salem at the time of the Great Salem Fire in 1914, selling Pocahontas water from a horse-drawn cart. He added that the streets of Salem were hot from the fire and it bothered the horses. A separate historical note says that the spring was able to produce 100 gallons of water per minute, and that when Joseph F. Smith brought his first batch of Pocahontas water to try to sell in Salem, only the mayor was willing to part with 30 cents to buy some - most of the other residents apparently saw it as akin to paying for air.
Over the years, many town residents have seen the stone structure that covers the spring. Smith's family built the original stone structure without a roof, which was added by the LeColst family in the 1960s.
It was also noted that the adjoining Jonathan Smith family farmhouse, built in the 1840s, once had a direct link from the spring piping into its basement. Apparently a few years ago the town made sure that the link was closed off, although it had been for some time.
Town residents may also be interested to learn that in 1928, Joseph Smith opened the Pocahontas Tavern to go with his spring, but it was reportedly doomed by a combination of the Great Depression and World War II gas rationing. There was also apparently a miniature golf course at the site.
Looking ahead, this website will help keep readers apprised of whatever the next chapter is for this storied piece of Lynnfield history.