Marshfield, February 1913: A false fountain of youth
Lorenz Hartl’s life and his journey to the mineral springs of Waukesha, Wisconsin
By Kris Leonhardt
As Lorenz Hartl returned from the bathhouses of Waukesha, Wisconsin, in the early weeks of 1913, the days gradually ticked by, and hope soon turned to dismay. The natural mineral springs had promised rejuvenation and a respite from his disease.
The nearly 50 springs centered in the village of Waukesha were attracting those of wealth and fame from around the nation searching for their healing power. Parks and bath houses covering the area of the fountains promised renewed health.
The value of the springs—discovered by Colonel Richard Dunbar, who had once suffered from diabetes—was in the promise to restore the mind and body and beckoned to those of poor health with the wealth to access it.
This was no different in the case of Hartl. Chronic pain had ravaged the joints of the Marshfield pioneer now in his 70s. Hartl was now just a shadow of the robust man that had entered the United States three decades earlier.
Born in Austria in 1838, Hartl served 12 years in his homeland’s army and trained in the miller’s trade before running his own flour mill and saw mill.
At the age of 42, he brought his family to the land of hope and promise at a time when business opportunities were ripe for the taking.
The Hartl family resided for a short time in Manitowoc, before Hartl headed north to the growing city of Marshfield. As one of the village’s earliest residents, Hartl saw a need to develop the area. Soon the “Hartl Block” appeared on Marshfield’s landscape, consisting of a hotel, saloon, and barn.
As a businessman, Hartl attracted customers from near and far. Known for his integrity and generosity, he was a highly trusted leader in the community. His shrewd business strategies were an asset to Marshfield’s formation and growth. Hartl often placed the needs of the city and its development over his own business needs.
Both would disintegrate before his eyes in 1887, when fire destroyed the entire Hartl Block and much of the city. As he stood watching all that he had owned now smoldering before him, Hartl vowed to rebuild and renew his business and the city as well.
Hartl continued in business while raising a family as chronic pain ravaged the joints in his body. Diagnosed with rheumatism, Hartl sought out medical aid by all means possible to alleviate the condition. A man of considerable resources, he was able to obtain the best medical care available at the time.
When the top physicians could not provide Hartl with reprieve, the 74-year-old decided to look into the much-celebrated spring houses located in southern Wisconsin. The mineral springs and their healing properties were attracting the well-to-do.
In the days that followed Hartl’s Waukesha visit, Hartl’s wife Anna and their 12 children watched as Hartl’s condition continued to worsen. In the early part of February 1913, Hartl would succumb to his disease in, leaving behind a legacy of honesty, charity, and strength.