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REPORT OF THE COMMISSION APPOINTED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF ACT OF CONGRESS OF MARCH 3, 1877, REGARDING THE HOT SPRINGS RESERVATION IN THE STATE OF ARKANSAS.
OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES HOT SPRINGS COMMISSION,
November, 1878. SIR: We have the honor to submit the following statement giving the results of our labors since the original appointment of the Hot Springs Commission, also showing briefly what remains to be done in order to fully meet the provisions of the act providing for the disposition of the Hot Springs Reservation.
On April 28, 1877, we entered actively upon the discharge of our duties under the act approved March 3, 1877.
The purpose of creating the commission was to dispose of 2,560 acres of land owned by the government, being a tract of land two miles square, comprising the city of Hot Springs, or what is commonly called the Hot Springs Reservation, upon which about four thousand people have their homes and places of business. These people were attracted there by the renowned and wonderful curative qualities of the hot springs. They have expended large sums of money in building hotels and other improvements, and have a well-organized city government.
The law implies that certain of these people shall have the first privi. lege (for the period of one year after the final settlement) of purchasing the land occupied and improved by them, at an appraisal to be fixed by the commission, and gave the claimants six months from the day of the organization of the commission in which to file their claims.
Forms of petitions were prepared in accordance with the law, so that the same might be uniform, and every effort was made to induce the claimants to file their claims early, but the result proved that more than half the claims, including all the more important cases, were filed during the last two weeks of the term fixed by law.
The time allowed for filing claims expired on October 27, 1877, and at twelve o'clock that night nine hundred and fifty claims had been presented.
The petitions contain a plat and description of the ground claimed, showing the adjoining claimants, the time and circumstances under which the claimant had occupied the same, the character and value of the improvements thereon, and generally the reasons why the claimant should be entitled to purchase the same.
As required by law, the commission designated in one boundary a tract of land containing all the hot and warm springs, and the Hot Spring Mountain, so called (being in all about 265 acres), to be reserved from sale forever, and this designation was approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
About 2,300 acres remain to be disposed of under the provisions of the act of March 3, 1877.
The law required the commission to hear any and all proof offered by the claimants in support of their petitions, and also on the part of the United States.
More than six months were occupied in taking testimony, and in that time 2,750 witnesses were examined stenographically. Testimony was fully taken in 897 cases. Thirty-one cases were dismissed or withdrawn by the petitioners, and in 22 cases no testimony was offered.
The mass of oral testimony taken and the documentary evidence is fully equal to 25,000 legal-cap pages.
Accurate surveys have been made of the four sections of land comprising the entire tract known as the Hot Springs Reservation; boundaries have been re-established, and permanent monuments erected on the exterior and section lines and corners. Suitable monuments have also been set at each angle of the permanent reservation, 36 in number.
Claims of individuals have been surveyed and platted on 16 large maps, representing the quarter-sections.
A topographical survey has been made of the entire reservation, and three maps prepared and photolithographed-one topographical map, one claim map, and the third combining the two.
The commission gave diligent attention to all matters coming before them, but found themselves unable to complete the work in the period of one year (that being the limit of their term of office), and at the last session of Congress a measure for continuing the work of the commis. sion, and making the necessary appropriation therefor, passed both houses, but failed to become a law by reason of clerical omission in enrollment.
The work necessarily left unfinished involved the interests of a large population, as well as the United States, and was deemed of so much importance that the proper authorities made the matter the subject of earnest discussion, and finally determined that it was for the best interests of all concerned that the work should proceed with as little interruption as possible, and the following letter was received by the undersigned :
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR,
Washington, D. ('., June 25, 1878 GENTLEMEN: The President directs me to request you, as the late commissioners appointed under the act of March 3, 1877, to settle the conflicting claims to a portion of the Hot Springs Reservation, in the State of Arkansas, and for other purposes, to take charge of the records of your proceedings under the said act, and to proceed to the consideration of the testimony in all the cases in which testimony was taken in relation to the rights of the respective claimants to any part of the Hot Springs Reservation, and to perform such work as may facilitate the early adjudication of such claims. and also to report to this department what measures may appear to you necessary to protect the rights of all parties upon said reservation, as well as the interests of the United States, trusting that Congress at its next session will adopt such legislation as may be necessary to confirm the acts done by you in the mean time, and provide for a due compensation for your services.
In view of the fact that fears are entertained that serious difficulties may arise between the conflicting claimants to portions of said tract, you are requested to enter upon the discharge of the task above indicated at as early a day as possible, and that such steps shall be taken by you as may be necessary to preserve the present status of the claimants until their rights are finally determined. Very respectfully,
Secretary. Hon. AAROX H. ('RAGIN. Hon. Joux ('OBLIN. Hon. M. L. STEARNS,
We accepted the trust and at once entered upon the discharge of the duties indicated in the foregoing letter.
We were without funds, and have as far as possible done everything in our power to facilitate the early settlement of the vexed questions arising from the conflicting claims of the residents upon the reservation. After reassembling at Hot Springs and perfecting arrangements as far as possible for preserving the peace and protecting the interests of all parties, it was thought best to remove the records of our proceedings, testimony, books, and other papers to Washington; this was done for greater safety and for the purpose of facilitating the work intrusted to us. This procedure had the approval of the department.
An office was assigned to the commission by the Interior Department, since wliich time the examination of testimony has continued without interruption. We have made the examination in all but a very small number of cases, and have prepared an abstract of facts proven in each case, so that the final adjudication will be greatly facilitated. We expect to complete the examination of the testimony in all the cases by the 1st of December next. This labor involved the reading and digesting of all testimony, documentary and otherwise, in eight hundred and ninety-seven (897) cases. Stenographer's notes, not before written out, amounting to about 3,000 pages of foolscap), have been transcribed and properly filed with the claims.
Careful consideration and much study have been given the subject of laying out, widening, and straightening streets, a matter of very great importance.
The office at Hot Springs has been open continuously and every interest of the United States carefully guarded.
The work contemplated by the law and remaining unfinished is as follows, viz:
First. Straightening and widening old streets; laying out new streets, avenues, alleys, &c., in the entire town of Hot Springs. This work requires careful study and a high order of engineering, as the ground is of peculiar nature.
Second. The hearing of arguments in contested claims, and the final adjudication in 897 cases, and the preparation of findings in each case. About one-half the cases are simple and undisputed, thie main question being on the facts whether the claimant is entitled to the whole or a part of the land he claimed. The other cases are more or less complicated and conflicting, two or more persons claiming the same lot, involving disputed questions of fact and law.
Third. The appraisal of each lot awarded.
Fourth. The resurvey of each lot, after adjudication of the claims, in 'order to define the lines and ascertain the exact amount of ground to be certified to each claimant as required by the law.
Fifth. The appraisal of improvements upon each lot awarded. The claimant does not pay for the improvements but the law requires their appraisal.
Sixth. The division of the land not claimed or awarded, into lots, squares, or blocks, and appraisal of the same, preparatory to the sale to the highest bidder, but not less than the appraisal.
Seventh. Preparing and issuing certificates to each claimant, who is adjudged the right to purchase, setting forth the amount of land claimant is entitled to purchase, the value thereof, character and value of improvements; these certificates being the only evidence of claimant for foundation of patent.
Eighth. ('ondemning all buildings upon the permanent reservation and in the line of streets, appraisal of the same, and preparing and issuing certificates therefor.
Vinth. Preparation of map embodying the results of the whole work to be filed with the Secretary of the Interior, accompanied by the schedule provided for by the law.
Some time will be required in notifying parties who may desire to argue contested claims to appear, and in arranging the cases for hearing. There is a large number of contested claims (300 or 400), but we cannot say in how many the contesting claimants will desire to make oral arguments or present written or printed briefs, but we have reason to believe that a large number of oral or written arguments will be submitted. These cases involve very important interests, and are entitled to a full hearing upon all questions.
The prosperity and well-being of a numerous population and the very great pecuniary interests of the United States demand that action should at once be taken looking to an immediate settlement of all questions involved. At least ten thousand visitors from nearly every State in the Union and from foreign countries are annually attracted to the city of Hot Springs in search of health, and this number will be largely increased in the future, when the titles to the land are settled and needed improvements are made.
We see no reason to change the opinion already given in a former report relative to appropriations required to complete the work. The amount agreed upon by Congress at its last session and the unexpended balance of the last appropriation will be necessary to carry out the intention of the law.
· AARON H. CRAGIN.
M. L. STEARNS. Hon. CARL SCHURZ,
Secretary of the Interior, Washington, D. C.
SUPERINTENDENT OF THE HOT SPRINGS RESERVATION.
HOT SPRINGS, ARK., November 15, 1878. SIR: I have the honor to make the following report, embracing the time from October 1, 1877, to June 1, 1878. I entered upon my duties as superintendent of Hot Springs Reservation early in October, 1877. My first duty was the removal of some three or four hundred people encamped on the western slope of the Hot Springs Mountain, in close proximity to the hot water springs. These people embraced almost every nationality, both sexes, white and colored. They were most of them living in shanties or tents, but some of them were encamped under the trees with no other shelter. Most of them were afflicted with disease, and many of them worthless and desperate characters; they were destroying the timber and shrubbery and polluting the springs. On the 20th day of October I gave them notice to move off the reservation within thirty days; many of them removed at once, but quite a number were great invalids, and having no means, were unable to move, being supported by charity. I had no funds in my hands for the purpose of moving and providing for them. I was therefore compelled to appeal to the guests and citizens for means; to this appeal they responded most liberally, and supplied me with money sufficient to erect comfortable barracks on the south side of the mountain, make two commodious and comfortable bathing pools, one for men and one for women, and convey the hot water in iron pipes to them. The barracks or hospital accommodates about sixty invalids on the average. This destitute class are better provided for than ever before.
I had great difficulty in arriving at a satisfactory and equitable mode of affixing the water rents, but finally adopted, with your approbation, the rate of five dollars per tub per month, which seemed satisfactory to the wants of bath-houses, and which price, in my judgment, should hereafter be maintained.
Early in March last we had a terrible conflagration, which burned almost the entire business portion of the town. The buildings on the east side of Valley street from the southwest corner of the reservation proper, including three bath-houses, up to near the Big Iron Bath House, were entirely consumed. I have had great trouble in preventing parties from rebuilding on this portion of the reservation, but have thus far succeeded.
The corporation have taken the responsibility of erecting on the southwest corner of the reservation proper a city hall and fire-engine house, which is now being used for the mayor's office, and for city, county, and superior courts. The mayor assures me that it will be promptly removed whenever required by the Secretary; the corporation having no other site that was convenient for the purpose.
Early in June, in consequence of the spread of yellow fever throughout the Southern States, I deemed it important toward preventing sick