In 1908 “Uncle” Charlie Bird bought three lots just east of LaNana Creek near Main Street. He dug a well and unfortunately struck a foul-smelling mineral water. Fortunately, as a black man of enterprise, Charlie Bird set up a flourishing business bottling the water and selling it for medicinal purposes.
Inspired by Charlie Bird’s success, in 1909 Robert Lindsey and June Harris bought Bird’s medicinal water business, his lots, and a surrounding sixteen acres and built a health resort which they christened Aqua Vitae Park. The beautifully landscaped park opened on April 27, 1909, to 5000 local and out-of-town visitors who were greeted with a festivity of speeches and band concerts and three wells of Aqua Vita, the Water of Life.
Eleven Nacogdoches doctors pronounced the Aqua Vitae a “very effective stimulant to all the excretory organs,” and Lindsey and Harris began bottling and selling Aqua Vita at fifteen cents a gallon.
Aqua Vitae Park prospered during the spring and summer of 1909, and trains brought people from as far away as Houston to sample the waters.
Area railroad lines became interested in Aqua Vita Park and its curative waters. They promised special fares and promotions to Aqua Vitae visitors if Nacogdoches would improve its tourist facilities. In spite of their enthusiasm and plans for the future, Lindsey and Harris were unable to arouse enough Nacogdoches interest and finances to satisfy the rail lines. The Aqua Vitae company was transferred to Houston.
Aqua Vitae Park was abandoned by it promoters but remained as a city park into the 1930s. The Aqua Vitae Park area was occupied from 1950 by East Texas’ first poultry processing plant, erected by poultry business pioneer Tim Burgess. The plant, acquired in the late 1970’s by Val-Mac, closed in 1984. In 2002, the city bought and cleared the site for public use.
In 2008, the Nacogdoches County Master Gardeners took over the area and planted and landscaped Aqua Vitae Park back into a garden and picnic ground for the citizens of Nacogdoches. At a hundred years old, Aqua Vitae Park was born again.
Researched by Dr. Joe Ericson