To some folks, this iconic photo of Judge Lynch depicts nothing more than a man on a donkey holding a bottle of hooch. But to locals, there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.
First of all, that isn’t hooch he’s holding. It’s a bottle of the mineral-rich water that gave Mineral Wells its name and made it a famous resort town at the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century.
As for the man on the donkey, his name was James Alvis Lynch Jr. He was the first to discover the healing waters in these parts, and he founded the town of Mineral Wells.
Before coming to this area, he and his very large family (10 children) lived north in Dennison, Texas. In 1877, they loaded up their wagon, hitched the oxen, herded their 50 head of cattle, and headed west in search of a new place to call home. Their journey brought them to the Millsap Valley on Christmas Eve.
After enjoying the first Christmas dinner on the site where their new home would be built, it was time to find water. None was available on their new land, so the family had to haul it up from the Brazos River which was four miles to the west. They continued to haul water for the next two years until a drilling expert came rolling through town. For a pair of oxen, Johnny Adams drilled the first community well.
Though the well is no longer in operation, you can still visit the site. See more on that below.
Last but not least, the donkey. In Mineral Wells’ heyday, riding the donkeys up the mountain was the cool thing to do. In fact, it was such a popular pastime there were photography cabins along the trail up the mountain where riders could pose for a souvenir photo to take back home. Once they made their way to the top of the mountain, they could enjoy refreshments from the Just a Bite Cafe, dance in the pavilion, and admire the view of the town below.
Want to hear more about Judge Lynch and the story of how Mineral Wells came to be?
Check out our Mineral Wells Virtual History Tour on Youtube.
Want to visit the site of the old Lynch Well?
It’s tucked away in a small parking lot in the 100 block of Southeast 1st Street. You’ll find a historical marker at the entrance and the actual well is in the middle of the lot, covered with the ornamental bronze cap you see below.