History of the Bozeman Hot Springs

Jeremiah Mathews, a local wagon and carriage maker, purchased the springs in 1879. Mathews built a bathhouse near the springs with five private bathing rooms and a 14-foot by 18-foot plunge bath. The water at Mathews’ Warm Springs was described in the April 17, 1890, edition of the Bozeman Avant-Courier as being “remarkably soft, pure and delightfully refreshing for both beverage and bathing purposes.” The Avant-Courier further stated that “the water is a cure-all for all the diseases to which human flesh is heir, but for rheumatic affections, skin diseases, dyspepsia, impurity of the blood, chronic constipation, etc. it has come to be considered almost an infallible specific.”

E. Myron Ferris purchased the springs from Mathews in 1890 for $25,000. Ferris changed the name to Ferris Hot Springs and immediately set about transforming the sleepy spa into a major recreation center for the Gallatin Valley. He built a two-story hotel, a large plunge, and private baths. The hotel grounds featured lawn tennis and croquet. Resort guests were transported from Bozeman to the springs in a horse-drawn “herdic,” a fancy coach with open sides.

Ferris wasted little time in promoting his new resort. An 1891 advertisement in the Avant-Courier declared Ferris Hot Springs to be “The Great Pleasure and Health Resort of America.” Ferris boasted that “a chemical analysis shows that the water resembles in its chemical composition the water of Carlsbad in Europe, although the temperature is lower.” An 1891 Avant-Courier article stated that “the Springs and hotel come as near as filling the wants of those who wish a quiet spot to rest, recuperate and get rid of rheumatism, gout, dyspepsia, kidney trouble and kindred ills as any we know of.”

After World War I, Ferris decided to sell the springs and surrounding land. Finding no single buyer, Ferris divided the land into parcels, then held a widely publicized raffle at $100 per chance with the winners getting whatever parcel was drawn. The grand prize was a parcel containing the hotel, hot springs, and ten acres. Seven hundred raffle tickets were sold. A restaurant worker in Bozeman won the hot springs and hotel parcel, and many others won new homesteads.

Little new activity occurred until the early 1920’s, when Sam Collett purchased the springs. Collett expanded the bathhouse and plunge and built a beautiful maple-floored ballroom next to the springs, declared to be “one of the best dance halls in the state.” Dances were held in the ballroom every weekend throughout the summer season in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Over time the popularity of ballroom dancing declined, and structure was more often used for roller-skating than for waltzing.

Today there is a fitness center and 9 pools to chose from.

Excerpt from the book Touring Montana and Wyoming Hot Springs by Jeff Birkby.