At first, the development at the springs was quite crude. The water was captured by a barrel sunk in the mud, with people bringing their own tin cups to drink. The name of the first spring was changed to “Siloam” in 1881, and the barrel was replaced by a small, wooden Oriental-style pagoda. The water at Siloam Spring was free, but other hopeful entrepreneurs began exploring the area for other springs with curative values.
In 1881, a strong flowing spring was discovered a short distance down the Fishing River by Captain J.L. Farris, which, like the Siloam spring, also contained iron manganese water. Originally called the Empire Spring by Farris, it was later renamed the Regent Spring. Litha No. 1 Spring was discovered in 1883-84 by Thomas McCullin. The Soterian, Excelsior Springs Lithia Spring and the Salt Sulphur Spring were all discovered in 1888. The pagoda at the Superior Spring was built in 1901, and two more springs were discovered in 1906 — the Seltzer Salt Soda Spring and Sulphur Salt Soda Spring. Over the next two decades, more than thirty separate well or spring waters were discovered in the town, which were separated into five distinct types of waters: ferro(iron)-manganese, calcium bicarbonate (lithia), sodium bicarbonate (soda), saline and sulphur; the sulphur and saline waters were later considered a single category.
The fame of the city as a health resort was sealed with the recognition of the waters at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Charles W. Fish, general manager of the Excelsior Springs Bottling Company, exhibited the waters of the Regent, as well as Soterian Ginger Ale (made from the waters of the Soterian well). Both were awarded first prizes. The Ginger Ale later won another medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.
The city and community civic groups are currently working to restore mineral water pavilions at as many sites as possible. To date there is one remaining original mineral water well pavilion, Superior Well and Pagoda, pictured, is scheduled for renovation, plus three others that have been rebuilt on original mineral water well sites.