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For 20 years, Mr. F.L. Smith suffered with “terrible gas in the stomach, dizzy spells, nervousness, palpitations of the heart, sleepless nights, and general despondency.”
Upon hearing of his many maladies, a concerned friend suggested that he visit his local druggist, where, for a mere $1.75, he could purchase a bottle of powerful medicine, “Created by Mother Nature in her own laboratory – Digger Indian Mineral Springs, located in the High Sierra.” After taking the water for one year, Smith claimed, “I enjoy very good health; eat anything at any time without discomfort.”
Inez Roth, the owner of the Digger Indian Mineral Springs Water Company discovered the “miracle cure” when she accompanied her sick brother on a journey into the Eldorado National Forest. She had heard a man named Scavy eagerly tout the springs’ healing properties and thought the water might help her ailing sibling. Suffering from a worsening ulcer and feeling “completely wretched,” her brother agreed to make the trip. Roth recalled: “He sat down right there by the spring and took one drink and vomited it all up, but the pain began to go, and he took another drink and vomited and didn’t feel sick anymore, and six weeks afterward, he could eat anything.”
Recognizing the profit-making properties of the water, Roth arranged to lease 40 acres of forestland from the U.S. government that included the five Digger Indian Mineral Springs. She invested $100,000 in advertising, training salesmen, and conducting chemical research of the product. She also hired workers to build a 50,000-gallon reservoir and lay down 2,500 feet of pipe.
Because the springs were not accessible to everyone, Roth began bottling the “curative aid” in glass and enamel containers. The company shipped the water by truck to her native Los Angeles where it originally sold in five-gallon bottles for $10.75 each.
According to promotional material printed in the late 1920s and ‘30s, the story of the water’s curative powers “was handed down to civilized man by the primitive Digger Indians who thanked the Great Spirit for the new life and vigor which was given to them by using the highly medicinal water thinking of it as being some MIRACLE. Today, however, science gives us a true analysis enabling us to perceive what the Digger Indians believed as supernatural was but a natural outflow of water from the earth impregnated with mineral matter.”
The sale of Digger Indian Mineral Springs Water came to be no small industry in El Dorado County. In 1928, Roth opened a health resort at the springs. She also financed the construction of a 300-foot tramway to carry spring water across the river and 750 feet up the canyon to be made available to guests. Here, Roth asserted, she healed the infirmed.
Fire destroyed the resort in October of 1938. The following year, Roth met with representatives of the Division of Recreation and Lands in efforts to at least build a bottling plant and store at the springs. They informed her that if she could provide the Bureau of Public Health or the Pure Food and Drug Administration with any concrete proof that the water really did,
“Keep bowels open freely at all times” and so forth, there was a slight chance that she might be permitted to build the facilities she requested.
Apparently, Mrs. Roth abandoned her efforts to procure a bottling plant and store at Digger Indian Mineral Springs as no further development occurred there.
Note: The use of derogatory term “Digger” Indian appears here only as a literary application to the historical context. Every effort has been made to avoid insult or offense to readers or the Paiute people native to the area.