(Photo taken by Ben Winans)
The State Fish Hatchery, south of Brookville.
(Photo taken by Ben Winans) The State Fish Hatchery, south of Brookville.

The beautiful countryside of our county is dotted with remnants of hundreds of once exciting, interesting and unique places. In addition to some of those we have addressed in this column in the past – did you know that Franklin County was once the site of the State Fish Hatchery as well as numerous weekend resorts? Our two topics this week, the hatchery and the Bruns Grove and Magnesia Springs Resort, were located just across the highway from each other. Both sites were located about a mile and a half south of Brookville on US HWY 52. The old fish hatchery was created in the former Whitewater Canal bed, near the proximity of 10246 US HWY 52, and Bruns Grove and Magnesia Springs Resort was across the road, on the eastern side.

The year 1912 was a year of growth in Franklin County, especially in Brookville. That year, the new school was being built on Franklin Avenue (today it’s the Franklin County Government Center), the courthouse was being remodeled and expanded, the Brookville Library would be dedicated that September, construction of the new FCN bank building at 5th and Main streets commenced and the outskirts of Brookville would become the location for the State Fish Hatcshery.

The March 7 issue of the Democrat mentioned that State Fish Commissioner Miles was here, and expressed the opinion “that while not large enough for a state fish hatchery, there is an excellent place on the Bruns farm south of Brookville, for a small hatchery.” The commissioner had hoped and said, “it is probable that local fishermen will take steps to raise a fund sufficient for that purpose.”

Apparently, there was an interest within the local community, and sufficient funds must have been raised, because the June 20 issue of the Democrat noted, “six hundred young bass were taken from the fish hatchery below Brookville, to Laurel and placed in the river.” At the time, it was “estimated that the hatchery now contains over 100,000 baby bass, which will be deposited in the streams of the county within the next few weeks.”
In October of this same year, the Democrat announced that Charles Horn got the contract “for building a dam across a hollow on the Bruns farm, the water from which will be conveyed by pipes to the fish hatchery.”

At the same time, the following appeared in the Indianapolis News: A contract has been let by the deputies of George W. Miles, commissioner of fisheries and game, for a large dam to be built across a deep hollow near Brookville, Ind., to ensure a spring water supply to the new fish hatchery, near the town. The hatchery formerly was run under the direction of a local organization, but now the state has taken it over partly. This season approximately 80,000 ‘fry’ were transferred to the waters about Brookville from the hatchery, the capacity of which will be increased two thirds by the new dam. Jacob Sottong, deputy under Mr. Miles, said he expected to turn out between 500,000 and 600,000 fish from the hatchery next year.”
By June of 1913, local papers announced that, “Deputy Game Warden Jacob Sottong has placed over one hundred thousand small mouthed bass from the Brookville fish hatchery in the East and West Forks of the White Water River during the past week.”

Over the ensuing years, the hatchery was obviously productive, but very little if anything was mentioned in the local papers. Six years later, in May 1919, the hatchery finally made news again. The newspaper mentioned that there were a few “things needing immediate attention.” Including one, which is still in the news one hundred years later - the road conditions. The State Highway Commission was scheduled to “visit Franklin County to study the highway situation.” In addition to that, a new conservation board was to “visit the county fish hatchery with a view of increasing its capacity and to study other conservation matters connected with the county.”

So, for approximately eight years, Franklin County was the location of the official State Fish Hatchery. In March of 1920, it was announced, “State Will Abandon Brookville Fish Hatchery,” The Department of Conservation in Indianapolis sent the following announcement for local publication: “The Department of Conservation has announced that the state fish hatchery at Brookville, operated since 1912, will be discontinued this spring. The hatchery buildings and equipment will be sold. Discontinuance of the Brookville Hatchery is advisable now since the enlargement of the hatchery at Riverside Park which will supply fingerlings for stocking streams in that section of the state formerly served by the Brookville Hatchery. Because of an underlying strata of gravel, the department has always experienced more or less trouble in maintaining a proper water level at the Franklin County hatchery. The State leased the land from Roy Bruns who informs the department he will operate a bathing beach and a fish pond on the hatchery site, operating it in connection with the Magnesia Springs summer resort.”

Regarding the Magnesia Springs Resort, the June 17, 1915 Democrat said: “The resort has been built for the purpose of accommodating vacationists and autoists and for a respectable pleasure resort. Its beautiful location makes it ideal for those who love the open air. It has delightful bungalows for sleeping, and a dining and dancing pavilion that cannot be equaled anywhere. We will have delightful music at all times and are prepared to set special dinners at short notice. For amusements we have boating, fishing, bathing, shooting, lawn tennis and dancing. The entire grounds are lighted by electricity and everything is extremely sanitary.”

Typically, the resort was only open during prime vacationing and touring opportunities afforded during the warm months. So, the resort would close during the coldest months, and reopen for guests every spring. During the reopening of the resort in 1921, the May 5 Democrat announced, “Good music has been engaged for the dances in the large dancing pavilion in the evening. The usual attraction of fishing, boating, shooting, showers and dancing will be available. The clay target traps are always open. Also, there will be the famous chicken dinner at all hours. The management has also arranged to take care of parties wishing room and board by the day or week.”

Two years later, in 1923, when Mrs. Tessie Bruns, operator of the resort opened for the season, she announced that there would be many new attractions during this year. However, she did not list what they were. Perhaps that tidbit in the newspaper was an enticement for those who had never been there before to come and see what it was all about.

Franklin County’s tourist resorts were nothing to be scoffed at. They were major attractions and destinations for those from out of state, and offered up country amenities that those in the big city sought. The resorts were also places that could accommodate large groups and gatherings. Family reunions were held there, as well as VFW events, fundraisers, and in October of 1927, the Indiana Historical Society made reservations at Bruns Grove. Over 100 out-of-town guests were slated to be there, and many local people were encouraged to attend as well. The Indiana Historical Society was there for an annual meeting, of which James Woodburn, professor emeritus of American History at Indiana University was to speak during the dinner. After the dinner and meeting, the society was going to tour the town of Brookville and view Brookville’s many historic spots.

The Summer of 1936 was extremely hot and in July of that year, the local papers noted that many residents rented “sleeping cottages at Magnesia Springs and the Mound Hotel to escape the torrid nights.” Others not fortunate enough to get a cabin in the country were noted as snoozing on floors, lawns, their porch swings - basically anywhere they could escape the excruciating heat and humidity for a few hours. As a side note, “The Mound Hotel” mentioned was not the Mound Haven Hotel that we see today. That one didn’t exist until about a decade or so later. It was the one referred to in the November 20, 2019 article about Mound Haven.

Advertisements for Magnesia Springs ran up through the 1950s. I am not quite sure exactly when it closed, but when it began operation for the 1955 season, Magnesia Springs opened under new management –Paul and Helen Bergin were the proprietors.

The images accompanying this article were not only reproduced from postcards, but from original photos that were taken by Ben Winans. They came from his own, personal, small photo album collection, now in the possession of the Brookville Library.

Julie Schlesselman, Local History & Genealogy Dept. Manager, FCPLD