When it comes to history in Excelsior Springs, you can find the names of founding families on historic buildings and street signs throughout the downtown area. Honoring and recognizing the community’s founding families is something that the Excelsior Springs Genealogical Society has been working on since 2017. On Saturday, June 11, 2022, the Travis Million family descendants gathered at the Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives to celebrate the family that discovered the healing properties of the mineral water springs.
Travis Million (1844-1922) had lost many children to tuberculosis over the years, but after treating a daughter with reddish spring water, later to be found that flowed from a spring near the banks of the Fishing River, she was cured within a few weeks. This was just the beginning of what the city of Excelsior Springs would become known for, the largest variety of mineral water springs in the world. While the name Million may be unfamiliar to many, much of what would happen after stemmed from this discovery in 1880.
The land that the spring was located on belonged to Anthony Wayne “Wain” Wyman (1838-1883). It didn’t take Wyman long to order the water be analyzed, working alongside his business partner, another founding family, of Rev. John Van Buren Flack (1840-1906). While the intention was to name the new town Excelsior, the men were unable to use it because it was already taken. In return, they chose to call it “Viginti”, which means 20 in Latin, after the 20 mineral springs that had been found at that time. While the Wyman and Flack names are probably familiar to residents, the Million family does not have any landmarks locally named after them. However, their family’s history unquestionably made its mark on what was to come.
Incorporating in 1881, within 90 days 200 homes were constructed and the town had grown to a population of 1,000. It wasn’t until 1882 that city leadership changed the name to “Excelsior Springs,” just as we know it today. For decades the community was known as one of the world’s best health destinations, treating everything from fever sores to throat diseases.
Saturday’s reception was truly a family reunion, as 38 of the descendants of the Million family gathered. Kerri Amos, Vice President of the Excelsior Springs Genealogical Society and member of the Excelsior Springs Museum and Archives board, and Museum Director Kathy Duncan had prepared genealogical research in multiple binders made available for the family to see. Many family members poured over the books, one saying that it will help to fill in the gaps of the research that she has done.
Displays showcasing historical information, imagery from the time period, and even artifacts relating back to the family are currently on display for the public at the museum, located in downtown Excelsior Springs at 101 E. Broadway. Genealogical resources are available to the public for anyone interested in learning their own family’s history.