George W. Colbern
Three years following the Civil War, George W Colbern graciously put aside 13 acres of his property in order to create the eternal resting place now called Sunset Hill. Previously called Colbern Cemetery, which initially had sold burial plots for just $10 back in 1868, the cemetery was deeded over to the city in 1880. On a side note, the Colbern family owned the Electric Springs Resort area from 1836 through 1881 which George would eventually buy back a decade later in 1891.
In the mid to late 1800s, long before Pertle Springs dominated the resort town known as Warrensburg, people sought health and refuge visiting the flowing rivers and deep ponds located at Electric Springs. This playground for Johnson County had a large hillside hotel, a forty tub bath house straddling a fresh flowing ravine, concession stands, and a summer garden encircled with a colorful array of flowers. Beginning in 1887 and for the next 22 years, street cars pulled by two mules would transport people to and from central parts of town to the resort. For recreation, people could bowl in a small two lane bowling alley with wooden balls. For swimming or wading, the water sunk down to as deep as 10 feet in various locations and was thought to have a healing quality for people who had illness, disease, or other physical problems.
Here are some actual advertisements enticing people to travel to the oasis:
- "Electric Springs Water. Drink your way to health using Nature's own beverage. Especially recommended for all kidney and bladder troubles, diabetes, sour stomach, dyspepsia, etc."
- "Invalids, the Oakes Hotel is now ready for business. The Electric Springs bath house is in full blast where baths are given with pure Electric Springs water, red hot if desired. This hotel is situated in the city of Warrensburg, one half mile from the courthouse, yet it is in the wilderness, in the midst of wild scenery. Do you know that this water has cured diseases that have baffled the skill of the medical fraternity for the past 2000 years?"
In 1836, Henry Colbern purchased a 10 acre plot of land which currently encompasses part of west side of Business 50, Thunderbird Mobile Estates, various business offices, a car wash, and the Electric Springs Apartments. The property would stay in the Colbern family until it would be sold to John J. Cockrell in 1881. A decade later, George W Colbern (the founder of Colbern Cemetery which would later be renamed Sunset Hill) would buy back the property and continue providing hot and cold baths to visitors from all over the county.
Using the water as a refreshing resource for both people’s bodies and owner’s pocketbooks, the water would be sold around town to various businesses and individual houses. Arthur King, who purchased the property in 1917, would use the water to make soda pop. As the Electric Springs waned due to the competition of Pertle Springs, the use of the automobile, and the lack of scientific proof of spring water’s healing quality, Clement Bruch would purchase the property in 1929 and make it his personal home. He would make a living delivering water storefront to storefront while riding in his horse and buggy. Today, little remains of the Garden of Eden that brought thousands to Warrensburg accept for the stories written down by those who lived years ago.