Once one of the most popular institutions of Northwest Missouri was the famous Crystal Springs on the John Gagan farm in Benton Township of Daviess County, about five miles northwest of old Pattonsburg on Crystal Springs Branch that empties into Sampson Creek.
John Gagan was born in Cork, Kings County, Ireland, on the Shannon River on June 24, 1819, to John and Catherine Gagan. He was brought up a strict Catholic, to further educate him for the priesthood. At the young age of eight years he came to America with his father in 1827 and located in Bedford County, Penn., near the town of Bedford. Later he worked on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad which were the first rails built in the United States about 1836.
John also learned the stone-masons trade. He worked his way down the Ohio River and landed in Kentucky, where he met and married Sarah Devor Williams in 1846. In 1847, with the gold and silver they had saved, he rode horseback and headed for northwest Missouri to buy land. After buying 200 acres, he returned to Kentucky for his wife and they moved to Missouri in 1848.
John and Sarah had six children, all born on his farm in northwest Daviess County. He built up his land and raised his children on it. The couple had 28 grandchildren. He’d changed from Catholic to Christian earlier, known as Campbellites.
Although through the lineage there isn’t anyone to carry on the Gagan name, he has a legend for it. One of the most popular institutions of Benton Township or even Daviess County and northwest Missouri, was the famous Crystal Springs on the John Gagan farm about five miles northwest of old Pattonsburg on Crystal Springs Branch that empties into Sampson Creek. He planted fruit trees and grapevines, and there was a beautiful forest of trees on his farm. He was noted for having the best wine and winery west of the Ohio River.
The springs all had a chemical analysis that possessed healing properties. They all had a rocky bottom of limestone and soft slate stone, hard, and then succeeded by a species of limestone and hard brittle. John built a large resort, and guests numbering in the thousands came in the summer months to drink of their waters for medicinal purposes.
Someone found a gold coin along the road to the Springs, assumed he was rich and tried to rob him, and then burned the resort town down. He got out of the hotel alive, but was shot and killed on Dec. 15, 1887. A man was caught and tried. Who and was he found guilty? No proof of evidence could be found, other than matching boots and the tracks found around the place.
Today, John and Sarah D. are buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery, Benton Township, Daviess County.
— compiled from the 1985 Daviess County History Book, submitted by Arley Pearson Wurdinger, who was a great-granddaughter of John Gagan