Time-travel through the generations in The Gatekeepers of Sycamore Springs, where history and healing waters converge. The legacy and evolution of a public resort is revealed through the personal stories of the author.

In the vast expanse of the Great Plains, where the wind whispers ancient tales spanning 15,000 years, a unique story unfolds—”The Gatekeepers of Sycamore Springs.” The springs, believed to hold miraculous healing abilities, created the backdrop for the author’s formative years. In exploring the history of the springs, Bonnie Dornes Hanni takes the reader back in time to the life and legacy of Alice Mabel Gray, born in 1860, a woman who navigated the challenges of her pioneer life in Hiawatha, Kansas.

The Gatekeepers of Sycamore Springs by Bonnie Dornes Hanni begins with the life of Alice Gray Williams, born in 1860 in Hiawatha, Kansas, who shared a special bond with the Kickapoo tribe, particularly Chief Chawkeekee, passing down sacred knowledge of healing waters. As the westward expansion grows, Hanni has us follow two rescued girls’ journey eastward as they confront extreme hardship and hunger. Tensions between settlers and Native Americans heighten with the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, leading to violent conflicts like “Bleeding Kansas.” The Civil War looms, with figures like John Brown catalyzing the abolitionist cause. Sycamore Springs emerges as a haven through all of this, renowned for its mineral waters, providing solace during World War II. As the decades march forward and under the Dornes family’s stewardship, the resort thrives, fostering a community centered on faith, education, self-care and preservation, and resilience.

The Gatekeepers of Sycamore Springs by Bonnie Dornes Hanni is a meticulously researched exploration of the rich history surrounding Sycamore Springs and its incredible evolution from a humble spring to a renowned health resort. The standout for me is Hanni’s capturing of the cultural zeitgeist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, offering insights into societal attitudes toward health, leisure, and community dynamics through clear and well-written descriptions of events like the Fourth of July celebrations. I also loved her depictions of the entrepreneurial endeavors of visionaries like F.A. Gue and E.V. Kauffman, who recognized and capitalized on the commercial potential of the resort. Rich in historical significance and cultural insight, this book is a must-read for those fascinated by the intersection of health, leisure, and history. —Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers’ Favorite




Softcover, Hardcover

Scroll to Top