Brentwood resident and historian Carol A. Jensen has written "Byron Hot Springs" (for the "Images of America" series) replete with photographs, hard-to-find documents, postcards from visitors, advertisements, spa menus, building floor plans, a timeline and history. The book was released last December by Arcadia Publishing and is available for purchase at Barnes & Noble, the East Contra Costa County Historical Museum and online.
"Being from out here, everyone knows about the Byron Hot Springs," said Jensen, adding that she first became interested at a young age. "My grandfather visited the springs and took the cure in the early 1900s," she said, "and sent postcards home to his wife, two daughters and son. Back then the husband went to the spa and the wife stayed home with the kids.
"The fashion of years ago was that people saved postcards and, of course, my family was no different," she said. "As a child my mother shared these with me and I remember going through them thinking, Byron - that's not too far away."
Photo courtesy Carol A. Jensen
Jensen's curiosity continued to grow throughout the years, sparking the Liberty High School graduate to study history at a university. Now a local historian, she was asked to write the book. First, she turned to fellow historian Kathy Leighton, who has been collecting information on the hot springs for years.
"The hot springs have a wonderful history, beginning with the Native Americans," said Leighton. "They had several spots that were considered sacred, such as the Vasco caves, but also one of those spots was the hot springs. As a child I remember finding arrowheads in that area.
"Then we know that in 1772 Spanish explorers came through the area, camped at Mount Diablo, then passed through the Byron Hot Springs."
According to a journal by explorer Pedro Fages, a series of Spanish explorers visited the area and found the salt springs during their journey. But it wasn't until the 1860s that Lewis Risdon Mead discovered the site.
"He was a young New Yorker whose mother sent him to live in California with his uncle, named Orange Risdon," she said. "He had a steel business in San Francisco, the forerunner to US Steel. Even in the 1860s he was a real player in the Bay Area.
File photo by Richard Wisdom