The story of Vishnu Springs, as we know it, goes back to the 1840s when the Ebenezer Hicks family moved to McDonough County from Ohio. Settling in Hire Township, Ebenezer started buying parcels of land, ultimately owning over 5,000 acres of ground in McDonough and Hancock counties.
One of these parcels was Section 7 of Tennessee Township (T5N R4W), and located on the property were natural springs. Ebenezer probably knew the springs were there, but did not try to capitalize off of them. Another man, Dr. J.W. Aiken, from the neighboring town of Tennessee, Illinois, did, however. In order to do so, Aiken rented the land surrounding the springs from Ebenezer and started promoting them for their medicinal qualities.
At the time, the springs were known as the Tennessee Springs, but shortly after Dr. Aiken rented the ground, the area was referred to as Vishnu Springs. One story for the change in the name is that Dr. Aiken wanted the name of the springs to reflect their healing qualities. Vishnu is the second God of the Hindu trinity, the one which is known as the Preserver of living things. Thus, the name Vishnu was taken.
Another story of the origin of the name is that, Ebenezer's son, Darius had read an 1861 book by Henri Mouhot. His book describes the discovery of the ancient preserved city of Angkor in Cambodia. The water of the city was fed by the river Krishna, which is the incarnation of Vishnu in the Hindu religion. By either story, the association of Vishnu and healing or preservation and the springs in Tennessee Township came to be.
With the name, Vishnu Medical Springs, Dr. Aiken hoped to sell the medicinal waters and draw the infirmed to the springs to be healed. He claimed that the springs' water would cure a multitude of ailments, from inflammation of the bladder and kidneys to disorders of the stomach to diseases "peculiar to women." The cost of a gallon of spring water was 25 cents and Dr. Aiken sold many gallons of water, but probably not at the rate which he would have liked to.
When Dr. Aiken's association with the Springs ended, we do not know for sure, but we do know that in the 1880s, Darius' father, Ebenezer, was committed to the insane hospital at Jacksonville, IL, where he died in 1886. When Ebenezer wrote out his will in 1881, he clearly stated how his estate was to be distributed. He left the land in Section 7 of Township 5 North, Range 4 West, the land where Vishnu Springs is located, to the older of his living sons, Darius.
Darius' first wife was Ella D. Smith, whom he married in 1874. Evidently Darius and his wife may have been having marital problems prior to Ebenezer's death, because in 1885, the father added a codicil to his will stating that everything he had bequeathed to Darius was to be held by his brother, Franklin, in trust for Darius if Darius and Ella were still married when Ebenezer died. He didn't want Darius to inherit the land and then have it tied up in a divorce settlement, if the marriage did indeed fail. Being the shrewd businessman that he was, Ebenezer wanted to protect his investments. He did state, however, that if Darius' marriage lasted ten years after Ebenezer's death, the property would be given back to Darius. Needless to say, Darius and Ella did divorce, and Darius inherited his share of his father's estate.