Shivar Spring Company & Tom McConnell: A Shared Story

Oh, we run a lot of drinks. We run ginger ale, orange, grape, Sun Drop [and] lime cola.

—Tom McConnell interview, p. 14

Introduction

Shivar Spring Company was a mineral water and flavored beverage company operating in Shelton, Fairfield County, South Carolina, ca. 1907 to 1957. The company’s name reflects the founder, Nathaniel Frank Shivar, or N. F. Shivar, born ca. 1864 in Comfort, North Carolina. In 1903, he was an established shoe salesman and Southern Agent for the Herald Shoe Company of Boston, Massachusetts, and oversaw the wholesale department of Shivar Shoe Store located at 1550 Main Street, Columbia, Richland County, South Carolina. In 1905, while recuperating from illness in Shelton, he encountered the spring that would bear his name—then called the “healing springs of Broad River”—and widow Newbill, upon whose land the spring belonged.

Reverse view of Shivar Spring Company bottles and crate
Shivar Spring Company crate and bottles (Photograph courtesy of Tom Taylor)

By 1907, Shivar was advertising the production of both mineral water and ginger ale, and had built a brick plant to meet the demands of increased sales. Advertising in 1908 included postcards listing chemical analysis of the water and in 1910 a promotional booklet. The plant burned in 1915, and Shivar replaced it with a wooden structure. In 1917, Shivar hired William B. McDowell to assist in managing the business, and in November of 1922, N. F. Shivar died at a Columbia hospital and McDowell became manager of Shivar Spring Company. Oral testimony suggests ownership changed hands a few times over the years. Other flavors of beverages were introduced in the 1940s, including root beer, grape and lemon (“lemmy”). Mr. McDowell bought the plant outright in 1941 (later acquiring a Grapette plant in Greenville also). After another fire in 1957, the company closed permanently. (See the 1947 news article “Salesman Becomes Enamored of Both Widow and Spring” for additional history.)

Presented in this exhibit are postcards, business letterhead, a booklet promoting the company’s mineral water, an oral history interview with the last known living employee, photographs of the spring house, cisterns, and bottles, and a resources page for additional information about the company, including advertisements, news stories, patent records, related books, and an obituary.

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