March 26, 2009

The Old Town Well

My Husband's Grandma, Clara Kohl (left)

Not too many generations ago, in Franklin Grove, Illinois, the water supply consisted of a well driven into the underlying aquifer with a hand pump to raise the precious liquid to the surface. In many smaller rural areas, each town had their own town well. Also, some homes may have had their own pump that tapped into the water source. A few miles from Franklin Grove, I grew up in a such a small town. As a new bride, my mom told us stories of how she would carry all their drinking water from the town's well, which was two blocks away. Wash water came from a cistern by the house, that was pumped.a few years ago, we found what was left of an old cistern built by dr Admas in 1837. It was under the house in the basement.

I remember mom getting water from our back yard cistern once, to wash my hair with "rain water", saying it would make my hair feel softer. All I remember though, is seeing bugs floating on top of the water...yuk!..I didn't cooperate.

While the pumps in homes were of various types, a few even being an antique wooden box type, the town pumps were all of a kind. The well pipes were iron, one and one-half inches in diameter, driven into the ground 15 to 20 feet to tap the underlying "vein" of water. The pumps each consisted of a body of cast iron about four feet tall. To each body, or cylinder, was pivoted a cast iron handle about three feet long which raised and lowered the inside piston of the pump. These town pumps were much used because each business needed drinking water and those dwelling in second-floor apartments needed cooking, washing and bathing water as well. In the 1920's, all drinking / cooking water needs were furnished by the town pump in my home town .

The horse troughs were made of wood, most of them, but there were also a couple of metal tanks. They were about four feet long and two wide, about a foot deep. The water in them never being emptied, the contents were mossy and clouded, but horses never refused to drink the water. Small boys sometimes placed hairs from a horse's tail or mane in the tanks in hopes that they would turn to worms, as folklore predicted. The pictured is a woodened trough with a pump in downtown Franklin Grove. I am not sure of the date, but probably late 1800's. It is the only know picture we have found to date, and I have turned it over to the Franklin Historical Society.

Pictured in the horse and buggy. are my husband's Great Uncle Withey my husband's grandmother, Clara Kohl ( left) and an unidentified friend (to the right.) this picture was taken around the same time as the one of the town well, which I am guessing would have been during the late 1800's

If anyone can add some more factual information regarding this well or anything about old town wells, your input is appreciated.

Franklin Grove Il. - Old Town Well
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