Appalachia

Drinking Water

old spring in woods

A mountain spring

“While tea and coffee were scarce in the pre-Revolutionary backcountry, most mountain settlers fortunately found themselves with plenty of water. This proved to be a blessed basic beverage resource. Pioneers checking out places to settle felt their prayers answered if they could quickly locate a site with plenty of water. Housewives routinely placed pitchers of water on the table at mealtimes. Even whiskey drinkers took water with their meals and held off their serious drinking until later.”

—”Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine” by Joseph E. Dabney


Dabney goes on to describe the mountaineers great love for water in the book and says “Even when coffee became the popular breakfast beverage in the early 1800s, mountain people clung to their love of fresh water.”

Pap really enjoyed good water and he passed that love on to me. I’ve always been a water drinker, but in the last several years I’ve almost exclusively drank water with my meals too. I’ll have a glass of milk every once in a while, but on the whole I drink water when I eat as well as throughout the day.

Of course today we have water at the ready anytime we want to drink it—and I’m beyond thankful for that, but when we’re out tromping through the woods I always notice the springs and wonder about the people who had to keep them cleaned out so that their family could have fresh, cold, water to drink.

Follow this link to read a great post by David Templeton about water.

Tipper

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22 Comments

  • Reply
    Maggie
    June 15, 2021 at 8:25 pm

    My folks had a small farm in Missouri. We had an artesian well. The water came out of a little hill with some rocks. It was the coldest, bestest tasting water around. We used it wo water everything, including ourselves. After the farm was gone, the county came through and blasted all of that hill out of the way to build homes. I’ve not been back to the old farm area in years. I get so sad.

  • Reply
    Dennis M Morgan
    June 15, 2021 at 7:03 pm

    I drink water very often. I like it better than soft drinks and really sweet tea.

    When I was growing up most of the old home places were located near springs. They provided water (that you had to carry to the house) and also usually had an area built into the spring where you could put things to keep them cool.

    Our neighbor had a well dug right beside their house and then built a porch around it. All they had to do was walk onto their back porch to draw water. As a child I always that was really interesing.

    There were no water bills you had to pay.

    Dennis Morgan
    Flat Creek Rattler

  • Reply
    Leon Pantenburg
    June 15, 2021 at 4:52 pm

    I know where most of the springs are in Campbell Swamp, MS, and love the history that goes with them. This video is about one of my favorites. I’ll go out of my way to drink from it. https://youtu.be/kZ_7WOVlGmM

  • Reply
    Gigi
    June 15, 2021 at 2:38 pm

    We had a Spring as a child. That’s what we were raise on. That and cows milk. I wish I drank more water today but I don’t. I sure need to.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    June 15, 2021 at 1:58 pm

    A source of water was a point of contention in Mama’s family and in my Mother-in-law’s also. Both said they thought the men of the family chose to move to where the spring was fartherest from the house. Of course the women & girls were the water toters.

    Mama told us about packing water up a steep hill when she and her sister stumbled over a yellow jacket nest. They were stinging my aunt and their little dog badly. Mama said she threw her bucket of water on her sister & ran away!

    They also packed the dirty clothes downhill to a spring to wash and dry as it was easier to carry the clothes instead of the water.

    We had a deep well where I was raised with the long cigar shaped well bucket. It was a job to draw up water for washing and canning. But it was excellent water and actually we missed it when we got running water. (the water, not the water drawing)

    My daddy had a whiskey still down a big hill in the woods behind a cemetery near where I grew up. We’ve walked down there years ago & I couldn’t help thinking how much embalming fluid was flowing there. But he had a reputation as a great whiskey maker!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 15, 2021 at 12:32 pm

    60.6K and growing!

    • Reply
      Tipper
      June 15, 2021 at 1:11 pm

      Ed-thank you I can hardly believe it!

  • Reply
    Tamela
    June 15, 2021 at 12:21 pm

    In far south Texas we had well water that was mighty briney. I didn’t drink much water at home; but visiting friends who had city water, I had my fill!! Although we have rain water for our house, I drink bottled water now and have been amazed at the variety of flavors it can have. The best water I ever tasted was the fresh glacier water in Iceland although some bottled waters come close.
    By the way, it doesn’t take much imagination to “see” a young black bear or large black dog guarding that spring!

  • Reply
    Gene Smith
    June 15, 2021 at 11:56 am

    I drank spring water and well water growing up in upstate S. C. My Grandpa Alexander’s well in Salem went dry one summer around 1950 or ’51. I was out of school and helping him on the farm. We carried precious water from a spring, and cooled jars of fresh milk in it. I don’t know what Grandpa Alexander would have done without that spring. He had no close neighbors and no transportation other than a horse-drawn farm wagon.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    June 15, 2021 at 10:24 am

    I’m a water lover too although I sometimes drink ice tea. Milk is used for milk and cornbread but not too often. It’s a good prescription for sleep if you eat onions with it. Other times when I want a sound sleep I drink heavy cream sweetened with honey. Another one of those foods you can’t have too much, Very fattening.
    Tipper, you got me to thinking about the many springs I’ve drank out of. My maternal grandparents had a spring piped into their house from a steep hill and had plenty of water pressure. On the farm we had two springs, one was sweet water and the other ran out of a coal bank and was full of sulfur. Yuk! Most of the time we drank the well water. there were two wells and one of those had bad tasting water. Dad thought it needed cleaned out but that didn’t help. The only thing I remember him finding in the bottom was someone’s pipe.
    So many springs through the years have their water sources destroyed or the natural flow have been cut in two by roads. I was thinking about a place about 10 to 12 miles from my place where the road has cut the natural flow of water and someone has placed in the side of the bank a pipe. I commonly see people filling bottles there.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    June 15, 2021 at 10:12 am

    Daddy taught me to look for spring lizards and things in a spring before I drank from it. He said lizards keep the spring clean. Critters living in it indicated that it is good water. People have said “Yuck, I wouldn’t drink water from where lizards live!” “Well,” is my answer “I wouldn’t drink from where they wouldn’t live.”

  • Reply
    dee
    June 15, 2021 at 10:04 am

    I think Mr. Dabney and Mr. Templetons’s posts detailed the importance of good spring water in the lives of early pioneer families. I understand it completely as I have drank from those cold, delicious spring waters in NE MS. I was blessed with grandparents who had springs on their land but also about 1/2 mile from their farmhouse was a spring called Molly Harmon spring, named after the elderly lady that lived by the spring. There is a big hill by the side of the road. You can park your car, walk across a wooden path, about 20 ft to the spring. When I was a child there was always a dipper hung on a tree nearby to use to get your drink. Now a days you bring your own container. The water has been tested and it is 100% pure. My Mother and Father and their siblings walked everywhere when they were young and the “Spring” was a favorite place to stop and get a refreshing cold drink. You just can’t beat cold spring water. Thanks for the memories, Tipper. Every time I go back down south, I always make a trip back to that spring not only to drink the delicious water but also to think about all the people that stopped for that fresh water and still do today.

  • Reply
    Kimberly H
    June 15, 2021 at 9:48 am

    My daughter has been drinking at least a gallon of water a day for years. I think that is the reason her skin is so nice. Even in the teenage years she hardly even had to deal with acne. I need to drink more plain water myself.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    June 15, 2021 at 9:00 am

    I grew up drinking water drawn from a well. We had fresh milk most of the time and occasionally got a treat when Mom made Kool-aid. I despise drinking water even when I’m truly thirsty. I know how important it is to stay hydrated and force myself to sip on a bottle of water throughout the day. Mom used to say ain’t nothing better than a good cold drink of water.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    June 15, 2021 at 8:10 am

    Those who have never drunk water from a well, spring or branch most likely think water has no taste unless flavored. But it does. We had a well when I was growing up. At that time public water was not available. We still have a well here but there is a water line across the road.

    Time has shown that we as a society made a mistake switching from water to soft drinks. Who would have believed 50 years ago that just plain water from “mountain springs” would be good business? If you read the labels though you discover that some of those are “public water supply” from mountain locations.

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    June 15, 2021 at 8:06 am

    We are blessed in the mountains with drinkable water, and I’m still amazed that so many residents and visitors spend so much money on water in plastic containers. My well taps into the cleanest, freshest, most plentiful water you could ever want to drink. I don’t waste it. I treasure it.

  • Reply
    Margie G for get it or dont
    June 15, 2021 at 8:03 am

    Oh today we have water and it costs like gold!!! It’s treated and mistreated with chemicals including fluoride and lithium which is a drug for the mentally ill. Our Calcium hypochlorite you’re bleach the water is in question as well. Unless you have access to a spring or aquifer, you’d just do as well to drink whiskey and probably live longer.

  • Reply
    Kat Swanson
    June 15, 2021 at 7:41 am

    Our water was hard to come by in Virginia’s coal country. A mine a mile away could doom your well or change it’s quality. We had to carry water drinking and cooking water drawn up in a long cylindrical well bucket at my aunt’s house. We kids carried wash water from a stream.at the bottom of the hill . Years later, Daddy bought the little mountain above us that had a natural good spring and we ran pvc pipe 3000 feet to our house. We never served water at meals . Today I am up on our homeplace, up on the mountain where I was born, where my parents are buried and someday so will I . We pay 30 dollars a month for public water that’s cold and tastes pretty good …and are grateful to have it. We don’t take water for granted up the way. …keep a good dowser in the family

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    June 15, 2021 at 7:29 am

    A reliable source of good drinking water is a precious resource. I’ve drank from many mountain springs while out hiking, hunting or working. While I do enjoy coffee and tea, nothing quenches my thirst like good, clean cold water.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 15, 2021 at 7:26 am

    Mountain springs are the finest water in the world. I have spring water at my house and it’s very good except when we go too long without rain then it gets croudy and I have to go to the Blind Pig house and get some of their also very fine well wate to drinkr!

  • Reply
    Denise R
    June 15, 2021 at 7:09 am

    I remember my uncle, who raised cattle, had a spring at the bottom of a hill below the old farmhouse. He used the water flowing from the spring to fill an old bath tub as a watering site for the cattle. He would pull the hose out of the tub, let it run for a minute and drink the water coming out of the hose. Of course my sister and I would also drink from it when we were with him. Thinking about it now, it probably was not the most sanitary thing to do, but my sister and I are still alive and my uncle lived to the ripe old age of 95!

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    June 15, 2021 at 6:49 am

    I too love my water. Even doctors tell you to be sure and hydrate. The older I get the more I appreciate good cold water.
    There is nothing like good old clear mountain water. I grew up in a small town that provided the water. When we went back to the farm you could taste the difference. My Mother never got used to city water.

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