What Happened to the Well?


“As you will recall, my story was about my Daddy’s attempt to dig a well by our house, his disappointments along the way and finally his response to that frustration.

He did find good water but we had to move on up the river valley to find it. At the house we left, there was no practical way to get through the bedrock on that hillside above the Holston River, even if he could have afforded someone to drill a well for us, which he couldn’t. His divining fork dowsing had found water on that hillside in our front yard but it was not an aquifer, just the underground runoff down the inner slope of the mountainside.

We moved away to an old farmstead that had the most wonderful water in a good spring with a springhouse built over it. Mom even had a hand pump right at her kitchen sink, as city water was several years away yet. I suspect only a few of your readers remember kitchen sinks that had a hand pump for “running water” but it sure beat having to carry water and getting my britchie legs soaked from the splashing out.

And, we never had to want for water again and Dad and Mom made us a good, happy home, beholding to nobody else’s whims, mendicants no more.”



So it turns out there was a happy water ending to the story—even if it didn’t come from the well David’s father blew up. That’s how it goes in life: sometimes good things come from events that didn’t turnout the way we wanted them to.


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  • Reply
    January 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    I remember well the hand pump over the kitchen sink. My grandmother in Kansas had one; she felt like a queen because she didn’t have to go outside to get water in winter!
    Great- grandmother in Texas had a hand pump just off the back porch. I always wondered why one of the menfolk didn’t extend the porch roof so we didn’t have to stand in the rain (when we got rain in the 50s) to get water.

  • Reply
    January 9, 2019 at 3:21 pm

    I grew up , had to carry our water from the spring. For drinking and water to wash the clothes and water the chickens and other animals. Spring water is good. Dad never got it into the house. Thank God for the water.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    January 8, 2019 at 1:36 pm

    Growing up, we had a well at the edge of the back porch. We had a windlass you could use to crank up the full well bucket. It was excellent water. Looking back, i think the well lining may have been concrete pipes like what lines culverts. It was a job to get water–especially for big jobs like washing the clothes.

    Mama said they had a spring way down a hill at one house they lived in. Mama and her sister carried the wash down the hill–made a fire & heated water. Dried the clothes down there, too. Seems like a lot of old time men didn’t care much how far the women had to tote water. My mother-in-law says her husband’s father always got them the worst places to have to carry the water.

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    January 8, 2019 at 11:09 am

    Coincidentally, yesterday I took a friend to see the place where his grandparents once lived, just above the former Ravensford mill (now the location of the Cherokee schools). They lived along the banks of Raven Fork, between the logging railroad and river. Their well house is still there – a concrete structure from bottom to top. It’s the only such structure still standing in at least the Swain County portion of the Park. A photo of my friend next to his grandparent’s well is here:

    I’ve not seen another well structure like this at any of the 600+ old home sites I’ve been to in the Swain County portion of the Great Smoky Mts. National Park. In fact, the only two wells I’ve found are within a few hundred feet of each other.

    Just up the river from that well is another one which, according to NC Park Commission records, was also a concrete well, but that must’ve just been the superstructure. As you may be able to make out in the photo below, it is an open hole, and was lined with now moss-covered rocks. Not a good place to go wandering while gawking at the trees above you.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    January 8, 2019 at 10:20 am

    I went hunting with a friend on his Grandfather’s farm. Their house backed up against a cliff and water was piped into the house from a spring somewhere up the cliff. It ran in the sink all the time and was always cold. It was piped out to the road ditch and continued on it’s way.

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 9:46 am

    That water was wonderful, and I loved a cold drink of water in those days. I think God put most things here just the way he wanted them, and we absolutely do not improve with all the additives. Even a coal camp I lived in as a small child had the clearest water, and It ran off the mountainside. I now have to buy all cooking and coffee water because the water from my faucet has a slightly muddy look. The water company never mentioned until folks started calling. Now it is on their website that the water is free of bacteria, although dirty appearing.

  • Reply
    Tom Deep
    January 8, 2019 at 9:20 am

    I can remember from the hunting camps in the PA mountains getting water from the sink to drink. It was a great experience for a city boy.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    January 8, 2019 at 9:07 am

    Glad they not only got good water at the new place but had it inside to! I believe I’m right that the hand pumps had an upper limit to how far they could raise water and it was not a great amount. I think it was about 30 feet. Anybody reading know for sure?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    January 8, 2019 at 8:22 am

    Daddy cobbled together some pieces of iron pipe and ran water from the spring box right into the house. We had running water as far back as I can remember. That was better that most of the people in the area. Daddy had the foresight to find a good spring higher enough above the house to provide a good flow. He built a concrete box to act as a reservoir and as a refrigerator. So, we never had to carry water to the house but we had to carry foodstuffs to the spring box.
    The water ran to the kitchen sink. That’s all. We still had the outhouse and the washtub. We had the “Rome Eagle” cook stove with six eyes and a copper reservoir at the end for hot water. An endless supply of hot water unless you ran out of wood or a spring lizard crawled in the water pipe.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    January 8, 2019 at 7:52 am

    remember the hand pump but it was in the summer kitchen at my Aunt’s house. It was a kitchen added on to the house where all of the summer canning was done. It as to keep the house cooler. It had a wood stove, hand pump and a large drain in the floor where everything was washed down after a day of canning.

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    January 8, 2019 at 7:32 am

    mendicants — I just learned a new word. Thanks.

  • Reply
    January 8, 2019 at 5:55 am

    I can remember the time my Mamaw and Papaw drew water from a well beside the house and the old outhouse out back at the edge of the yard. Heck, I remember having an outhouse, I think I was near 10yrs old before I knew what it was to take a bath in a real tub, and a commode on the inside of the house. We had an electric well pump but we had a big wash tub for bathing and a little room with a gas heater, Mama would warm water on the stove and fill the wash tub for your bath in the winter, summertime the house was so hot that the well water in the tub would cool you off, right nicely.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    January 8, 2019 at 5:20 am

    I have good spring water instead of a well and there is a nice spring house built over it. This is a first for me, I’ve previously had city water or a well. Water is such an important thing but we tend to take it for granted that we turn the handle and the water is there. It wasn’t always that way, there was creeks, springs then later wells came along followed by city fluoridated water. We call this progress but sometimes I wonder…

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