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Wells, gravity fed springs, cisterns
Long before “fluorinated,” which also was called “city water,” became available in this area for a monthly fee (that is always going up), the pioneers, farmers and landowners had to provide their own water for their homes, gardens and livestock.
Almost all had hand dug wells. The location of these were usually determined by a local dowser, or diviner, also called a water witcher, who often used a green branch fork of a peach or willow tree as a divining rod.
The diviner would hold the two upper ends of the forked branch and the bottom end would pull down, as if by magnetism, when the diviner would walk over a spot on the ground that held water below.
Some of the better diviners could also locate gold veins, among other things, such as the location of lost graves, etc. My mother could do this. As a child, we would play hide and seek with me hiding a gold ring and her finding it with a divining rod with a small piece of gold on the bottom end.
Once a good water vein was located, a well would be dug out and often lined with rocks. A shed or well house would be built over the well, and the water was drawn up by a bucket and/or a hand pump.
Most wells were between 20 and 30 feet deep; some were more. Aside from wells, if one was industrious enough, actual running water could be had without the use of pumps. This idea has been around for thousands of years.
The Romans built huge aqueducts to channel gravity-fed water from the mountains to their cities; so did the Mexican and South American Indians.
Weogufka didn’t have any aqueducts, but it did have some gravity-fed springs that furnished several houses below Weogufka/Baxley Mountain with free fresh running water before the invention of the electric well pump and before Weogufka even had electricity to work an electric pump.
On the north side of Weogufka Mountain, a large spring was dug out on the side of the mountain about 30 feet long and 15 feet wide and about 10 feet deep. A pipe siphoned the water down to the houses below, similar to siphoning gas from the gas tank of a vehicle; thus, some in my area had running water and indoor plumbing long before others did.
In the late 1940s, my father, a foreigner from the state of Tennessee (anyone not from Coosa County/Weogufka, is/was considered a foreigner), married my mother. They purchased land on the south side of Baxley Mountain. My father located a different spring on this side of the mountain and dug out a smaller spring that he walled in with brick and covered with a top.
This spring furnished my parents’ house with gravity-fed water. Although both of my parents are now dead, the spring still furnishes water to the house and property.
I helped my father redo the water lines on August 16, 1977. I remember that date because after I finished helping my father, I went to see my Maw Maw in Weogufka. She told me that she saw it on the TV that that ole rock singer, Elvis, had died.
Some of the old men on the porch of their store were talking about his dying, also. One said that Elvis looked to him like some ole boy that had been petted by someone too much!
One drawback when using either wells or springs is that during a drought, they can sometimes go dry. Over the last several years, Alabama has had rain almost every day, but our climate has always been erratic, and it can go for months without it raining any.
Many of the older homeowners in the area often built cisterns on their property to collect the rain from the winter and spring monsoons, usually from gutter drainage, into a basin to be used later, if there was a drought in the summer, to water their gardens and flush their commodes. These were similar to a small swimming pool that was covered over, usually with a concrete slab.
Water,often from house gutters, was channeled into these cisterns. They were not for drinking water, but the water could be used for other purposes.
I still have a cistern on one of my properties, built by my great-grandfather. It needs cleaning out, but could still be used after more than 100 years.
For those planning to rely on the government in their future for their water and other needs, I am sure this column is of no help. It is for those others that I used my time, or I could be doing other things writing this!
Until next time, Dixie forever!