Musings: Who dug the wells?

When I spent Monday afternoons with my elderly residents at the Hallock nursing home some years ago, we studied Kittson County’s townships and communities from plat books from the past. They always had so many stories to tell, so much information to impart, that I was surprised when they were unable to answer this question, ‘Who dug the wells on the farms you lived on and how did they go about digging them?’ As with the search for information about the Flu of 1918, we just got there too late. There is no one left to tell us and such information was never written down.

I have always been interested in fresh water and the digging of wells. My dad put in wells on a part time basis and I used to help him make the blocks needed. Back in North Dakota I lived in only one community out of about a half dozen where the water was nearly unfit to drink. There I remembered longingly of the shallow wells where I grew up and the water there that was sweet and clear.

I have came to understand that all too often the pioneer homesteads here on the Minnesota side were not so lucky. On reading from the Stephen book, Our Town, many had to try to find ways to save rain water or would haul water to cisterns. Communities settled themselves on or near streams to guarantee a source of water for man and beast.

Since then we have found we “cannot fool Mother Nature” and water is one resource man cannot control. How lucky we are to be able to tap into underground sources for usable water on a large scale. As with many other situations, our forefathers could have used the modern technology and know-how available today. Without it, they just worked hard and made do.

Written by: Ethel Thorlacius

Author: W Saewyc

An amateur genealogist and internet hobbyist.

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