Tuesday, June 26, 2018

BLOG: A Family Spring Inspires Groundwater Protection

by Chris Barnett, Executive Director, Lawrence Community Development Corporation and Team Leader, Indianapolis-Marion County Groundwater Guardian Team

I wanted to share a story that is more directly related to groundwater than the last one I shared, and it explains more about my personal dedication to groundwater protection.

In 1817 my ancestors, a boy of eight or nine and his parents, came to Germantown, Pennsylvania from Wuerttemberg, Germany. The young family made their way across Pennsylvania in the ensuing years and eventually purchased a farm in eastern Ohio from the U.S. Government. Family lore says that the original wood and sod home was built into a hill, facing generally south, by the spring - so the spring has provided water for my family since the 1830s.   

After Ohio’s canal-building era ended, there were men in the region who had come to work on the Ohio and Erie canal. My ancestor hired a company of stonecutters to build a family home; by then he had many children. The stonecutters also laid up the springhouse next to it.  

The points on the stars carved next to the date represent the members of the family when the house was built.
The house and springhouse are still in use after almost 170 years. My mother and her siblings grew up there, and I grew up visiting my great-grandfather and grandparents there.  My cousin is the 6th-generation family owner today. 

In addition to providing domestic water supply for the house (a hand pump in my mother’s day, and later an electric pump), the spring trough served as the refrigerator for raw milk my grandfather sold to the cheese factory a few miles away.

Through my entire life and scores of visits, I never felt at home until I touched the cold water in the spring trough, and taken a sip:

The water never satisfied me more than it did the summer I worked with my uncle to set a fence and make hay…the house had no air conditioning and the only cool spot was the springhouse.

A second spring is found on a hill opposite the house, across the road, creek, and bottomland pasture. My great grandfather built a bank barn below the spring in the early 1900s (the family called it “the new barn”) so that water from the spring could be directed into the barn. That spring provided water for the small herd of cattle the family raised for meat and milk production, a hog or two, and the chickens that provided my grandmother with “egg money” and the occasional Sunday roaster.

Modern farmers will recognize that I’ve described a subsistence farm by today’s standards.  It’s in a hilly location with rock outcroppings, better suited to timber production than to extensive production of row crops. It will come as no surprise that the surrounding farms are mostly Amish-owned today. But when my mother and aunts and uncles were growing up there during the Depression and World War II, they never lacked for food, water, shelter (or hard work).  

And when my ancestors settled there nearly 200 years ago to carve a farm out of woodland, they knew what Groundwater Guardians like me know today: without a source of clean drinking water, there is no life possible. I certainly wouldn’t be here now, nor would I have such a passion for protecting groundwater, if not for that spring.

Chris Barnett is the Executive Director of the Lawrence Community Development Corporation, as well as the team leader for the Indianapolis-Marion County Groundwater Guardian Team, the Marion County Wellfield Education Corporation. Chris also serves on The Groundwater Foundation's board of directors. Reach Chris at cbarnett.lcdc@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of The Groundwater Foundation, its board of directors, or individual members.

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