Saturday, March 26, 2011

In Search of a Spring

When I saw this picture hanging in the hallway of the local Windrow Restaurant in the autumn of 2009, I was captivated. This 'picture of a picture' shows a group of people standing near what almost looks like a grotto. Printing in the corner, however, identifies this as "Natural Spring Near Afton".
Springs have always held a fascination for me. That may be a result of visiting the spring on the Gray farm in Illinois when I was four years old. Or it may be from all the reading about pioneers I did when I was younger - how they would camp near a spring or look for a homestead with a spring nearby in order to have a source of water.
For a year and a half I have been trying to discover exactly where the spring near Afton (which is the former county seat of Union County - about ten miles east of Creston) is located. I want to see if there is anything remaining of the above structure. I've asked at the library, I've asked people from Afton, I've asked and asked. Finally Thursday I asked the owner of the Windrow about the picture and if he knew where the spring was located. He did. He gave me directions.
Then yesterday, I did a more diligent search on the library's Union County history shelves and discovered a slim booklet of "Small Towns of Union County". It included Afton and it included the above picture. The spring was/is? located three miles east of Afton at what was once known as Afton Junction. It is where the north-south and east-west trains once crossed. Not only was there a spring, there was also a swimming hole and picnic grounds. In addition to the two railroad depots there was a general store and possibly some other businesses. (I've heard there was a hotel.) So now I'm waiting for some warmer weather and an exploratory drive in the country.

I'm always on the lookout for springs when we travel. This photo was taken at Hooper Springs Park in Soda Springs, Idaho. Free soda water is available here. Yes, I filled an empty water bottle. No, I didn't care for the taste - it's not like the club soda we buy at the grocery. Soda water from this spring was marketed nationally in the late 1800's and into the 1900's. Soda Springs also has a geyser which erupts every hour. The area was a rest stop on the Oregon Trail (The Oasis of Soda Springs.)

Boone's Lick in Howard County Missouri was the site of one of that state's first and most important industries - salt. Here I am looking at one of the salt springs at Boone's Lick State Historical Site north of Boonville. Yes, I did dip my hand in and taste the salty water. (Bud's comment was, "Eww-ww, I can't believe you did that!") Daniel Boone's sons opened a salt business, shipping the crystallized product by keel boat to St. Louis.

One of my favourite camp sites back when we were still tent camping, was this one in Jo Daviess County in northeast Illinois. We had been at a wedding in Dubuque. I always wanted to see Galena, so after touring around there, we began looking for a place to camp. Wooded Wonderland was one of those serendipitous finds. Who wouldn't want to camp where you had to drive on Devil's Ladder Road to reach the campgrounds?
We were told to camp at any of the sites we wanted. This glade looked inviting. Once the tent was set up, I began exploring. I was elated to find we had camped next to a spring. At first I thought it was just a small pond - the edge of which is barely visible in the bottom of this picture, then I realized the 'pond' was being fed by a small spring.
The campgrounds were primitive. There was an old sawmill and remnants of some kind of mining or caves. Rusty old machinery, cars and trucks littered the area. It was a perfect place to camp and explore.

McMurtry Spring south of Cassville, Missouri on the Missouri-Arkansas border is another spring which has interested me since I first saw it in the mid 1970's. The kids and I were returning from a vacation on Beaver Lake near Rogers, Arkansas when my attention was drawn to a limestone barn and house near the intersection of highways 37 and 62 just south of the little town of Seligman, Missouri. My head was still turned, looking at those dream inducing structures (as in I could imagine living there), when I saw this pool. It was not signed, then, but on a trip Bud and I took twenty years later, a sign had been posted saying this was a stop on the Trail of Tears.

A spring is any natural situation where water flows to the surface from underground. A seep is a moist or wet place where groundwater reaches the earth's surface. We didn't have a spring on our farm. However, there was a seep on the side hill southeast of the barn. Before the field was tiled, there were a couple willow trees growing there. I always wondered if we dug it out some if the water would flow. Would we have a spring? Could we have a spring? It was one of my childhood fantasies - another reason I still go in search of springs in my old age?

1 comment:

  1. Hi - Did you ever find this spring? My mother lived in Afton Junction in the old hotel, after the trains had slowed to a trickle and the hotel closed. She was one of 13 children and this was a big house for them! It had no plumbing and she told me stories of walking through the woods to a spring for water. When they moved there, the spring was a very slow trickle. Her father carved a plug for it so that when the kids went to get buckets of water, they would fill more quickly. I wonder if this is the same spring!

    I was born and raised in California, but visited this location about 15 years ago with my kids. There was nothing there, except an old power pole leaning into the trees.

    Anyway, if you ever found it, I'd love to hear about it. my e-mail is