Three artesian wells in Delaware County’s Harrison Township

Flowing water offers a sense of calmness and tranquility, and its sound creates a peaceful atmosphere. That’s a big part of why I love artesian wells! A while back, we talked about the first artesian well I ever stumbled across, which sits about half of a mile west of the hamlet of Granville in northern Delaware County. A week later, we talked about four more I knew of in northeastern Delaware County. Today, we’ll visit three more: all of them are within a quick, ten-minute drive of one another in Harrison Township.

This diagram is not to scale.

Artesian wells tap into a confined aquifer, or an underground layer of rock or sand that contains water. The water in the confined aquifer is under pressure, so it rises up and flows out of the top of the well without the need for a pump. As long as the water table stays saturated, they flow, and flow, and flow.

Around central Indiana, these wells are relics from the gas boom that occurred around the turn of the twentieth century and led to brief boom towns like West Muncie: over time, the shafts and casings of the old gas wells began to crack. Under certain circumstances, water seeped into the casings and began to flow up and out.

Although the terms “flowing well” and “artesian well” are often used interchangeably, it’s not technically correct to do so: An artesian well is any with water that reaches what’s called the piezometric surface, which I’ve shown on the infographic above as the dashed line. Whether or not the water flows out has to due to the topography of the area. For the purposes of clarity, I’ll refer to the wells in this post as “flowing artesian wells” from here on out.

The word “artesian” comes from the historic province of Artois in France, where Carthusian monks were known to drill wells like these during the twelfth century. As of this writing, I’ve been to eleven flowing artesian wells in Delaware County, and I know of a couple more I haven’t gotten out to yet. Today’s wells are visible on the map above.

None of them has an official name, so I’ve decided to refer to these flowing artesian wells by their location or by the names of people who own or owned the land they sit on. All three are situated on private property, but photos can be taken from what’s generally considered to be a public easement or from the roadway. It’s probably important to mention that the vast majority of artesian wells found out in the wild aren’t monitored or tested by the board of health, so they may not be safe to drink from. That didn’t stop me from sipping from one of them: I’m happy to be a guinea pig.

The Lee Pit Well

The Lee Pit well sits at the northwest corner of McGalliard Road and Lee Pit Road. To get there from Muncie, hop on McGalliard and take it to I-69. Cross over the interstate and immediately turn right onto Lee Pit Road. Park your car and put the flashers on.

In 1963, Jackson Street Pike was improved to connect I-69 with the communities of Muncie and Frankton. The process graded the old turnpike upwards to transform it into an overpass that crossed the new highway. The Lee Pit well was buried during the project, but its rusty outflow still flows into Killbuck Creek.

It’s impractical to clamber down the hillside to find this well, and it’s dangerous to pull off on McGalliard Road to take a picture of it from across the creek. The images and video I have of the well were taken with a drone.

Several years ago, I was told that another flowing artesian well just north of this one on Lee Pit Road was capped with concrete, but I’ve never been able to find it. In 1982, the owners of the Outpost restaurant considered clearing the thicket and building picnic facilities southwest of the restaurant so diners could enjoy a well that could be heard but not seen through the brush1. It’s likely that the well I’ve been unable to locate is the well that could be heard from the Outpost. Maybe someone will chime in with some more information.

The Gernand-Thompson Well

The Gernand-Thompson well is the second extant and third overall flowing artesian well on Lee Pit Road. Believed to mark the site of what was once an 1,800-foot-deep gas well2, it sits half of a mile north of Lee Pit Road’s intersection with Jackson Street Pike or State Road 332. The well looks remote in all of these pictures, but it’s only two hundred feet from the interstate! It amazes me to think of how many people speed past this place every day without any clue that it exists. It also makes me wonder how many things I’m missing as I speed past them when they’re bizarre Ferris wheels on the side of the highway or disembodied steeples rising from the cornfields.

A reporter from the Muncie Evening Press assigned the well its name in 1982, based on the names of Orville Gernand and Tom Thompson, the men who owned the land surrounding the well for much of its existence3. At one point, the well’s water flowed from an eight-inch pipe. Unfortunately, it was broken by the 1980s when the well was little more than a bubbling pool of water. Those conditions led it to receive an unsatisfactory rating by the county board of health in 1982.

These days, an old fire hydrant serves as the well’s casing. Under normal circumstances, the area’s picturesque! Unfortunately, locals seem to use the area as a trash dump. I’ve found fast food wrappers, pop bottles full of suspicious liquid, and even reclining chairs nearby. I’d love to clean it up one day with the cooperation of whoever owns the property now.

The Hayden Well

The last well is one that I’ve decided to call the Hayden well since it sits on twenty-four acres that was owned by E.J. Hayden during the gas boom days3. The easiest way to get to the well from the previous two is to follow Lee Pit Road north to its intersection with West Bethel Pike. From there, turn right onto Bethel and cross over the interstate. Take the pike past the village of Bethel.

Just past the Bethel Church, turn right onto North County Road 750-West. The intersection will sneak up on you- it’s right at the top of the hill before you reach the Mitchell Farm. The well is visible in a fenced-in yard on the east side of 750-West just after you cross Jake’s Creek. I took pictures and video from behind the fence.

Harrison Township measures about forty-two square miles, and the area’s predominantly rural. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that the township’s home to more flowing artesian wells than these three, given its lack of development and overall topography.

That being the case, there are others located nearby: I’ve been to three more flowing artesian wells in neighboring Mount Pleasant Township, and I know a fourth exists but haven’t been by to take pictures yet. I also know that at least three more existed at one time, near the Yorktown Lion’s Club Park, Yorktown Middle School, and in the Beverly Heights neighborhood. Still others exist in the greater area, and we’ll talk about them all eventually.

Sources Cited
1 Gerhart, L. (1982, September 18). Artesian about in Delaware County – wells, that is. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 3.
2 (See footnote 1).
3 (See footnote 1).
4 Griffing, B. N. (1887). An atlas of Delaware County, Indiana. map, Philadelphia, PA; Griffing, Gordon, & Company.

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