Crystal Pool: A dammed great swimming hole near Windsor, Indiana

There are probably few things that pique a kid’s interest more strongly than going swimming. It’s fun because swimming allows them to explore a new environment and gain confidence in their abilities. It helps kids stay active, build coordination, and develop social skills. Plus -let’s be honest here- it’s a great way to cool off on a hot day! A couple of generations ago, Crystal Pool -about twelve miles southeast of the heart of Muncie- was one of the best places to take a dip and do a lot more, besides.

Crystal Pool, as it appeared on January 21, 2023.

Although there were closer places, hordes of people from Muncie swam at Crystal Pool, including mayor Bob Cunningham1. The place opened around 1923 after T.W. Woods, a car dealer from Parker, built a six-foot-tall2, concrete dam on the White River that replaced a temporary weir made of dirt and straw3. Located half-of-a-mile north of the small community of Windsor in western Randolph County, the dam backed the river’s water up for nearly a mile. Crystal Pool was first mentioned in a newspaper in 1923 when the Sunday school of Parker City’s Methodist Episcopal Church held a picnic there4.

Glen Baker owned the property from 1925 or 1926 until 1935. The swimming area featured a solid limestone bottom, but the rest of the place, also known as Crystal Pool Park, was home to boat rentals, picnic tables, grills for cooking, and a concession stand5. In 1925, the park featured swimming contests with $20 in cash prizes for the winners of a 150-yard race and underwater diving contest6. A year later, a daredevil named Pat Blansett parachuted from an airplane at the site7. At one point, Crystal Pool even featured a baseball diamond, home of the Crystal Pool Specials who took on teams like the Muncie Products8 and the Parker A.C.’s9 .

The old driveway into Crystal Pool. Photo taken January 21, 2023.

A variety of organizations held picnics and swimming parties at Crystal Pool over the years, including the Epworth League of Parker’s First Methodist Church, The Big Four Booster Club, the Sunshine Club, and the Quaker Girls. The site frequently hosted family reunions as well.

Despite its popularity, Crystal Pool was sometimes dangerous, too: in 1928, Ruth Crotty, the assistant superintendent of Muncie’s Home Hospital, nearly drowned when she fell into Crystal Pool at a picnic. She was caught in an undertow near the dam until Howard McKain swam out to save her10 .

Low-head dams, like the one at Crystal Pool, appear tranquil but anything more than a leisurely flow over the top creates turbulent, recirculating currents called hydraulics that can push even the strongest swimmer underwater in a never-ending cycle that often results in death. I’m not aware of any fatalities at Crystal Pool, but the White River east of Muncie is a completely different animal than the version that languidly flows through town: in 1914, a Parker City man named George Golliher drowned in twelve feet of water just west of Crystal Pool11.

Crystal Pool, facing southwest. Photo taken January 21, 2023.

Apparently, Crystal Pool was closed to the public in the late 1930s12. In 1939, officers uncovered a huge moonshine still that contained 4,000 gallons of whiskey mash found in vats that measured twelve feet high! The entire operation turned out as much as 8,000 gallons of alcohol per week, which was transported elsewhere to receive flavorings and color additives before being resold by unscrupulous barmen. As the property was being raided, officials stopped a truck near the scene with “several hundred” five-gallon cans. Upon seeing the sheriff, the driver jumped out of the cab and escaped across a nearby field13.

Crystal Pool was advertised for sale by name in the early 1950s. By that point, the property consisted of 37.5 acres on both sides of the river, with a completely-modern home and a smaller, “semi-modern” home with a basement14. A modern, 202-foot long bridge opened over Crystal Pool in 1970 to replace the old iron bridge that previously crossed the site15.

This plaque, set into the bridge over Crystal Pool, is almost all that commemorates it. Photo taken January 21, 2023.

Today, little commemorates Crystal Pool aside from the old dam and a fifty-year-old plaque on the bridge. Nonetheless, this place is where many members of the Greatest and Silent Generations waded into the river and felt cool water on their toes; leaped off a diving board into the deep, clear, water; and swam against the current, feeling the strength of the White River. It’s where baseball fans cheered on the Specials in a long-forgotten doubleheader, or spread a blanket for a family-famous picnic. Even though little of that happens today, Crystal Pool is still worth remembering.

Sources Cited
1 Cunningham, B. (1986, July 26). Crystal Pool” The good old days in Muncie. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 4.
2 Low Head Dams in Indiana (2023). Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Map. Web. Retrieved Januar 27, 2023.
3 Peters, K. (1977, June 22). Windsor’s Crystal Pool is still remembered. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 7.
4 Parker (1923, July 12). The Muncie Star. p. 13.
5 (See footnote 1).
6 Swimming Contest (1925, September 5). The Muncie Star. p. 5.
7 Parachute Leap from Airplane (1926, September 4). The Muncie Star. p. 4.
8 To Play Crystal Nine (1927, August 13). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 12.
9 Magic City A.C. Will Play At Parker Today (1926, September 19). The Muncie Morning Star. p. 12.
10 Nurse Is Rescued From Crystal Pool (1928, June 15). The Muncie Evening Press. p. 2.
11 Parker City Man Victim Of River (1914, June 15). The Muncie Star. p. 1.
12 Pitts, E. (1997, December 15). Windsor a place where people still remember. The Muncie Star Press. pp. 7-8.
13 Giant Illicit Liquor Plant Is Uncovered At Crystal Pool by Raiding Officers (1938, March 22). The Muncie Star. Pp. 1-11.
14 Houses for Sale (1953, December 24). The Muncie Star Press. p. 12.
15 At Crystal Pool (1970, September 30). The Muncie Star. p. 2.

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