Blountsville’s flowing well in Henry County

I’ve driven through Blountsville on US-35 a hundred times. After I got interested in artesian wells, the metal sign near the Stoney Creek Township fire station on the town’s western edge became relevant to me. “WARNING,” it screamed in red type. “DO NOT DRINK WATER.” Contrarian that I am, language like that usually compels me to take a big swig of water! After I saw the well for myself, though, I’m really glad I didn’t.

The site of Blountsville’s flowing well, as seen on April 5, 2020.

Flowing wells often fail board of health examinations once their casings break1 since, without a pipe to redirect the flow away from the ground, wells become little more than easily-contaminated pools that bubble up from the ground2. I didn’t know why the state considered the well at Blountsville polluted, but I decided that it’d be prudent to follow the board of health’s recommendations. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to drive somewhere and research it only to drop dead before I had the chance to write about it!

Satellite imagery courtesy of Schneider Geospatial’s Beacon app. Map data courtesy of the Henry County Assessor’s office.

Flowing wells work because they tap a pressurized aquifer in a valley where the water flows to what’s called the piezometric surface. The artesian well at Blountsville sits near the white dot in the image above just right of the center, 1,060 feet above sea level. That’s between four and twelve feet below the surrounding farmland, enough of a difference for the water to flow up and out of a pipe driven deep into the aquifer.

The well sat on Mary Terrill’s twenty-four acres as seen as this 1893 atlas and plat book of Henry County.

Most of East Central Indiana’s artesian wells are left over from the gas boom that occurred around the turn of the twentieth century. Across twenty-one Indiana counties, the Trenton Gas Field spanned about 5,100 square miles at an average depth of about 900 feet below the ground3. After the gas was depleted, many old casings eventually cracked, which led water from confined aquifers to seep into them. That’s why East Central Indiana has so many flowing wells! I’ve been to twenty-one across the region and know of several more.

The Trenton Gas Field, as it appeared in the Eighth Annual report of the United States Geological Survey to the Secretary of the Interior, 1886-1887.

After years of passing the sign warning not to drink from it, I first stopped to look for Blountsville’s well on April 5, 2020. It took two more tries before I finally found it! The sign dates to the 1980s, when the US-35 bridge over Stoney Creek was rebuilt. Apparently, it was installed as a more permanent version of a cheaper notice that locals tore down to dispute its message4! Its admonitions would be easier to follow if there were a well to drink from, but as far as I could see during my first two visits, there wasn’t.

The area surrounding the Blountsville flowing well, as seen on April 2, 2023.

Not finding the well was frustrating. I got home and asked some Facebook groups about it. One person said that her dad stopped and walked her back to take a drink when she was a kid5. Someone else remembered that he often stopped there on his way back from Cincinnati Reds games6. According to another guy, the well flowed freely as recently as 20157. A friend who’d been there with his grandpa remembered the casing as a typical steel pipe. He asked a local, who insisted it was still going strong in 20208.

Rust surrounding the Blountsville flowing well, as seen on April 7, 2023.

All of those responses were contrary to what I’d seen, and I filed the place away for a couple of years. I wound up driving through Blountsville on my way home from Richmond last weekend and decided to stop to search for the well again. Coincidentally, both of those first two visits were during the first week of April, a fickle time for artesian wells to flow at maximum strength, and I left empty handed again. My mom and I stopped to poke around again on Friday, and after ten minutes of searching it looked like I’d be skunked yet again. I was seeing red!

The area surrounding the Blountsville flowing well, as seen on April 7, 2023.

I wasn’t enraged, mind you: I’m a big-picture person and sometimes struggle with seeing the trees for the forest, but as I trudged back to the pull-off, I noticed a brush of red sludge staring up at me from under the grass and husks. Red is a sign of rust, and that rust is a sign of artesian wells. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t noticed it on either of my previous trips, and I started pawing through the detritus. I saw bubbles and ripples!

The Blountsville flowing well, as seen on April 7, 2023.

I don’t mind getting a little dirty for the sake of history, and it didn’t take long to uncover the Blountsville artesian well itself. It was right there behind the sign but was buried under two or three inches of dead plants. It still flows, but most of the casing above the surface is gone so its water just sort of trickles out. After finally seeing it in person, I don’t blame the state for declaring it contaminated: the flow rate is so slow that you can see gas bubbles coming up through the pipe. I’d have to be really parched to dip a cup in that sludge!

For those of you curious, I actually do have a designated artesian well dippin’ cup in my glovebox. My brother got it for me. It’s a simple, metal Moscow mule mug with a gunmetal finish. To re-state the obvious, the dippin’ cup was not deployed in Blountsville. The well looks gross today, but its water still flows, and flows, and flows.

Even though its warning sign makes the well’s general location pointedly obvious, finding it still turned out to be a challenge. Be careful if you go to BlountsvillIe to check out the old artesian well on your own: it sits near the US-35 right-of-way and its water could poison you. If you get hit by a car or die from chloroform toxicity, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

At any rate, I know of three other artesian wells in Henry County, and I’ve been to two of them. I’ll write about those next time we revisit the topic.

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 Oil And Gas in Indiana (n.d.) Division of Oil & Gas. Indiana Department of Natural Resources [Indianapolis]. Web. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
4 Shideler, T. And Lappin, M. (2020, March 8). Have you stopped at the well in blountsville with the sign advising not to drink? Personal.
5 Linville, S.O. Lost Muncie. (2020, March 9). when I was a kid, my dad stopped us and walked back and took a drink outta this one. Sorry [Comment]. Facebook. 
6 Kelley, B. Lost Muncie (2020, September 11). I always used to stop there on the way back from Cincinnati Reds games when I was in high school. [Comment]. Facebook. 
7 Conatser, D. (2015, July 30). There is one on St Rd 35 south at blountsville. We stopped there when I was a kid. Its still [Comment]. Facebook. 
8 Lappin, M. (2020, April 5). We talked about it, but I asked someone who lives close and they said it still runs. So now Im curious [Comment]. Facebook.

One thought on “Blountsville’s flowing well in Henry County

  1. There used to be a still pipe that came across a pile of rocks. It was the coldest water I’ve ever had. I grew up in Blountsville and enjoyed walking down on a hot day just to get a big drink!!

    Liked by 1 person

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