I’ve heard different explanations of how Spartanburg’s flowing well came to be. Usually, I find conflicting sources frustrating to reconcile, but I’m glad that two theories exist since they represent about 200% more information than what I’ve heard about the other wells I’ve been to. I’ll take it!
The 1998 Randolph County Interim Report, published by Indiana Landmarks, indicates that the well was discovered in 1892 as workers dug out the foundation of a new house1. Other sources insist that the well was originally drilled for gas2, and locals estimate that it was bored to a depth of either 1,1003 1,5004, or 1,800 feet5.
The flowing well sits in the Greensfork Township Park just east of Spartanburg. Located in southeastern Randolph County two miles west of Ohio, the village was founded as Newberg in 18326. Ten years later, a post office called Spartanburg was established in the community, which abandoned the name Newberg. The post office lasted until 19077, a year before a three-story school was built just south of town. Although Spartanburg was once home to as many as 237 people8, today it consists of some houses, the park, two churches, a branch of Merchants Bank, and the remains of the 1908 school, which burned in 2012.
After the well was drilled, the area surrounding it was little more than a muddy bog. Around 1930, the well’s concrete foundation and basin were constructed to replace wooden slats that let residents access the water9. Greensfork Township Park was established on five acres around the well in 195910, and a boulder there, just north of the well, memorializes the initial shareholders of the Greenskfork Natural Gas & Oil Company.
The boulder lends credence to the theory that the well was drilled to extract natural gas. So does the well’s appearance on the Indiana Geological & Water Survey’s Petroleum Database Management System map! In the 1890s, East Central Indiana experienced a gas boom that was as prosperous as it was brief. Unfortunately, Spartanburg sat pretty far from the boom’s epicenter in Delaware and Blackford Counties. It’s little wonder that the well wound up producing water instead of gas.
Water flows from the well without a pump because it taps a pressurized aquifer. Although they generally flow uniterupted, artesian wells sometimes stop when the aquifer needs recharged. That’s what happened in Spartanburg during a 1988 drought! Although the dry well caused consternation for locals who used it for extra drinking water, the drought presented a real problem for the fire departments of Lynn and Hollansburg-Palestine, which relied on the flow to fill two cement reservoirs installed underneath it during the mid-1980s to supply their tanker trucks11.
I’ve been to the well four times over the last three years and I’ve taken iPhone video twice. It’s flowed vigorously on each trip! After it fills the underground reservoirs, I’d imagine that extra water runs into Greenville Creek about two-hundred feet west. From Spartanburg, the creek flows northwest before it roughly parallels State Road 571 and US-36 near Greenville, Ohio. The creek becomes a tributary of the Stillwater River west of Covington, which joins the Great Miami River just north of downtown Dayton.
You’d be correct if you saw my aerial image of Spartanburg and thought bringing a drone to take photos of a flowing well was overkill. We’ll circle back to this corner of Randolph County soon!
1 Randolph County Interim Report (1998). Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana.
2 Knight, M. (1965, December 26). Spartanburg, Once Known As Newburg, Enjoyed Best Days Near Start of Century. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 35.
3 Drive Planned To Buy Land For Spartanburg Park (1955, October 12). The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 12.
4 Bernhard, J. (1988, September 11). Spring runs dry. The Richmond Palladium-Item. p. 3.
5 (See footnote 2).
6 Baker, R. (1995) From Needmore to Prosperity: Hoosier Place Names in Folklore and History. Indiana University Press [Bloomington]. Book.
7 Randolph County. Jim Forte Postal History. Web. Retrieved April 15, 2023.
8 (See footnote 2).
9 (See footnote 4).
10 Pitts, E. (1997, August 18). Spartanburg residents have community pride. The Muncie Star Press. p. 7.
11 (See footnote 4).