Artesian wells require a specific set of topographical requirements to flow without a pump. Because of that, the banks of streams make perfect places for them! I know of three flowing wells in the High Banks area between Yorktown and Daleville in rural Mt. Pleasant Township, and I’ve been to two of them.
Artesian wells work because they’ve been drilled into an aquifer where the pressure is high enough to cause the water to flow to the surface under its own pressure. Those conditions exist in valleys where water is confined between impermeable strata beneath the rest of the water table, as illustrated in the infographic below. As you can see, places with high banks are ideal.
As far as I’m aware, Delaware County’s home to three areas locals know as “High Banks,” and all three featured artesian wells. The first is in Niles Township near the community of Granville1. That’s where I found my first flowing well, and it was an experience I’ll never forget! The second “High Banks” is along the White River near Smithfield. For years, an artesian well flowed freely down to the White River2. I haven’t been able to track it down yet, but I’m pretty sure it sat near the intersection of Pittenger Road and Smithfield Pike.
The process of trying to locate the High Banks well near Smithfield has driven me to the brink of insanity. Luckily, the wells I’ve been to at the third “High Banks,” near Yorktown, were much easier to find.
The Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery well
The flowing well at Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery is one of Delaware County’s best-known, and it was the second I ever ventured to. It sits at the base of the cemetery twenty-four feet lower than the church at the top of the hill. I don’t have a picture of the sanctuary itself, but it was built in 1871 on a tract of land donated by P.A. Helvie3. The congregation, originally Methodist Episcopal, was established thirty years earlier when James Van Matre deeded a lot to erect a combination church and schoolhouse.
Members of many prominent area families, including Isanogels, Kilgores, Priests, and Van Matres were buried at the Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery, and the oldest grave dates to 1840. I’ll admit that drinking water from a well in a cemetery is unappealing at first glance! Thankfully, its casing extends hundreds of feet below any nearby interments. Water from the Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery well is consistently the best-tasting and coldest I’ve had from any of the twenty-five artesian wells I’ve been to! When it’s flowing, that is.
The Mount Pleasant Church Cemetery well is fickle. For some reason, the well only flows about seventy percent of the time I drive past, regardless of the season or the levels of recent precipitation. Church trustees briefly shut off its flow due to reports of vandalism and tomfoolery in the early 1980s4, but it was flowing with full force when I stopped for pictures a couple years ago. It was still going strong when I drove past yesterday. The well is as easy to spot from the road as it is from satellite views, thanks to the pool of its rusty outflow.
The Lennington well
Several people told me about another flowing well on High Banks Road early on in my quest, but it took some significant help to locate it. My early attempts at finding the well involved using Google Street View and satellite imagery provided by Delaware County’s Office of Information and GIS Services. I initially focused on what appeared to be a small stream nearby before one of my mom’s friends learned of my plight. He knew the exact location of the well and took a video of him driving there from the cemetery.
Later, I learned that the stream I’d been looking at came from a third artesian well in the area, back from the road on private property! I hope to go check it out sometime soon with permission.
The well sits on land owned by the Lennington family, and it’s like some weird pirate island that you can only sail to once you’ve been there before. Now that I know where it is, I’ll never miss it! Once a popular spot for a cold drink, the well’s casing was nearly destroyed by vandals at some point in the 1970s5. Because of that, water languidly burbles out of it, possibly compromising its quality. I didn’t drink from it, but my brother did. He’s still alive, last I checked.
Water still flows from the damaged pipe because the water table extends into nearby hills thirty-one feet higher than where the well sits. I won’t provide its exact coordinates given its condition, but the Lennington well is in the woods on the east side of High Banks Road about a third of a mile north of Mount Pleasant Cemetery’s entrance gates.
Neither of the two wells appears on the interactive Indiana Geological Survey oil and gas well map. Regardless, I’m certain that they both date to the gas boom. Beyond the Koontz well I’ve already written about and the third High Banks well I’m hoping to go see in person, I know of several more than once existed around Yorktown in Mt. Pleasant Township. As always, I’m keeping my eyes peeled.
1 Flook, C. (2019). Lost Towns of Delaware County, Indiana. The History Press [Charleston]. book.
2 Owens, E. (1970, April 17). Highbanks Flowing Well Attracted the Cyclists. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 4.
3 Helm, T. B. (1881). Mount Pleasant Township. In History of Delaware County, Indiana: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers (pp. 268–269). book, Kingman Brothers.
4 Gerhart, L. (1982, September 18). Artesians about in Delaware County – wells, that is. The Muncie Evening Press. p. 3.
5 (See footnote 4).