A trip to or from Cape Lewallen wouldn’t have been complete without a stop outside Marble Hill to fill up canteens and water jugs from an artesian well on the south side of Missouri Hwy 34. (Click on the photos to make them larger.)
Been on my bucket list
Getting down to see if the spring was still flowing has been on my bucket (bad pun) list for a couple of years, so Mother and I took off to Bollinger County to see if we could find it. We headed west on Missouri Hwy 34 and thought it was near Woodland School, but we couldn’t spot it. There was a lot of road work going on, so we were afraid they might have “improved” it like, I think, Cape County is going to do to the spring off Bloomfield Road.
After driving four or five miles, we headed back toward town. There, just before the school, just like we remembered from the old days, was a nice paved parking spot right at the artesian well.
Listen to the sound of the water
I produced a short video showing where the spring is located and what it’s like. To be honest, I think the audio of the rushing water is better than the pictures. It’s worth 1:07 of your life.
Road to be dedicated December 17
The pull-off gives you plenty of room to get off the road and would easily hold half a dozen cars parked side-by-side
The Missourian had a story that there will be a ribbon cutting December 17, 2013, to mark the completion of a project to add shoulders and curve corrections along that stretch of road.
What’s the history of the spring?
I didn’t think it would be hard to find out when the well was drilled, how deep it is, how long it’s been flowing, etc., but I struck out. I figured if anybody would know, it would be Missourian blogger James Baughn who wrote about it in 2008. James is a pretty thorough guy, so surely it’ll be in his story.
He must have run into the same problem: about the only fact he had other than a Wikipedia definition of an artesian aquifer was that it was a test drill for oil and mineral exploration.
Cold and sweet
When I went back down to Marble Hill to shoot the flags for Veterans Day, I made sure to bring along half a dozen gallon jugs to fill with the pure spring water for Mother to use in her coffee maker.
While researching this, I ran across a 1907 United States Geological publication called Underground Waters of Missouri – Their Geology and Utilization. It listed just about every source of water in Missouri and some of the surrounding states. This well, unfortunately, wasn’t one of them.
The section dealing with mineral waters, including Excelsior Springs, was particularly interesting. “When the the intelligent practitioner reads that a certain water is positively curative in an imposing list of diseases set forth in divers pages of testimonials from renovated statesmen, restored clergymen, and rejuvenated old ladies, and then learns from the analysis that it contains 2 or 3 grains of lime salts to the gallon, with the remaining ingredients required perhaps a third or fourth decimal point to express, he can hardly be blamed for tossing the circular into his wastebasket, with an objurgation upon quacks generally, and mineral springs quacks in particular,” Dr. Cook wrote.
OK, maybe mineral waters DO help
Then, he conceded there COULD be some benefits: “There is no doubt that much benefit is derived from most of the health resorts connected with mineral springs or wells; and while a great deal of it is undoubtedly psychic, some is unquestionable due to the use of the waters. People who are broken down from overwork or who are troubled with many incipient diseases find at these resorts rest, which they perhaps can not get elsewhere; a change of air; a new environment; distractions from trouble; and they use, both internally and externally, perhaps a much larger amount of water than has been their custom at home; these, together with faith in the curative qualities in the water (since every wise physician recognizes faith as a helpful element in cure), form a stimulus to nature in the restoration of normal action to the functions of the body.”
Just for the record, the spring waters not captured in canteens and gallon jugs, run into Crooked Creek.
18 Replies to “Marble Hill Artesian Well”
I dimly remember this and the kids I taught a Woodland High School who would at times bring spring water to school. I don’t remember going there but I do remember drinking the water. Now that I see it, I should have taken the time to walk over to the spring and enjoyed the sound…
I have been here and always go back when home and take a jug of water with me….I found my famous pennies in the stream once. drinnking the wateer is suppose to bring you good health…love this article and thank you so much
According to Wikipedia, the well was drilled in 1953,
“…In 1880, Will Mayfield College moved to Marble Hill from Smithville. It remained in operation there until its closing in 1934. In 1893, Wicecarver’s Store was built across from the courthouse where the steps in front were formerly used for mounting horses and carriages. Between 1904-1905, the Mineral Well was dug on the courthouse square and was used until 1947-1948. The year 1932 marked the last passenger line on the Belmont Branch of the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad. The railroad company ceased operations through Lutesville in 1973. In August 1953, an artesian well was discovered approximately 1,800 feet (550 m) deep while drilling for oil in the area. A few years later in 1973, voters approved a measure to build what would become known as Twin City Airport.”
It’s hard to believe that the well only goes back to 1953. My first trip to Camp Lewallen would have been in 1958ish, and it seemed old then.
This brings back memories. Since 1963 i have stopped by to drink from the artesian well as we were traveling back and forth from Cape to our family cabin. The water was collected in jugs of course, but in my mother’s mind, the real find was the watercress growing in the spring water. We would have watercress salads often from this bounty. My adult children and now my grandchildren all drink from the well and eat the watercress. I took a group of friends there last summer as we traveled the area and they have joined in the tradition as well.
Ken, from your second picture, I can see why you missed the location of the well on first pass; the landmark house and the trees surrounding the house just to the east of the well on the south side of MO-34 are no longer there.
On each trip through Marble Hill and Lutesville all my life, the well has been a stopping place just to get out of the car, stretch the legs and marvel at yet another wonder. Thanks for welling up old memories and causing them to flow.
Last May I took my mom out to Marble Hill and beyond the artesian well to see the house where she lived when she met my dad in 1950. The house is about 2 or 3 miles beyond the well, but is in a state of sad disrepair. You can barely see it from the road now, and we actually drove past it before turning around and stopping. We took some photos of the house (and her looking at it), as well as topping at the cemetery high on the hill above what was Lutesville. It was decked out with flags since it was near Memorial Day.
We looked for the artesian well, but never did find it; now I’ll know where to look next time. Thanks!
My photos of that excursion are at: http://fbgpbd.smugmug.com/Other/Moms-Trip-to-Marble-Hill
I wonder if we were both there are the same time? I remember a black truck cruising around while we were there.
The old looks like it has a good roof on it.
Could be…I was there around Memorial Day. We were back there in September for my mom’s 90th birthday. But we didn’t go to the farm or the artesian well then.
It’s really cool to see the sites around Cape. I grew up not far from you – at the Sands Motel. My mom and dad built it in 1953 (called it the David Louis Motel then). I believe you and your family lived just off Kingsway “behind” the motel. At any rate, glad to see photos of Cape and surrounding areas.
We always told my brother, David Louis Steinhoff, that the place was named for him. And, yep, Mother still lives just west of Kurre Lane on Kingsway Drive.
I always watched for the well as we traveled to our cabin on Clearwater Lake.
Oh shoot. I was hoping it was old enough that my great and great great grandparents drank from it. Well, maybe my grandpa(on my mom’s side) did. He lived there after 1953. James Johnson. Always enjoy traveling with you Ken.
Have cherished this artesian well since the 1950’s–hope it never disappears–I know the water never has! I miss the “secret garden” that used to surround it though.
My dad used to tell me of another very productive artesian spring in a field across Hurricane Creek on the south side of the new Marble Hill Methodist Church–this was our family farm until about 1967. The spring was located on the old Gay Estes property a long time ago and I always wanted to see if it still flowed…..
Confirming within a year what Paul Corbin posted, I looked on DNR’s website to see if they had the well log for this well. They do and it is found at
i am 38yrs old now,i grew up in cape girardeau, but now i live in jefferson city, mo….and went to patton high school in my junior year…i remember going there with my parents and getting several gallon jugs of water from that well…..one day soon i am going to take my wife down there to get some..she is from washington state and has never seen a well like that….
To Mr. Bahn:
I looked at all your photos. Hope you don’t mind. I lived in Cape Girardeau from 1967 until 1971. Your mom is very lucky that she could go back and look at places from her past. Wish I could do that, but I migrated to Maryland in 1984. You are a good son! 🙂 😉
I have enjoyed stopping at the well many times since being shown where it is.
Anytime I have out of town guests I always take them to visit it. Most of my grandchildren have had the tour ( I have 20).
In the 1950’s my dad would take us to a peach orchard somewhere around Commerce. On our way back home we would stop at an artesian well near the orchard. My dad would have use wash the peach fuzz off before letting us have the first bite of the sweetest peaches I have ever tasted.
I’ve heard the orchard has closed and the land with the well has been sold. Apparently the owners don’t allow anyone near it. Such a shame.
Such amazing gifts.
Thanks for your article.