Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Ford's Well, notes

Hello, grasshopper.

Goodbye, grasshopper.

In 1898 Hawaii was annexed, Will Kellogg invented Corn Flakes, the city of New York was established, a peace protocol was signed which ended the Spanish-American War and W.B. Ford found the well he dug was no good for his livestock.

Mr. Ford dug that well by hand using a pick, a shovel and some buckets. Now I think to ask, How deep was that well, how long did it take. Was it in the heat of a Mississippi summer, what was a winter then like? What I have been told is that he just dug until it was complete. That is when he became certain, though he must have suspected, the water was unfit to drink. Reddish in color with a particular odor, the taste was then reported to have been intolerable. He tried to add a detergent, but the story is the water then curdled as did the many hopes of Mr. Ford and his family.

At some point in this disappointment Mr. Ford travelled to a bank in Water Valley, MS, a trip I can only at this point assume was to talk to a lender who helped him purchase land which could not even provide water for his cattle. He took a bottle of what he must have considered poison with him and handed it to a man by the name of Blackmur. Mr. Blackmur held the jar of water, smelled it, examined it while he listened to the farmer's plight. Then he helped.

It was him who gave a last little bit of hope by suggesting they send that sample of water to William and Mary College in Virginia. They could tell the two men what was in it and if anything could be done. Take it, send it, Ford said. Why not? What other choices did he have?

How long did it take, I wonder, for that report to come back. What was that wait like? Did Ford have to listen to his wife cry at night? However long it took, however agonizing that must have been I doubt he or his wife could imagine what the analysis from William and Mary could have meant.

The water was high in mineral content and more importantly the report actually stated that what Mr. Ford had found in the bottom of the well had curative properties. Even if you and I don't believe that well contained a liquid which could remedy ailments it was soon claiming, we can say without a doubt that the Ford family fully recovered from despair. It did cure that.

The ad for the water read:

Ford’s Mineral Water

Will Cure Torpid Liver, Chills, Fever,
Biliousness, Jaundice, Dysentery,
Diarrhea, Constipation, Malaria,
Hematuria, and Dropsy
An absolute Cure for All Stomach Troubles.  
For Indigestion there is Nothing Better.

Two train depots, one in Water Valley and one in Oakland, began shipping crates of Ford's Mineral Water throughout the southeastern United States. It wasn't long before a community was built around W.B. Ford's Well. Tourists were coming to bathe in the water and stay in a boarding house Ford built where his wife prepared the meals. The town of Leggo was born and a post office was added. A church, a school, apartments all built around a well which couldn't provide water for cattle.

Leggo no longer exists. Years later the Ford family sold that land. Now it is under the management of the US Army Corps of Engineers, but visitors can still go see that well, ride horses, camp, explore. I hear it is beautiful.

Road trip, you think?

Today I am grateful for how stories unfold and those who continue to tell them. A special thank you goes out to Michael Robinson from the US Army Corps of Engineers.


Chantel said...

Fascinating how the end of the tale resembles nothing of the beginning...and honestly, there is such hope in that.


Shea Goff said...

Yes, Chantel. I like hope though there is no telling what this article will be in the end. I just "hope" it's good enough for pay. ;)