This week’s photo depiction is pure rural Appalachia at its finest. It shows a man, along with a young child, getting water from an outdoor well. The exact year of this photo is unknown, but what we do know is most people in Knox County who lived in the outlying more rural mountainous regions of the county had wells near their homes. Some people had wells that were enclosed onto back porches that were adjacent to their house.
Many Knox County residents had access to wells like the one shown in the photograph. The most typical wells like this one were located out of doors. The wells usually had a wooden or stone frame, which extended about three feet above the ground. This prevented children or animals from accidentally falling into the well. To obtain water from this type of well a bucket on a rope was dropped down to the water, and then lifted hand over hand to the top. Since this was extremely hard work, with water weighing eight pounds per gallon, the job became more efficient and easier when a bailer was used.
This well shows a bailer, a long cylindrical metal well bucket, which was used to draw water. A long bailer shown here could hold three or four gallons of water. It was suspended above the well on a chain and attached to a pulley, which was used to draw the water up to the surface. You can see the chain, which is used to lower the bailer into the well. The pulley is barely visible near the top of the well. His bucket for carrying the water isn’t shown in the photograph but is probably located on the far side of the well. The child who is shown probably is the man’s son or grandson. As a young child, I always accompanied my Aunt Hazel as she walked to get her water from her well.
Not shown in the photograph, but could possibly be hanging out of sight, is the familiar family dipper, a metal cup with a long handle usually with a hole or a crook at the end for hanging. Oftentimes a show of true Appalachian hospitality could be seen when a dipper was found hanging near a well so that weary travelers could stop and enjoy a refreshing drink of water.
The resource for the writing of this article comes from the story Water, Wells and Dowsing Rods written by Jakalyn Jackson, 2015.
When trying to find the identity of the man, one of the Museum’s staff members thought the man’s name maybe possibly be Burchell Hubbard. If anyone knows the identity of this man and the young boy, please contact Dora Sue Oxendine Farmer, 606-546-3940.