Before the waterworks system was introduced, it shows that the civic wells were a great source of trouble to the Councils of our areas. With the growth of the towns there were increasing demands from various parts of our towns for additional wells.
People began to tire of walking too far to draw their water and began to ask for wells closer to their homes. At first the civic wells were all “open” wells of the old oaken bucket type. When pumps came in people began to demand that the wells be covered over and pumps put in. There were good reasons why people wanted pumps instead of the buckets and chains.
The first was a sanitary reason. Mischievous people had a playful habit of dropping dead dogs and cats into the wells, and that wasn’t pleasant. The second reason was that a pump was much easier to operate than a bucket, and the people were beginning to get lazy. The third reason (and an important one) was that the open wells were dangerous. Now and again children fell into them. People were afraid to send their children alone to the wells. But, no child could fall into a pump, so pumps were preferred.
The Town Councils were also bothered by demands for wells to be cleaned out — and chains broke and the buckets were stolen. To cover an open well and put in a pump cost about fifty dollars. To dig a new well cost from $175 to $130 according to depth.
The towns were poor in the 1860s and 1870s and it was hard to find the money for the new wells or the covering of the existing ones. But then the towns had business places which required a considerable amount of water in connection with their businesses and they began to request that they be allowed to tap the wells and run pipes from the bottoms of the wells into their cellars.
One interesting thing was the wells was said to have fine water but the wells were never tested. They may have been, but there is no reference to the fact– nor complaints about the water. In those days, people were used to getting some dirt in their mouths from time to time. They drank out of delivery barrels from the hardware store which were seldom cleaned, and out of their own barrels which were frequently uncovered and subject to dust and contamination. But somehow or other they survived.
The days of the civic wells are gone, never to return, now that we have filtered water. But in the typhoid epidemic of the nineteen hundreds, the people were glad to use the new bored wells.
By the middle of the 1870’s, it was expected that a fashionable home in Carleton Place would have running water and an indoor bathroom. This was generally accomplished by placing a large water tank in the attic which was usually lead lined — one reason the average life span was shorter back then.
One water pipe usually ran down to a boiler in the kitchen, where it could be heated. Victorian bathrooms were virtually always located on the second floor and near the back of the house. This served an esthetic purpose — Victorians definitely believed that bathrooms should be neither seen nor heard — and also placed the bathroom so that water pressure from the attic could conveniently supply the bathtub by pushing hot water up from the kitchen boiler. The flush toilets of the era also worked off gravity, utilizing flush compartments that were placed as high as eight feet above the toilet, and activated by a long pull chain.
How did they fill the attic water tank in the first place? Well, with a little luck, from rain water. Gutters were used to funnel rainwater into the tank (which were built to hold as much as 600 gallons), and if the weather failed, the well-to-do could always depend upon wells and servants with buckets or hand pumps. Then there were the cisterns that are in our homes that I wrote about.
Carleton Place Waterworks
Did you know that when they laid the first water pipes in Carleton Place workers were brought in from Romania, Italy and the Baltic states? They all boarded at Leech’s School right next to Barker’s parking lot.
So it has been documented in a few places that there was a community well for years in Carleton Place on Queen Street. Jennifer Fenwick Irwin and I asked Duncan Rogers but he had no idea. So this week I went searching. I initially thought it was at the bottom of Albert Street between Princess and Queen Street but then I drove up to the top by Coleman Street and I seriously think they were here as they were close to the C.P.R train station as mentioned in the newspapers.
There is also the fact that Mr McRae had his huge plof of Gladiolas in this space and if you look at the photo below this one the location is in the same spot and he the garden was so huge that he had water in a few locations probably from these old wells.