The Old Water Pump

The Old Water Pump

Ask kids today if they ever heard of a water pump and chances are it is just another reminder of the past on the rural farms. I remembered my grandparents having one when I was a child as they used it to water their large garden smack dab in the middle of downtown Cowansville, Quebec. I remember hot summer mornings where everything would be silent and you knew my Grandmother had begun her day with the sound of the water pump being cranked. I swear it was the coldest sweetest water ever tasted and I would put my hand under the flowing water as it came out and will never feel such a great experience in my life.

My grandmother used to tell me we children had it easy as in the olden days there were shallow wells dug on waterfront properties and then

pumps were always a keen interest any time we kids were able to visit them,’ Doug remembers. ‘We, of course, were only interested in playing in the water. As long as the arm pumped water, I was happy. I didn’t care how it worked, it just mattered that it pumped water.’

Carleton Place and Beckwith Heritage Museum photo

From as far back as anyone can remember (possibly back to the 1800’s), that old water well served as a public source of drinking water and thus as a public gathering place. People would come from miles around to fill their cans and containers with what is remembered as “the best tasting water you could drink.”

So far as I can find, no one knows just when the well came to be.

It just always was.

Wendy LeBlancMy Dad, Ken Robertson, often mentioned the water pump at Central School, but other than a poor-quality photo from the newspaper, he never found a good picture of it. He would have loved to see this. The pump certainly wasn’t there when I went to Central for Grade 5 in 1958.

Linda Gallipeau-JohnstonNo pump when I was there but lots of fence! What is the wooden path way down to the pump I wonder – is that the street sidewalk?

Doug B. McCartenAt least the Town will know where they can access fresh water 💧 when the Town intake becomes polluted and is of no further value lol!

One of my favourite photos from Aggie Yuill’s photo book by Laurie Yuill Middleville historian — sitting by the kitchen water pump

Many of you are old enough to remember the old manual water pumps. To get them going you had to pour some water in the top and pump, and pump, and pump until water started to finally come out the spout. As long as you kept pumping, the water kept coming. If you ever stopped pumping the water would go back down to the level of the well and you would have to repeat the process to get water to start flowing out the spout again.

If you grew up on a farm, you may have used it a thousand times. I still remember pumping the water, the feel of the iron handle, the resistance of the water being pulled up to the spout. I still remember hearing the churning beneath, echoing up the shaft as I pumped, then hearing the gurgle of water rising up the spout and finally pouring out. I loved pumping the water. I felt like a pioneer. I imagined I was one. And I drank out of it, too. The water tasted sweet.

Pumps were usually installed near the house or mid-point between the house and barn, so that water could be carried a minimum distance. Deluxe cabins and homes might even have the pump installed inside in the kitchen, so the family would have “running water” of sorts. The earliest pumps were hand-pumped only. For each stroke of the lever, a gush of water flowed from the spout.The earliest pumps were hand-pumped only. For each stroke of the lever, a gush of water flowed from the spout.

Pumps were usually installed near the house or mid-point between the house and barn, so that water could be carried a minimum distance. Deluxe cabins and homes might even have the pump installed inside in the kitchen, so the family would have “running water” of sorts.

Caroline AndersonI loved our old pump beside our house. Was sad when we did some renovations and redid the pipe to the well it was taken out. Our laneway loop was also taken out. As a kid, I use to go out and just see if I was strong enough to pump it till the water came out.

Karen LloydI remember getting my tongue stuck on ours……watch this lol

Stuart McIntoshWe had one at the well near the garden and a small cistern pump in the house.. finally got running water in the house in 1971.

Rose ParsonsThis is all we had to get our water when a young girl on the farm . It supplied a family of 8 people and all of the annimal as well. We also had a small pump on a stand in the kitchen that would bring the rain water collected up from our cistern which would be heated for doing dishes scrubbing and the likes as well

Barb DanisI remember having to use them we had one inside and one outside.

Barb LemayYes – at our public school. SS#15 Drummond.

Judy SalleyCarrying the full pails was worse than pumping the water

Barb LemayThis is a great picture! I attended this school from grade 1 to 8. Remember using the pump. We also had a baseball diamond close by. Many grades played together. We played anti-I-over in the summer (not sure of the correct spelling) and fox and goose in the winter.
I remember the chemical closets (boys and girls), the library (loved the Hardy Boys) and the wood furnace. We did have great Christmas concerts and special lunches when all the families would send sweet treats to share with everyone.
We had wooden desks with ink wells too!
Other special memories: the lilac bush with a hummingbird nest that we would carefully watch each day. The locus trees in one corner that would be a “safe” zone for games. The rock pile by the fence where there was only 1 good flat rock to sit on at lunch – it was a race to get to it. Tobogganing down the next door neighbours field after an ice rain – we could FLY!
Yes- I am feeling very nostalgic tonight. Thanks for allowing me to comment.

S.S. No. 15 Drummond – McIlquaham School2397 10th Concession, McIlquaham-Blair Side Rd., Lanark–Blair’s great grandfather, George McIlquham, donated the land for S.S. No. 15 Drummond in 1840. The first log building was eventually torn down and a rough lumber structure erected, but it was too small for the growing community and the site was wet and muddy, so a brick building was built across the road on Chas Campbell’s farm. The Maple Leaf Literary Society donated a 6-shelf library in 1915 and in 1925 chemical closets were installed inside the school. Various items were purchased over the years with money made at annual Christmas concerts, including a victrola, a teacher’s chair, a basketball, a water cooler, an aquarium with five goldfish, and a first aid kit. In 1948, electric lights were installed and a well was drilled. The school was finally closed in 1965 and is now a private residence owned by André Messie


In the days before water was piped to most houses and businesses, the public water pump supplied a very important service for many towns and villages.
There is a drinking cup on a chain attached to the pump, which was added in 1895 – a sort of early drinking fountain !
Later on people complained about the water coming out of the pump, which wasn’t quite as good as we expect these days !
The Springfield Press
Springfield, Missouri
15 Jul 1929, Mon  •  Page 11

Related reading

The Community Wells — Water Water Everywhere?

A Record of Drowning — River Falls and Cisterns

Tales of the Cistern —- Jan McCarten Sansom

Cisterns I Have Known

Do You have an Archaeological Find in Your Carleton Place Basement?

Do You have a Hidden Room in Your Home?

“The Tim Horton’s River” Under my House.. Is That the Way To Fraggle Rock?

About lindaseccaspina

Before she laid her fingers to a keyboard, Linda was a fashion designer, and then owned the eclectic store Flash Cadilac and Savannah Devilles in Ottawa on Rideau Street from 1976-1996. She also did clothing for various media and worked on “You Can’t do that on Television”. After writing for years about things that she cared about or pissed her off on American media she finally found her calling. She is a weekly columnist for the Sherbrooke Record and documents history every single day and has over 6500 blogs about Lanark County and Ottawa and an enormous weekly readership. Linda has published six books and is in her 4th year as a town councillor for Carleton Place. She believes in community and promoting business owners because she believes she can, so she does.

2 responses »

  1. We had a working and much used pump at the Mississippi golf club up until the late 80’s maybe early 90’s. That’s why number 15 is called the pump hole. Not only was it good drinking water it was great for water fights on really hot days.


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