Photo taken by Sharon Siverly
The Well Story
With land and shelter taken care of, the final necessity for starting a new life was a dependable source of drinking water. There was plentiful water in the lake directly to the east but it wasn’t good for drinking, so a well had to be dug.
Digging a well by hand is no easy feat but Joseph and James were no strangers to the task and didn’t anticipate any problems. After digging down 16 feet the men discovered that the subsoil of Wisconsin was not at all like New York. The soil was caving in along the sides faster than it could be shored up. Joseph decided the walls of the well would need to be lined in order to continue safely. He built an eight foot square frame of oak and lowered it into the well. Boards were lowered to shore up the area not covered by the frame but problems still arose, so Joseph called for Daniel Butts assistance.
Mr. Butts also had previous experience digging wells, and together the team found water at 50 feet. The last of the loose subsoil was drawn out of the well using pails tied to bed cords sent down and drawn back out hand over hand, which surely caused some amount of blistering and pain.
Mr. Goodrich was very pleased that the well was done but he wanted it to be stone. The men gathered stones from the surrounding area and Joseph use them to finish the well. With the necessities now in place, Mr. Goodrich was comfortable that everything was good and began the journey back to New York for his family in September of 1838.
Later on in the icy cold of winter. The water level began to get low, so James volunteered to go down the well to see what was causing the problem. Carefully climbing from stone to stone, he worked his way down and discovered that sand accumulated causing a displacement of the water. Henry Crandall, who had returned with his family in November, lowered a pail down that they used to take up the sand and restore the water level.
As he was climbing out James came to a spot that he could barely fit through. Stones had become loose and were dangerously close to collapse. He did his best to hold them in place as Henry sent the pail back down and lifted the stones out of the well one at a time. James then gingerly worked his way up and out to find Henry white as a sheet for fear of his young companions life and limb.
Repairs to the well might be needed, but at least on that cold day in winter they had water!
*The photo of the well above was taken behind the Milton House. This may have once been a working well but is most likely not the well spoken of in the story.