Friday, April 8, 2016

"The Stump" -- North Ogden's artesian well that flows with history

By Lynn Arave
This artesian well at the top of Washington Boulevard, east of Lee's Marketplace and north of McDonald's Restaurant at 2650 North, is flowing out of a "tree" stump, thanks to a restoration project by the City Council and a local Boy Scout.
   Clarence Barker drilled the artesian well in 1930 for irrigation water. Then, in the summer of 1931, "The Stump" came along. Joe Ballif — who had a hamburger stand near the well at 2620 N. 390 East and who was already using some of the water for his business — decided to capitalize on the refreshing liquid.
   Ballif obtained a cottonwood tree stump from Frank Campbell's front yard, 2594 N. 400 East (where First Security Bank is now), to spruce up the well. However, this wasn't just any tree. It was what was left of the original and lone tree standing in the area when pioneers arrived in North Ogden during the 1850s. The upper part of the tree had been destroyed by lightning, and Ballif salvaged the stump. It took four horses to haul it to the well a short distance away.
   Dewey Lakey, a traveling craftsman, was called in and he cut and chiseled the stump so it could contain a fountain and a yellow light bulb. The water began flowing through the stump, and a nearby sign stated, "Good water, isn't it? Try our hamburgers," as an advertisement for Ballif's food outlet.
   In later years, the tree stump deteriorated and much of it rotted away. Ballif's stand also went out of business. A steel ring and concrete were added, probably in the 1960s, to shore up the stump — though this meant it lost its treelike appearance.

   The well had developed the strange nickname of "Frogwater" by the 1950s.
According to Charles "Chick" Hislop, former Weber State University track and cross country coach, that name took hold in the mid-1950s, back when there was an actual tree stump where the artesian well water emerged from. Hislop said he and college kids often frequented the well. Back then it was a swamp all over the area, as well as a lot of noisy frogs around. Hislop recalled during an interview in 2017 about the well's nickname that as most enjoyed the mineral taste of the water, one college girl didn't and said "I'm not drinking that frogwater."
The name took hold.
The well was a landmark throughout Weber County. In fact, Coach Chick Hislop started having his athletes run to the fountain, exactly 10 miles from WSU, beginning in about 1969 for some of their "overdistance" training sessions. The runners could always count on having a refreshing drink of water at the "Frogwater" run's end.
Hislop said by then the stump had rotted away and there was cement around the fountain.
He had also directed his prep runners in the mid-1960s run to the fountain when earlier he had been a coach at Ben Lomond High School today, the distance being 5 miles from school to fountain. 
However, the establishment of Acres Market (forerunner to today's grocery store there) in 1999 meant the fountain would be removed. Marc M. Sutherland decided to create a plaque on the well's history as his Eagle Scout project. With historical interest stirred, the City Council became involved and had a 10-foot-high fiberglass replica of the tree stump made and placed near the original well. It was dedicated on May 20, 2000 in a special ceremony attended by some 200 people.
   Now the new "Stump" boasts two drinking fountains on its south side and a large flowing pipe on its north face. Gallon bottles can be filled up in seconds.

   "It's better than tap water," North Ogden resident Mike Barrow said as he filled up more than a dozen jugs of the water. "My whole family drinks it. I guess I should bring some larger jugs."
   Barrow said the water has been tested for quality and is better than the city of North Ogden's culinary water, though not bottled water sold in stores.,
   Thirsty kids on bikes or skateboards regularly stop at the fountain for drinks too. State Sen. Robert Montgomery, R-North Ogden, said at the fountain's dedication he recalls stopping there frequently as a child for a cold drink, too. 
Area residents regularly fill up jugs of water here and it is free.
There's even a nearby Veteran's Park, benches and mini park in the area now. North Ogden City even has a Christmas Santa house on the site.
--Salt Lake City has it owns artesian well counterpart to this, located at the southwest corner of 800 South and 500 East, water flowing  24/7 and free too.
(-Written by Lynn Arave and originally published in the Deseret News.)

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