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Concordia’s Water Supply

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2014 7:03 pm    Post subject: Concordia’s Water Supply Reply with quote

Before the 1960s, the water supply of Concordia was obtained from wells drilled deep into the aquifer below it. The water had a high sulfur content which resulted in a distinct taste and strong odor of “rotten eggs”. Those who grew up in the area became accustomed to it, but people from other places had a hard time drinking it. When my family visited in Concordia in those years, my wife would stock up on ginger ale. (Bottled water was not common yet.)

The sulfur content was not that bad for everyone. In the late 1800s, Sweet Springs (still named Brownsville at the time) became well-known for its mineral baths. Leslie Marmaduke began bottling the water as a tonic to cure various diseases. The Mayfield brothers also built a sizeable sanitarium there to treat people with various maladies. The town then changed its name to Sweet Springs to capitalize on its water supply.

The Concordia water also had a high level of fluorine which made fluoridation unnecessary. Dr. Herbert Scholle presented a paper to the Missouri Dental Association documenting statistics which showed that the incidence of tooth cavities in Concordia was significantly lower than the national average. He attributed that to the fluorine content in the water (although a healthy diet may also have had something to do with that).

Many of you will remember the iconic Concordia water tower pictured below. It stood nest to the old City Hall and fire station on the corner of Gordon and Sixth Street. That steel tower was built to replace the original wooden tower erected in 1898 (second photo below). It served the community reliably for many years, although it did run empty during the lumber yard fire of 1949. During periods of drought, people were asked to limit their use of water to maintain a supply of water when it was needed most. Trucks with water tanks would line up at the pumphouse to haul the precious water to various farms for their cattle.

There were several other water towers in Concordia during those years. One stood next to Concordia Creamery. The third photo below provides a glimpse of that tower on the north side of the creamery building. In one of Nora Hartwig’s articles published in The Concordian, she notes that it also supplied water for Henry Meyer’s short lived swimming pool. The creamery used a lot of water to wash down its floors and steam clean its butter making equipment. (Perhaps that was one of the ingredients that made “Concordia’s Best Butter” the first place prize winner at many of the Missouri State Fair’s competitions.) As a child, I remember playing around the pump in the back corner of the building but was never allowed to climb up the water tower.

The other water tower stood at St. Paul’s College, next to the old dining hall. It is shown in the final picture below. That water supply had the strongest concentration of sulphur. It was difficult even for a native of the area to swallow the water from their mineral-encrusted water fountains. The poor students living in the dorms managed to survive drinking and showering in that water during their six years there.

Finally, the water supply for the area was replaced by the reservoir and water treatment plant completed by 1968, providing a much more reliable and palatable source of water. Another posting at Naming of Concordia Lake describes the efforts of my father to get that water system built. Unfortunately, he did not live to see its completion.

Concordia water tower in the first half of the 1900s
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First Water Tower.jpg
Concordia's first water tower built in 1898. (From The Concordian files)
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First Water Tower.jpg

Concordia Creamery water tower that also supplied water to the swimming pool. (From the Nora Hartwig "Recollections" series in The Concordian.)
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St. Paul's College_Water tower 1920.jpg
St. Paul's College water tower next to old dining hall. (Photo about 1920 by Carl Rambow)
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St. Paul's College_Water tower 1920.jpg

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