Artesian wells were once economic asset for Monroe

Lithia Water touted as cure for dyspepsia, lassitude
Jan. 05, 2013 @ 05:43 PM

Though probably best known for its aerospace industry today, there was a time when people came from far and wide to drink from Monroe's artesian wells. 

The water was purported to be a remedy for dyspepsia, rheumatism, lassitude, debility from overwork and other ailments. 

The water was bottled by Monroe Bottling Works and sold for five cents a bottle as "Monroe Lithia Water." 

After a bond issue in 1897, well were built near Crow Street and East Franklin Street, according to historical documents. They were completed Nov. 15, 1897. 

The wells were a popular spot for travelers coming to Monroe by train before being razed in 1953. 

Their popularity inspired letters and testimonials from across the region. Including a testimony from Dr. J.E. Ashcraft that is published in "A Peek in the Past" by Joy and Kirk Shute. 

"Having practiced medicine in Monroe for a number of years, I have had ample opportunity to observe the health and prevailing diseases of the town," Ashcraft wrote in his testimonial. "Prior to the use of the Monroe Artesian water, the town was visited almost every year by an epidemic of that dreaded disease, typhoid fever. Since the town has been supplied with this pure water, typhoid fever is unknown to us, except now and then an isolated case, where the water has not been used." 

Historical records also include a testimonial from J.J. Moody, a Monroe resident and ex-Confederate soldier. Moody's testimonial said that he was left "almost a physical wreck" from the war. He said he was weak and unable to eat.

"About two years ago (Moody) began drinking the artesian water, drank it freely and daily. He soon began to grow stronger, his strength increased, his dyspepsia disappeared, he became able to eat any kind of food without detriment, his lassitude and debility left him and today he is strong and healthy as he was in the hey day of his young manhood and says that Monroe artesian water did it all."

Moody goes on to say that if anyone doubts his testimonial, they can write to him for verification of the same.  

Other letters claim that the water healed various ailments. A train engineer said it was the only water he drank. 

As the city began to grow, well water could no longer meet the city's needs. The wells went out of operation in 1926 when Lake Lee was built. 

" Unfortunately, these wonderful artesian wells now lie beneath tons of asphalt. The decision was made to cover (the wells) up at some time in the 1970's," Joy and Kirk Shute wrote in their book. "You have to wonder what reasoning was used to make this decision. It seems such a wasteful thing to do. Any water supply is too precious to destroy, and water this pure and sweet makes this ironic decision doubly absurd." 

Monroe Water Resources Director Russell Colbath wrote in an e-mail that adequate information does not exist to locate the wells today. Also, the quantity of groundwater available would make well water an unattractive water source for the city. 

Thus, the well water and it's supposed healing qualities are lost to history.