Artesian well off the beaten path in Fond du Lac
An artesian well located along a rural country road in Fond du Lac County offers thirsty travelers a cool, refreshing drink. It's only a quarter for a gallon, on an honor system. (Sharon Roznik/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin)
TOWN OF FOREST - A ramshackle wooden hut out in the hinterlands of Fond du Lac County beckons to thirsty travelers.
Come, take a drink of the coldest, freshest water you’ve ever tasted, straight out of the ground.
An artesian well, set back just a few feet from the road at 7138 Triple T Road near Mount Calvary in the town of Forest offers a continuous flow of water from a stainless steel spigot.
Operating on an honor system, visitors are asked to pay a quarter per gallon.
Just who built the stand along the side of the road remains somewhat of a mystery. Most of the original landowners in that area of Mount Calvary are long gone or have moved away.
A sign on the wall inside the shack reads: “artesian drinking water, lab tested, DNR approved. A call to Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources led to Liesa Lehmann Kerler in the water bureau, who said the well is a Transient Non-Community Public water system.
This means that it serves a transient population of at least 25 people for 60 days of the year.
A few years back, neighbor Margie Sippel recalled that one of the property owners, maybe a man by the name of Jean Schwefel, built the hut as a shelter over the well and put in a concrete block floor, along with the honor system for acquiring water.
Other random signs tacked up on inside the rustic walls lists a company by the name of “Duck, Duck, Goose Water Corporation,” and on the opposite side: “Three Lakelettes Artesian Spring Water.” An internet search turns up nothing on these names.
The water spills out into a large stainless steel tank, on property owned by Allen Quinn, according to county records. He could not be reached either, but perhaps he would rather not have too many people let in on the secret, lest a long line of cars end of stopping by the roadside to fill up jugs.
Triple T has few houses on it. It is quiet — the quintessential rural road in a state filled with scenic drives.
The well is identified as a public water supply, licensed by the DNR. An artesian well allows water to rise to the surface that has traveled through porous rocks from a higher elevation.
The pumpless well seems to defy gravity because the pressure that builds up between the layers of rock gets relieved when the water finds a path to the open air.
The Triple T artesian well is inspected annually by the Drinking Water and Groundwater Program of the Wisconsin DNR, and receives a full sanitary survey every five years by the Fond Du Lac County Health Department who is contracted by the DNR to complete this activity as well as the sampling, Lehmann Kerler said.
In its history the well has not tested positive for bacteria, and nitrate levels are within federal and state standards.
Fountain City was a nickname first given to the city of Fond du Lac because of its many artesian wells. In 1849, the first fountain gushed forth when water was struck five feet below the surface at the corner of Main Street and Western Avenue, according to the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey. The well produced 1,000 gallons of “cold and good quality” water every hour. Workmen were forced to dig a ditch to a sawmill to carry away the surplus.
The American Cyclopedia states the artesian wells around Fond du Lac were said to yield magnetic water, and are noted for curative properties.
One long-time resident, 98-year-old Victor Sippel, in a previous interview with USA TODAY NETWORK-Wiscnosin, recalled when the Triple T well was drilled. He tells the story of Martha and Henry Kohlman, who operated Kohlman Cheese Factory on the property, along with a little grocery store.
The couple were certified cheese makers and won many awards, Sippel recalls. And they needed clean, fresh water to make a good product.
“That well was drilled close to a century ago, because there wasn’t sufficient water in the area to run the cheese factory,” Sippel said.
First, Henry Kohlman, drilled an ordinary well, down about 200 feet, but it came up sandy. They decided to drill down another 100 feet, and the water came gushing out over the top, Sippel said.
“That means it has a continuous flow. You don’t even need a pump,” he said. “You just hold your jug under the faucet.”
The Kolhman’s quit making cheese about 40 years ago.
“They were good neighbors, but as time went on, like all small operations, they couldn’t make a go of it anymore,” Sippel said.
The little artesian well water stand has been in operation more than 25 years, he estimates.
“It may be out of the way, but it’s worth the drive,” he said.