24 October 2011

Amelia a Village of Flowing Water

Article and images Copyright 2011 James E. Ducey. October 20, 2011. Amelia - the village of water. Grant County News 127(11): 1, 5.

Amelia is a bit of a former village amidst a rural setting where ample water is readily appreciated and important.

Tracing its origin to the mid-1880s, the once-bustling village still conveys one essentially obvious reason for it being established more than 125 years in the past.

Water. Ample water from the groundwater aquifer. Water which flows forth as it has for decades, if not at least for a known century or more.

Amelia's history dates to the mid-1880s. In August 1885 a post-office was established, and named after the wife of I.D. Bliss, an early settler, according to records of the era. In 1892, the town was platted with numerous lots ready for the taking by anyone interested in settling.

Water was available just below the ground's surface. Placing a pipe into the ground could create a flowing well, with each house having a flowing well for its domestic uses, plus another for their stock. When digging a hole for a fence post, water might bubble forth, indicating its prominent extent.

Water was one obvious reason the village thrived. At one time there was a local newspaper. During the early years, a gentleman from the black community near Goose Lake, arrived weekly to gather dairy products and convey them to Burwell. A grocery store provided goods at O'Neill prices in 1889.

The community thrived in a setting which provided the necessities, though details of it history are few.

For local residents Harlan and Fay Dierking, a dance hall was the place for celebrating their marriage in 1946. Roller-skating was also a popular pastime they remembered.

In 1951, there were more than a hundred residents, according to local recollections.

Modern Amelia

Amelia continues though it is has many fewer residents. There is the community postoffice started in 1994. On the north side is a Catholic Church, and a Methodist church a short distance southward. A former repair shop is gone, though remnants remain to indicate where commerce once thrived.

Water is still notably prominent, with prominent and continual flows at many places.

A fountain on the southern edge of the village area that was installed by Lee Sammons continues to flow several decades after it was created. It was originally placed where it was a prominent feature near a former gas station.

The iconic fountain of Amelia. Picture taken May 12, 2007.

"A lot of people stop at the fountain," said Doug Frahm, a current resident and lot owner. "A local woman comes each week to get 10-15 gallons of water. It is a favorite spot where visitors prefer to take a photograph."

"I enjoy seeing people stopping by to enjoy the water," he said, adding that some ask whether the water is safe to drink, while others will not drink from the fountain because it is not "out of a bottle."

Southward a well on the Waldo ranch, is still prominent and known for it still continuing to flow from a pipe sunk into the aquifer, just a few feet below the ground's surface.

"There is nowhere else in the world where this happens," Frahm said. "I've traveled around the world" and not seen anything similar. "The water is always there and we are never without."

"It is pure water, and found to be 99.9% pure," he said, noting that it has been tested and found free of minerals or other matter which might taint its quality.

Times have changed in this country setting. There are only seven residents now, compared to 13 in 1996, when a reporter with the Associated Press visited.

Instead of people, seven horses graze the grass beneath under huge cottonwood trees about their pasture which are the lots of former residents. Frahm said their names are Joe, Misty, Patches, Rob, Sally, Schaff and Winny.

School house fountain.

Flowing well which provides water for the horses of Amelia.

These horses daily drink the fresh water, including from one tank provided by a former wash tub. This is but one prominent use of groundwater resource. The notable local uses include:

  • Domestic uses including drinking and other household uses
  • Providing water for livestock

    Horse in pasture by hay meadow near Amelia.

    A horse resident of Amelia.

  • Nourishing hay meadows
  • Creating wetlands used by a myriad of migratory birds
  • Providing water resources essential for the survival of game animals
  • Providing a source for local creeks and eventually larger rivers such as the south fork of the Elkhorn River and Dry Creek

Frahm grew up in the community and has lived here - off and on for five decades - where water was always fresh and abundant. He recalls as a youngster, the joy of getting a "cool bottle of pop for 2 cents" from concrete "tanks" in the ground were full of 50 degree water which kept the drinks cold. The tanks were also essential in earlier years for maintaining the quality of dairy products.

At times, water from the wells was "like a river to play in," he recalled.

The District 58 school at the southeast corner of the village had its own fountain, and where, once they got the teacher's permission, the kids rushed to get a refreshing drink.

After serving in the Air Force, Frahm returned home to establish his home and work the family ranch. During the subsequent years, he has purchased many of the lots of the village.

"There are 24 flowing wells" which he knows of within the few acres of the former village which he now owns and where he resides with is wife Mary, a retired school teacher.

Northwest of Amelia, Harlan Dierking, continues to reside on the family ranch where he and his wife Faye have been for 65 years, and where they built a new home in 1957.

"We enjoy the country life," and water wells provide water essential for their home, and to refresh livestock. Their depth varies from 15-20 feet.

There are three flowing wells," he said. "Windmills drilled to a depth of about 60 feet also pump water for stock."

"Even when the electricity is out, we can get fresh water from a windmill," said Faye Dierking.

A pond created on their ranch is also supplied by a flowing well.

"The pond is 18 feet deep," Harlan Dierking said. "There have been smallmouth bass caught which are near the size of state records."

Dierking published a book "As I Recall" in 2007 to ensure his perspective of the area's history would not be forgotten. A few pictures prominently illustrate a some of the well-know, local flowing wells.

"We are very happy with the water," Harlan Dierking said. "I hope future generations would appreciate it as much as I do now."

"I want the water to be the same 10, 20, 30-40 years from now," Frahm said. "It is one of our hugest assets. I don't want the water ruined," he said in a recent interview, as a short ways southward on Iris Avenue - the main street - the water continues to everflow from the two prominent fountains of Amelia, the village of water.