Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, May, 1992 Page: 98
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Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal
this strange contraption come off the bridge belching smoke from its smoke stack. The
driver was wearing a long white linen coat, goggles, and gloves. He had a white tunic
around his neck with the end streaming behind him. He was standing on a platform
holding on to the steering wheel. He waved at me with one hand, but I didn't wave back
as I was so astonished standing there with my mouth wide open. Stanley Steamers were
an oddity, and as we all know, never developed as a means of transportation.
The traffic across the bridge was an unending stream of interesting things
to see and wonder over, and furnished me with many fond memories.
6. The Water Tower
The water tower at the end of the bridge was built while we lived on Front
Street I believe after 1912.8 It was great fun to watch the steel workers put up the steel
legs by joining long sections with red hot bolts. One man would throw up a red hot bolt,
another would catch it in what I think is called a hod or a sort of tin bucket and with tongs
would insert it in a hole and then provide a backup for the man wielding the maul to flatten
the bolt and secure a tight fit. It was interesting to see the skill with which they would
throw a red hot bolt, holding it in tongs, and a man catch it in the hod. The rat-a-tat of
the bolting went on all day and after the legs were up, the tank shaped like a large egg
was put up in sections, each requiring bolting. There must have been thousands of bolts
used. About halfway up the tank a walkway was constructed, and one leg was built so
it could be used as a ladder. You were not allowed to climb the ladder but some of the
more adventurous boys would climb it anyway. I could only climb about 15 feet as I was
afraid of heights.
The tower provided us with entertainment on summer nights when the water
works people would run the pumps to fill it, and many times it would overflow and the
wind would turn the water into a spray and we could run in it and get wet and have fun.
Mr. [Joe] Shaw was the water works superintendent and I guess someone would call
him to cut the pump. I believe the pump engine was located at the ice house along the
railroad and located behind Waldvogel's and Nussbaum stores on Main Street.
I remember cold winter nights as I laid in bed under a feather cover and heard
the wind whipping the rope holding the water gauge and the slap-slap of the rope would
keep me awake for awhile. Then I would hear the mournful sound of a steam engine
whistling a warning as it neared Columbus and you could hear a different sound when
it hit the rail bridge over the river. On cold winter nights now I often think of those
sounds. As a kid when I heard the long mournful toots of the train, I would slip further
under the feather cover.
The artesian well also provided fun when we scampered around catching
fireflies or played hide-n-seek. You could hold your hand over the pipe until the water
pressure forced you to release your hold and then strike a match and gas would ignite
and shoot out a flame about 18 to 24 inches and burn for a few seconds. I often thought
that this was a sign that gas and oil was beneath Columbus which later proved to be the
8 In February 1912, the County Commissioners, who governed the then disincorporated city of
Columbus, met and contracted with the Des Moines Bridge and Iron Company to erect a new steel water tower
and reservoir near the artesian well. The contract also called for the removal of the water tank from the top
of the old brick water tower, which was felt to be unsafe.
9 The artesian well near the foot of Spring Street in Columbus was drilled in 1891 by a contractor
hired by the city. Though the drillers succeeded in producing a flow of water, the city considered it to be
insufficient. After attempts to rework the well and increase the flow failed, the city abandoned the well, but
left it open. The water soon came to be regarded as medicinal. For about the next fifty years, city residents
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Nesbitt Memorial Library. Nesbitt Memorial Library Journal, Volume 2, Number 2, May, 1992, periodical, May 1992; Columbus, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth151385/m1/30/?q=nesbitt%20memorial%20library%20journal: accessed July 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Nesbitt Memorial Library.