Woonsocket History-Artesian Well

This article was in the July 13, 1906 edition of the Woonsocket Times.  Woonsocket was world famous for our artesian well.  There has been talk of mimicking our World’s Most Powerful Artesian Well in our Artesian Well-fed Lake and once again bring people from all over to see it.



World’s Greatest Artesian Well Being Destroyed

     Woonsocket’s famous artesian well, the greatest in the world, which in its prime flowed 8000 gallons per minute and had a pressure of over 153 pounds to the square inch, must go.

     J.H. Janssen commenced work to plug the well yesterday morning.  There is a leak of about three hundred gallons a minute flowing out of the side of the well and running off to the south.  Where this water come from is a conjecture.  The well at the top consists of three pipes.  The well originally was a six inch and was drilled about eighteen years ago (1888).  It was never properly cased and the six inch casing was never put down to the rock.  This let in mud from below the piping and at times the well would flow and throw out large quantities of mud and sand.  In the early days, it was the custom to turn the well on full tilt whenever there was a crowd of people in town or when some distinguished stranger came to town.  Finally the well stopped up and after trying in vain to get it all right again the city council had it re-cased from top to bottom with a four inch casing which was placed inside the six inch casing of the old well.  As it still leaked an eight inch casing was put down about sixteen feet over both the other casings and the bottom of the new eight inch casing was attached to the outside of the six inch casing.  This makes three casings at the top of the well.  The valves were all attached to the eight inch covering of casing.

     A year or so ago it sprung a large leak which comes out on the north side of the well and is now running about three hundred gallons a minute.  About two years ago the leak got larger and the business men voted unanimously to have another well drilled for water and fire protection and that well is what now gives us our present water supply.

     The old well has not been attached to the water mains for some time, but the old well supplies the water for Lake Prior.  About three months ago the leak was about twice what it now is and the council had to consider the question of plugging the old well up.  The flow of waste water from the leak grew less and is now about what it has been for the last year.  There are various conjectures as to where the leak is but the most commonly accepted is that the water comes from between the four and six inch pipes and from thirty to fifty feet below the top of the ground.   The old pipe is supposed to have been worn through by the action of the water and rust and that the leak comes through the hole where the six inch pipe has rusted through.

     It is the plan of the city council to have Mr. Janssen cut off the four inch pipe about four hundred feet below the top of the ground and then plug the four inch pipe and also the space between the four and six inch pipes.  It is thought by cutting off the four inch pipe four hundred feet below the surface of the ground that the water can never force its way to the top of the ground after the two pipes are plugged up. The well after being plugged four hundred feet down will be filled up with sand and cement so that the weight will prevent the water from ever breaking through.

     Mr. Janssen is very confident that he will succeed in this undertaking and if he does not succeed he is to receive no pay.  The manner of cutting off a four inch pipe that distance is interesting.  All valves will have to be taken off.  Then an expansion drill is let down into the well four hundred feet and rotated until the four inch pipe is cut off.  Then the four inch pipe will be filled up with iron and other materials which will stop the water flow and then sand and cement, etc., will be filled in until the pipe is full to the surface.  This is if all goes well.  If it does not there will be another story.  The well will be loose and the workmen who will be working at the well in the deluge of water that will flow out of the old pipe will certainly have a strenuous time until the water is controlled.  There will certainly be a wet time in the old town until the water is controlled and shut off.  If Mr. Janssen does not succeed the city will be up against the real thing so far as disposing of the water is concerned. 

     Some wells in the northern part of the state when of no value have been destroyed by dynamite which is let down into the well five or six hundred feet and then exploded, destroying the pipe and filling up the well with dirt, rock refuse.  This will have to be done with this well if Mr. Janssen should fail to plug it up with expanding bands cement and sand according to his plan.  It is no easy job to work against the amount of water that will flow from this well when all valves are taken off and the force of the water has full sway.

     The force of the water has been steadily diminishing for several years and is now reduced from 160 pounds to the square inch to less than seventy-five.  This is supposed to be on account of so many wells being drilled into this stratum of water flowing rock.  There is some criticism of the council in having the well stopped this way.  Some believe that the old four inch piping should be capped and thus save the well; other seem to think that the well should be destroyed by dynamite at once and save the expense of plugging it in the way it is being done.  There are various theories as to how it should be done or as to having it done at all this time.  The council has investigated the matter very thoroughly and think that the way they are having it done is the safest and the best and most of our citizens seem to agree with it.

     There is quite a sentimental feeling that the well which made Woonsocket famous so far and for so long should not be destroyed but should be preserved if it is possible.  Woonsocket owes much to the well.  It has given us the best system of fire protection that exists in the state.  It has allowed us to grow more trees than there is in any other town in the state, and has saved its cost many times over.  But its period of usefulness is now over and it must go.  When it is destroyed,  Woonsocket’s most famous possession will be destroyed.  It is not gone yet, however, and it may yet give this little city a touch of its power before we are done with it.  It will probably be in full flow in a day or so, and in a few days we shall know whether we will have any further trouble with it.  If it should do as much damage as it has good, Woonsocket would certainly have a very strenuous time of it.