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Sixty years of helping their neighbors

By Eugenia Jones

While humans can typically survive for approximately three weeks without food, most can only survive 3 to 4 days without water.  Simply put, water is necessary for survival.  

According to the Aid & International Forum, there are several reasons why everyone needs clean, safe drinking water.  First, water provides the necessary nourishment and hydration needed by all living creatures.  Clean water prevents disease and gets rid of toxins.   Agriculture and food production depend on water.  Finally, clean water improves sanitation in many ways including in the form of washing our clothes and washing our bodies.

Photo by Derek Dobbs

In McCreary County, plans for a water system to provide safe, clean water were established in 1957, and in 1962, the McCreary County Water District was established.  In anticipation of the McCreary County Water District celebrating its 60th Anniversary with the public on August 5th from 11 a.m to 4 p.m. (including food, music, bouncy houses, dunking booth, and more), The Voice asked readers to share their memories of getting “city” water in their homes and neighborhoods.  We’d like to share those stories of how the McCreary County Water District extended water service throughout the county over the past sixty years, making clean water in McCreary County more accessible and convenient. 

“When I was growing up in Parker’s Lake and living with my grandmother, we depended on catching rain water for our cistern.  When we took a bath, we were only allowed to put about six inches of water in the tub.  If you were ever caught letting the water run when brushing your teeth-look out!  You were in BIG trouble!”              

– McCreary County Judge Executive Jimmie “Bevo” Greene  (Water line extended to homes and businesses along HWY 90 in 1984/’85.)

“I grew up in Pine Knot and, before the McCreary County Water District, we relied upon water from a well.  We had to be vigilant regarding water usage because the well would go dry.  My dad, Elvis Dean Kidd, spent a lot of time and energy priming the pump at our home on HWY 592 as well as at Grandma Kidd’s home in Mud Cut.

Oftentimes, my mother would fill the bathtub with water and my sister, brother, and I took turns taking a bath using the same water.  Being the eldest, I was blessed to be first in the tub!

When I married and built a new home off Bethel Road, we had to pay $1,200 to get a water line from Bethel Road to our home on Swain Road.  That seemed like a million dollars in 1975, but it was wonderful having enough water.  I’m very appreciative of the McCreary County Water District and their support of McCreary County.”                     

 – Deborah Elaine Kidd-Trammell

“My mom and I were so happy when we got a “city water line” to our home in the 1980s.  We had sulfur water that stained our clothes.”                       

– Kay Morrow

“I can remember what it was like to live on well water and how much work it was before we got “city” water.  I vaguely remember all the work it took to put in the pipes for the house.  Gracious!  That was a while back!” 

– Kirby Elizabeth Manning

How City Water Changed Rattlesnake Ridge

“Getting city water up here was one of the best things to ever happen to us,” Jerry Dobbs said as he reminisced about the expansion of water line to Rattlesnake Ridge during the mid to late 1980s.   “I don’t know how people would have made it if we hadn’t gotten it.”

“Growing up on Rattlesnake Ridge without city water was a big deal for us. Being young kids, we didn’t really realize the struggle our parents were going through just trying to get enough water to wash a load of clothes, take a bath, or even wash the dishes. A lot of people didn’t get commodes put in their homes up on the Ridge because they didn’t have enough water to flush them.  That was why a lot of us had outhouses.  I remember going to the outhouse to use the bathroom. There weren’t many families that had a good well with good drinking water or even enough water in general to meet their daily needs. 

Most wells with water were mostly just surface or sulfur water where the water gathered and came from pockets in the ground because most of the ridge had been mined out. Even if people hit water, a lot of the wells ended up being surface water.  One fella drilled 200’ down and still never hit any water at all. Very seldom would someone drill a well and actually get good mountain spring water that was plentiful and not have to worry about it being safe to drink. If someone had a good enough well, you generally had 2 or 3 families that would get water from that well. To get drinking water, we would go to a spring that was under the edge of the cliff on White Oak Junction Road.  We would take a good milk or Clorox jug to fill up, and that was the best water we had to drink. When it got really dry like it does sometimes in summer, we would all load up in Grandpa’s old Chevy pickup truck and drive down to Koger Hollow to fill up a few 50-gallon barrel drums. That would be enough water for a couple families to try and wash clothes with or take a bath with.

Linda & Clinton Dobbs were two of the people who really pushed for city water to be brought up to Rattlesnake Ridge. Apparently, there’s a photo in the McCreary County Record taken during that time showing a kid holding up a glass full of sulfur water. That photo seemed to reach some of the more important people that could do something about the water and it really helped the push to get city water up on the Ridge. Some families even came together and ran water lines using a submergible pump to pump water to the other houses. My dad and four other families came together and dug a ditch across the road, through the woods, and over a big cliff to reach a spring that was underneath the cliff. They built a homemade box to catch water to put the pump in. The crazy thing was, my dad’s grand paw and some of the older folks of that time had done the same thing way back in the day because there was still a small old brick box that was over 50 years old.  The box had been built there and was still collecting water from under the cliff as it dripped down. They pumped that water up to a substation that had been built using another pump.   That substation sent water on to the 5 other houses.  Everyone pitched in and shared the cost.   A lot of people came together and helped just because they knew how hard it was for us to get water.” 

– Jerry and Derek Dobbs (father and son)

Photo by Derek Dobbs

The Water Treatment Plant in Flat Rock, in the northern reaches of McCreary County, opened in August 2002, and stands as a testament to the Water District’s towering impact on the citizens of McCreary County.

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