2/22/1990: Water tower made Columbus grow, used for 25 years

by Virginia Jewell
(Fifth in a series)
(Appeared in The Hickman County Gazette, Clinton (Hickman County, Ky.) on Feb. 22, 1990)

Columbus Water TowerMoving Columbus to the safety of the bluffs seems more practical than rebuilding the town after the 1927 floods. Once this conclusion was reach, Red Cross and city officials were faced with selling the people on the idea.

Homeowners who had dwellings above the flood plain balked at the very thought. Even those whose homes had been wrecked were reluctant to pull up stakes.

To encourage them, James A. Porter, a Clinton surveyor and former Columbus resident, was asked to survey the 80-acre hilltop site. At the same time, he expressed numerous ideas for city beautification and served as a community cheerleader for those without enthusiasm. Lawrence Sheridan of Indianapolis, Ind., designed the two to fit the natural topography of the site. There were circle drives, a parkway and curving streets. Location of the business district was given special consideration.

Supplying each family with ample water appeared as an obstacle, however. In the old town it had been no problem to property owners who simply sank a pipe to the low water level of the river.

Marion Rust, Red Cross representative, said that once again James Porter came to the rescue. He offered to develop blueprints for a water system at no cost to the city. Rust learned that a 25,000 gallon water tank on a 92-foot steel tower was available for $100 in Clarksville, TN. He purchased it sight unseen over the telephone.

He then contacted W. M. Yancy, a well digger of Arlington, who declared he could drill a well which would furnish all the water the town needed. Within two weeks Yancy had drilled 200 feet into the Ripley Sand — a strata which extends into the river.

The well digger then took several trucks and a crew to Clarksville, dismantled the tank and tower and loaded I-beans and other long equipment onto railroad flat cars for shipment to the developing town. His own trucks hauled back smaller items, aided by eager volunteers from neighboring towns. Yancy then rebuilt the cypress stave tank and set it atop the reconstructed steel tower.

Meanwhile the waterworks system was being installed throughout the cit. The foreman of the installations was notoriously profane, Rust said, but because there were no rocks in the loess soil, the job progressed with very little blue smoke hovering over the crew.

In due time, pumping and distribution of water was begun with the entire cost of the waterworks being under $4000. Before attempting the project, the city had received bids for up to $7200 to install and guarantee proper water supply. Rust said the Red Cross gained mightily by using local initiative to provide the town with water, but gave much of the credit for the success of the venture to Porter and Yancy.

Another sticking point was the location of the school. A four-acre block at the foot of the hill had long been reserved for a school. However, a vote was taken and the decision made to build a $25,000 school in the new town, since the Red Cross had offered a lot for that purpose.

With the water system in place and the promise of a new school, townspeople who had previously held back, saw the wisdom of reassembling themselves on top of the bluff.

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