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Bloomington Town Pumps Were Watering Holes for Man and Beast

Blog post by Randi Richardson


Town pumps like this one were common fixtures in many communities.

The old town pumps were a part of Bloomington’s early endeavors to furnish water for the community.

One of the first acts of the Monroe County commissioners in 1818 was the cleaning out of two springs near the square for public use.  As the community grew, so did the need for an additional water sources.  So wells were dug on or near the square as a matter of public convenience and benefit because the square was a gathering place and the center of town life.

In 1881, there were three town pumps.  One was at the curb in front of the property where the Woolworth store was once situated on the north end of the west side of the square.  For years this corner was referred to as Campbell’s Corner.

A second pump was located on the southeast corner of the square.  Man and beast could stop to quench their thirst at the pumps and folks living nearby could fill their buckets and pans for home use.

A third pump was situated at Walnut and Sixth on the curb in front of Hall’s Electric.  This pump is believed to have been the first pump authorized by the commissioners, but it was the pump on Campbell’s Corner at College and Sixth that ranked higher in esteem.  A railing was placed around the latter pump in order to provide some protection from traffic on the street.  Additionally a wooden bench was placed nearby where arguments might be settled and footsore and weary loafers might rest a bit or exchange the latest news.  Occasionally the sidewalk became blocked by bystanders prompting the law to restore passage.

The water at the pumps was there for all comers.  Everybody drank from a heavy tin cup of generous proportions attached to a substantial chain.  Initially no one gave thought to sanitation.  On August 1, 1916, after it became well known that the common drinking cup was a disease carrier, the State Board of Health ordered that the public drinking cup be abolished.


Bloomington (IN) Evening World, August 3, 1916, p. 4.

Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone, February 28, 1956, p. 9.