du ponts’ artesian well in louisville, kentucky (1858)

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After Mulot imported Chinese cable-tool drilling to the western world and successfully sank a flowing artesian well in Paris, water wildcatters worldwide slowly began chipping into the depths in search of artesian water. The du Ponts drilled one such well in Louisville, Kentucky; a well nicely described by Professor J. Lawrence Smith of the University of Louisville (Smith 1859).

Some tidbits on the well from Smith’s report:

  • The well was located at the Louisville Paper Mill on Tenth Street near Main.
  • The well was drilled by C.I. and A.V. du Pont.
  • A Mr. Bake drilled the well.
  • The well hit an artesian flow of mineral water in August of 1858 at a depth of 2,086 feet,
  • An excerpt from Tomlinson’s Encyclopedia states that artesian wells in France had been used to power a flour mill, for irrigation, for silk spinning, to run machinery, to provide heat for greenhouses, fish ponds, a source of clear water for paper mills. Water from the Grenelle Well in Paris had been used to heat a nearby hospital and other public buildings.
  • Right before the Grenelle Well came in, the rod “suddenly descended several yards”.
  • Key wells noted by Smith:
    • the Grenelle Well,
    • the Kissingen Well in Bavaria,
    • at the monastery of St. Andre in the Aire in Artois (bored more than a century ago, water rises to 11 feet above the ground, flows 250 gallons per minute),
    • Charleston Wel in Charleston, South Carolina (1,250 feet deep, 30,000 gallons in 24 hours, flows 10 feet above the surface),
    • Belcher’s Well in St. Louis (drilled 1953-4, 108,000 gallons in 24 hours, 2,199 feet deep),
    • Lafayette Well in Lafayette, Indiana (230 feet deep, mineral water, 4 gallons per minute)
  • Dupont’s well: 330,000 gallons per 24 hours, the elevation of water above the surface was 170 feet.
  • Drilling started in April 1857.
  • Three-inch borehole.
  • Cased to 76 feet deep.
  • Water temperature was 76.5 degrees F at the wellhead, bottom-hole temp was 82.5.
  • “…it will doubtless flow in undiminished quantity for centuries to come; as wells having such deep sources as this are usually inexhaustible.”
  • “The solid contents left on evaporating one wine gallon to dryness are 915.5 grains….” [I hadn’t heard of a wine gallon before (appears to be equal to an American gallon)! One grain per gallon equals 17.1 parts per million, so 915.5 grains per gallon is 15,655 parts per million. About two-thirds of the grains are chlorides.]
  • Smith on the medicinal properties of mineral waters: “If taken moderately they excite the appetite, and are looked upon as a mid and efficacious aid to digestion; in still larger doses they excite in a more marked manner the entire mucous lining of the intestinal canal, extending to the liver; and, taken into the circulation, their effects are felt in al secretive and excretive organs, as the kidneys, etc.”

Smith (1859 p4) includes a nice description of drilling an artesian well:

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According to Kleber (2015), the well was drilled by Charles I. and Alfred Victor du Pont seeking a source of “pure and soft water” for papermaking. Tobaco Realty Co. sealed the top of the well in 1923 and diverted its flow to the sewer. The well was plugged in 1948.


Kleber, J.E., 2015, Lousiville Artesian Well in The Encyclopedia of Louisville: University Press of Kentucky, 1,024 p.

Smith, J.L., 1859, DuPont’s artesian well, Louisville, Kentucky–Report, analysis, and medical properties of its water, with remarks upon the nature of artesian wells: The Medical Department of the University of Louisville, Kentucky, 22 p. [source]


2 thoughts on “du ponts’ artesian well in louisville, kentucky (1858)

  1. Dr. Bob,

    Do you have any history on the 180 ‘ Houston area artesian well drilled into the Gulf Coast aquifer in 1887 by Henry Thompson? I’ve only seen one reference to it and can’t otherwise confirm its existence. The article leads one to believe that it was the very first of many…triggering the law of unintended consequences and leading to the Houston-Galveston area’s subsidence issues.


    1. Hugh: I have not, but thanks for the tip: I’ll poke around on that. I have one post card showing a Houston-area flowing artesian well (it’s a gusher!) and have read about early Galveston-area artesian wells.


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