Friday, May 20, 2011

Hydraulic Ram Water Pumps on Alexander County Farms, 1938

By F.H. Jeter, Extension Editor, published in the Whiteville News Reporter, Aug. 1, 1938
Late the other afternoon I stood at the foot of a hill in Alexander County and looked upward towards a farm home. Near me in the valley was a free-flowing spring of water and leading from the spring up the hill to the home was a winding path made through the course of several years of steady walking, to and from the spring, that a supply of water might be secured for use in that home. The present pathway, however, was comparatively new because on old one had become a gulley and this new path had been pattered on the edge of this gulley.
To reach the spring, occupants of the home had had to cross the pasture fence and there was an ingenious opening made therein that a human might negotiate with some inconvenience, but which would be impossible for the cows. I suspect that many pails of water had been carried up that hill. I suspect also that many times the family had been deprived of necessary water because of a treacherous footing on the hillside due to sleet, rain or snow. Many times in the night, perhaps, that trip to the spring had been made because of sickness in the home.
But now, laid out alongside the worn pathway was a new marking of fresh earth. It ran 400 feet from the spring up an elevation of 40 feet and it indicated where a pipe line had been laid so that by means of simple hydraulic ram, a supply of fresh cold water was being pumped, night and day, continuously, to a water tank built near the kitchen. This ram is now delivering 960 gallons a day of pure water for use in that farm home and the days of weary walking are ended.
“We have more water than we know what to do with,” exclaimed the radiantly happy farm wife as I talked with her husband about the convenience thus afforded.
The next day, I spent several hours visiting other from homes in Alexander County where these simple rams had been installed at costs running from about $94 to $150 each. I saw fresh running water available for kitchens, bathrooms, barns, poultry houses, hog lots and lawns. In some instances, electrical power was also used in the home but the cost of installing the rams the expense of upkeep is so slight that the owners preferred the ram to the more expensive electrical pumps.
In all, I was told that 125 of these hydraulic rams had been installed in the farm homes of that county, and, that additional rural dwellers were making surveys to see if they could not put in such a simple convenience.
One elderly gentleman said that he and his wife must have walked a distance of 35,000 miles during their 40 years of married life, in going to the spring for water, and then, the buckets were almost always empty when water was needed most.
In Caldwell County, the folks have recently completed 298 miles of rural electrical lines. At present 800 homes are being serviced with this energy and it is expected that an additional 400 rural homes will shortly begin to use such power. Lights are twinkling in the homes along the roadside and up in the coves and the valleys. Radios are bringing to lonely people the blessings of music, entertainment and information. Children study with less eye strain and there is a more “homey” atmosphere surrounding them. Many burdens, too, have been lightened for the busy farm housewife and as a result better homes are being built.
“I would rather have running water than electric lights if I had to make a choice between the two,” said one farm woman to me the other day. “We need water nearly all the time, seems to me, while we don’t use the lights except at night.”
If you aren’t familiar with hydraulic ram water pumps, Wikipedia explains them at:

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