The Farm Chronicles: Indoor Plumbing

The Farm in Northeastern Ohio was handed down from generation to generation of Wilsons beginning around 1818. It took a rugged bunch to carve out a working farm in what was then the western part of this new nation. Cold and snow filled winters, low land, Indians, the lack of infrastructure were all elements of adversity and part of the natural selection process that allowed only the strong and wise to survive. In fact, these were the very challenges that fostered overcomers and that action alone prospered skill, work ethic, invention, community, and strengthened faith in God resulting in building the greatest nation in modern history. It is a small wonder why indoor plumbing took us over 135 years to achieve.

We had several shallow wells on the farm that were fed by something of an underground water source. If one went dry, we carried water from another until it filled up again. They were all alike except for the one in the milk house, which was drilled probably in the 1950s. The wells consisted of a well-rounded hole in the ground of about four feet in diameter, dug down about 15 feet and lined with stone from the fields—probably gathered when earlier Wilsons were clearing them for farming. We used the one closest to the house for our water, unless of course, it went dry, then we would carry water. It was on this well that the indoor plumbing was hooked sometime before I was born, or was very little.

Dad was a proud Welshman. He would buy a new Buick or a truckload of horses with cash, but didn’t want to spend the money on permits, inspectors, or, quite frankly on a septic tank or bathroom fixtures. He waited for years to gather up hand me downs from others who replaced theirs with new and usable fixtures. And when all the parts were assembled, he arranged a party to install them in the dark of night so the county inspectors couldn’t detect it. They dug the hole for the septic tank and hit rock, so the septic tank didn’t go as far into the ground as it should have. The sewer line was made of clay sewer pipes emptying into the ditch about 40 yards away, which often backed up because the septic tank wasn’t low enough. Pipes connected on the Northwest side of the house—where the winter wind coming off Lake Erie hit the hardest.

Inevitably, the pipes would freeze up in the winter time and Dad would crawl under the sink and light newspapers to thaw out the water lines. Sometimes we washed dishes in the bathtub. Every winter a box of matches was left under the sink. This went on for decades until my wife Chris and I insulated the pipes. The bathroom was built in the pantry off the kitchen. It, too, had matches. My best advice is to never put a bathroom opening into a kitchen. But it was indoor plumbing and the outhouse needed only to be used as an emergency. The Wilsons had finally arrived in the 20th Century! Proverbs 5:18 says, “Let your fountain be blessed; and rejoice with the wife of your youth.” While it wasn’t much, Mom and Dad rejoiced over that indoor fountain for it was an answer to prayer and longsuffering.

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Bill Wilson

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