Members of the Columbia County Historical Society are on a mission to clear up an Appling spring and its history.
The spring, located on Shucraft Road behind the former Appling fire station, provided water to Columbia County buildings in Appling and the surrounding community for what is estimated to be several decades.
"That's probably why Appling was located there, because of that spring," said Columbia County Probate Judge Pat Hardaway, a society member.
Water from the spring hasn't been used since the 1970s, when county water lines were extended to the rural county seat. Since then, the spring has fallen into disrepair as a dormant pump, tank and shelter became eyesores. Brush overgrew the .22-acre property owned by Jake Pollard Jr.
The society recently asked Columbia County officials to remove the debris in an effort to rejuvenate the natural spring.
"It is just amazing how nice it looks," Hardaway said. "It just looks like a different spot."
A county crew cut back brush, spread grass seed and removed the tank, shelter and a ram pump, which required no electricity to pump water. What remains is a concrete slab and small brick wall with two small holes spurting clear water from the spring into a shallow pool surrounded with rocks.
The water runs from the pool along a ditch to the nearby Kiokee Creek.
Future beautification efforts could include benches, landscaping, terracing, and a pergola or arbor. More investigation at the site will hopefully reveal the exact location of the spring beneath its concrete slab and determine what upgrades can be done.
The historical society first considered the project more than a year ago, said member Vermell Baxter.
"We wanted to do something for a long time," Baxter said, adding that the spring continued to gurgle clear water despite the surrounding debris and overgrowth.
But its history isn't as clear. Society members believe the spring could have supplied water since the Appling courthouse was constructed in 1896. Since then, a concrete slab and brick wall likely were built at the spring to protect it from contamination and vandals.
Society members hope residents provide information about the spring's history. Those with information or photos are asked to contact Baxter at (706) 541-1683.
Natural springs usually attract residents hoping to fill water jugs for drinking. But the spring water has not yet been tested, said Billy Clayton, Columbia County Water Utility director.
"My guess is that the water is OK," Clayton said. "But I never would recommend anybody drink water that hasn't had some testing done to it to make sure there aren't some unpleasant things there that we don't know about."
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