Workers apparently unearth springs that gave city its name

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK | News-Telegram Managing Editor

June 14, 2007 - City crews digging out a project for the future dredged up a memorable piece of the city's past Wednesday.

Staff Photo by Angela PItts

City Manager Marc Maxwell digs into the bubbling spring water flowing from beneath the ground behind City Hall this morning. Excavation work at the site appears to have uncovered the original sulphur springs that gave the city its name.

Workers were excavating the new route for North Town Branch behind City Hall when a surprise bubbled up from the ground — what is believed to be the original sulfur springs that gave the city its name.

How do they know? Well, for one, as City Manager Marc Maxwell put it, "It stinks."

"We knew it was right around here," he said this morning, standing next to the "Healing Waters" site built about three years ago behind City Hall.

But they’d never been able to pinpoint the location, and were it not for an unfortunate event, they may have never made the discovery.

A new path for North Town Branch, the creek that runs north and south behind the city offices, became necessary after the collapse of a massive pipe carrying the water under the City Hall parking lot.

Crews were called in to dredge out the channel several weeks ago. In May, the city authorized the purchase of land south of Ashcroft Street to begin rerouting the creek.

On Wednesday, workers dredged a few feet further down, and sulfur-smelling water began to bubble up from the ground near a new culvert at the point Main and Mulberry streets intersect.

"One shot up a geyser about this high," Maxwell said, holding his hands about a foot apart.

There are other signs the site, just beyond the "Healing Waters" spring behind City Hall, could be the original springs that brought a measure of fame to the city. Ancient peroxide bottles were uncovered some 10 feet underground, and what appear to be the staves of an old wooden barrel, blackened by decay, poke out six inches above the newly dug ground.

City Finance Director Peter Karstens pointed out that the sediment coming up with the water is a different color from everything else around it.

The city won't be pooling the spring water, but it should mean water should be flowing through Town Branch at all times.

Thatdoes present an opportunity for a future project, should it ever come to fruition. Maxwell explained that one of the goals for the acreage behind City Hall is a farmer's market, and the discovery of the springs could mean a creek running through the area.

Whatever becomes of it, Maxwell said it's a happy discovery.

"We've got our identity back," he said with a grin.

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