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Well Digging, by Henry Sands

Few jobs in early Nebraska required more courage than that of a well digger. Henry Sands of Nebraska City related some of his narrow escapes to the editor of the Nebraska City News, June 22, 1888. Sands was recuperating from injuries sustained when a tub of rock fell on him in a well a few days before:

"At one time he was at the bottom of a well fifty feet deep. . . where he had put in four blasts that exploded prematurely, scattering soapstone and sand all over him, but [he] did not even receive a scratch.

"In 1875 on the Lorton farm, a tub of brick fell on him, the tub striking him on the head and cutting a gash from his forehead to the crown, but strange as it may seem, did not crack his skull.

"On Judge Hayward's farm south of Dunbar, he had just put in a blast at the bottom of a well fifty feet deep, and after lighting the fuse was being taken up in the tub when the charge exploded, and lifting a rock nearly as large as the diameter of the well, carried the tub with him in it clear of the mouth, and throwing him a distance of several rods on the sod, smashed the windlass into kindling wood, but did not in any way injure him.

"While at work at the bottom of a seventy-four foot well on H. Crewes' farm in 1886, a crowbar fell from the top, striking him square on the shoulder and sinking a foot in the soap stone bottom of the well. This accident laid him up for some time, as his shoulder was badly broken, but is now as well as ever.

"Another, and as Mr. Sands thinks, as narrow escape as he has had, was on the H. Homeyer farm, where as he was sinking an old well some ten feet deeper, it caved in from the top in such a way as to surround him with loose earth and rocks. . . . He says now that he has been down a well for the last time, and that when he gets able to go about again he shall sell his tools and go into some other business."

(March 1999)

 

 

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