The Spring House was a common site at many farms in the past. It was a pre-electricity version of a refrigerator – a crude structure built into the side of a hill with a spring running through it. Cool waters helped the farmer to keep milk, cheese, eggs and other perishables fresh.
Under the best of circumstances it was built over a spring where the water was coldest as it bubbled up to the surface. Otherwise a small stream was diverted from a nearby creek which ran through the building.
“We had a well that was close to the house and my father built a spring house by the back door. We could pump water through the spring house to cool the milk or any other thing that was stored there. Sometimes we would pump the water a couple of times aday to cool the milk especially when my mother wanted to churn the milk for buttermilk and butter.” –Jo Byrd Sammons (Her mother was from Craig Co. VA and her father was from Bland Co. VA)
“We had no electricity nor running water so we stored milk and other things like that in the spring house. We were poor but did not realize it as we were equal to everyone else. We would get water from the spring house, located about 100 yards from our house. We always checked for the big black snake that often would be on the ledge over the door. We always would keep our eye on him as we scooped up the water and darted back out. On the fourth of July was the only time we had watermelon, ice cream packed in dry ice, and soft drinks. Mommie would put them in the spring house to cool.”
Nannie Nadine Bailey (1932-2003)
Peel Chestnut Mountain, McDowell County, WV