Cary’s Heritage

Cary’s Heritage: And then there was water

May 19, 2014 

These days, most people probably don’t think much about where their water comes from. But years ago, it wasn’t always easy for Cary residents to get water.

A public water system was finally built, paving the way for more-modern utilities. Here, some Cary residents share their memories of it all:

Mary Belle Phillips: We moved to Cary in 1918. We had no lights or water. Everybody had their own outside well for water and some people had to carry it in. In ’21, we moved to Chatham Street and my daddy had a well drilled and put a pump inside the kitchen. We didn’t have to carry water anymore. As soon as a water system was installed in Cary, he built a bathroom onto the house and we got inside plumbing. Oh, it was a luxury. We weren’t used to anything like that.

Esther Ivey: In the early 1900s, everybody had wells as their source of water. When we lived on Chatham Street we had an especially good well. Finally the town put in a water system, which was quite a big deal. We voted bonds to put in the water system.

Bob Heater: My daddy, R.O. Heater, had Heater Well Company. He drilled water wells all over town. I started to help Daddy when I was about 12. When I was 14 I drilled my first water well on the corner of what is now Old Apex Road and Chatham Street. Water can be found at different depths. We hit water in that one at 60 feet. At my home here, the well in the front yard went down 160 feet.

Fred Seeger: My dad had been a gas and oil well driller in Pennsylvania. He heard about R.O. Heater in Cary that drilled water wells. Then, as now, there was always a shortage of water in Cary. R.O. Heater drilled umpteen wells around Cary, so we moved here in 1944, and my dad went to work for R.O. Heater.

Bertha Daniel: After World War II when my husband came home, we bought a house that my daddy had built to rent. It was at the end of the street. I had a world of trouble with rust in the water because it was at the end of the water line. When my babies were born I had to come out to my mother’s house to wash baby clothes because the rust in the water at my house got all over those clothes. We had the water tested and they said it was fine to drink because it had iron in it, but it was bad on your laundry. My father was helpful in getting clean water in Cary because he had a lot of rental property and he wanted good water for those houses. He started building rental houses after World War I.

Cary’s Heritage is taken from the book “Just a Horse-Stopping Place, an Oral History of Cary, North Carolina,” first published in August 2006. The book is a collection of oral history interviews conducted between local citizens and Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel.

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