Before the days when water was piped into homes, mountain folks were often able to take advantage of fresh water running down the mountainside or bubbling up from the earth. A section of running water might be diverted into a channel lined with rocks; it was cleared of debris frequently so the household’s water was kept clean. Often, many people built a structure to keep leaves, critters, etc., from the water.
A spring house might also be constructed at the spot where water emerged from the hillside. This provided the advantage of not only easy access to water for drinking and washing, but also a place to keep things cool in the days before electricity and refrigeration.
Food such as dairy products or produce spoiled much less quickly when set in a few inches of waters from the branch or spring, which maintained a constant cool temperature most of the year. If the structure was large and secure, other food could be stored there, safe from animal depredations and close at hand for household use. Pails of milk, fresh picked fruit or vegetables, and jars of preserved food would sit in the cool water until family meal times.
Some spring houses got even more elaborate; some were large enough to keep a section dry enough to function as a root cellar. One MCHS member recalls that her grandfather had some of the water diverted so it could be used for Monday washing days. The old wringer washer was still sitting there years later.
The Mitchell County Historical Society has this photo in its collection, but we have little information on it, only that it is a spring house on Bryant property at Brummetts Creek in 1948.