Drinking Sanitation in Amish Country

Oct. 27, 2016

I’m the kind of person who likes to leave his work at the desk at the end of the day, but sometimes my career bleeds its way into my personal life. Such was the case last weekend when I took a trip to The Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur, Ill., which is considered the heart of Illinois’ Amish Country.

I have been to this pumpkin patch annually for the past five years, but this was the first year I stumbled into the Center School, an old one-room schoolhouse on the 200-acre property. And to my surprise, I found an interesting bit of history between the school and its water.

When the school was built, its superintendent laid out rules for student drinking water. Common practice had been to use one dipper for all the school children, but the superintendent forbade that on the grounds it was not sanitary. Instead, each student had their own respective cup and the schoolroom included a drinking cup rack to store all of them.

Even the design of the rack had to follow the superintendent’s specifications as all hooks had to be square. This allowed each cup to be stored upside down to drain while also preventing the collection of dust in the bottom of each cup. And to make sure nobody used another person’s cup, each hanger and cup was numbered.

With so much attention on contamination in water these days, I found it fascinating that such provisions were taken so many years ago at this one-room school house, and I wonder if other communities had similar rules in their schools or public places.

Do you know of any interesting water history in your area? What kinds of regulations were made to ensure water was safe near you? Let us know at [email protected].