Missouri Life editor-in-chief, Sandy Selby realizes that taking modern amenities for granted does not give credit to the people who lived without them. We should all take more care to recognize the value of clean, accessible water.

When the McMahan family home and dry good store in Arrow Rock went on the market in 1868, the sellers boasted of a convenient nearby water source. This was probably a cistern that collected rainwater.
Photo Courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Isn’t That Convenient?

THE HOME’S FEATURES INCLUDED brick construction, seven rooms for the family, plus a retail space at the front of the building. I found these details in an 1868 newspaper listing for a house just down the street from where I live now. Among the most desirable features of this grand home was that it had “water conveniently nearby.”

A century before multiple bathrooms became a household requirement and long before luxuries such as dishwashers and jetted tubs became commonplace, the well-appointed home had a well or cistern on the premises. That “convenient” source of water saved the homeowner a daily trudge to a spring or river to replenish the household water supply.

Many residents made a trek down to Big Spring for their daily supply of fresh water.
Photo Courtesy of Missouri Department of Natural Resources

I discovered that old advertisement just days after our town’s water supply had been turned off for maintenance. During that long afternoon, my neighbors and I complained about the inconvenience of it all. Poor us, we had to endure the 24-hour boil order that followed, not to mention the burden of sipping bottled water rather than dispensing ice and filtered water from the refrigerator door.

Honestly, I’m ashamed that I take convenient, clean water for granted. My 1868 neighbors would be appalled by my whining.

In this issue, our first ever issue focused on sustainability and the protection of resources that are precious to us all, we take a closer look at how we get our water and how water drives our state’s economy. Plus, we share some surprising facts about the energy sources we rely on.

The threats to our valuable resources are real, but Missourians are nothing if not fiercely protective of our state. They’re already hard at work finding ways to clean up our environment, guard our water supply, and solve problems today so Missourians 150 years from now will experience the same high quality of life we are accustomed to.

The cistern that once served my old house is long gone, but the pump remains as a reminder that water didn’t always come pouring from the faucet in the kitchen sink. Not so long ago, the family who lived here had to put on their coats and boots during the coldest winter days to retrieve water from the cistern. And let’s not forget their toilet, which was not-so-conveniently located many yards from the back door.

I’ve had the good fortune to be born at a time when I can access water on a whim and flip a switch to light my house. Working on this issue has made me more aware of the blessings of accessible water and power. And I’m going to make an effort to show more respect for those who came before me, whose lives were not so convenient.

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Read how Sandy came to Missouri Life here.

After all articles that came from a printed issue put this at the end: Article originally published in the Janurary/February 2024 issue of Missouri Life.