Water Drilling Rig
About the Water Drilling Rig
A reliable source of water is a vital precondition for a successful farm or ranch. Crops need to be watered regularly, and cattle can drink up to 30 gallons of water a day. With this in mind, early homesteaders settled as close to creeks or rivers as possible. Extensive systems of flumes and irrigation canals were dug throughout Alberta. Drinking water came from a rain barrel or melted snow. People owning a well-digging rig could do a fair amount of business on the plains. They could dig wells hundreds of feet deep, which was deep enough to reach the water table almost anywhere. The cost of a machine-dug well was prohibitive for many settlers. Reliable water wells made vast tracts of land formerly considered unusable, suitable for all kinds of farming.
Lewis Brown, known to everyone as simply “Lew”, was born in Mantorville, Minnesota in 1857. He homesteaded near Columbus, North Dakota and in 1907, he bought this rig made by the Sparta Iron Works Company of Sparta, Wisconsin. He drilled a few wells in the United States, but soon decided to try homesteading in Canada. It is said that Lew smuggled the parts of his drilling rig across the border in a load of oats to avoid paying duty on it. He settled near Allerston, Alberta and made money by drilling wells for his neighbours. In 1919, he sold his farm and moved to Lacombe where he continued to make a tidy profit drilling wells in the area. During the early 1930’s he moved to North Hill, B.C. and then Salmon Arm. Since there was less need for deep wells to be dug in British Columbia, he sold the rig to John Althen in 1944. John and his brother LeRoy kept the old rig in smooth working order and drilled 50 more wells with it themselves. In 1966, John Althen sold the rig to Atlantic Richfield Ltd., which would later become Petro-Canada Exploration Ltd. In 1975, in honour of the centennial anniversary of the founding of Calgary, Atlantic Richfield donated the rig to Heritage Park and paid for its restoration.
In 1975, in honour of the centennial anniversary of the founding of Calgary, Atlantic Richfield donated the rig to Heritage Park and paid for its restoration.