R.C. Graves frowned, tossed the geological report aside and kicked his feet up on the desk. From out of his office window, he could see the drilling team working, boring down deep into the earth.
“I’m telling you it’s hidden right beneath us, just out of sight. Like a ghost struck see-through by the light of day.” The young geologist had said. “You could change the whole of the city if I’m right, Mister Graves.”
“You’d better be right for what I paid, son.” Was all he’d said in response.
R.C. Graves knew what the geologist was referring to. Spring rains caused the water levels to rise, river and swamp water mixed with the city’s sewage, emulsifying into a deadly cocktail that brought the Yellow Fever each summer. But that wasn’t his concern. His business was one of comfort and luxury. R.C. Graves was in the ice business.
And you couldn’t have good ice without clean water.
Suddenly there was a great crack and a roar from the drill site. Graves looked up, thinking a storm had rolled in because of the rain and thunder. But then he realized it wasn’t rain.
It was the drill.
They’d struck water.
The Memphis Aquifer was first tapped in 1887 by R.C. Graves of the Buhlen-Huse Ice Company. His and the company’s interest in the aquifer, which was only vaguely known, was to tap the clean water to sell as ice to local hotels, restaurants and homes. When his crew hit water at 354 feet below the surface, the release of pressure forced a geyser of clean water back up the shaft. This discovery lead to the drilling of dozens and then hundreds of other wells, all of which provided clean drinking water to Memphis, and helped break the death grip Yellow Fever had on the city.