World's Second Largest Hand Dug Well


Seneca, Kansas

During a recent conference focusing on Rural Renewal and celebrating what makes tiny town unique in their quirkiness, a group of Kansas Explorers were treated to a rare privilege: We got to visit the World's Second Largest Hand Dug Well. Evidently, there are only a few spare keys to the wonder, which is kept under wraps 'neath a red roofed topper in the Seneca City Park, and finding the keyholder is quite a task. In an effort to urge the City to celebrate their World's (Second) Larget Thing, the Explorers were relentless in their pursuit of a gatekeeper, and upon witnisssing such a wonderful well, proceeded to expound on the virtues of hand dug wonders just waiting to be exploited by the Authentic Tourism Machine.

While townspeople were suprised at the entusiasm that their Well inspired, they did provide a good amount of information on their little-celebrated wonder...

Excerpts from the brochure: Old Well Information (and City Park) Block 34
Block 34 was purchased by the city, in two transactions during April and May of 1895... City council minutes of April 10, 1895 recorded: "Decision was made to locate a city well on the west side of the city." The bid of James T. Boughal, of Kansas City, MO, to build a waterworks was accepted. The project was to start within 10 days of April 15, 1895 and to be completed within four months. The bid price was $29,200.00.


Water depth is approximately 25 feet and has remained at that level since at least 1979 (no records of measurements, if any, are known since the well stopped being used for human consumption). This well is now being used to water the golf course fairways.

The old well wa probably discontinued about 1937 when wells number 1 and 2 and the on million gallon reservoir were built. Wells 1 and 2 are east of Seneca and the reservoir is on First Street...

Water was pumped from the Old Well by engine driven pumps. These pumps were in pits located inside a brick Water Works building, located southwest of the well. That building was raised in the late 1950s after being used many years for storage.

...More information is being researched about how the well was constructed. such information will be incorporated into a future handout. We invite and encourage you to return to Seneca as we develop more public knowledge of this historic engineering and construction project from the 19th century.

Bits of information recently discovered: J.T. Broughal was granted several time extensions. On October 22, 1895 City concil voted to acquire "pumps and machinery to complete the well". On January 22, 1896, Charles Bradshaw was paid $200.00 for use of tools, clamshell, engine and boiler used while completing the Water Works.


World's Second Largest Hand Dug Well Stats

34 feet across, 65 feet deep, built 1895 at a cost of $29,200. Located across from the school, up untill it's discontinuation in the (1970s?) it was the World's Largest Well Still in Use.


The WORLD'S LARGEST Hand Dug Well (U.S.) can be found in Greensburg Kansas...

And, from an online reader, links and information on the REAL World's Largest Hand Dug Well:

I was reading your entry on the "World largest hand-dug well" in Kansas, and since you are the "Worlds Largest Things" site, and hopefully not from Kansas, I have to tell you that you are way, way off. In fact I am glad of this as only 109 feet deep for a well is very disappointing if you ask me.

Here is a real contender for the title, and as it is as deep as the Empire State is tall, I reckon that it probably is the largest too, by a long way , even if it is narrower: Woodingdean Well

On the same theme, I reckon that the good people in Kansas should have done their homework as my birth town (Dover, UK) has a castle built by William the conquerer that has a well that may have existed before the Normon conquest of England (1066AD), that is nearly three times as deep as the one in Kansas at 310' deep. (We used to light rags and drop them down when I was a small boy).

If you are from the USA, I hope that national pride does not stop you from considering these!

Best wishes, Mark


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