Maureen O' Brien
The tale is that Daniel Easley sold John Milledge and his committee 633 acres on top of Daniel's mountain for the purpose of building the first land grant college. One of the things that clinched the deal was a flowing spring near the top that would provide clean, fresh water to the new school. This spring was used for many years, supplemented by wells as the campus grew. The city of Athens, created by dividing and selling the northern part of the land into square lots, soon outgrew its wells and began to pump water from the North Oconee River. The college bought into this system, the spring was piped underground, and a building was put over the source. But it was not forgotten.
Dean William Tate, the esteemed dean of students, who led the university successfully through its expansion after WWII, and through the turbulent times of racial integration and the Viet Nam War, was said to periodically visit the historic springhead with friends to sip the clean, clear water and celebrate the founding of our great university. The tale also goes that this group of professors and administrators would occasionally tip a bit of their personal flasks into their glasses of spring water. But Dean Tate’s son Jeff once told me his tee totaling dad would have celebrated by raising a glass of only fresh clean water as he toasted the reason that Athens is where it is today.
That spring has recently been “daylighted.” Taken out of a pipe, it now flows for a short distance as an open creek along the appropriately named Spring Street on the northeastern side of campus. A planting of native wetland plants helps the water stay clean as it moves downhill to the river. Check it out.