Fish, Eugene Field and a spring named Rollins

Got a damp spot in your yard? I do and I often wonder if it is a spring.

Perhaps it’s a historic site. There’s a spring now marked in an fairly obscure spot at Providence Road and Mick Deaver Drive and it’s mentioned in a 1991 article by Frances Pike of the Columbia Daily Tribune. He wrote a series titled, “Whatever happened to …” and on July 28, 1991, the topic was Rollins Spring.

Pike outlined the history of the spring which was on land owned by James Rollins who sold to the University of Missouri in 1870 for the agriculture farm. What? Never heard of the agriculture farm or the spring? That’s because the spring is no longer a popular spot for college students to hang out and today is little spot off a trail on the other side of the road from Research Park.  To save it from obscurity, in 2011, it was cleaned up and planted with native Missouri plans and dedicated to Missouri athletes. Take a peek at an outline of its history here.

The information from the site of the Mizzou Botanic Garden notes that at one time area was fenced off for an experiment in pasturing cows, but the students who loved to gather there for a picnic beat down the fence and let those cows escape, ruining the experiment.

In frustration, the agriculture dean tried to fill in the spring. Twice. He gave up.

But the history of that spring’s treachery involves more than that. In 1879, there were plans to turn it into a fish hatchery. Except when officials came to inspect the area, the spring ran dry. The plans were scuttled and in a few days the spring was running again.

The spring has another claim to fame as well. The 1991 Pike article quotes a poem by Eugene Field, of Little Boy Blue and Wynken, Blynken and Nod fame. Field attended the University of Missouri in 1869, and like Brad Pitt, he did not graduate from the university. Instead, he went on to fame as a poet and a journalist. The poem he wrote about Rollins Spring refers to the flow there as “Adam’s ale … From the spring they say will never fail.”

So we’re lucky the dean was unsuccessful in filling in the spring, because that probably saved this history from getting lost, but sometimes I wonder if that place that wet spot in yard is a spring … or a historic site.

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