“Unless you believe, you shall not understand.” — Bible, Isiah 7:9
What does a 1943 drama film, the Gospel of John , a 2006 letter from then Governor Joe Manchin and a woman living over 500 miles from Logan have to do with a spring of flowing water located about one mile from Holden, but in Mingo County? You might be surprised.
A recent newspaper article regarding a popular spring that has been utilized by hundreds, if not thousands of area people over the years, has produced the answers the May 11th story sought. In the Logan Banner story, it was pointed out that people are regularly seen gathering water from the spring located on U.S. 119 toward Williamson. It was mentioned that a marker had been placed there bearing the inscription: “PLEASE DON’T POLLUTE WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN.” There were important unanswered questions which needed addressed. Who placed the marker at the site, and why? In addition, there were health concerns about the water itself.
Originally, this writer’s curiosity led one to believe Mingo Countians were in need of public water. However, an official with that county’s health department said public water “is available throughout Mingo County.” However, he added the water located at what some are now calling Mingo County’s version of the “Pool of Bethesda,” was in the past tested and the results came back “very bad.” So, why are so many people gathering this water? And, why are there no complaints of illness from drinking it?
According to biblical scripture found in John 5 verse 6 through 8, Jesus performed one of his miracles at the Pool of Bethesda in Jerusalem by allowing an invalid man of 38 years to get up and walk. This writer knew there had to be a religious and newsworthy reason for the marker as the word “Bethesda” in Greek literature means “house of mercy”.
Pamela Boland, now a resident of Island, Ky., a small town located five hours and 44 minutes away in the western portion of the Bluegrass state, telephoned a couple of days after she became aware of the article. Mrs. Boland said she is responsible for the marker which is cemented to the ground. The stone marker was placed at the site at 12 noon September 29, 2006. Her story follows:
“The Lord spoke to me one day saying, ‘Go wash in the spring’. Three days after the Lord spoke, my cousin, Janet Marcum, called and was talking about a spring of water. I hadn’t mentioned anything to her about the Lord speaking to me,’’ she explained. “I was living in Herrin, Illinois at the time and specifically came in to see what she was talking about. We anointed the ground using oil and asked God’s blessings for the spring.”
Boland was born at Logan in 1949, the daughter of Fred and Lucy Ball. Her father was a coal miner and the family lived on Mud Fork and other places within Logan County. While still a youngster, she was inspired by the 1943 movie “The Song of Bernadatte.” The movie, which starred past greats Jennifer Jones, Charles Bickford and Vincent Price, was the result of a 1941 novel that was on the New York Times Best Seller list for over a year, spending thirteen weeks at the top. The movie tells the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who in 1858 reported eighteen visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the town of Lourdes, France. In short, Bernadette discovers a cave in which a lady appears identifying herself as “the Immaculate Conception”. The lady tells her to drink and wash at a spring that doesn’t exist, but Bernadette digs a hole in the ground and uses the wet sand and mud. The water begins to flow and exhibits miraculous healing properties. There is much more to the story which is factually based. Mrs. Boland in 1999 went on a pilgrimage to Paris, France and visited the town of Lourdes where she observed the spring Saint Bernadette had dug up with her hands.
Mrs. Boland said she first had wooden signs made for the water site in Mingo County, but state road employees had to take them down because spiritual signs were not allowed on the right-of-way. Boland then wrote a letter to Governor Joe Manchin who responded July 23, 2006 in a letter saying he had forwarded her request to the then State Highways Commissioner Paul Mattox. Five days later, Boland received a letter from Mattox in which he acknowledges “the placement of a memorial stone along US 119 at the Bethesda Pool Spring in Mingo County.” Mattox said in reference to signs and memorials: “Regardless of their significance, we generally do not permit their installation within our right-of-way.” However, he recommended that the stone marker “be placed off the State right-of-way in an area close to the site of the spring.”
In April of 2006, samples of the water were tested by Acculab Inc. of Mt. Gay. Boland said the results showed the water to be “good.”
“I am going to tell you, my friend, this is the best water you can drink anywhere,” Boland declared. “God has blessed West Virginia with this spring. I drink it myself.”
Apparently other people, not necessarily Mingo Countians, have used the water. Boland said Reverend Walter Hawkins of the Orville Holiness Church uses the water in church services. Ironically, another Logan native who said he has drunk the water on many occasions is none other than the town of Logan’s own Water Plant Manager, Everett Brumfield.
“I’ve drunk it many times when I’ve been over that way hunting,” said Brumfield. “All well water or spring water will show up something and probably no health department would jeopardize itself by giving the green light on free flowing water.” Brumfield has volunteered to have the water tested and will supply this newspaper with the results.
Mrs. Boland, who described herself as “a servant of the Lord” has used the water in healing services. During a tent revival in Kentucky, the water was utilized, according to Boland. She said there have been several testimonials as a result of the water.
“It’s not really the water. It is their faith,” she explained. “That’s the Lord for you.”
Prior to Mrs. Boland telephoning, an e-mail was received which read:
“My mother is Pamela Boland. We live here in Island, Ky. She is the one who placed the sign “Pool of Bethesda” as the Lord put it upon her heart to do so and she bottles the water and sends it out to people for healings. There are many testimonies for those who believe and receive. There is a long story. The water has been blessed and anointed in the name of Jesus.”
Mrs. Boland said the plastic line at the water site was there when she first visited the place. She added that she did not know who placed the litter warning sign at the site. The sign is attached to a garbage can there and it appears people adhere to the warning. Ironically, there is but one littering sign between Logan and Williamson and very few litter signs in either Logan or Mingo Counties.
Interestingly, Mingo’s “Pool of Bethesda” is located just a short distance from important past historical happenings — Mamie Thurman’s murdered body found in 1932 on 22 Mountain, 18 coal miners’ deaths in the Holden 22 mine in 1960 and the discovery of what was known as the “Jesus Tree” at Holden in the 1980’s.
The chemical leak in Kanawha County created a multitude of problems for thousands of unfortunate people and reminded us of the value of clean water. However, no matter how the test results come back on the Mingo water, it’s nice to know there’s “blessed” water available in the area.
In the meantime, you might want to consider this quote from Benjamin Franklin: In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria.