Excavated by the soldiers of the Fifth U.S. Infantry through 20 feet of solid limestone, the well supplied fresh drinking water to the garrison. However, its water supply soon proved unreliable and drinking water was brought by wagon from Coldwater Spring one-half mile away. Around 1869, a cistern was built over the well shaft and water for washing clothing was pumped from the Minnesota River to fill it.
Archaeologists who excavated the well discovered water still flowing through a cleft in the bedrock as described by Colonel Snelling. Artifacts preserved in the dampness of the well shaft included a soldier’s cap brim from the 1850s, a military shoe from the Civil War period, food items and seeds which still sprouted after 100 years in the ground.
An exhibit in the Officers’ Quarters describes the excavation and displays some of the artifacts recovered.