The College brook flows from about a mile east of the present-day Union campus into the Mohawk River. Much of its visible length in Mrs. Perkins' day is now buried; the section between Terrace Lane and Seward Place, for example, was re-routed into an underground culvert in 1966.
Still visible within Jackson’s Garden and celebrated in the Union College Alma Mater, the brook has mostly been an aesthetic feature of the campus, although it was sometimes used as a swimming hole and a water source. Pollution and flooding have often been a problem, however. Mrs. Perkins wrote about one instance when a break in a nearby drain caused sewage to flow into the brook. “As Rose is not there to watch… nobody saw it for ten days. It is horrible with nastiness and the sides covered with slime. [Assistant College Treasurer Charles B.] Pond had it stopped immediately, and it is better now, but the slime is still thick on the sides, and you can imagine the smell. Of course it ran into the pasture for the cows to drink, so they were taken out and there has been a great fuss” (May 20, 1902).
The brook is also known as Hans Groot’s Kill, “kill” being derived from a Dutch word for “body of water” and “Hans Groot” being derived from a combination of the names of several early settlers in the area.