Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Connecticut Bridgeport

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bridgeport was first settled in the 1640s.

The Reverend Elijah Waterman (1769-1825) built the first water system in 1818 using hollowed logs to carry water from his property atop Bridgeport's Golden Hill to a trough on the community's waterfront, providing fresh "running" water to sailors and merchants.  Other wells of good water in the village were owned by Robert Linus and Capt. Stephen Burroughs. It happened, now, at this time, that vessels coming into the harbor were often in need of water and consequently expected to obtain it here. Linus and Burroughs agreed to supply the ships with water, for a certain price per cask. This seemed to Waterman to be an unfair method, so he cleared out his springs and deepened them, then laid wooden pipes, roughly constructed, through Main and Water streets, ending in a trough on the west side of Main at Cannon Street. Upon this trough he erected a sign reading "Public Water.".In 1823 Lewis C. Segee bought out Waterman, enlarged the springs, and continued to supply "public water" until 1848, when he sold out to C. B. Hatch of New York City.

On September 17, 1822 permission was granted to Reuben Tweedy, Smith Tweedy and Lemuel Hubbell to place logs or pipes under the ground for the purpose of carrying water. 

The Bridgeport Golden Hill Aqueduct Company was incorporated in 1833 by Jesse Sterling, Stephen Hawley, Seth B. Jones, Ziba Northrop, Nicholas Northrop, Edwin Porter, and George Kippen for the purpose of "conducting pure and wholesome water into, in, and about the borough of Bridgeport, by means of subterraneous pipes laid along the streets of said borough."

On September 6, 1852 the Borough council "Ordered, That Thaddeus H. Barnes, Charles R. Hatch, their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, be and they are, hereby authorized to dig and excavate in and through the streets of the city for the purpose of relaying, repairing and extending the pipes connected with their water works on Golden Hill."

On March 7, 1853, Nathaniel Greene presented a petition to the council relative to supplying the city with public water. It was referred to a committee. Greene, who was the agent for the Pequonnock Mills, had a year previous to this time advocated a scheme of pumping water from the pond to a reservoir, thence to conduct it to the people. This committee on April 18th reported resolutions for giving the right of supplying water to Joseph Battin and N. C. Whiting, but the committee of investigation reported unfavorably to this.  On May 5, 1853, the council contracted with Greene, including "the sole and exclusive right subject to the legal rights of any other person or corporations now existing, of laying down pipes in the streets, highways and avenues of said city for supplying the city and inhabitants with water so long as a full and pure supply is furnished."

The Bridgeport Water Company was incorporated in 1853 by Nathaniel Greene, Thatcher T. Payne, Joseph Carpenter, Charles Canda, Jonas W. Thaxter, and James H. Jennings.  This company built a system designed by Daniel Marsh that used cement-lined wrought-iron pipe to distribute water from a reservoir supplied by Factory Pond and Bunnell's Lower Reservoir, formed by an earthen dam on the Pequonnock River.  The dam collapsed in a storm in February 1854 and company treasurer Jonas W. Thaxter died on March 1st.  By 1855 the company had defaulted on its bonds and fallen into foreclosure.

The surviving company was incorporated as the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company in 1857 by William S. Knowlton, Nathaniel Greene, J. H. Washburn, Joseph Richardson and Nathan Stevens, who acquired all of the rights of the Bridgeport Water Company.  In March, 1873, Phineas T. Barnum (of circus fame) offered $300,000 for the water company.  Two months later the legislature gave the city permission to purchase the system in 1873, but voters turned it down on August 13, 1873 by twenty-seven votes, and again on November 3, 1873 by a margin of two hundred and twenty-three.  Barnum, who was elected mayor of Bridgeport in 1875 for a one-year term, was also president of the Hydraulic Company for some time. 

The Citizens Water Company of Bridgeport was incorporated in 1886 by Henry N. Beardsley, James Staples, Dr. I. DeVer Warner, E. C. Bassick, Alonzo J. Beardsley, Charles B. Hotchkiss, John L. Wessels, B. H. Hull, Charles A. Read, D. F. Hollister., Wheeler Beers, William F. Pinkham, Emory F. Strong, William F. Bishop, John N. Near, William R. Palmer, Frank Armstrong, Benjamin Root, F. A. Bartram, William R. Hinkley, and Charles A. Hotchkiss, for the purpose "of supplying pure water for public, domestic, and manufacturing purposes to the town and city of Bridgeport, and the borough of West Stratford, and town of Fairfield."  Barnum was also involved in this company, which laid pipes in West Stratford but a lawsuit by the Hydraulic Company stymied their work in the city of Bridgeport.  The Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors decided in favor of the Hydraulic Company based on the language of the 1853 contract, and the two companies merged shortly thereafter.

In 1968, the Hydraulic Company was formed as a holding company for the Bridgeport Hydraulic company, which it acquired the following year, and non-water utility businesses.  In 1991, the Hydraulic Company changed its name to Aquarion Company.  Aquarion was acquired by the Kelda Group in England in 2000 for $596 million.  In 2007 Kelda sold Aquarion to Australia's Macquarie Bank for $860 million.

Water service in the City of Bridgeport is currently provided by the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut

1833 Resolve incorporating Bridgeport Golden Hill Aqueduct Company, May 1833.  Capital stock $10,000.

1853  An act incorporating the Bridgeport Water Company, May 1853.  Capital stock $200,000, may be increased to $300,000.

1853 "Notice," Tri-Weekly Standard (Bridgeport, Connecticut), September 28, 1853, Page 2.
At a meeting of the Bridgeport Water Company, the following Directors were elected:  P. M. Thorp; Jas. H. Jennings; Henry W. Chatfield; Nathaniel Green; Harvey W. Higby; Lemuel Coleman; Ira Gregory; J. W. Thaxter; Joseph Richardson.

1857 An act to incorporate the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, May 1857. Capital stock $200,000, may be increased to $300,000.

1869 Springfield Republican, August 26, 1869, Page 4
The Bridgeport water company, which has once escaped popular annihilant-indignation by fair promises to furnish the city with pure water, still continues to choke the people with bugs, newts, snails, rotten wood and a slimy and horrible fluid for their beverage.

1873 New London Democrat, March 29, 1873, Page 2
P. T. Barnum says he will give $300,000 for the Bridgeport water works.

1873 An act amending the charter of the city of Bridgeport, July 2, 1873.  Authorized the city to purchase the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company.

1881 History of Fairfield County, Connecticut : with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers
Pages 128-129:  The present Bridgeport Steamboat Company is the successor of the Housatonic Transportation Company, and was incorporated in December, 1865, under the general joint-stock law, but in May, 1866, was granted a special charter. The original capital was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, but the assets of the company now amount to four hundred thousand dollars. The boats owned by the company are three, viz., the "Bridgeport," 1062 tons, the "Laura," 1098 tons, and the propeller "Vulcan," 250 tons.  Large quantities of freight are transported, and the company appears to be doing a good business, though the fare to New York is only thirty-five cents, or fifty cents for the round trip. In September, 1879, the fast sailing steamer "Rosedale," owned by A. M. C. Smith, of New York, was put upon this route as an opposition boat, and has received a good share of the public patronage.
The present officers of the Bridgeport Steamboat Company are as follows: E. F. Bishop, President; Sydney Bishop, Vice-President; William Tomlin, Secretary; S. Bishop, E. F. Bishop, S. W. Baldwin, Samuel Wilmot, J. Richardson, Directors.

1883 Bridgeport, from Engineering News 10:39 (January 27, 1883)

1886 Incorporating the Citizens Water Company of Bridgeport, March 16, 1886

1886 Springfield Republican, May 3, 1886, Page 7
P. T. Barnum, for the past four years president of the Bridgeport hydraulic company, has unloaded his entire stock in the company and Saturday resigned the presidency.  W. D. Bishop succeeds him.

1886 "The Hydraulic Company," A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City Bridgeport, Connecticut, Volume 2, Samuel Orcutt, Fairfield County Historical Society, Bridgeport, Conn

1887 The Citizens' Water Company of Bridgeport vs. the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, Supreme Court of Errors, State of Connecticut, decided February 25, 1887

1887 "The New Water Works at Bridgeport, Conn," from Engineering News 17:230 (April 9, 1887)

1887 A history of the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut, by Samuel Orcutt
Pages 312-314:  The Hydraulic Company The effort to supply water by pipes to the people of Bridgeport was made by the Rev. Elijah Waterman about the year 1818. Certain springs of pure water near the corner of Golden Hill and Hewit streets were cleared and deepened, and the water conducted through the principal streets in wooden pipes, or, rather, bored logs. The enterprise was continued at first by Lewis C. Segee, who succeeded Mr. Waterman about the year 1823, and afterwards, in May, 1S33, by Jesse Sterling, Stephen Hawley, Seth B. Jones, Ziba Northrop, Nicholas Northrop, Edwin Porter, and George Kippen, as a chartered company the first grant made for a water company by the Connecticut Legislature under the name of the Bridgeport Golden Hill Aqueduct Company, with a capital of $10,000, the water being obtained from the springs already mentioned.
In 1853 the need of a more extensive supply of water, particularly for fire purposes, being felt, the Common Council granted to Nathan Green agent of the Pequonnock Mills, in North Bridgeport and to his assigns the exclusive privilege of lading down water pipes in the public streets, on condition that they should furnish the city and the inhabitants with a full supply of pure water for domestic, mechanical, and all ordinary uses, both public and private. Upon this the Bridgeport Water Company was incorporated to Mr. Greene and others for this purpose in the year 1853, with a capital of $160,000, and during- the following year a distributing reservoir in North Bridgeport was constructed and pipes laid through the principal streets of the city, the source of supply being the water of the Pequonnock river, which was pumped into the reservoir.
The enterprise did not prove remunerative to the stockholders, and, bonds to the amount of ninety thousand dollars having been issued, the company eventually fell into the hands of the bondholders by foreclosure, and in June, 1857, a charter was granted to a new corporation composed of the bondholders. By this charter, William S. Knowlton, N. Greene, J. H. Washburn, Joseph Richardson, and others became, under the name of the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, the successors ot the Bridgeport Water Company, and the possessors of all its rights and franchises. Serious complaint having been made for a long time both as to the want of a sufficient supply and as to the quality of the water furnished, an act was passed by the General Assembly, July 2, 1873, authorizing the city to buy the works of the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, or to build new works if a purchase could not be effected upon terms satisfactory to the city. This act was duly ratified by the city, but at a city meeting called for the purpose, August 13, 1873, resolutions to purchase the hydraulic company's works for the sum of three hundred thousand dollars were lost by twenty-seven majority, the whole number of votes cast being six hundred and seventy-six. A new proposition made by the company to a committee of the Common Council, to sell the works, franchises, etc., for the sum of two hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars was rejected, November 3, 1873, by a larger majority than the former one, namely, two hundred and twenty-three out of a vote of seventeen hundred and forty-three. Eventually, Joseph Richardson, up to this time the president and leading stockholder, sold his stock to the Hon. Amos S. Treat, and a new policy was inaugurated. The sources of supply have been greatly enlarged, old and worn-out pipe has been replaced in many sections with new pipe of good quality, and mains have been laid in localities not before reached. Since August 25, 1875, the date of Mr. Treat's purchase, the sum of one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars has been expended in laying- mains, and thirty thousand dollars in building new reservoirs. The total amount of mains now in use is forty five miles, and the elevation of the distributing reservoirs above tide-water is one hundred and ten feet. The company now depends for water chiefly upon natural flow, resort to the pump being had only in dry seasons.
The present sources of supply are: Trumbull reservoir, 60 acres; Island Brook reservoir, 62 acres; Bunnell's Pond reservoir, 50 acres ; Bunnell's Upper Pond, 45 acres ; Oxstream reservoir, 15 acres ; Horse Tavern reservoir, 5 acres; Distributing reservoir, 3 acres; total 240 acres.
The officers of the company are : President, P. T. Barnum ; Secretary, C. H. Thorp; Treasurer, Amos S. Treat; Superintendent, George Richardson ; Auditor, Samuel Wilmot ; Directors, P. T. Barnum, Amos S. Treat, N. Wheeler, T. B. DeForest, J. Richardson, Samuel Wilmot, William H. Perry, Samuel W. Baldwin.

1888 The Life of P. T. Barnum: Written by Himself, Including His Golden Rules for Money-making. Brought Up to 1888, by Phineas Taylor Barnum
Page 355: The corporation known as the "Bridgeport Hydraulic Company," of which I was president, was unable, in consequence of the rapid growth of the city, to furnish that "abundant supply of pure water" which its charter required, without obtaining it from some other source than the Pequonnock River.
By acquiring the rights of Mill River, a stream of great volume and purity, and bringing it through very large pipes some eight miles into the city, Bridgeport has now a water-power whose natural force throws a stream over the tops of its highest buildings, and thus renders the use of fire engines unnecessary. This great blessing will largely enhance the growth and prosperity of our beautiful and thrifty city.

1888 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1889 "Significant Changes," Hartford Courant, June 11, 1889, Page 6.
At the annual meeting of the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company on Monday, W. D. Bishop declined a re-election as president and refused to go on the board of directors. Joseph Richardson's name disappeared from the list of directors. He still holds a large block of stock. The Bridgeport Farmer says: "Heretofore Mr. Richardson's ideas as to improvements have mainly prevailed. Opposition has recently arisen in a form so pronounced that he wished to retire," Mr. Charles Sherwood was chosen president.

1890 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1897 "Strange Heirs of Joseph Richardson," The World (New York, New York), June 13, 1897, Page 31.
Mr. Richardson made his first great stride in wealth when he built and gained a controlling interest in the water-works at Bridgeport, Conn. His son, Edward, is now superintendent of them. He afterwards became interested heavily in waterworks in many cities, and owned nearly the entire stock of tho Houston (Tex.) water-works at the time of his death.

1897 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1897 "Bridgeport's Water Supply", The Standard's History of Bridgeport, by George Curtis Waldo

1899 Commemorative Biographical Record of Fairfield County, Connecticut: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early Settled Families
Pages 808-809:  George Richardson

1917 "First Water Pipes" and "Water and Light," History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume 1, George Curtis Waldo

1921 "A Description of the Water Works of the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company," by Samuel P. Senior, Journal of the New England Water Works Association 35:309-317 (December, 1921)

1957 "100 Years' Water for Bridgeport," The Bridgeport Post, March 17, 1957, Section B, Pages 1, 5 | part 2 |

1983 Since 1857: The story of the first 125 years of Bridgeport Hydraulic Company

2007 Aquarion Company from International Directory of Company Histories on

2013 "The role of Bridgeport Hydraulic Company" by Tom Spurr, Easton Historical Society, Easton Courier (May 20, 2013)

2015 Morris A. Pierce