Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
New England States Connecticut Durham

Durham, Connecticut

Durham was first settled in 1699.   

The Aqueduct Company in the Town of Durham was organized on 19 residents on February 22, 1798.  The organizers petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly on October 20, 1798 for incorporation, which was granted the same month.  This company apparently lasted about ten years.

The Durham Aqueduct Company was incorporated in May 1831 by Daniel Bates, Guernsey Bates, Dennis Camp, John Swathel and Timothy W. Baldwin.  An 1869 charter amendment lists all of the stockholders at that time.  This company installed a water system using lead pipes and remained in operation until it was dissolved on Mach 12, 1984.

The Durham Center Water Company organized by 10 residents and incorporated on December 24, 1894. This company had about 80 water customers in the 1980s when it was sold to Aqua Treatment, which later became AquaSource and the parent of the Eastern Connecticut Regional Water Company.  AquaSource was purchased by Birmingham Utilities in 2003.

The Town of Durham bought the local water system from the Eastern Connecticut Regional Water Company in June 2012.

1798 Petition of Aqueduct Company in the Town of Durham, October 20, 1798

1798 Resolve to incorporate an Aqueduct company in the Town of Durham, October, 1798

1831 Resolve incorporating Durham Aqueduct Company, May, 1831

1866 History of Durham, Connecticut: From the First Grant of Land in 1662 to 1866 by William Chauncey Fowler
In the year 1798, February 22d, the Aqueduct Company was formed, consisting of nineteen members, who subscribed $460.  Benjamin Picket was appointed president, Elnathan Camp, secretary, Guernsey Bates, treasurer. A judicious constitution was formed. In October 1798 the Company was incorporated by an act of the Legislature. The water was brought in logs from a spring of pure soft water north of the limits of Durham, in the Town of Middletown, The last meeting of the Company was on April 20, 1810. The last officers of the Company were, Capt. John Johnson, president, Dennis Camp, clerk, Col. Seth Seward, treasurer.
In the year 1830, on the 10th of September, a new Company was formed, consisting of twenty members. In May 1831 the Company was incorporated. Manoah Camp was chosen president ; John J. Walkley, treasurer ; Phinehas Parmelee, secretary. The water is brought from the same spring, denominated Cold Spring, in lead pipes, along Wood Street, and is a great convenience. The present officers are, Parsons Coe, president ; W. A. Parmelee, secretary and treasurer ; Parsons Coe, H. W. Fowler, J. N. Deming, directors.

1869 Amending the charter of the Durham aqueduct company, July 8, 1869

1887 Amending the charter of the Durham aqueduct company, February 25, 1887

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

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

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

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

1996 Hartford Courant, November 11, 1996
About the time George Washington was riding his horse along the Washington Trail in town, residents discovered the soft water that bubbled up from a place called Cold Spring along the town border with Middletown.
In 1798, the Durham Aqueduct Co. bought the land around the spring and became the first legally recognized corporation in Connecticut. The gravity- controlled system became the oldest water system in the United States, according to the 1985 book, "History of Durham, A Century of Change.''  For 30 years, wooden pipes carried 1 pint per minute to a few dozen homes. In 1828, metal pipes replaced the old ones and, by 1900, the system supplied 44 families with 300 barrels of water per day.
In 1893, though, the pipes had become seriously clogged with sediment. The solution? A cup of Drano? Call the plumber? Nope, a little Yankee ingenuity and a good-sized eel inserted tail first.  "The force of the water prevented the eel from swimming upstream,'' according to "History of Durham, A Century of Change.''
"His writhing movements and the water's propulsion sent him the full length of the pipe -- backward. When he emerged into the brook six hours later . . . he was accompanied by the accumulated silt.''
By the mid-1900s, private wells replaced the water system and the company faded out of existence in 1983.

2002 Hartford Courant, March 11, 2002
On Feb. 27, 1798, 19 residents voted to purchase water from Cold Spring, which lies in the southern part of Middletown. In October, the General Assembly approved the incorporation of the Durham Aqueduct Co. A 1934 account in the New Haven Register called it the oldest water company in the United States, the second oldest in North America, and the first legal corporation organized in Connecticut.
Between 1798 and 1830, the gravity system used wooden pipes to supply water up to 2 miles away. In 1830, users voted to install lead pipe to connect homes to the system.
At the end of the 19th century, the company supplied 44 families with water, but by the mid-20th century, demand outpaced supply, and customers began drilling private wells. The last handful of customers went off line in the early 1980s.
In 1894, 10 residents created the Durham Center Water Co. to serve homes south of Allyn's Brook with water from Fowler's Brook. A windmill pumped water from the stream to a storage tank on Strawberry Hill, where gravity took over. The company dug a second well in 1964. In 1980, the company supplied 62 customers in the Main Street area and several in Middlefield.
In the early 1980s, users sold the Durham Center Water Co. to Aqua Treatment. AquaSource is now the parent company.
A contamination problem in the Main Street area has complicated the water supply issue. To solve the problem, Durham officials have sought to connect to Middletown's public water supply, but AquaSource officials have blocked this move.
The issue may be close to resolution, however, with recent legislation that allows AquaSource to sell its water rights and assets to the towns. If the legislature approves the selling price -- $495,000 for Durham and $95,000 for Middlefield -- Durham residents will have to vote whether to spend its portion.

2015 Morris A. Pierce