Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Farmington, Connecticut

Farmington was settled in 1640.

A 1901 history of the Farmington water works by Adrian Rowe Wadsworth states that "water was conducted from an early period" to several large pre-Revolutionary War homes on the town's Main Street using yellow pine logs that had been drilled with with a two-inch bore.  A 1985 Historic Resource Inventory for 66 Main Street (c. 1768) states that the house "was one of the earliest in the village to have been supplied with running water," with water "brought down from a spring on Deming land, the spring having been about across Church Street from the present site of the old Academy building, just east of Hart Street."  A similar 1986 report for 2 Carrington Lane (now 2 Colton Street, c. 1688) also notes that the house "was one of the first in the village to have running water brought down from the eastern hill as was the custom in those days, using bored out logs for pipes."

The earliest primary reference to a water supply in Farmington is an 1802 advertisement by William Hart to sell his small farm with an "aqueduct of water at the door and barn, situate in Farmington one mile from the meeting-house."  William (1743?-1812) was part of the large local clan of Harts, who owned land and a mill south of the town center on Mill Lane.  The location of William Hart's farm is not known, and the connection between this aqueduct and others along Main Street is not certain. 

The nearby city of Hartford had a water system built in 1797 by the Proprietors of the Hartford Aqueduct.  A second company, the Gleason & Cowles Aqueduct Company, which chartered in October 1801 by Elias Cowles (1765-1837)  of Farmington and Chauncey Gleason (1763-1819) of Hartford.

Although the wood log pipeline appears to have been very extensive, Wadsworth mentions a second type of water conduits made of "red unglazed brick tile," which were often called earthen conduits.  Several firms manufactured and marketed these pipes from 1805 until about 1826 in New England.   Local suppliers included Nathaniel Seymour (1763-1849) of West Hartford, who purchased the right to make "Conduits of Clay" using Samuel Barlett's 1805 patent, and Roman Fyler in 1811 advertised pipes made using  "James Ramsey's patent machine for making Earthen Aqueduct Pipes."  Fyler recommended contacting "Seth Goodwin, of West Hartford, who has a Machine and can furnish any number of pipes on the shortest notice; or Capt. Stephen Fyler, of Torrington."  Roman Fyler proposed and may have built a distribution system for the Earthen Conduit Company of Troy, New York, but it was apparently unsuccessful as a new company was formed there in 1814  to install cast iron pipes.  Seymour's advertisement said that "this mode of conveying water has been practiced in nine different places in this State and Massachusetts, each of which has answered the expectation of the purchasers," but no information has been found about these installations.

 Connecticut Courant, February 26, 1806, Page 2. American Mercury, February 19, 1807, Page 1.

Wadsworth then mentions the use of lead pipe, specifically those made using sheets of lead rolled into pipes with a soldered seam.  He further states that local resident David Carrington (1814-1882) "claimed to have made the first of this 'Seamed Pipe' for Samuel Deming, to displace an old Log Line."  This method of making lead pipe had been known since Roman times, and Carrington's occupation is listed as "tinsmith" in census records from the 1800s, but Wadsworth further notes that when "laying it across Main Street it was actually run through the old log main."  It would have been unusual to run seamed led pipe through an existing log pipe, but it was fairly common to pull machine-made rolls of continuous lead pipe through existing logs.  Alpheus Todd of Oxford, New Hampshire received a patent for his method of making continuous lead pipes in 1814, and in 1820 Joseph Fairbank and Earl Jepherson of Enfield, Connecticut were advertising the sale of patent lead pipe for the Connecticut market.  Several other firms soon entered the business and were selling pipes in New England to a growing market, despite concerns about its poisonous effects. 

Horace Cowles advertised in January, 1829 to let a "Dwelling-House, and about two acres of land, situated on Main-street in Farmington, one fourth of a mile north of the meeting-house," that included "an aqueduct conveying water from a spring to the house and barn."   

The first lead pipes were installed around 1830, but a more ambitious network was established in 1851 when Austin Franklin Williams (1805-1885) installed a piping systems to serve his residence and others, which in January, 1877 included Wadsworth's house.  In 1881, Wadsworth's father, Winthrop M. Wadsworth, purchased riparian land on which Williams had previously purchased the water rights for his network, began divert it through a two-inch pipe to his farm, which was on non-riparian land.  William's sued the interloper, and prevailed in an 1884 decision by the Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors.  Wadsworth mentions an 1886 court case "brought in the year 1881 by a lower riparian proprietor," but neglects to mention that his father lost the case to Williams, who passed away on December 18, 1885.  His water system was passed on to his heirs, who appeared to be still operating it 1895, when it was mentioned in the charter of the Farmington Water Company.  The ultimate disposition of this system is not known, but it may have been acquired by the Farmington Water Company or simply abandoned.

A 2002 article by local physician and author Arthur Phinney revealed the existence of another water pipeline made from glass bottles whose tops and bottoms had been removed.  These were covered in cement, and is the only known example of this type of water pipeline.  It may be possible to date the bottles to determine when this pipeline may have been built.  A 2003 article by the Phinney states that this glass bottle pipeline was the first to be installed, and was followed by "red unglazed brick tiles (earthenware), then yellow pine logs, lead pipes, then "cement water pipe" and finally cast-iron.  No citations are provided for this chronology, which contradicts Wadsworth's 1901 account.

Adrian Wadsworth graduated from Yale Scientific School in 1880 and began a career as a farmer and civil engineer.  He was probably responsible for finding a new source of water for system his father had started, although he may have purchased the water rights from William's heirs.  The Wadsworth system was expanded in 1886 to serve several other customers.  In July, 1887, a four-inch cement-lined wrought-iron pipe was installed and 1891 the Manual of American Water Works reported the system being built in 1881 by Farmington Water Company, which was owned by A. R. Wadsworth.  In 1892 a new reservoir was built along with cast-iron pipe.

The Farmington Water Company was incorporated in 1895 by Adrian R. Wadsworth, Henry N. Whittlesey, Erastus Gay, Edward H. Deming, and Charles W. Lewis "for the purpose of supplying the village of Farmington and vicinity with pure water for domestic and mechanical purposes," adding that "nothing in this charter contained shall in any manner affect or impair any of the rights heretofore secured to Austin F. Williams, his heirs, successors, or legal representatives by decree of the superior court for Hartford county, in the aqueduct formerly owned by him, nor authorize the corporation hereby created to take up, or in any manner interfere with any other reservoirs, pipes, canals, or water-works already established or laid by lawful authority in said town of Farmington."

A six-inch cast-iron pipe was installed in September, 1895 and a filter plant was constructed in 1899 employing sand filtration.  The water company contracted with the local fire district to provide 23 hydrants at an annual price of $15 each.  The company began using water from the Pequabuc 1909, warning customers to boil any used for drinking.

After a long debates about municipal ownership and other options, the Farmington Water Company was acquired by the Unionville Water Company in 1985.

The Unionville Water Company was acquired by Connecticut Water Service Co., Inc. in 2002.

Water in most of Farmington is provided by Connecticut Water.

Farmington has an extensive collection of early land and other records, which might reveal when the earliest water lines were installed.

1798 "Leach's Patent Machinery, for forming Aqueducts, boring Pumps, &c., Hartford Courant, March 12, 1798, Page 4.

1802 Hartford Courant, March 22, 1802, Page 2.
For sale, A small farm of about 20 acres, a new dwelling-house and barn thereon standing, a good well, and aqueduct of water at the door and barn, situate in Farmington, one mile from the meeting-house; a good stand for a mechanic.  For terms apply to William Hart, Farmington, March 18.

1811 "James Rumsey's Patent Machine for making earthen Aqueduct Pipes," Hartford Courant, October 2, 1811, Page 3.

1820 "Lead Pipe," Hartford Courant, August 15, 1820, Page 3.

1821 "Lead Aqueducts," Hartford Courant, June 26, 1821, Page 4.  Richard Ward, of Waterbury.

1822 "Lead Pipes for Aqueducts," Hartford Courant, April 30, 1822, Page 3.  Thomas K. Brace & Co., Hartford.

1822 Richard Ward, Waterbury, Connecticut, patent for leaden pipes for aqueducts, July 5, 1822.

1823 "Patent Lead Aqueducts," Hartford Courant, September 30, 1823, Page 4.  Charles Sigourney & Co., Agents for the Manufacturers.

1826 "Lead Pipe," Hartford Courant, August 7, 1826, Page 3.
Patent lead aqueduct pipe, Manufactured by the Shaker Village, Enfield, for sale in quantities to suit pruchasers, by William H. Implay & Co.

1829 Connecticut Courant, February 24, 1829, Page 4.
To Let, A Dwelling-House, and about two acres of land, situated on Main-street in Farmington, one fourth of a mile north of the meeting-house.  On the premises are convenient out-houses, good gardens, a variety of valuable fruit trees, a well of pure water, and an aqueduct conveying water from a spring to the house and barn.  The place is well suited to accommodate a numerous family, and has been shown as a respectable boarding house for many years.  Possession will be given on the first day of April next.  Horace Cowles. January 28, 1829.

1830 Connecticut Courant, March 23, 1830, Page 1.
Aqueduct Pipes.  The subscribers are commencing the manufacture of Leaden Aqueduct Pipes at the works of Isaac & Geo. C. Kellogg, New-Hartford.

1869 Map of Farmington

1869 Map of Farmington (showing larger area)

1884 Austin F. Williams vs. Winthrop M. Wadsworth, 51 Conn. 277, June 13, 1884, Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors.

1886 "Farmington," by Noah Porter, President of Yale College, from Memorial History of Hartford County, 1633-1884, Volume 2, edited by James Hammond Trumbull.

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

1891 Winthrop M. Wadsworth biography 1812-1891 (died November 24, 1891)

1895 House Joint Resolution No. 342 Incorporating the Farmington Water Company.  March 28, 1895.

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

1900  Harry H. Wadsworth, History of the Bench and Bar of Minnesota, Volume 2, by Hiram Fairchild Stevens
Page 138:  On one suit in which he was engaged as counsel, that of Williams vs. Wadsworth, 51 Conn. 277, a leading case in New England, involving a question of land titles and riparian rights, Mr. Wadsworth spent an entire year in preparing the way for the Farmington Water Company.s reservoir system, a victory which won him fame and plaudits.

1903 Hartford Courant, April 2, 1903, Page 10.
Letter from the People.  The Town of Farmington.  Reasons in Favor of a Separation. [from Unionville]
They have two distinct water companies, sewer systems, and fire departments, and to all intents and purposes are two distinct towns already.

1909 Hartford Courant, November 16, 1909, Page 17.
Notice!  Notice is hereby given that beginning today the pumps of the Farmington Water Company will be started and the village supplied with water from the Pequabuc River. Warning!  This water should be boiled before using for drinking purposes.  The Farmington Water Company., Adrian R. Wadsworth, Sec. and Treas. Farmington, Nov 16.

1912 Adrian R. WadsworthLegislative History and Souvenir of Connecticut, 1897/98-1911/12: Portraits and Sketches of State Officers, Senators, Representatives, Clerks, Chaplains, Etc, Volume 3, by William Harrison Taylor

1901 "History of the Farmington Water Works," by Adrian Rowe Wadsworth,  The Farmington Magazine, 1(7):11-14  (May, 1901)

1906 "History of Farmington Water Works, Farmington, Connecticut, the village of beautiful homes. Reprinted 1901 article.

1921 An act amending a resolution incorporating the Farmington Water Company.  April 21, 1921.

1921 Harry Hinman Wadsworth, 1857-1915 Obituary Record of Graduates of Yale College
Page 1616:  Mr. Wadsworth spent nearly a year preparing the way and perfecting the title to the Farmington Water Company's reservoir system. 

1925 "Farmington Water Supply is Cut Off," Hartford Daily Courant, January 26, 1925, Page 2.

1926 "Wadsworth Home in Farmington Swept by Fire," Hartford Courant, July 4, 1926, Page 30.

1941 "Farmington GOP Leader Dead at 85," Hartford Courant, May 16, 1941, Page 4.  Obituary of Adrian R. Wadsworth.

1956 "Conserving Water," Hartford Courant, August 3, 1956, Page 33.

1963 "Town Council Accepts Report on Improving Water Facilities," Hartford Courant, June 20, 1963, Page 55.

1967 "Connecticut Water Law: Judicial Allocation of Water Resources" (1967). Special Reports. 3., by Robert I. Reis

1982 Farmington in Connecticut, by Christopher P. Bickford. 

1984 "Unionville Water Co. Approves Merger Plan," Hartford Courant, October 11, 1984, Page 202.

1985 Historic Resources Inventory for 66 Main Street, Farmington, built in 1768-1770.
This house was one of the earliest in the village to have been supplied with running water. A line of wooden pipe had been
brought down from a spring on Deming land, the spring having been about across Church Street from the present site of the old Academy building, just east of Hart Street. It is believed that this spring also supplied the drinking fountain, the base of which can be seen at the foot of School Street. It also supplied the horse trough at the foot of Church Street. The log pipe line was later replaced by "Seamed Lead Pipe". described by Adrian Wadsworth on page 180 of the Farmington Book, and made for Samuel Deming by David Carrington.

1986 Historic Resources Inventory for 2 Carrington Lane (a.k.a. 2 Colton Street, Farmington, built 1688-1788.
The house was one of the first in the village to have running water brought down from the eastern hill as was the custom in those days, using bored out logs for pipes.

2002 "Connecticut Water Service Inc. reaches agreement to acquire Unionville Water Co.," Water World, February 26, 2002

2002 "Early Industries along Diamond Glen Brook," by Arthur Phinney, M.D., The Farmington Historical Society News (September 2002) | Also here |
Page 4: At the site of the precipitous curve at the base of the Morehead cliff was the "water box, a deep well extending lo the brook where many townspeople filled their water jugs. An ingenious glass-lined mortar or cement re-enforced pipe ran from the water box down Diamond Glen to Hatter's Lane, finally lo the Austin Williams farm on Main Street. The glass lining was made of various bottomless bottles, presumably filling into each other, bottle neck to base. A piece of this 2-5 inch glass conduit is owned by the Farmington Historical Society. It wasn't until 1880 that Adrian Wadsworth built another dam on the Fulling Mill Brook and established the Farmington Water Company. | picture of cement- or mortar-encased glass water pipe | composite map of Diamond Glen Brook |

2003 "Austin F. Williams 1805-1885: An Enterprising and Dedicated Farmington Citizen," by Arthur Phinney, M.D., The Farmington Historical Society News (September 2003) | Also here |
Page 4: Another remarkable contribution to Farmington life was Williams' construction and ownership of the first fresh water conduit to Main Street. Ready access to water was crucial in the 18th and 19th centuries. Uncontrolled house and mill fires were common; and there was great need for clean drinking water. Probably the earliest water conduits were the ingenious 12-inch hand blown, Longneck bottles embedded in coarse mortar and fitted small end to bottom. Long neck bottles were common in the late 18th century, and after the bottoms were scribed and knocked off, the glass bottles fitted snugly end to end in the mortar sandwich. The process must have been tedious and time consuming but was the first of five ingenious attempts to supply water to the Village. The mortar-encased bottles were replaced by pipes made of red, unglazed brick tile. These were usually two-foot sections, with clay bonding at the ends. The pipes were the least reliable of the various methods, as the clay bonding fractured and leaked. A third improved type of conduit was the yellow pine log pipe line. Yellow pine had considerable resistance to splitting and could be fashioned end to end with force. These tight joints were a major advantage as the pipes could be safely modified for use over hills and into valleys. The eight-foot sections of wood were bored with two-inch holes, hewn and tapered so that the fit was snug. They lasted longer than the clay tile or the bottles. Only one interruption in water flow is recorded. In 1881, after considerable investigation, the pipe was found to be clogged by a live eel! Williams was responsible for a new "seamed lead pipe" conduit, made from soldered sheets of rolled lead. These pipes were expensive and, though not understood at the time, no doubt posed a major threat of lead poisoning. In 1853 Williams was granted permission to lay two-inch lead pipe from the "water box" of the "Gin Still Brook" (now Diamond Glen Brook) some 2000 feet to his home on Main Street. By 1860 this had become the largest and most expensive two-inch water conduit ever seen. In 1887, after Williams' death, a four-inch cement water pipe system was subsequently tried, and in 1895 a cast iron pipe was laid successfully. Charter incorporation was obtained from the General Assembly, which authorized the issuance of 800 shares worth $25 each. Hydrants were constructed in front of Miss Porter's School and the Congregational Church as insurance from fires, and the Farmington Water Company was established.

Austin F. Williams Carriagehouse and House | NPS

Historic Farmington Homes

Hart Lineage
Stephen Hart 1600-1683
Stephen Hart 1630-1689
Sergeant Thomas Hart 1666-1728
William Hart 1710-?
William Hart 1743-1812

Deming Lineage
Samuel Deming 1724-1796
John Deming 1753-1810
Samuel Deming 1798-1871

Adrian Rowe Wadsworth (Nov 25, 1855-May 15, 1941)

2017 Morris A. Pierce