Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Norwich, Connecticut

Norwich was founded in 1658.   

The Chelsea Aqueduct Company was formed in 1800 by Joseph Howland, Levi Huntington, Benjamin Coit, Dwight Ripley, Newcomb Kinney, Sylvester Bill, and Joseph Perkins, inhabitants of the Society of Chelsea in Norwich, New London County.  They submitted a petition for incorporation, which was granted in May 1800.

Norwich Courier, June 25, 1806 Norwich Courier, March 6, 1811 Norwich Courier, July 2, 1817

The Norwich Plain Aqueduct Company of Norwich was chartered in October 1808 by Thomas Leffingwell, John Hyde, Joseph H. Strong, Uriah Tracy, Nathaniel Shipman, John Fanning, Thomas Fanning, Ebenezer Carew, Joshua Huntington, David Nevins, Hezekiah Perkins and Calvin Goddard "for the purpose of conducting water to the plain between Norwich town, and Chelsea landing, and thence if they shall think fit, to said Chelsea landing, in subterraneous pipes."

Thomas Sutton opened a lead pipe factory in Norwich in 1823.  (Norwich Courier, September 24, 1823, page 3)

The Bean Hill Aqueduct Company of Norwich was chartered in May 1832 by Eber Backus, Stephen Tracy, Erastus Huntington, Abial B. Sherman, and Erastus Wentworth, "for the purpose of conducting water into the town street in said Norwich."

The Norwich Cold Spring Aqueduct Company was chartered in May 1832 by "William P. Eaton, Thomas Robinson, and all such persons, as are, or from time to time, may be associated with them, for the purpose of conducting water into the city of Norwich by means of subterraneous pipes,"

In May 1834 the charter of the Chelsea Aqueduct Company was repealed and the name of the Norwich Cold Spring Aqueduct Company was changed to the Norwich Aqueduct Company, and also granted "all the powers and privileges heretofore granted to the Chelsea aqueduct company."

The East Chelsea Aqueduct Company was incorporated in 1845 by Daniel B. Miner, Elery Burdick and Gordon Chapman "for the purpose of supplying water to persons residing in the city of' Norwich."  This company built a system and was still operating in 1912.

In 1857 the deaths of a number of residents on Church and Washington streets were laid to lead poisoning from the pipes of Kennedy's (or Kenney's) Aqueduct, which was probably owned by Jacob Witter Kinney at that time.

In April 1858 James Bottom petitioned the Norwich Common Council for "liberty to lay aqueduct pipes through Ferry Street" and Pierce & Robinson petitioned for the same purpose "through the streets generally."  (Norwich Aurora, April 17, 1858, 3)  Both were approved on May 3, 1858. (Norwich Aurora, May 15, 1858, 3)  Pierce & Robertson were Coppersmiths & Brass Founders in Norwich (Norwich Courier, June 6, 1855, 3)

The Laurel Hill Aqueduct Company was chartered on July 24, 1865 by  Henry Bill, Sidney Turner, John L.Denison, Joseph Selden and S. T. Holbrook  On the 14th of June, 1881, during a severe thunder storm, the pipes of the Laurel Hill Aqueduct Company were struck by lightning, and so injured that Mr. Bill, the owner, gave us notice on the 20th inst. that he should abandon the pipes, and, in behalf of the residents of Laurel Hill, asked that the City mains might be extended as soon as possible through Laurel Hill Avenue. Immediately after this notice was received a small pipe was laid on the surface of the street, and every house was at once connected and supplied. Under your instructions I proceeded, as rapidly as possible, and soon had all of the water-takers from the old pipes connected with our mains. A very large amount of the trenching, both for mains and services of this extension, was through ledge. With but two exceptions every house on Laurel Hill is now supplied with City water, other than those located on Talman Street, where no pipe has been laid. (Annual Report, Volume 9, 1882, page 3)

The 1909 history referenced below shows twelve private water companies operating in Norwich along with their annual revenues, but doesn't provide a reference date for the information.  Information for the twelve companies is shown here:

Laurel Hill Aqueduct Co. $300
Norwich Aqueduct Co. $3,000
W. W. Coit reservoir $1,800
Norwich Plain Aqueduct Co. $3,500
Alba F. Smith $50
Wm. A Buckingham $50
James Botton $150
Dr. E. C. Kinney $400
Dr. Chas. Osgood $175
Capt. Edw. Roath $250
D. B. Miner $300
Geo Bottom & Co., West Side $250
Total $10,225

Citizens of Norwich petitioned the Mayor and Court of Common Council to provide an adequate supply of pure water, and at a special city meeting held in Treadway's Hall, May 7, 1866, the mayor and court of common council were instructed to petition the legislature for permission to issue bonds not to exceed $100,000 for the purpose.  This was done and "An act to provide for a supply of pure and wholesome water in the city of Norwich" was enacted on June 30, 1866.  The construction of the works is described in some details in the 1909 history cited below, and "Early in the morning of of May 12th, 1870, people from the surrounding country poured into the city for the celebration of the completion and ultimate success of the water works."  The pipes were cement-lined wrought-iron pipes made by the American Water and Gas Pipe Company of Jersey City.

Water service in the City of Norwich is currently provided by City of Norwich Public Utilities.

1800 Petition for a charter for the Chelsea Aqueduct Company.  May 5, 1800.

1800 Resolve incorporating the Chelsea Aqueduct Company.  May, 1800.

1832 Resolve incorporating the Bean Hill Aqueduct Company of Norwich.  May, 1832.

1832 Resolve incorporating the Norwich Cold Spring Aqueduct Company.  May, 1832.

1845 An act incorporating the East Chelsea Aqueduct Company.  May, 1845

1858 Sacramento Daily Union, January 6, 1858, Page 3.
A Poison Aqueduct at Norwich, Conn. Several persons have recently died at Norwich, Conn., it was feared from lead poison taken into the system with the water supplied from Kennedy's Aqueduct. The Norwich Courier says the worst fears are confirmed. A quantity of this water was lately sent to Dr. James R. Chilton, chemist, New York, for analysis. he states that it contains lead in solution, in the proportion, as near as he can estimate, of four grains of lead to one gallon of water. The water thus tested was drawn from the supply pipe which has supplied for years the family of Deacon Charles Lee. and there is no reason to suppose that it was any more strongly impregnated than that used by every other family supplied from the same aqueduct. The Courier says: The aqueduct which has thus been doing its work of death, has been operating for many years: probably not less than twenty-five; and how many, young and old, have gone, within that period, to premature graves, no one can tell. But busy memory, in the minds of those most familiar with the history of families residing on Church and Washington streets, recalls cases alter cases of death, the symptoms of which point to the poisoned water of this aqueduct as the cause. Among the living, too, the instances are, alas! but too numerous and sorrowful, of weary, wasting disease, depriving of present enjoyment, and clouding future prospect.:. Estimating the quantity of lead poison in each gallon of water at four grains; and the average quantity of water taken into the system of an adult, daily, at only two quarts (and this we suppose to be an under rather than an over estimate), gives 730 grains of poison a year; an amount sufficient, we may readily believe, to work out the most deadly results, unless counteracted or neutralized by other agencies in nature or art.

1866 An act to provide for a supply of pure and wholesome water in the city of Norwich. June 30, 1866.

1870 Report of the Board of Water Commissioners to the Hon. Court of Common Council, on the Inauguration, Construction, and Completion of the Water Works, together with the First Annual Statement of Their Doings. by City of Norwich Water Works. Volumes 1 to 7 of the Annual Reports are bound in this reference.  Volumes 8 to 26.

1873 Prof. Silliman's Report on Norwich Water: Report on the Physical and Chemical Condition of the Water Supplied to the City on Norwich, Ct., from Fair-View Reservoir by Benjamin Silliman

1874 Norwich City Water Works from History of Norwich, Connecticut: From Its Possession by the Indians to the Year 1866 by Francis M. Caulkins

1881 Norwich Water Works from Engineering News 8:304 (July 30, 1881)

1882 Norwich, from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

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

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

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

1894 Norwich Water Works by C. E. Chandler, from Proceedings of the Connecticut Civil Engineers and Surveyors Association

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

1909 Norwich Water Works and Water Works Celebration from The Norwich Board of Trade Quarterly Volume 3, Number 1, July 1909

The Norwich Aqueduct Collection at the Connecticut Historical Society Museum and Library contains records from this early company.


2015 Morris A. Pierce