Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
South Atlantic States
Florida Pensacola

Pensacola, Florida

Pensacola was first settled in 1698.

The Pensacola Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance to establish an aqueduct company in August, 1828, but it is not known if the mayor signed it.  Another attempt was made to establish a water works system in 1838, but no further information has been been about these attempts.  The Hydrant Water Company of Pensacola was incorporated in 1861 by Wm. H. Judah, Wm. H. Baker, C.L. LeBarron, Chas. Gingles, R.L. Campbell, John Pinney,  and James Abercrombie Jr.  No evidence has been found that this company built a system.

The City of Pensacola granted a 50-year franchise to S. R. Bullock & Co. on November 11, 1885.  Bullock then sold the franchise to the Pensacola Water Company, which was incorporated in December 16, 1885, which in turn contracted with Bullock to build the system pumping water into a standpipe, which was completed in June 1886.  Bullock developed more than twenty water systems in the United States between 1885 and 1888, but a recession and his shaky financial picture essentially ruined his business at the end of 1888. 

Mayor Charles Henry Bliss was elected in 1905 and fought against the water company, which was purchased by the city after he died while in office.

Water is provided by the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, which was created in 1981 by an Act of the Florida Legislature to own, manage, finance, promote, improve and expand the water and wastewater systems of Escambia County and the City of Pensacola.

1828 Pensacola Gazette, August 18, 1828, Page 3.
Water Works.--We understand that the Board of Aldermen, on Saturday last passed "an Ordinance to establish an Aqueduct Company" in this City; but that it has not yet been signed by the Mayor.  We are not acquainted with the features of this bill, but there can be no doubt that a Company incorporated for the purpose of supplying our Citizens with Water at their own doors, would be a great public utility, and highly acceptable to every inhabitant of Pensacola. We know of no object which would be more deservedly popular, and trust that it will become a Law.  We will notice this subject further in our next, and should the Ordinance be approved, and we favored with a copy, it will be laid before our readers.

1838 Pensacola Gazette, September 15, 1838, Page 2.
Public Improvement--It is with much pleasure we learn that the construction of an aqueduct is in serious contemplation by the citizens of Pensacola.  The numerous advantages to be derived from an undertaking of this kind must be very apparently to everyone; among the great benefits may be mentioned first, that of Health! ...
Besides the arguments already offered there are many others of minor importance which also go far to provide of expediency of said improvement for instance: convenience--saving of time and labor, greater facilities for washing and scouring--and the avoidance of the present barbarous mode of rolling barrles, by the by, a great nuisance to the traveling public.

1858 Letters from Pensacola, Descriptive and Historical, 1858, by Albert James Pickett [Published 1985]
Page 27:  The mode of conveying the water to the houses is a primative one - practiced in South America, and in other tropical countries.  Every family has a barrel strongly bound with iron hoops, with an iron spike in either end, and around these spikes are iron rings attached to chains. The negro puts himself in front of the barrel, with the chains around him, and drags the rolling barrel after him. When he gets to the spring, he knocks out the bung, fills up his barrel, and again places himself in the chain harness, and pulls the barrel after him. In this manner, all the water is conveyed which is required to supply the people of the town, without the aid of aqueducts or artesian wells.

1861 Journal of the Proceedings of the Senate of the General Assembly of the State of Florida at the Tenth Session
Page 83: Monday, January 14th, 1861.
Mr. Abercrombie gave notice that he would at some future time introduce the following bills:  A bill to be entitled an Act to Charter the Water Works Company of Pensacola

1861 An act to incorporate the Hydrant Water Company of Pensacola. February 8, 1861.

1886 Detroit Free Press, June 28, 1886, Page 1.
Pensacola's Water Works.  Pensacola, June 27.--An official test of the new water works by the city resulted satisfactorily amid general rejoicing.  The system affords fire protection to every part of the city.

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

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

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

1894 Harrisburg Daily Independent, April 17, 1894, Page 2.
Boat Capsizes, one drowned.  Pensacola, Fla., April 17.--George W. Southgate, superintendent of the Pensacola Water Works, was drowned while returning with five others from a fish dinner across the bay.  When about six miles from the mainland on their return their boat was capsized and all thrown into the water.  The party managed to hold on to the wreck until daybreak, when Mr. Southgate became exhausted and sank.  The others were rescued.

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

1905 The Pensacola Journal, January 11, 1905, Page 3.
The Search Commences. Chas A. Choate appointed to hunt for the water company franchise.  The hunt for the original franchise granted the Pensacola Water Company will commence this morning, when Chas. A. Choate will take the half dozen or more trunks filled with city ordinances and papers to one of the rooms in the fire headquarters building on Garden street and commence the hunt.
If the franchise it found it will prove whether or not the records of the city, contained in the minutes of the meeting, have been falsified.

1906 The Pensacola Journal, March 15, 1906, Page 3.
Resolution to buy Waterworks Vetoed. [Article includes summary of 1885 franchise provisions.]

1906 The Pensacola Journal, June 2, 1906, Page 3.
Mayor States Company Must Furnish Pressure.  Authority of Chief Executive to Issue Orders to Water Company Sustained.

1906 Fire and Water Engineering 40(4):415 (July 18, 1906)
Mayor Warns Pensacola Water Company
Mayor Bliss, of Pensacola, Fla., in a recent communication to the Pensacola Water company, complains that the plant is not properly equipped to cut off the water supply in case more pressure is needed from the standpipe and tank. The mayor points out that the company's charter requires it to be provided with an automatic hydraulic valve to cut off the supply of water to the standpipe. permitting the pumps to work direct into the pipe system, by which the pressure in the pipes may be raised to a greater degree than that afforded by the standpipe, when full. That provision has not been complied with, and the mayor orders the company to install without delay the proper means of cutting off the water from the standpipe and, also, the water tank, so that it may be able to furnish the city with direct pressure whenever fire shall occur. The company in answer states that for twenty years its gravity system has furnished the city with due fire protection entirely from the standpipe pressure. It does not deem it wise or necessary to shut off the standpipe and give direct pressure for fires, inasmuch as a "sudden shut-off of the fire streams under direct pressure will cause a water-hammer, which is liable to burst the plumbing fixtures all over the city and would probably cause damage to the extent of thousands of dollars before the water could be shut off." The company has referred the mayor's letter to the council to decide as to whether it shall be complied with. The company's manifesto concludes as follows: "If the water consumers do not want to take the chances of damage by water, they can advise with the city council before they decide."

1906 The Pensacola Journal, October 13, 1906, Page 3.
Water Company Replies to Mayor.  Denies that it is liable to penalty and says pressure is sufficient.

1908 Municipal Journal and Engineer 25(5):149 (July 29, 1908)
City Acquires Water Plant
Pensacola, Fla.--On the first of July the plant and property of the Pensacola Water Company passed into the possession of the city of Pensacola, thus making the first municipal ownership of utilities in this city, and the second city in the State of Florida to take over plants of this nature.  The city decided three years ago to take over the plant when it voted $250,000 for the purpose, but delays in negotiations and in the sale of the bonds have put off the transfer of the property.  A reduction will be made in about six months, when the city will be in a position to figure more exactly what the service costs.

1908 "Report on Condition and Valuation of Pensacola's Water Works System," in The Pensacola Journal., September 26, 1908, Page 2.  This provides a very thorough description of the system.

2016 Morris A. Pierce