Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
Georgia Columbus

Columbus, Georgia

Columbus was founded in 1828.

The Columbus Canal and Water Company was incorporated in 1836 by John W. Campbell, Joseph Sturges, James S. Calhoun, Alfred Iverson, Charles L. Bass, John J. Borwell, Benjamin Fort, Isaac Mitchell, H. S. Smith and Edward Cary "for the supply of pure good water" and other purposes.   This company may have made a proposition to bring water into the city in 1838, but no evidence has been found that they built anything.

The Mayor and Aldermen contracted with Col John H. Watson on April 10, 1844, allowing him to bring water into the city for a term of forty years.  He built a system that brought water from Leonard's Springs to Broad street through three miles of pine logs with 3¼ inch caliber bore, with lateral smaller pipes running on other streets.  The system was in poor repair by 1853 and was offered to the city.  They conducted a study and proposed buying and improving the system, but a vote in 1860 decided against the project.

The Hydrant Water Company was incorporated in 1856 by Alfred Iverson. 

The city contracted with Willliam Footner Serrell for water works in 1858, and he traveled north to secure the necessary machinery and was prepared to start work in late 1859.  He appears to have failed to secure adequate stock subscriptions, however, and in July, 1860 local voters declined to invest $150,000 in the company.  No further information on this system has been found and Serrell died in 1863.

The city of Columbus contracted with Thomas R. White of Philadelphia on October 7, 1881 to build and operate a water works system.  The contract awarded a thirty-year franchise, or until such me as the city purchased the plant.  The city agreed to pay $80 annually for each of fifty fire hydrants, with future hydrants costing $75 each.  The city would be provided free water in lieu of paying taxes.

The Columbus Water Works Company was incorporated in 1881 by Thomas R.White, Frank B. Lefferts and B. H. Hudson "for the purpose of organizing, constructing, and operating an effective system of Water Works to supply the city and citizens of Columbus with water for domestic, manufacturing and sanitary purposes, and for the better protection of the city from the ravages of fire."  They built a gravity system that was completed in October, 1881.  Service from the system deteriorated over time and the city made numerous attempts to repudiate the contract or buy the works.  The city finally prevailed in a long legal struggle when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their case in 1910, allowing the city to build water works without purchasing the existing system. 

City voters approved, on October 18, 1913, issuing $450,000 in bonds to build their own water system, and the city purchased the portion of the Columbus Water Supply Company that was within the city limits in 1914 for $325,000.

Water is provided by the Columbus Water Works, which has a history page

1836 To incorporate the Flat Shoal Creek Manufacturing Company, in the county of Harris, and to incorporate the Columbus Canal and Water Company, in the city of Columbus.  December 24, 1836.
Sec. 8. And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That said company may have authority to contract with the owners of lots in said town, for the supply of pure good water, to be supplied by said company, on their premises, and the contract, so made, shall be permanent, and a charge upon said lots, whenever the same shall be occupied, collectable quarterly, before any Court having jurisdiction thereof, and binding upon all, holding under said contractors, until the same be rescinded.

1855 An Act to incorporate the Hydrant Water Company of Columbus.  February 14, 1856.

1858 "Columbus Water Works," Columbus Tri-Weekly Enquirer, September 11, 1858, Page 3.

1858 "The Council Last Night," Columbus Daily Enquirer, December 16, 1858, Page 3.  Council approved water works contract with William F. Serrell.

1859 Columbus Daily Enquirer, November 19, 1859, Page 3.
We are pleased to announce the arrival from the North, where he has been engaged for several months in getting up the machinery, &c., for the Water Works in our city, of W. F. Serrell, Esq. He informs us that all arrangements have been completed, and that the contracting parties will be on in a few weeks to commence work of construction.  He feels sanguine that the work will be completed in the course of next year.  This will be welcome news to many of our citizens, who have long felt the want of an abundant supply of water in our city.

1860 "Columbus Water Works," Columbus Daily Enquirer, January 23, 1860, Page 3.

1860 "Important Votes," Columbus Daily Enquirer, May 31, 1860, Page 3.  Vote for city to subscribe to $150,000 in water company stock, paper opposed.

1860 "The Vote on Saturday," Columbus Daily Enquirer, July 9, 1860, Page 3.  Voted against investing in water works.

1871 Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Journal & Messenger, May 23, 1871, Page 2.
The agents of the Holly Water Works system now in Columbus, offer to put up water works for that city for $104,000, but the Sun says the bid is much too high.

1873 Telegraph and Messenger, July 11, 1873, Page 1.
General Bragg is in Columbus in the interests of a company that has made propositions to the City Council for building water works for that city.

1873 The Atlanta Constitution, July 12, 1873, Page 1.
Columbus.  The presence of General Bragg in the city has added a great impetus to the water-works question.  General Bragg is interested in the manufacture of the Wyckoff wooden pipe and wants the city to use it.

1873 "Wooden Pipes for Water Works," The Atlanta Constitution, July 12, 1873, Page 2.
General Bragg is in Columbus in the interest of the Wyckoff wooden pipe for water works.  He wants to establish a Southern agency for the manufacture of the wooden pipe.  The Columbus Enquirer learns from General Bragg that there are manufactories of this paper North, at Elmira, New York, and near Detroit, Michigan, and they can't supply the demand.  The capital invested is $250,000, which pays 20 per cent. dividend.  The pipe is 40 per cent. cheaper than iron and claimed to be equally durable.  It is superceding the iron pipe.  It don't corrode any or leak much.  New Orleans has twenty-five miles of the wooden pipe.  In Hartford specimens of the pipe imbedded forty years ago are perfectly sound.
If Columbus will adopt his water works plan General Bragg proposed to build a pipe manufactory there.

1874 Columbus, Geo., from Its Selection as a "trading Town" in 1827, to Its Partial Destruction by Wilson's Raid, in 1865, Compiled by John H. Martin
Page 92:  1838  A proposition to water the city by bringing it in pipes from streams in the locality was submitted to the Council this year.
Page 140: 1840 The Committee on City Improvements reported that they had not the means of ascertaining the practicability of introducing water into the City, and the finances of the City would not then allow it, though desirable. Adopted.
Pages: 147-148:  1844 On the 10th day of April a contract between the Mayor and Aldermen on the one part, and- Col. John H. Watson on the other part, was signed, by which Col. Watson was authorized to bring water into the city by means of aqueducts — the privilege to continue for forty years, but not to the prevention of similar works by the city authorities or other persons. No money consideration is expressed in the agreement, but it is plain that Col. Watson was to find reimbursement in tolls for water supplied to the citizens.
Page 49: 1851 On the 26th of July a committee of Council reported upon the practicability of supplying the city with a sufficiency of pure and wholesome water. They reported that they had, "for reasons deemed sufficient," abandoned all the plans proposed except one, which was the introduction. of water from neighboring springs by pipes. They submitted a report from Engineer L. W. Dubois, to the effect that water enough, and of good quality, could be obtained from springs on the Summerville heights, on the Alabama side. But the committee did not recommend this, for the reason that the sources of the supply were in "another jurisdiction." Council appointed a committee to ascertain whether and on what terms the water on the Alabama side could be had for the use of the city.
In October the committee reported other surveys and estimates made by Mr. Dubois — one for bringing the water of the river from Lover's Leap, the other for bringing it from Wynn's Hill, The cost of bringing the water to the city from Lover's Leap was estimated at $28,282.06, from "Wynn's Hill S32,668.75; works at the city for the former $25,842 92, for the latter $30,937.35.
Pages 63-65: 1853 Water Works Proposal
Pages 118-119:  1860 There were several projects of improvement in whose behalf aid from the city was this year asked.  There were the Opelika aud Talledega, the Opelika and Oxford, and the LaCouncil Grange Railroads, further aid to the Mobile and Girard Railroad, so as to extend it to Union Springs ; and a system of Water Works for the city.  .Council adopted an ordinance submitting to a vote of the people, on the first Saturday in July, the question of subscribing not exceeding $150,000 for the introduction of water into the city, and $100,000 to the Opelika and Talladega Railroad (now known as the Savannah and Memphis.) The vote was taken on each proposition separately. The subscription to the Railroad was approved by a vote of 206 to 27. The vote on the Water Works question stood—yeas 38, nays 187. The proposition thus defeated was to bring water into the city from the river above, by means of an aqueduct.

1881 Contract between Thomas R. White, of the City of Philadelphia and the mayor and council of Columbus, for the construction and operation of an effective system of water works.  October 7, 1881.

1881 "Petition for the Incorporation of the Columbus Water Works Company," Columbus Daily Enquirer, November 8, 1881, Page 2.

1881 Columbus Daily Enquirer, November 26, 1881, Page 4.
Muscogee Superior Court.  November Term - Judge J. T. Willis, Presiding.  In re, Thos. R. White, et al; order incorporating the Columbus Water Works Company.

1884 Columbus, Engineering News, 11:290 (June 7, 1884)

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

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

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

1893 The Engineering Record, 29(1):14 December 2, 1893.
Columbus, Ga.- The committee appointed to investigate the necessities of the city with regard to the supply, recommends the ownership by the city of its own works.  Engineer B. H. Hall, of Atlanta, was employed to make surveys and estimates, assisted by City Engineer, B. H. Hudson.  The present supply is derived from a private corporation.

1894 The Engineering Record, 31(4):69 December 22, 1894.
Columbus, Ga.- The recent election on the question of a bond issue for new water-works failed of the necessary majority of two-thirds.  B. H. Hudson, City Engineer, informs us that the city will make a new contract with the Columbus Water-Works Company for the next year.

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

1902 An act to amend the charter of the city of Columbus, in Muscogee county, and the several acts amendatory thereof, so as to confer power and authority upon said city to construct, maintain, own and operate a system of water-works, together with the necessary sites, ways, structures, canals, reservoirs for conveying and containing water, and the laying of pipes, conduits and mains into and through said city, and the use of any stream or streams of water which may be deemed necessary and appropriate for that purpose, and to cross or lay along any street or highways such pipes and mains, and appropriate and occupy the same, or any part thereof; to condemn and appropriate private property upon which to locate its works and to lay its pipes and mains, and to acquire and own property, real and personal, for same, both within the corporate limits of said city or anywhere else, and to have the power and authority generally to do and perform all things necessary to carry into effect the objects and purposes of this Act; and to provide for the selection and establishment of a commission to be known as the "board of water commissioners," to whom shall be delegated the supervision and control of the construction, management and operation of said water-works system, and to define the powers, authority and duties of said commission, and for other purposes.  December 3, 1902.

1904 Information to water takers of Columbus Water Works Company, Columbus, Georgia, April 1st, 1904.

1904 "Recommendations in Columbus, Ga., Water Works Case," Municipal Engineering, 27(5):384 (November 1904)

1910 City of Columbus v. Mercantile Trust & Deposit Company of Baltimore, Trustee, and the Columbus Water Works Company and W. S. Greene, as Receiver thereof, 218 U. S. 645, December 12, 1910.

1929 A History of Columbus, Georgia 1828-1928, by Nancy Telfair [Louise Jones DuBose].
Page 64: The first contract for the water works was concluded between the city and Col. John H. Watson on April 10, 1844. Colonel Watson to receive toll from the citizens.
Pages 80-81:  A committee of council in 1851 reported that the most feasible plan was to run water from springs on Summerville Heights across the river, and by the use of an extensive piping system to conduct it to private establishments.
The following year there was talk of boring an artesian well.
The "Times" of November 9th says:
"We do not know a community that is so poorly supplied with this necessity for health, comfort and cleanliness (water) as Columbus. There are many families in the city who have no regular and certain source from which to derive their daily supply of this precious element, and whose servants are actually obliged, at every turn of the water-bucket, to go forth on a foraging expedition in search of it. The water works are as good as used up. No attention is paid to the pipes furnishing the supply, and it is
only occasionally that some half a dozen hydrants in very low localities, run. Those in more elevated positions are as dry as the miraculous rock before Moses touched it with his rod."
A poor system of wooden pipes and hydrants furnished private parties willing to pay for the water that came from "Leonard's Spring" located about three miles east of the city.
The next year Judge Iverson proposed to sell this system to the city.  It was favored by the council at first but was later tabled. Meanwhile such citizens as could, continued to use the water.
Pages 257-268: Chapter XVII The Water Works Becomes a City Property

[1936] The Columbus Water Works, by Albert Jacob Smalshaf, Assistant Superintendent, from Digital Library of Georgia

1942 Journal of the American Water Works Association 34(5):12 (May 1942)
Albert Jacob Smalshaf , retired Superintendent of the Columbus, Ga., Water Works, died in that city on April 1, at the age of 51.
Mr. Smalshaf was born in Pottstown, Pa. He was graduated from Mercersburg Academy, Mercersburg, Pa., in 1910, and from Princeton University in 1914. He was a Lieutenant in the U.S. Public Health Service in the first World War, acting as a civil and sanitary engineer. He was sent by the Government to work with the Columbus Water Works during the war and in March 1919 was offered the position of Assistant Superintendent. He was later made Superintendent, a position which he resigned in September 1940, due to ill health. Mr. Smalshaf had been an Active Member of the A.W.W.A. since 1916.

2002 A river runs through it : a 100-year history of the Columbus water works, by Mandy Ochoa Williams, Billy Turner, Bob Tant, Jim Patterson, and Beth Bickerstaff;

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce