Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
Georgia Macon

Macon, Georgia

Macon was founded in 1828.

The first water system in Macon may have been built as early as 1842, when the council paid a bill for a "reservoir and aqueduct" that had been installed by the fire department.

Robert Collins and James B. Ayres were granted permission in 1846 to "bring water from any springs ... in suitable pipes." The system appears to have been operating by 1849 when Collins and Ells offered to supply water to a fountain which the council accepted.  Ells was Charles Atwater Ells (1807?-1867), a local merchant who took over ownership of the system.  This system was acquired by the Macon Gas Company on November 8, 1861, and the city transferred to them the right to distribute water.  Another similar contract was made on October 23, 1866 "to increase the supply of water for fire purposes."

The Macon Gas Light and Water Company was incorporated in 1876 by Joseph M. Boardman, William B. Johnston, John L. Jones, John J. Gresham, Peter Solomon and Charles A. Nutting,  The company was granted a franchise to install pipes in late 1880 and they began to install pipes in January 1881,  The system began operating in June when the young daughter of local merchant Samuel Taylor Coleman pressed a lever that started the engines.  Coleman had two daughters, Mary J. Budd (1871-1905) and Alberts Hawkins (1869-1949).

An 1881 law allowed the city of Macon to hold a vote to authorize entering into a contract with the company, which was done.  The contract was renewed for twenty years on November 21, 1891, but the company fell into receivership in 1895 which lasted until 1899, during which time administrator T. D. Tinsley had the system rebuilt with permission of the court.  The company was returned to the stockholders in 1899, and in 1911 the city purchased the water system for $699,000 and took possession on on November 1, 1911.

The Bibb County Water and Sewerage Authority was formed in 1966 to take over the water system and was later renamed the Macon-Bibb County Water and Sewage Authority. 

The name of this authority was changed to the Macon Water Authority in 1992.

Water is provided by the Macon Water Authority, which has a short history page.

1842 Georgia Telegraph, July 12, 1842, Page 3.
Council Chamber, Regular meeting, July 8, 1942. Bills passed: Chairman Fire Department $83.87 for reservoir and aqueduct.

1846 Georgia Telegraph, February 24, 1846, Page 3.
Council Chamber, February 20, 1846.  The following applications were granted:
Whereas, Robert Collins and James B. Ayres have applied for leave to bring water from any Springs on the town common, in suitable pipes under ground to the city, and as the same may be of much public utility, it is hereby ordered, their application is granted; and that they are authorized to carry said pipes under ground through any streets or alleys in the city, and to use any spring or springs on the public ground; Provided they do not interrupt their use for other ordinary purposes, and provided, also, that their supply supply any public cisterns which may be built in the city, with water, to be used in case of fire, free of charge.

1849 Georgia Telegraph, July 3, 1849, Page 3.
Council Chamber, June 29, 1849. Resolved that Collins & Ells be notified to have the water play at the Fountain, (Mulberry street) three hours in the morning, and three hours in the afternoon during each day.

1853 Georgia Telegraph, February 1, 1853, Page 3.
Council Chamber, January 28, 1853. Committee on the Fire Department. Proposals for building water cisterns.  Said Cisterns to be connected with the Water Works, supplying the city by 1 1-2 inch pipe, not exceeding.

1853 Georgia Telegraph, June 28, 1853, Page 2.
Resolved, That the mayor be authorized to have the Reservoir and pipes in front of the Washington Hall repaired, so that it may be kept filled with pure water.  Carried.

1857 "Water Works for Macon," Georgia Telegraph, July 7, 1857, Page 2.

1861 Macon Telegraph, November 12, 1861, Page 3.
Council Proceedings, November 8, 1861.
To the Hon. Mayor and Council of the City of Macon:
Gentlemen:  Your petitions humbly represent to your honorable body, that they have been solicited by some of the large consumers of water furnished by C. A Ells & Co. (who have given notice that they have abandoned the enterprise and can no longer supply them) to get their supply of water from the Gas Company's reservoirs, beg that Council will grant them the privilege to continue the supply to such consumers as they may be able to supply with pure water, and to lay their pipes through the streets of the city for that purpose, for such time and upon such conditions as may be agreed upon by your Honorable Body and the Directors of the Gas Light Company -- and your petitioners will ever pray, &c. J. M. Boardman, Pres., Macon Gas Light Company. November 1st, 1861.
The committee to whom was referred the application of J. M. Boardman, President of the Macon Gas Company, for leave to furnish customers with waer, and asking to be informed upon what conditions they could do so; beg leave to report, that they have proposed to that Company what they conceive to be an equitable arrangement whereby customers might be supplied through their main and the city pipes, that have just been purchased from C. A. Ells & Co. through which they supply the fire Cisterns.

1866 An Act to incorporate the "Macon Canal & Water Works," to authorize the Mayor and Council of the city of Macon, to subscribe to the stock of said Company, to issue the bonds of said city to pay for any subscription they may make, and to levy a tax to pay such Bonds as may be issued, and for other purposes.  March 3, 1866.

1866 "Macon Water Works -- The Election To-day," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, April 16, 1866, Page 4.

1870 "Macon Canal and Water Works," Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Georgia Journal & Messenger, June 14, 1870, Page 4.  Note there are two separate articles on this page.

1870 "Macon Canal and Water Works," Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Georgia Journal & Messenger, June 21, 1870, Page 4.

1870 "The Macon Canal and the Transmission of Water Power," Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Georgia Journal & Messenger, December 20, 1870, Page 1.

1871 "The Holly System of Water Supplies," Georgia Weekly Telegraph and Journal & Messenger, March 28, 1871, Page 4.

1876 An act to incorporate the Macon Gas Light and Water Company.  February 17, 1876.

1880 "Proposition of the Macon Gas-Light and Water Company," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal & Messenger, August 8, 1880, Page 8.

1880 "Another Proposition for Waterworks," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal & Messenger, August 17, 1880, Page 8.  Proposal by Jesse W. Starr, Jr.

1880 "Our Waterworks.  Pump, Engine, and Pipes Purchased," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal & Messenger, December 10, 1880, Page 2.

1881 "Waterworks," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal & Messenger, January 14, 1881, Page 4.  Two articles, pipe laying commenced.

1881 "Our Waterworks.  Laying the Mains -- Strike of the Georgia Darkey," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal & Messenger, January 28, 1881, Page 8.

1881 "Macon's Healthful Flow Begins.  Little Girl's Hand Starts the Giant Engines and Our Waterworks Begin to Play," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal & Messenger, June 10, 1881, Page 8.

1881 An Act to authorize the Mayor and Council of the city of Macon to submit to the qualified voters of said city the question of making a contract with the Macon Gas Light and Water Company for supplying the city of Macon with water for five years, with the power of renewal for five years; whether the debt of said city shall be increased therefor, and for other purposes.  September 14, 1881

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

1882 "Water on the Hill.  Something About the Water Works Interests Every Citizen," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal, and Messenger, March 10, 1882, Page 8.

1882 "A $50,000 Fire.  Macon Visited by a Serious Conflagration," Georgia Weekly Telegraph, Journal, and Messenger, March 17, 1882, Page 3.

1882 Macon, Engineering News, 12:373 (October 28, 1882)

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

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

1890 Memorial History of Augusta, Georgia : from Its Settlement in 1735 to the Close of the Eighteenth Century | From the close of the eighteenth century to the present time, by Charles Colcock Jones and Salem Dutcher

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

1891 An Act to amend the charter of the city of Macon and the several Acts amendatory thereof, so as to authorize the Mayor and Council of the city of Macon to construct a system of water-works in said city at a cost not to exceed the sum of $412,000.00; to issue bonds to the amount of $350,000 for the purpose of constructing said system of water-works for said city and to provide for the construction of a portion of said system of water-works from the revenues derived from the sale of water therefrom, and to authorize the said Mayor and Council to make a contract with the Macon Gas-Light and Water Company for the furnishing of water to said city with the privilege of purchasing the water-works used by said Gas-Light and Water Company in supplying said city; to provide a commission for the negotiation and sale of said bonds and for the construction and, management and control of said water-works; to grant Certain powers and rights to said commission; to repeal that portion of the Act approved December 20th, 1886, which requires the Mayor and Council of the city of Macon to expend upon the streets and public property of said city the difference between $50,000.00 paid to the bond commission and three-fifths of the ad valorem taxes collected by said Mayor and Council; to provide for an election for the purpose of procuring the assent of two-thirds of the qualified voters of the city of Macon to the issuing of said bond; to prescribe a method of registration for said election and for other purposes.  September 29, 1891.

1896 "Water Company is Held Liable.  Public Service Corporations Must Perform Their Duties," The Atlanta Constitution, November 17, 1906.

1897 "To be Reorganized Soon.  Bondholders Committee Macon Gas Light and Water Co.," The Macon Telegraph, January 15, 1897, Page 5.

1897 "Order is Passed.  Judge Speer Makes Important Ruling in Waterworks case.  Mains are to be laid.  Court directs that work necessary to protection of both parties shall be done,"  The Atlanta Constitution, June 6, 1897.

1897 Municipal Engineering, 13(6):391 (December, 1897)
Macon, Ga. - T. D. Tinsley, receiver for the Macon Gas Light and Water company, has been granted permission to issue $100,000 in certificates of improvements to the water works.  A new pumping station will be built.

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

1908 Macon Gas Light and Water Company v. Freeman, Administrator, 4 Ga. App. 463, July 8, 1908, Court of Appeals of the State of Georgia.

1911 "Big Bond Issue Voted By Macon.  City Will Pay $699,000 for Water Plant," The Atlanta Constitution, March 19, 1911, Page 5.

1915 Underground waters of the coastal plain of Georgia, by Lloyd William Stephenson and Jethro Otto Veatch.  USGS Water Supply Paper 341 
Page 148: The city of Macon is provided with a water-supply system.  The plant is owned by the Macon Gas, Light & Water co. and the source of supply is Ocmulgee River.  The pumps which lift the water to the standpipe have a daily capacity of 10,000,000 gallons.  The capacity of the standpipe is 3,000,000 gallons.

1918 "The Developing and Financing of Macon's Water System," The American City, 19(3):200-202 (September 1918)

1923 "Macon's Water System, Chronologically" by Osgood Clark, City Clerk, The Macon Magazine, (December, 1923). 

1966 An Act to create the Bibb County Water and Sewerage Authority.  March 2, 1966. See 1992 act for amendments to this act.

1983 Eugene W. Stetson, by Adrienne Moore Bond
Page 49:  In 1910, the City of Macon had a problem securing an adequate water supply for its growing population.  At that time water and gas were provided to the city under a contract with the Macon Gas Light and Water Company.  Realizing that the contract was due to expire in 1912, Major John T. Moore appointed a committee composed of W. T. Anderson, Eli Elkan, William H. Fetner, Oscar E. Dooly, Charles A. Caldwell, and Eugene W. Stetson to investigate ways in which service could be improved.  The result was a decision to transfer ownership of the waterworks to the city, and this was effected on 30 September 1911.

1984 Kith and Kin: A Portrait of a Southern Family (1630-1934), by Carolyn Lawton Harrell
Page 190:  During the year 1850, the municipal government liquidated a sizable debt without embarrassment.  The city placed in operation the first section of a public water works.

1992 Macon Water Authority Act. March 23, 1992.

1996 An act to amend an Act known as the "Macon Water Authority Act" approved March 2, 1966.  March 25, 1996.

1996 History of Macon: The First One Hundred Years, 1823-1923  | 2007 Reprint | This was originally written around 1929 and published in the The Macon News in 1929.  
Page 45:  1850 Macon's first waterworks were put in operation by C. A. Ells, the source of the water being a huge cistern at the foot of the hill fronting Wesleyan College.  The water was used by Mr. Ells and the hotels of Macon, the entire expense of operation being borne by Mr. Ells.
Page 46:  1852 Plans were also proposed for the supply of water for extinguishing fires, the system of employing wells and cisterns for this purpose having proved inadequate, as witnessed by the number of destructive fires during the past two years.
Pages 77-80: Macon's Water System

Some records of the Macon Gas Light and Water Company are held by the Georgia Historical Society.

2015 Morris A. Pierce