Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Illinois Peoria

Peoria, Illinois

Peoria was established in 1691, incorporated as a town in 1835 and as a city in 1845.

The first water works was built by Stephen Stillman, who in March 1833 was granted the exclusive right to bring water from a spring near Jackson Street to the Public Square, for which he used bored logs.  The system did not survive long and Stillman died in 1837.  

The Peoria Water Company was incorporated in 1843 by Charles Oakley, of Tazewell county, Augustus O. Garrett, William S. Maus, Lester O. Hurlbert, and Norman H. Purple, of Peoria county "to erect and construct may construct water works for the convenience and accommodation of the public within the incorporated limits of the town of Peoria, for works and during the period of fifty years, and to conduct the same
in iron, leaden, or other aqueducts, from any springs or water within two miles of the incorporated limits of said town."  This company built a system that distributed water through lead pipes.  A 1902 history states that the "company still has an existence and probably continues to supply some of its former patrons with water."

The Peoria City Hydraulic Company was incorporated in 1857 by John Hamlin, John Anderson, N.B. Curtis, John Johnson, James Dougherty, Horace Anderson, John T. Lindsay, and Isaac Underhill "to erect and construct water works for the convenience and accommodation of the public, within the incorporated limits of the town of Peoria, for and during the period of fifty years, and to conduct the same in iron, leaden or other aqueducts, from any point of the Illinois river or Lake Peoria, within two miles of the corporate limits of said city."  This company did not build anything.

The city made several attempts to build its own water system, which included a report prepared by Octave Chanute.  These efforts finally took root in 1868.  Local committees visited water works in several other cities, and in the process learned of the new Holly system of direct pressure water supply, which was attractive as it did not require an elevated reservoir.  The city contracted with the Holly Manufacturing Company in June 1868 for machinery and pumps, and engaged other firms to build the remainder of the system, which began operation on June 22, 1869 using four Holly rotary water-power pumps and was demonstrated to the public on July 8th and 21st.  A 1.75 MGD Cameron steam pump was added shortly thereafter to supply the higher elevation bluffs region of the city.  A 2.25 MGD Dean pump for auxiliary service was added in 1875.

The Holly rotary pumps proved unsatisfactory, as they had in other systems, and the city council in 1877 replaced them with a Dean steam pump.  In 1880 two Worthington steam engines of 5 MGD each were installed.

By 1888 the water system had fallen into bad shape, although the reason for the decrepitude is not known.  A local paper reported that "The feeble streams from the hydrants would scarcely quench a burning trash heap."

The city solicited bids for works to be privately owned, with the proviso that the new owner pay off the existing $400,000 in water bonds.  Moffett, Hodgkins & Clarke was the successful bidder, took over the system in October 1889 and built new works that began service on December 1, 1890. The new works has three Worthington pumping engines of 7.5 MGD each and two standpipes.  One on the "East Bluff" is 30 feet in diameter and 85 feet high, while the other on the "West Bluff" is 25 feet in diameter and 120 feet high.  The standpipes were built by the Porter Manufacturing Company of Syracuse, New York.

The new system quickly saw its own problems as the company found itself running a deficit which they blamed on the low rates in their contract with the city.  The company defaulted on its bonds, beginning a twelve-year legal battle with the bond holder, the Atlantic Trust Company of New York.  The Trust Company was able to have a receiver appointed and the company was sold in 1898 to a group of bond holders, who incorporated the Peoria Water Works Company in New Jersey in 1898.

In the middle of all this, one of the company's standpipes collapsed on March 30, 1894, crushing 14-year-old schoolboy Frank Hogan who was playing with other children in an adjacent vacant lot.  Reports of other deaths turned out to be premature, but several workers and children were among the many injured.  Analysis of the accident revealed that poor quality steel was used and exacerbated by poor workmanship during erection.  The other standpipe was reportedly abandoned shortly thereafter.

The company also had problems with electrolysis caused by the local street railway company using a ground return system, which resulted in electric currents corroding the buried water pipes.  The trolley cars were powered from a single overhead wire and the return current would follow the path of least resistance to the generation plant, often metal water pipes.  After a lengthy legal process, the trolley company was found liable for the damage and forced to correct the problem.

The Peoria Water Works Company was bought by the Community Water Service Company by 1926, and that company was itself acquired by the American Water Works and Electric Company in 1936.  In 1947 the company was reorganized as the American Water Works Company.

Water is provided by the Illinois American Water Company.

1843 An act to incorporate the Peoria Water Company.  February 1, 1843.

1845 An act to authorize the town of Peoria to construct water works.  March 3, 1845.

1851 The Weekly Wisconsin, April 2, 1851, Page 2.
Peoria - Water Works.- The people of Peoria, Illinois, vote aye or no at their next election on raising $25,000 by loan to erect hydraulic works for the supply of the city.

1857 An act to incorporate the Peoria City Hydraulic Company.  February 11, 1857.

1857 An act to amend the charter of the city of Peoria.  January 20, 1857.  City authorized to issue $100,000 in bonds to aid Peoria City Hydraulic Works with approval of voters.

1859 "Peoria, Illinois," Hunt's Merchants' Magazine and Commercial Review, 41(6):688 (December 1859)
In 1833, a contract was entered into between the County Commissioners and Stephen Stillman, who by himself, his heirs, executors, assigns, or associates, was to have the exclusive privilege to bring water to the public square. It was to be brought in lead, wood, or other pipes by the 1st of June, 1834, which was done by the use of bored logs. The water was taken from “Stillman's Spring,” on Rose Hill.

1864 Preliminary report on the best means of supplying the city of Peoria with water, by Isaac Underhill, Frederick Bohl, P. R. K. Brotherson, M. B. Loughlin,  members of committee.  Includes report by Octave Chanute, April 11, 1864.

1865 An act to establish water works in the city of Peoria, and to amend the charter of said city.  February 16, 1865.

1869 An act to reduce the charter of the city of Peoria, and the several acts amendatory thereof, into one act, and revise the same.  February 20, 1869.
Chapter XII. Water Works.

1869 "The Holly Water Works," The Stark County Democrat, August 25, 1869, Page 3.  Committee from Covington, Kentucky reports on Holly water works in Peoria.

1869 The Chronicle, December 23, 1869 7(5):170 (December 23, 1869)
A fire occurred at Peoria on the 3 inst., and within five minuets after its breaking out, two streams were directed upon it from a street hydrant, and before an engine arrived the fire was extinguished.  This is a satisfactory test of the Holly works.

1870 "Water," The History of Peoria, Illinois, by Charles Ballance

1871 "Peoria Water Works," Quad-City Times (Davenport, Iowa), July 12, 1871, Page 1.
A gang of pumps have been set up at the works to furnish the bluff with water, and are now in successful operation.

1877 "Peoria Water-Works," Chicago Daily Tribune, March 24, 1877, Page 3. | Reprinted in Engineering News 4:81 (March 31, 1877) |
Peoria, Ill., March 22.- The City of Peoria has discovered that her Holly Water-Works are useless, and has voted in her Common Council to discard them and put in a Dean pump.  The present machinery is very inadequate.  Only five inch-streams are thrown at once.  There is great dissatisfaction among our business-men at the whole Water-Works system.

1877 Engineering News, 4:278 (October 13, 1877)
Messrs. Dean Bros., of Indianapolis are ... building a single water of the same style of pumps for the Peoria, Ill., water work, capable of raising 4,000,000 gallons, 200 feet high, in twenty-four hours.

1880 "Water Supply," The History of Peoria County, Illinois: Containing a History of the Northwest--history of Illinois--history of the County, Its Early Settlement, Growth, Development, Resources, Etc., Etc.

1881 Peoria, Engineering News, 8:488 (December 3, 1881)

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

1884 The Peoria City Code: Comprising the Charter, the Laws of the State of Illinois Relating to the Government of the City of Peoria, and the Ordinances of the City Council: Revised and Codified

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

1888 "Peoria, A new system of water-works is needed," Engineering News 19:350 (April 28, 1888).  From Peoria Transcript.

1888 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois), July 11, 1888, Page 2.
It is claimed that a scheme was on foot to gobble up the Peoria water works by the National Tube Co., of Chicago, but that is was nipped in the bid.

1889 "An ordinance for an improved, enlarged, and extended system of water works for the City of Peoria, Illinois," etc.. passed by the City Council of the City of Peoria, on May 4th, A. D. 1889  Includes a table of rates on pages 858-859.

1889 Watertown Re-Union, May 15, 1889, Page 5.
Moffett, Hodgkin & Clark, of this city, have been awarded the contract for enlarging and improving the waterworks at Peoria, Ill., two other firms competing with them.  The contract is a large one, the city agreeing to pay $41,600 per year hydrant rentals.

1889 The Weekly Pantograph, October 25, 1889, Page 1.
Peoria, Oct 18. - At a meeting of the city council last night the entire water works system of this city was formally transferred to Messrs. Moffit, Hodgkins & Clark, of Watertown, N. Y.  The company has been incorporated under the name of the Peoria Water company, and agrees to build reservoirs, standpipes, pumping stations, etc., to supply the city with water at a cost of not less than half a million of dollars.

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

1891 "Peoria Water Company, Application to the New York Stock Exchange, Peoria, March 2, 1891," The Commercial and Financial Chronicle, 52:535 (April 4, 1891) | also here |
Peoria Water Company was incorporated on the 20th day of June, 1889, under an act of the General Assembly of the State of Illinois, entitled "An Act concerning Corporations."

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

1891 The Inter-Ocean, July 15, 1891, Page 9.
New Corporations.  Springfield, Ill., July 14.- The Secretary of State to-day issued incorporation licenses to the following:  The Peoria Water-Works Company, at Peoria; to operate a system of water-works at Peoria; capital stock, $70,000; incorporators William Holly, G. D, Ladd, Henry Bellinghausen, and others. [It is unclear why this company was formed, but it doesn't appear to have done anything.]

1892 "Invited to the Test," The Daily Review, May 31, 1892, Page 3.

1892 "The Worthington Water-Works Pumping Engines at Peoria, Ill.," Engineering News 27:635 (June 23, 1892)

1892 "New Water Works at Peoria, Ill.," Engineering News 28:26 (July 14, 1892) | Illustrated Inset | | Part 2 (July 21, 1892) | Illustrated Inset |

1892 Laws and ordinances of the city of Peoria, Illinois

1893 "Peoria's Water Supply," The Inter Ocean, October 19, 1893, Page 1.

1893 "Many Suits Filed," The Inter Ocean, December 19, 1893, Page 7.

1894 "Peoria Water Company Confesses Judgement for $21,000 and a Receiver May Be Appointed," Chicago Tribune, January 9, 1894, Page 11.

1894 Atlantic Trust Company of New York vs. Peoria Water Company, Bill in Chancery, No. 24,193.

1894 "Without Warning Sudden Collapse of Big Standpipe at Peoria, Ill.," Logansport Pharos-Tribune, March 31, 1894, Page 1.

1894 "The Peoria Stand-Pipe Failure," Engineering News 31:288-290 (April 5, 1892)

1894 "The Peoria Stand-Pipe Failure," Engineering News 31:306-307 (April 12, 1892)

1894 "The Peoria Stand-Pipe Failure," Engineering News 31:339-340 (April 26, 1892)

1894 "The Peoria Stand-Pipe Failure," Engineering News 31:395 (May 10, 1892)

1894 "The Experts' Report on the Peoria Stand-Pipe Failure," Engineering News 32:266-267 (October 4, 1892)

1895 "Removal of a Receiver. Atlantic Trust Company of New York vs. The Peoria Water Works Company," Circuit Court of the United States, Northern District of Illinois, Southern Division, from Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Water Works Association 15:183-185 (May 1895)

1896 Moffett, Hodgkins Clarke Company v. Peoria Water Co., 148 N.Y. 737 (July 14, 1896)

1896 "Tests of the Tightness of a Vitrified Earthenware Water Conduit," by Dabney H. Maury, Jr., Engineering News 35:341-342 (May 21, 1896)

1896 "The Water Works," by D. N. Maurey,  A brief history of Peoria. [Dabney Herndon Maury Jr., was superintendent of the water works and son of West Point graduate and Confederate General Dabney H. Maury.]

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

1898 "Peoria Water Works Sold," The New York Times, January 15, 1898, Page 11.  Sale price was $1,500,000.

1898 New York Tribune, March 11, 1898, Page 9
Incorporated at Trenton.  Trenton, March 10. The following companies were incorporated to-day:
The Peoria Water Works Company, of Peoria, Ill.; capital, $100,000.  Corporators, Edwin R. Lancaster of New-York; Thomas J. Barbour, Brooklyn, N. Y., and E. G. Maturin, East Orange.

1901 "Trolley Wires Blamed for Damages to Pipes," Water and Gas Review 11(12):6-10 (June 1901)

1901 "The Peoria Water Company Wins the Electrolysis Case," Street Railway Journal 17(25):722-725 (June 22, 1901)

1902 "Water Supply and Fire Department," History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCullough | Also here |

1909 "Electrolysis in Peoria's Water Mains," Municipal Journal and Engineer 27(3):94 (July 21, 1909)

1910 Revised Ordinances of the City of Peoria, Illinois

1910 Peoria Water-Works Co. Vs. Peoria Ry. Co., Circuit Court, N.D. Illinois, E. D., September 30, 1910,

1910 Peoria Water-Works Co. Vs. Peoria Ry. Co., from Water and Gas Review 21(6):12-21 (December 1910)

1912 "Suit of Record Length Reaches Climax in Court," Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1912, Page 6.
Atlantic Trust Company of New York vs. Peoria Water Company of Illinois.

1912 "Waterworks," Peoria City and County, Illinois: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Volume 1, by James Montgomery Rice | Also here |

1936 "Water Utility Control Bought," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 12, 1936, Page 33.

1977 City of Peoria v. Peoria Water Co., Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District. Order affirmed.·49 Ill. App.3d 1066 (Ill. App. Ct. 1977)

1980 "Peoria Mineral Springs," National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form.

1980 "Peoria Water Works Company," National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form.

1989 "Water Museum Opens in Peoria," Water:  The Magazine of the National Association of Water Companies 30(1):19 (Spring 1989)

2003 An interview with Kevin Hillen, Northern Division manager for Illinois-American Water Company, Peoria, April 2003.
Illinois-American has served the greater Peoria area with water for more than 100 years. In Peoria’s earliest days, under the city-owned Peoria Water Company, drinking water came directly from the river. But most citizens had their own wells or bought their drinking water from mineral springs, and before long, this first company failed. In 1889, after 20 years of operation, the City of Peoria sold the company to a group of investors who agreed to build a new water system, the pumping station and well (just north of the McClugage Bridge), a reservoir, and add 40 miles of new water mains. In 1898, the company was reorganized as the Peoria Water Works, the firm from which today’s company is directly descended.

2016 Peoria Mineral Springs
1833 – Public Water. An agreement made between the Peoria County Commissioners, and Stephen Stillman, a man of some enterprise, provided the exclusive rights to bring water from a natural spring in the West Bluff to the Peoria public square.
1834 – Original Reservoir Constructed. A vaulted brick reservoir was constructed, concealed in the gentle slope of the Bluff’s hillside. Wooden pipes were laid to supply drinking water to nearly 40 homes and the city’s original courthouse, where the Lincoln Douglas Debates were later held. This was Peoria’s first utility, referred to as the “Peoria Water Works.”

2016 An Objective Analysis of the City of Peoria’s Option to Purchase the Peoria District of Illinois American Water Company, A Report to the CEO Council, Prepared by the CEO Council Water Infrastructure Objective Study Committee. Submitted September 15, 2016.

© 2017 Morris A. Pierce