Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Indiana Brazil

Brazil, Indiana

Brazil was incorporated as a city in 1873.

The city built water works that were celebrated on September 4, 1875.  The system used steam-driven Deane pumps to distribute water from a well directly into the distribution piping.

Water is supplied by the city of Brazil.

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

1884 Brazil, from Engineering News 11:94 (February 23, 1884)

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

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

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

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

1909 A History of Clay County, Indiana, by William Travis
Pages 121-123:  The demand for fire protection led to the establishment of a waterworks system. When the city council held their meeting on November 5, 1874, regular business was suspended in order to give the citizens an opportunity to express their opinions relative to the establishment of adequate fire protection. The discussion led to the appointment of a committee to visit other cities and inquire about the merits of the different methods of fighting fires and the kinds of apparatus in use. A part of the council and some citizens were in favor of purchasing a chemical engine, but the motion when presented to the council was voted down. This was followed by the appointment of a Committee to obtain the consensus of opinion among. citizens and business men as to the kind of apparatus, whether a pumping engine or chemical extinguisher, which was needed. The result of the canvass revealed that the great majority of the citizens were in favor of the establishment of a system of water works. This report was made in December, 1874. At the final meeting of the year a petition from 280 citizens, requesting that the council take appropriate measures toward the establishment of water works, was followed by the adoption of a resolution for the construction of the plant.
The water works ordinance (ordinance No. 79), which went into effect January 29, 1875, gave to the common council "power to enter upon and condemn lands and materials within and without the city limits for the purpose of building and constructing a reservoir and engine house, laying and fitting pipes and digging wells and pools, and for all other purposes connected with the construction and establishment of water works to supply the city of Brazil with wholesome water."
By the ordinance (No. 89) of May 20, 1875, provisions were made for a bond issue, the proceeds to become the "water works fund." This issue was to be fifty bonds of $500 denomination, interest payable semiannually at nine per cent, the first ten bonds maturing 16 years from date, and the same number to mature annually thereafter until all were cancelled. The ordinance also constituted the members of the council, ex-officio, a water works board, to contract for and purchase all the real estate, machinery and materials and labor needed in the construction and maintenance of the water works.
The site for the reservoir was purchased on the land adjacent to the creek just west of the cemetery. By the construction of a dam a large volume of water was hemmed in by the rising ground on all sides, and yet the flood area was not so large that the reservoir was exposed to the contamination of numerous sources, and by safeguarding the supply through the creation of what might be termed a "sanitary district" around the pond the most favorable possible conditions were created to afford usable water for domestic purposes.
The city made separate contracts for the construction of the reservoir and the pumping station, the purchase of the machinery, and all the works necessary to the establishment of the plant, so that in every sense it was a municipal undertaking.
Before the end of the summer the plant was built, the mains laid through the principal streets of the city, and in August the citizens were for the first time treated with the spectacle of water forced from the end of a hose with sufficient power to prove an effective weapon in fighting fire. The Enterprise, in the issue of August 26th, says: "On Monday our streets were crowded to witness the first test of our water works. . . . Water was thrown from fire plugs at the same time through inch and a quarter nozzles, at Main and Depot and at Main and Meridian streets, a mile from the works, over one hundred and fifty feet." The newly organized hose company also paraded through the street, and gave a pleasing impression of their effectiveness in fighting fires.
On September 4th occurred the water works celebration. It was also the occasion of an old settlers' picnic, and people gathered from country arid town to enjoy the events of the day. The band played, the Greencastle fire department arrived to be guests of honor, and after a demonstration at various points in town of the water pressure and a drill of the hose company, the procession went first to inspect the pumping station, and thence to the fair grounds, where the pioneer celebration concluded the ceremonies of one of Brazil's red letter days.
For about thirty years the water works service of Brazil was an object of opprobrium to the majority of the citizens. The trouble lay in the water supply, and the experience of this city has been repeated in large degree by most municipalities that have tried the reservoir system on a comparatively small scale. Cities that have been able to draw their water from high mountain ponds, or that have revenues sufficient to condemn large bodies of land and thus safeguard every contributing source, have usually succeeded in securing wholesome water. But under the most favorable conditions the water that came from the pond west of Brazil did not measure up to the ordinary standards for water for domestic uses. When taken from the hydrants it was generally discolored, would precipitate a sediment when allowed to settle, and its appearance was such that even when pronounced free from dangerous organic matter the average housewife preferred well water for her cooking. A collection of the various experiences and opinions relating to the city water would make an interesting exhibit.
Finally, about twenty years after the first establishment of the system, the city council undertook to reconstruct the plant and procure another supply of water. It was resolved to penetrate to the gravel beds which lie at various depths below the surface, and through a battery of tubular wells, eight in number, to suck up the waters that flow over these gravel beds. To carry out this object a twenty five thousand dollar bond issue (six per cent, 20 year bonds, dated May 21, 1895) was ordered, and at the same time the city contracted with the Howe Pump and Engine Company to reconstruct the water works, sinking the tubular wells, installing new compound condensing engines, new boilers, new water mains, the entire contract to be performed by October 1, 1895. The cost was $29,153.68, but at the final settlement with the contracting company in the spring of 1896, the city paid several thousand dollars more for additions and extras. The reconstructed water works were highly satisfactory for a time. The water was clear and pure, and the new machinery gave a higher pressure for fire purposes. The failure of the new system was due to the fact that the tubular wells became clogged at the lower ends and were soon rendered useless. As a result, resort was had to the old reservoir, and it is only within the last two or three years that a means has been found to overcome the old difficulty with the wells. Since that time Brazil has had a supply of good water, and its water works can now be classed among the best in the state. A striking test of its adequacy was furnished in the dry summer of 1908, when many cities of Indiana suffered water famine. In Brazil the supply showed no signs, of failing, and no restrictions were placed upon the liberal use of the water for all ordinary purposes.
Some items from the report of the superintendent of water works, Mr. G. A. Fletcher, for the year ending December 31, 1908, will be of present and future interest. For the first year since the establishment of the water works, the system had not incurred a deficit. The total receipts of the department for the year were a little in excess of ten thousand dollars, while the total operating expenses were $6,708, which, with the cost of extensions and improvements, brought the total disbursements for the year to $9,503, making a balance for the department of a little over $500. The report also shows that the total amount of water pumped during the year was 188,535,600 gallons, or a little over half a million gallons a day. The cost to the city of pumping this water is estimated at three and one half cents per thousand gallons. The total length of water mains is placed at 10.8 miles, and there are 98 fire plugs.

2019 Morris A. Pierce