Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Indiana Madison

Madison, Indiana

Madison was founded in 1810.

The first waterworks were built in 1814 using wooden logs delivering water from springs owned by Judge Stevens and A. F. Hitz.  The water pipes were vandalized by men engaged in hauling water in carts, who did not enjoy the competition.

Water was supplied from the Cotton Mill water works starting in 1833.

In November, 1834, the council granted John Sheets the right to distribute water. 

The Madison Water and Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1836 by John Sheets, but he did not proceed to build a system.

An 1846 proposal by Thomas A. Godman to supply water was accepted, and the initial part of the system was operating by 1849.  He and his son incorporated the Madison and Clifton Water Works on January 18, 1850, which was built using cement-lined wrought-iron pipe.  The City purchased the works in 1852.

The waterworks are currently owned by the City of Madison.

1836 An act to incorporate the Madison Water and Manufacturing Company.  January 6, 1836.

1850 An act to incorporate the Madison and Clifton Water Works, January 18, 1850.

1850 Madison Daily Courier, February 6, 1850, Page 2.
Pure Spring Water and testimonials about Ball & Co.'s Indestructible Water-Pipe.

1850 Madison Daily Courier, March 2, 1850, Page 2.
The Messrs. T. J. Godman have laid 5,000 feet of the indestructible Water-Pipe, manufactured by Ball and Co., which proves to be the superior Pipe represented is an article furnished by us some short time ago.  The work of laying the pipe to supply the city with pure spring water is progressing very rapidly, under the auspices and superintendence of Messrs. Godman.

1850 Madison Daily Courier, March 19, 1850, Page 2.
Proposition of the Madison and Clifton Water Company to supply the city with pure water.

1877 Laying Pipes in the Ohio River for Madison's new waterworks system

1882 "Madison" from Engineering News, 9:199 (June 17, 1882)

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

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

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

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

1925 "A Hoosier Listening Post," by Kate Milner Rabb, The Indianapolis Star, May 9, 1925, Page 6.
History of the Madison Water Works.

1925 Notes Concerning the Early Water Works Systems of the City of Madison, Indiana, 1814-1868 by Katharine Belzer

1932 "Some Early History of Public Health in Indiana," by William F. King, M.D., Monthly Bulletin of the Indiana State Board of Health, 35:165-168 (November 1932)
Page 167:  In Madison, previous to 1816, there were several public wells in use, the main one being in front of the courthouse where two gentlemen, named Thomas and Kirk, were hired to draw water by a windlass, and children were sent to them to procure the family water supply. The furnishers of the motive power were paid by the water consumers according to the amount of ·water each consumer used. There is an account of a construction in Madison in 1816, which is believed to be the first public waterworks in the State of Indiana. An immense number of logs were cut and a Mr. Allison had the contract for boring holes in them. They were fitted together and laid as a water main, the supply being taken from a spring on the hills. There were three plugs for public use at different street crossings, constructed of hollow posts standing upright, with holes bored in the side stopped with wooden plugs. When a person wanted a bucket of water he pulled out the plug, let the bucket run full and then plugged up the hole again. This old log system was long in use. Finally, however, men engaged in hauling water with carts in order to create a greater demand for hauled water and possibly to build up a monopoly dug down to the logs at the foot and chopped holes in them. Thus ended the first public water supply in this state.  Later, on May 3, 1826, two years after the incorporation of Madison as a town, a committee was appointed to inquire into the expediency of furnishing the city with water. This resulted in the purchase by the city of private wells and their institution as a source of supply, both public and private. The records show an allowance in 1827 of expense of walling, cleaning and improving the public wells. On January 13, 1830, a notice appears, stating that proposals will be received to bring a sufficiency of water into the town to supply the inhabitants. Protection against fire at this time seems to have been the paramount reason for the urgent demana for a water system, and quantity was especially emphasized. However, in the meantime the town was awake to the protection of the public spring against pollution as shown by an ordinance passed May 16, 1833, providing as follows: "That it shall be unlawful for any person to wash himself or any other thing, to water horses or cattle of any kind, or commit any act of indecency in or near the public spring." The second and third sections provide a fine of not more than $20 nor less than 50 cents and the enforcement of the law by the town marshal. A contract was made on November 25, 1834, with John Sheets, granting exclusive right and privilege of supplying the inhabitants of Madison with water for all purposes. A committee was appointed on July 10, 1837, to inquire into the propriety of accepting the proposition of John Sheets to abandon his contract. August 18, 1837, this same committee was authorized to secure real estate for the purpose of building a water plant and to secure the relinquishment of the John Sheets contract. Considerable and long drawnout discussion ensued, the outcome of which was a proposal submitted by T. J. Godman on November 12, 1846, to furnish the city with water. The Godman agreement was accepted December 19, 1846, and was followed by immediate steps toward its fulfillment. The "Madison Courier" of March 2, 1850, has this to say: "The Messrs. T. J. Godman have laid about 5,000 feet of the indestructible iron water pipe manufactured by Ball & Company, which proves to be the superior pipe represented in an article published by us. The work of laying the pipe to supply the city with pure spring water is progressing very rapidly." It may be of interest to note that the pipe here referred to was replaced in the year 1916 after a service of seventy years.

1946 The Hoosier health officer; a biography of Dr. John N. Hurty and the history of the Indiana State Board of Health to 1925, by Thurman B. Rice
Page 153:  Basically repeats the text from the 1932 article quoted above.

2009 Old Madison Water Works

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce