Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
South Central States
Kentucky Owensboro

Owensboro, Kentucky

Owensboro was incorporated as a city in 1866.

The Owensboro Water Company was incorporated on September 9, 1878 and built a Holly water system that began operating in July, 1879.  This company was sold to the Owensboro Water Works Company on June 10, 1889, after the city had granted a new twenty-five year franchise.

The city was not satisfied with the water supply and voters approved a plan to build a municipal water works, which was completed during the summer of 1906.  Legal wrangling with the Water Works Company continued for many years until the city's system succeeded in attracting customers.

Water is provided by Owensboro Municipal Utilities.

1878 "Corporation Notice," Owensboro Messenger, September 11, 1878, Page 3.
Owensboro Water Company

1878 "The Official Test," Owensboro Messenger, August 20, 1879, Page 3.
Of the Owensboro Water-works yesterday a success.

1882 Owensboro from Engineering News 9:198-199 (June 17, 1882)

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

1883 History of Daviess County, Kentucky, together with sketches of its cities, villages, and townships, educational religious, civil military, and political history, portraits of prominent persons, biographies of representative citizens, and an outline history of Kentucky
Pages 351-352:  Owensboro Water Company. — This company was incorporated Sept. 9, 1878, for twenty-five years, and consisted of Dennis Long, of Louisville, John G. Barrett, Donald McPherson and Samuel A. Miller. Authorized capital stock, $80,000, and a board of seven directors to control, who are elected annually on the second Monday in September. Mr. Long proposed to the city council to erect the works on the Holly system, on condition that the city would take fifty-five fire plugs at $75 each per year. This proposition was accepted, and the contract for building the works was awarded to Coverdale & Cowell, of Cincinnati, who completed them by the following July. Two engines and two pumps were placed in the establishment, with a capacity of 2,500,000 gallons daily. The engines have cylinders twenty-five inches in diameter by thirty inches stroke, and are eighty horsepower. The pumps, which are located at the bottom of a shaft thirty-three feet deep, are fourteen inches in diameter by thirty inches stroke. There are two boilers, sixteen feet by five feet each, with fifty-four three and a half inch tubes, set separately, so that either or both can be used at pleasure.
The buildings are substantially built of brick. with stone trimmings. The smoke stack is seventy-five feet high.
Aug. 11, 1880, a boiler exploded, half ruining the water works. Cause unknown.
The present officers are: Dennis Long, President; H. H. Hutchison, Secretary and Treasurer, both residents of Louisville.  The General Manager is Samuel A. Miller, and Henry P. Martin, Superintendent, succeeding J. M. Carson, December, 1882.  The average amount of water consumed per week is about 2,000,000 gallons; but when all the distilleries are running, as high as 2,500,000 gallons have been raised by the works.

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

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

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

1897 "Owensboro," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4

1900 "A Summing Up," The Owensboro Messenger, November 3, 1990, Page 3.
Of the discussion of the Water Works propositions.  The Citizens Committee makes further comparisons with the plant at Henderson.

1902 The City of Owensboro, Appellant, vs. The Owensboro Water Works Company, appeal from the circuit court of the United States for the Western District of Kentucky, U.S. Supreme Court Transcript of Record.

1903 The City of Owensboro, Appellant, vs. The Owensboro Water Works Company, 191 U.S. 358, November 30, 1903, United States Supreme Court

1904 Fire and Water Engineering 35(5):20 (January 30, 1904) | also here |
The Owensboro, Ky., city authorities have applied fur a receiver against the Owensboro Water company and the Owensboro Waterworks company. The city claims that there are outstanding bonds and other indebtedness of the water company to the amount of $269,000, also, that the franchise of the company expired on September 1, 1903. The transfer of the water company’s property in 1890 to the Waterworks company, is also said to have been illegal. An injunction is now pending in the United States court to prevent the city from disposing of $200,000 of water bonds, and from erecting a new plant.

1912 "Water Softening at Owensboro, Kentucky," Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 32:203-218 (June, 1912)
From 1878 to 1906 the Owensboro Water Works Company furnished this muddy and unclean water to the people of Owensboro. The rules which the company established were arbitrary, and the charge for water exorbitant. These conditions became so intolerable that a bond issue of $260,000 was voted to build a municipal water plant. The plant was built and completed in 1906. It is located just east of the city of Owensboro on ground 25 feet above the Ohio River at high water mark. The water, which is drawn from deep wells, is clear and colorless; upon standing, a small amount of iron oxide settles out. Originally there were 13 wells; now there are 18. The water filters through a water bearing stratum of sand rock, which lies 125 feet to 250 feet below ground level. The wells in use are pumped by compressed air directly into the softener; after purification the water is delivered by gravity into two 1,000,000 gallon reservoirs.
While the municipal water plant was under construction, the Owensboro Water Works Company improved the quality of its water by straining it through a sand bar in the bed of the Ohio River instead of drawing it directly from the stream, and though this clarified the water to some extent, yet, at times, and especially in recent years, this filtered water has carried considerable amounts of suspended matter.
On the completion of the municipal water plant, a majority of the patriotic householders of Owensboro commenced to patronize it; but the large water users, the railroads and factories, continued to use water from the private company because that water was much softer than the well water from the municipal plant. The patrons of the city well water soon discovered that it was considerably harder than the old company's water which they had become accustomed to using, and some of them returned to the old company.
This brought about vigorous competition between the municipal plant and the old company, and at once it became apparent to the Board of Electric Light and Water Commissioners that if the municipal plant was to be commercially successful, a softer water must be furnished its patrons.

1917 City of Owensboro v. Owensboro Water Works Company, 243 U.S. 186, March 6, 1917, United States Supreme Court | also here |

© 2019 Morris A. Pierce