Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
New England States Massachusetts Ashfield

Ashfield, Massachusetts

Ashfield was first settled in 1743 and was officially incorporated in 1765.

Ashfield around 1820 was served by one or more small gravity aqueducts distributing water through wooden logs.

The Ashfield Water Company was incorporated in 1903 by Emory D. Church, Allison G. Howes, Frederick H. Smith, George R. Fessenden, Levant F. Gray, Charles A. Hall, Amos D. Daniels and M. M. Belding, "for the purpose of furnishing the inhabitants of the town of Ashfield with water for the extinguishment of fires and for domestic and other purposes."  This company constructed a system with an elevated reservoir.

The Ashfield Water District was formed in 1980 and acquired the Ashfield Water Company on December 31, 1987.

Water is currently supplied by the Ashfield Water District.  

1876 "Water Supply", from  Seventh Annual report of the State Board of Health of Massachusetts. January, 1876
Page 199:  [Table shows nearly all of the 257 dwellings in Ashfield are served by an aqueduct.]

1902 An act to authorize the town of Ashfield to supply itself with water, February 27, 1902.

1903 An act to incorporate the Ashfield Water Company, April 9, 1903.

1903 Request from Ashfield Water Company to construct system, October 1, 1903 and November 4, 1903. in Thirty-Fifth Annual Report of the State Board of Health, page 9. (1904) Request disapproved, proposed water sources found unacceptable.

1904 Request from Ashfield Water Company to construct system, April 7, 1904. in Thirty-Sixth Annual Report of the State Board of Health, page 5. (1905)  Approved to use water from Bear Swamp Brook.

1905 Thirty-Seventh Annual Report of the State Board of Health (1906)
Page 142: Ashfield. A system of water works was constructed for the supply of this town in 1904 by the Ashfield Water Company. The source of supply is Bear Swamp Brook, in the northwesterly part of the town. A small intake reservoir has been constructed upon this brook at the point where it crosses a highway about a quarter of a mile above the road leading from Ashfield to Hawley. This reservoir has a tributary drainage area of about .45 of a square mile, which is uninhabited. From the intake reservoir the water flows to a lower reservoir nearer the village, which has a capacity of 250,000 gallons and is used as a distributing reservoir.

1910 History of the town of Ashfield, Franklin County, Massachusetts from its settlement in 1742 to 1910, by Frederick G. Howes and Thomas Shepard
Page 147:  At first the settlers were content with the spring near by, or a shallow well. One of these shallow wells may be seen near where the cabin of Thomas Phillips stood in Mr. Kendrick's pasture, another in Church & Broadhurst's pasture near the site of the Phillips and Ellis fort, now marked by a large millstone. Water was either dipped up by hand or drawn up by a bucket on the end of a short pole. Then, as houses were built on higher ground at a distance from springs, deeper and more substantial wells were dug and the well-sweep and "old oaken bucket" came into use; later, the windlass and pumps, either wooden, iron, or chain. There are probably few houses in town seventy-five or a hundred years old, but have a deep well very near, covered perhaps with a flat stone and a foot of soil, its location very likely unknown to the present occupants. When Jonathan Lilly was digging his well at the house now owned by Mr. Belding and occupied by Dr. Jones, a good sized stone fell from the surface to the bottom just missing Mr.  Lilly's head. Mr. Sanderson's diary for 1808 relates that a man in town was killed by the caving in of a well. By and by people began to make use of the "gravity system" and aqueducts were laid to the houses. A straight, clean, hemlock tree, some eight or ten inches in diameter was cut down, and logs six or eight feet in length were cut from it with a crosscut saw. These logs were placed upon a wooden horse about three feet high and a man with an auger a little longer than the logs would bore usually an inch hole through the centre of each from end to end. One end of the hole was then rimmed out with the "rimmer," the other end of the log sharpened with an axe, then smoothed over with the "sheep's head" so as to perfectly fit the rimmed hole of the log next to it. Then beginning at the lower end of the ditch one log was firmly driven into another until the spring was reached. A plug was tightly fitted into the end of the lower log, a shorter perpendicular log was inserted into this, coming about three feet above the surface of the ground, and from this the water run through a "penstock" into a wooden trough usually dug out from a large tree cut on the premises. The boring and fitting of these logs was quite a trade, as it required a pretty good eye and no little skill to come out at the centre of the other end of the log when boring. Experts at the trade were Heman Howes and Charles Elmer in the east, and William Fuller and others in the west part of the town. Lead pipe for aqueducts began to appear in the thirties and forties but came slowly into use as people were afraid of lead poison.
Page 134: ASHFIELD WATER COMPANY.  The Ashfield Water Company was formed in 1893. About $15,000 was raised of which Mr. M. M. Belding took about one-third the stock, while Mrs. Curtis, Professor Norton and Mr. Farragut subscribed liberally, citizens of the village contributing smaller sums. Different sites for a water supply were examined, until finally, with the advice of the State Board of Health, the brook on the Watson road was chosen as a source of suppply, the distance being over two miles. The work was finished the next season and water brought to the village. The system has a fall of over two hundred feet and a pressure of one hundred and eight pounds to the square inch, giving excellent fire protection to the village and a good supply of pure water to those families who choose to avail themselves of it. Lest the supply might at some time become short, in 1909 the old mill pond consisting of about one and three-fourths acres was thoroughly cleansed of old vegetable matter and a cement dam built, making an excellent reservoir. The company is well organized, with A. D. Daniels President and C. H. Wilder Secretary.

1980 An act establishing the Ashfield Water District in the town of Ashfield, June 11, 1980.

1984 An act extending the time for acceptance of an act establishing the Ashfield Water District, June 24, 1984.

1997 An act relative to the Ashfield Water District, December 23, 1997.

2015 Morris A. Pierce