Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Athol

Athol, Massachusetts

Athol was incorporated as a town in 1762.

Local mill owners formed the Athol Reservoir Association in 1853 for the purpose of building a reservoir, and it was incorporated as the Athol Reservoir Company in 1854.  Apparently the town held discussions with this company about supplying water to the town, but nothing came of it.

The Athol Aqueduct Company was organized in 1876 by Robert Wiley and Solon L. Wiley.  This company built a gravity system that began service in November, 1876. 

The Athol Water Company was incorporated in 1877 by Robert Wiley, Adin H. Smith, Solon L. Wiley and Charles Field "for the purpose of furnishing the inhabitants of Athol with pure water."  The company took over the system of the Athol Aqueduct Company.  The elevations of the reservoirs were shown in an 1899 book:

Athol, Massachusetts, Past and Present,
by Lilley Brewer Caswell (1899), Page 178

The town voted to buy the system on December 17, 1904, and took possession on January 1, 1905.  An appraisal set the value at $316,500, plus interest.

Water is provided by Town of Athol.

1854 An act to incorporate the Athol Reservoir Company.  February 27, 1854.

1877 An act to incorporate the Athol Water Company.  April 10, 1877.

1877 Fitchburg Sentinel, May 23, 1877, Page 2.
The Athol water works are making arrangements to introduce hydraulic engines into manufactories and shops using power.

1879 History of Worcester County, Massachusetts, Embracing a Comprehensive History of the County from Its First Settlement to the Present Time, with a History and Description of Its Cities and Towns, Volume 1, by Abijah Perkins Marvin.
Page 235:  Few towns are as well provided with water, both for fire and domestic purposes, as is Athol. The Athol Water Company, a stock company with a capital of $80,000, was organized in 1876. Works constructed and water introduced in November of that year. The water, which is pure and cool, is supplied by springs and brooks in the western part of Phillipston, where the main reservoir, occupying about twenty acres, is located, five hundred feet above the lower village, and more than two hundred feet above the upper village. There are two distributing reservoirs, one situated u short distance east of the upper village, and the other south on Pleasant Street. From eight to ten miles of pipe are laid, which distributes the water through all parts of the villages. The company supplies the town with water for fire purposes from fifty hydrants, for which the towns pay $2,500 per annum, and the water is very largely used for domestic purposes, fountains, &c. Robert Wiley, president; Solon S. Wiley, treasurer; Joseph B. Cardany, superintendent.

1882 Athol, from Engineering News 9:155  (May 13, 1882)

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

1884 An act to enable the Athol Water Company to improve and increase its water supply.  April 28, 1884.

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

1890 Solon L. Siley v. Inhabitants of Athol, 150 Mass. 426, January 2, 1890, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.  Suit over adequate fire service.

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

1891 Fitchburg Sentinel, May 19, 1892, Page 5.
The Athol Water company has put in force a new schedule of rates, a rise of 20 to 100 per cent.  Augustus Coolidge, one of the real estate men of the town, has made himself independent of the company by sinking an artesian well on his River Street property.  A tank, tower and windmill provide provide for distribution, and the supply will accommodate 100 families.

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

1892 John McGinty vs. Athol Reservoir Company, 155 Mass. 183, January 6, 1892, Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts.  History of the reservoir company.

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

1899 Athol, Massachusetts, Past and Present, by Lilley Brewer Caswell
Pages 176-178:  Water Works.  In 1876, Robert Wiley and Solon L. Wiley, co-partners under the firm name of the Athol Aqueduct Company, agreed, under seal, with the inhabitants of Athol. to furnish them with pure water for fire and domestic purposes, and to provide fifty hydrants at fifty dollars each per year, and others needed at the same rate. This agreement was signed by Eobert and Solon L. Wiley, and the selectmen of Athol, June 7, 1876, and approved by the town June 13, 1876. During the summer and fall of that year, the street mains were laid and the reservoirs constructed. The source of supply selected was among the Phillipston hills, just over the Athol line, where the Wellington and Cutting brooks, and numerous springs furnished water of purest quality. The main reservoir was located partly in Phillipston and partly in Athol, a short distance east of the buildings of the Athol town farm, contains nineteen acres, with a storage capacity of nearly sixty million gallons, and is five hundred and eight feet above the Pequoig House in the Lower Village. The water shed of this reservoir has an area of four hundred and twenty-one acres. Two distributing reservoirs were also built, one known as the Summer street reservoir, situated north of the Highland cemetery, and the second, of about an acre in area, known as Pleasant street reservoir, located north of the farm of C. K. Wood. Water was first introduced into town in November, 1876. About this time the Athol Water Company was organized, with a capital of eighty thousand dollars, its act of incorporation being dated April 10, 1877. The officers of the company were: Robert Wiley, president; Solon L. Wiley, treasurer; Joseph B. Cardany, superintendent. In 1886, an additional source of supply was made available by the construction of the Buckman brook line, around the Bears Den hills, which brings water from the "Newton" reservoir to Summer street reservoir, a distance of over four miles. The "Newton" reservoir has a storage capacity of eight million gallons, and a water shed area of five hundred and twenty-two acres. A Water Committee were chosen by the town in March, 1876, consisting of the board of selectmen, W. H. Amsden, Wm. W. Fish and Gilbert Southard, together with Jonathan Drury, James M. Lee, A. H. Smith, Edwin Ellis, J. W. Hunt and J. S. Parmenter.
A controversy between the town and the Athol Water Co. regarding the efficiency of the hydrant service, and the refusal of the town to pay the rental due for hydrants, resulted in a law suit in 1888, which was the most extensive law case, in which the town was ever engaged, and which was decided in favor of the Water Company.
The management of the Water Works changed hands January 1, 1892, gentlemen from Portland, Me., being the purchasers. The officers of the new management are: Arthur W. Merrill, president; George F. West, treasurer; Warren G. West, superintendent. There are at the present time seventy-one public hydrants and four private, and about twenty-four miles of water pipe laid. The accompanying diagram gives the elevations of the several reservoirs and other localities in town, with distance above or below Main street at the Pequoig House.
The return of the Athol Water Company filed in the Tax Commissioner's office, and dated May 1, 1895, states that the capital stock of the Company is eighty thousand dollars, the number of shares eight hundred, and the par value of each share one hundred dollars. The certificate of condition filed by the Company with the Secretary of State dated, July 16, 1895, gives the value of land, water power and buildings as upwards of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and the total assets at nearly two hundred and fifty-four thousand dollars. In February, 1895, the Company made two proposals to the town of Athol, one of which was an offer of sale. A committee was appointed by the town, and an investigation of the water supply has been made.

1905 An act to authorize the town of Athol to supply itself and its inhabitants with water.  April 5, 1905.

[1906] Town of Athol vs. Athol Water Company ...: Brief for the Town .

[1906] Town of Athol vs. Athol Water Company ...: Brief for the Athol Water Company .

1906 Vermont Phoenix (Brattleboro, Vermont), May 4, 1906, Page 1.
Appraisal of the Athol Water Company.

1941 Inventory of City and Town Archives of Massachusetts, No. 14 Worcester County, Vol. II Athol
Pages 37-38:  The feasibility, in general, of public ownership of utilities is certainly a debatable matter, but so far as Athol is concerned, public ownership and operation of the water system proved the solution to a question which agitated the town for many decades The first company to obtain permission to supply Atho1 with viater was the Athol Reservoir Company, incorporated February 2?, 1854. During the next fifteen years, no fewer than three committees were chosen by the town to negotiate a contract with this company and its successor, the Athol Aqueduct Company, but in each case the committees were unable to come to an agreement.  In 1876 the town and the Athol Reservoir Company decided on terms agreeable to both parties, but difficulties again ensued almost immediately. In 1877 the Athol Water Company purchased the plant of the older company, and constructed additional mains and hydrants.  But servjce remained unsatisfactory; committees were again chosen by the town in 1878 and 1881 to treat with the company, but without much success. The climax came in 1892, when the town undertook a lengthy series of lawsuits against the company.
On December 17, 1904 Athol voted to purchase the plant and equipment of the private water company, and the general court passed an act enabling it to do so on April 5, 1905.  The selectmen were authorized to act as agents in the transaction, and the first board of water commissioners was elected in 1906.  The municipal water department now (1938) serves almost two thousand meters, its total annual receipts amount to almost fifty thousand dollars, and its mechanical rapid sand filtration plant assures the town of a plentiful supply of water for all commercial and domestic purposes.
In 1894 the town floated a loan to construct and modernize its sewerage system. The eventual cost of constructing this system was $140,000.
Pages 157-162:  Records of the water commissioners.

2018 Morris A. Pierce