Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Dedham

Dedham, Massachusetts

Dedham was first settled in 1635.

On June 15, 1796, Calvin Whiting was granted the right to "conduct water through subterraneous pipes within the town of Dedham."  The system was operating by January, 1797 using wooden logs. 

In 1834, the Dedham Aqueduct Company was formed to bring water into the center part of the town from Federal Hill using lead pipes.  This resulted in the lead poisoning of Rev Dr. Alvan Lamson, a distinguished local cleric. 

The Dedham Water Company was chartered in 1876 and built a water system in 1881.  An 1887 law allowed the company and the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Company to consolidate or to to sell water to each other, which was not done.

The Dedham Water Company was purchased by the American Water Works & Electric Company in 1936 and by the Dedham-Westwood Water District in 1986.

The Dedham-Westwood Water District currently provides water in the Town of Dedham.  The Water District has a good history page.


1796 An act authorizing Calvin Whiting to conduct water in subterraneous pipes within the town of Dedham foe the accomodation of certain inhabitants within said town.  June 15, 1796.

1797 "Diary of Dr. Nathaniel Ames" by Edna Frances Caulder from The Dedham Historical Register Volume 7 (1896) and Volume 8 (1897)
7:146 January 8, 1797  Calvin Whiting's Aqueduct bro't almost to the Gaol, incomplete as it is proves very beneficial to some people: but if at this scarce Season for Water it would have been completed & brought along through the Town, he would have been considered a public benefactor ! ! !  About 70 Cattle are watered at it every day.
8:27 June 30, 1797  Calvin Whiting authoris'd by Act of Court hath brought Water in pine Logs to Sundary families each paying five dollars pr year - but the fountain head at about a mile off near the Post road to Providence is not high enough nor large enough to carry it into upper stories of our houses-- nor will be much use in extinguishing fires.

1834 Norfolk Advertiser, June 7, 1834
A number of our enterprising citizens have formed a company to bring a supply of water, from a spring on Federal Hill, about two hundreds rods southwest of our village, for the use of the Fire Department and of the inhabitants.  A lead pipe, an inch and a quarter in diameter, has been laid from the fountain to the village--which,as we think, discharges an abundant supply of water. The proprietors have contracted to furnish for the use of the Fire Department two cisterns--one to stand in the upper, and the other in the lower part of the village--each to contain at least one hundred hogsheads of water. These cisterns are to stand three feet from the surface of the ground, upon stone posts--and to have a valve or opening at the bottom, to which our leading hose can be attached, to carry the water in case of fire to any part of the village.  They are to be covered with buildings neatly finished and handsomely painted.
The main pipe coming from the fountain enters the upper cistern, and pipes one inch in diameter are to run from the upper to the lower cistern through all the principal streets to open a free communication from one cistern to the other. From these cisterns and the main pipes, a small pipe will be taken to each house in the village, where the owner or occupant shall desire of it.  Every family may thus have constant supply
of soft pure water at the expense of five or six dollars a year.  Where the house to be supplied stands remote from a cistern or pipe, an additional charge will be made for extra pipe. The work is now in rapid progress--and we hope soon to see it completed. We trust all our citizens will be disposed to patronize it.  Those who do not need it in their houses, have a fine opportunity to display their taste in ornamenting their gardens with jets, supplied from these pipes--which will throw the water to the height of twelve or fifteen feet.  Should the quantity of water prove sufficient, we hope to see all our public squares ornamented in this manner.
The proprietors will be obliged to spend from two to three thousand dollars to complete the work--we hope they will receive substantial dividends on their stock, as well as the thanks of the community for their enterprising spirit.

1847 The History of Dedham: From the Beginning of Its Settlement, in September 1635, to May 1827, including historical annals of Dedham to 1847 by Erastus Worthington and Herman Mann
Page 39:  Leave was given to Calvin Whiting to conduct water by pipes through the public roads in the first precinct.
Page 62:  A partial supply of water is brought into the village, through aqueducts laid under ground, from a spring on Federal Hill a distance of about one mile.  Two reservoirs are kept filled with water from this source, besides furnishing the inhabitants who choose to purchase from the company who own it.
Page 115:  In 1834, the sum of five hundred dollars was raised in the Centre village, by subscription of the inhabitants, for the building of two Reservoirs, and supplying them with water from the aqueduct leading from Federal Hill.

1876 An act to incorporate the Dedham Water Company.  April 11, 1876.

1883 Dedham, from Engineering News 10:333 (July 14, 1883)

1884 History of Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Volume 1 edited by Duane Hamilton Hurd
Page 100:  Alvan Lamson His health was never robust, and at times was quite feeble, and his work often brought weariness,nervousness, and discouragement,—uncomfortable days, and nights with little sleep. About middle life he was attacked by a serious illness, which, besides its effect on his general health, produced a paralysis of certain muscles, and which perplexed and baffled his physician. He suffered from this for several years, but was finally relieved by vigorous treatment at the hot sulphur springs of Virginia. During his absence there the cause of his illness was almost accidentally discovered. It arose from the use of water impregnated with lead. This water was brought from a spring on "Federal Hill." through logs, to two reservoirs in the village, and thence distributed by lead pipes. It was supposed to have caused several cases of severe illness and some deaths.

1887 An act to authorize the Dedham Water Company and the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Corporation to consolidate or to sell water to each other.  March 24, 1887.

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

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

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

1896 Report of the Committee on the Purchase of the Plant of the Dedham Water Company

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

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce