Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Hancock

Hancock, Massachusetts

Hancock was settled in 1762.

The Hancock Shaker Village was established in 1792, and a water system may have been developed shortly thereafter.  A visitor in 1817 or 1818 described the system at Hancock, which distributed water through underground pipes.

The Shaker community failed to attract enough new members to survive, and ceased to operate in the 20th Century. The Hancock Shaker Village currently operates as a museum with about twenty buildings. 

Other Shaker communities that had water systems include Pleasant Hill and South Union, Kentucky.

The Town of Hancock currently has no public water supply and relies on private water wells. 

1818 A brief sketch of the religious society of people called Shakers, by William S. Warder
Pages 15-16:  A small stream of water comes down the mountain from which a dam is erected for the use of the thrashing mill.... Below this stands the corn or grist mill, and below that the saw-mill. From the saw-mill the stream is conducted by an aqueduct under ground to the middle of the village, where it is made to pass through a hollowed tree for the purpose of turning a large overshot wheel that serves to work their machinery. From this wheel the water is conveyed underground to the washing-rooms, and also for watering the horses, stables, works, etc.

1829 A History of the County of Berkshire, Massachusetts, in Two Parts: The First Being a General View of the County; the Second, an Account of the Several Towns, by Chester A. Dewey and David Dudley Field.
Pages 33-34:  An abundant supply of wholesome water is a matter of vast consequence to every people. Situated in a hilly country, springs and small streams are abundant in Berkshire; and there are few places, even in the most level tracts of the County, where a copious supply is not obtained by the sinking of wells to a moderate depth. As a wide range of limestone passes through the County, many of the springs and wells through the middle and lower parts, afford water containing a small quantity of gypsum in solution, and thence denominated hard water. The easy method of carrying water in aqueducts, however, puts it in the power of almost every man to enjoy the luxury of soft water. But there are many persons who consider the hard water to be far more palatable and pleasant. An easier method still, is by the use of cisterns, for containing rain water, as a very little precaution preserves it pure, and it is well known to be exceedingly pleasant for all culinary purposes. In winter it is as agreeable as the softest water; and in summer, cooled by a piece of ice, it is equally pleasant. The preservation of ice in cheap buildings prepared for it, is an easy matter; and it is recommended to the attention of all who have not access to the cool waters of a spring. It puts into the hand of every man a luxury of nature, procured at the least expense.
The construction of aqueducts of wooden or earthen pipes, has been found too unprofitable in this County to be deserving of repetition, except on a very small scale. The strength of the materials is not sufficient to endure the pressure of the water, when carried to any considerable distance, even if they be laid so low as to escape the influence of frost, a point rarely effected. The resort must be to pipes of lead or cast iron. The lead pipes are now made in Adams for this purpose; and the employment of them is becoming relatively common. The only disadvantage of these pipes, is the formation of a small quantity of carbonate of lead, Which may act as a poison upon those who use the water conveyed in them, unless there be provision for the deposition of this poison in a reservoir. Iron pipes are entirely free from this evil. In the celebrated Water-Works at Philadelphia, only pipes of cast iron are used; and are considered on the whole as the cheapest.

1985 "Waterpower at Hancock Shaker Village: A Study in Industrial Archaeology," Paula A Zitzler, Master Thesis. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY 1985.

2014 Laundry and Machine Shop, Hancock Shaker Village (1790)
The oldest part of the Laundry and Machine Shop building at Hancock Shaker Village dates to 1790, when the structure may have been used as a dwelling by the Goodrich family, whose owner became a convert. The Shakers positioned this building to take advantage of the penstock, or incoming water supply pipe.

2016 Morris A. Pierce