Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Harvard, Massachusetts

Harvard was first settled in 1658.

The first water supply in Harvard was built in 1796 by William Emerson, Silas Parkhurst, Thaddeus Pollard, Benjamin Kimball and Jonas Whitney.  They used wood logs to distribute water from a spring they had purchased from Colonel Henry Bromfield.  The wood logs were replaced by lead pipes at some point, and the system was still working in 1893. 

A 2016 study of water franchise areas in Massachusetts has shows additional companies supplying water in Harvard:
Hildreth Brothers Supply 1899 to 1937?
Harvard Aqueduct Company (d/b/a) 1920-1936
Both are believed to have been aquired by Town of Harvard during or after 1937.

The town of Harvard was authorized to construct its own water system in 1937.

Water is provided by the Town of Harvard.

1880 Shaker Medicinal Spring Water.  | pdf | Water from the Harvard Shaker aqueduct system.

1894 History of the Town of Harvard, Massachusetts: 1732-1893, by Henry S. Nourse.
Pages 451-452:  The first aqueduct in Harvard dates from 1796. In November of that year the town granted leave to William Emerson, Silas Parkhurst, Thaddeus Pollard, Benjamin Kimball and Jonas Whitney to dig a trench across the highway and the common for the purpose of laying pipes of wood for conveying water into their houses from a spring they had purchased of Colonel Henry Bromfield. This aqueduct remains in use, the bored logs originally laid having, however, been long ago displaced by lead pipe.

1895 Whitney. The descendants of John Whitney, who came from London, England, to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635, by Frederick Clifton Pierce, 1855-1904
Page 166:  Jonas Whitney, b. Harvard, May 3, 1756, d. Nov. 26, 1803
With four others he built the first aqueduct in Harvard, in Nov., 1796, laying wood pipes to carry water to his residence from a spring near by.

1895 Picturesque Worcester Part II - North, by Elbridge Kingsley and Frederick Knab
Page 83:  Harvard Community of Shakers.  Till 1855 the society obtained their water from a series of wells; nearly every house had its well and pump.  Overlooking the village north and south are high hills, one mile apart.  At the base of Oak Hill, as the south one is called is a spring of excellent water, said to equal the celebrated "Poland Springs" water.  In this summer they built a reservoir on the north hill, connected with the spring by a cement-lined aqueduct, and brought the water into all the buildings at a cost of $5,000, making a complete water system.

1937 An act authorizing the town of Harvard to supply itself and its inhabitants with water.  March 12, 1937.

1982 The Shaker Holy Land: A Community Portrait, Edward R. Horgan
Pages 100-101:  Until mid-century, nearly every house had a well and a pump, some indoors.  In 1855, when drought threatened their wells, Harvard Shakers were forced to build an ingenious water supply system.  Far to the south of the village, at the base of Harvard's Oak Hill, there is a sparkling spring. Community members built an aqueduct running from the spring to a reservoir constructed on a hill behind the Square House.  The pipeline extended 6,501 feet from the spring, which was at the 400-foot level, across the swamp, dipping to the 290-foot level, and thence to the reservoir at the 340-foot level.  A slate stone marked each change in direction.  The pipe had two valve gates leading to the village.  The system was constructed as a cost of $5,000 the Shakers claimed..
Page 123:  The Harvard Shakers attributed some of their longevity to the community's drinking water.  This literal fountain of youth had been introduced in 1855 when drought caused the supply of well water to fell and the Shakers laid an aqueduct to a spring one mile away.  Thereafter, all of the water drunk by the community came from this spring, resulting, they claimed, in a sixteen percent improvement in the rate of longevity (comparing the death records of 1835-1855 and 1860-1880).

2003 The Fountain of Youth Found. The Harvard Shakers' Miraculous Spring Water, by Daniel V. Boudillion.

2016 Water Franchise Areas in Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Prepared by Paul E. Osborne, Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, March 2016

2017 Morris A. Pierce