Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Kingston

Kingston, Massachusetts

Kingston was first settled in the early 1620s and established as a separate town in 1717.

The Kingston Aqueduct Association was organized September 17, 1804.  The initial system distributed water through wood logs.  A water pumping station and iron pipes were added about 1850, with lead pipes added later.

The Town of Kingston was authorized to construct water works in 1885 and started construction the following year, with service to a few customers in the fall of 1886.

At a meeting of the town voters held July 7, 1888 it was agreed to purchase Kingston Aqueduct Association for $5,000.  It was dissolved as an entity on May 15, 1890.

The Town of Kingston currently provides water service.


1883 Kingston, from Engineering News, 10:377 (April 11, 1883)

1885 Report of the Committee on Water Supply, January 31, 1885, from Town of Kingston Annual Report for 1885.  Annual reports for 1887 and 1888 include good information on the construction of the town's water system.

1885 An act to supply the town of Kingston with water, May 15, 1885.
Section 9. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to authorize the said town to take, otherwise than by purchase, or interfere with, any of the estate, property, rights or privileges of the Kingston Aqueduct Association, located in said town. The said town may purchase the franchise, corporate property and all the rights and privileges of said corporation, at a price to be mutually agreed upon between said town and said corporation; and the said corporation is authorized to make sale of the same to said town, and by such purchase said town shall
become subject to all the liabilities and obligations to said corporation appertaining.

1895 Annual report of the State Board of Health of Massachusetts. 1896
Page xxiv:  Lead Poisoning by Means of the Use of Lead Pipes for the Conveyance of Drinking Water.
Page 30:  Report on lead poisoning from lead pipes in Kingston.

1925 Story of the Kingston Water System by Charles H. Drew; 2/13/1925, Listed on page 2 of Vertical Finding Aid in Kingston Public Library

[1950?] A Brief Sketch of the Water System of Kingston, Massachusetts, by Emily Drew, Listed on page 2 of Kingston Water Department Finding Aid in Kingston Public Library

1976 Major Bradford's Town: A History of Kingston, 1726-1976, by Doris Johnson Melville and Committee for the Observance of the 250th Anniversary of the Incorporation of the Town of Kingston
Page 126: According to Miss Drew, at the beginning of the first Kingston Aqueduct Company, formed when ''householders of means bought stock in the company," used a "large spring southwest of Causaton's (Crosman's) Pond,which became known as the Fountain Head .... Fountain Head Brook was the natural outlet of the spring. The water was piped to the village through hollowed logs, with the joints covered with iron bands." The water flowed by the force of gravity to cisterns of the stockholders and was pumped to kitchens
through wooden pumps. The system served for many years, although often interrupted in the winter by freezing conditions, but was closed after an epidemic "of the nature of typhoid fever or dysentery - the town doctor traced it to the drinking water and the old aqueduct was condemned."
Some time later, the company was reorganized and took water from Cuff's Spring (on the property formerly used by Cuff Stephens near the
house given him by Cornelius Sampson on the brow of the north bank of the Jones River, east of Elm Street). A waterwheel in the river provided the power to pump the spring water into a wooden tank on Sampson property, from which it flowed - through iron pipes, now - to more customers.
"But the company either could not or would not expand," Miss Drew wrote, "and the townspeople who were not customers wanted a community water system. There was not just a need for individual household supply, but a growing awareness of the need of adequate fire protection. The 'Water War' was on" with the "members of the Kingston Aqueduct Co., fearing the loss of their investment, opposed to" a municipal system, but the problem was. finally taken to town meeting, "which voted to purchase the old gristmill privilege, the rights and a certain amount of Aqueduct Co. equipment. Members of the company held out for a while, but one by one joined the town system."  Town water came from a series of springs along the Jones River's north bank.  One west of Elm Street became known as the Receiving Well; its conical brick top is still visible next to the old Indian path along the river. ...
The water department was conceived as a self-sufficient operation, which has never quite been managed.  The original cost of the waterworks was about $60,000; when waterpower no longer was sufficient to pump the water to the reservoir, the town meeting in 1906 voted $5,500 for electrifying the waterworks.
In 1895, a complaint was made of lead in the water and after testing by the State Board of Heath, the state wrote that it "has found that the use of lead pipes in the distribution of this water has seriously injured the health of many citizens of the Town and endangers the health of all who use the water so conveyed.  The State Board, therefore, recommends the immediate removal of all lead pipes in the Town wherever they are used for conveying water for domestic use, either as service pipes or as street mains."
Considering the strength of the language used by the state board, it is rather amazing that none of the citizens so endangered sued the town nor did the town rush to rip out the offending pipes. Later communications from the state board make it clear that the water itself was extremely pure and free of detrimental agents as it came from the wells - that the unsafe amounts of lead appeared in the town water "more or less according to the time 1t 1s allowed to remain in contact with the lead," according to water commissioners Waldo S. Cole, Paraclete W. Holmes and George B. Holmes. The commissioners said, "In case that the town should think best to change the service pipes now in use, it would be necessary to dig up and replace about 5,300 feet of the pipes."  Lead pipe was still listed in the inventory of the water department pipes several years ago.  There is no indication that the lead pipes were replaced.

2015 Water System Profile, Town of Kingston, Massachusetts, Journal of the New England Water Works Association, 129(1):28-33 (March 2015)

The Kingston Public Library has records of the Kingston Water Department

2015 Morris A. Pierce