Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Northfield

Northfield, Massachusetts

Northfield was first settled by Europeans in 1673.

An aqueduct was operating in Northfield by early 1795, as mentioned in this advertisement from a Boston newspaper:

Columbian Centinel, March 28, 1795, Page 4

Solomon Vose, Medad Pomeroy, Caleb Lyman, Edward Houghton, Eleazer Stratton, Elijah Mattoon, Eliphaz Wright, Josiah White and Samuel Feild were incorporated as The Proprietors of the Aqueduct in Northfeild on March 7, 1797 for the purpose of conveying water by subteraneous pipes in the Town of Northfeild.

Several other small water companies operated in Northfield.

The Northfield Water Company was incorporated on April 29, 1898 by Charles H. Webster, Frank E. Stimpson, Charles A. Linsley, Ellen F. Alexander, Mary J. Osgood, Mary A. Pomeroy, Martha Hall, Charles S. Warner, Charles H. Green and Rollin C. Ward for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of Northfield with water for the extinguishment of fires and for domestic and all other purposes.  This law authorized the Town of Northfield to buy the water system at any time "on payment to said corporation of the actual cost of its franchise, works and property."

The Northfield Water District was formed in 1965 and currently supplies water to the community.  The East Northfield Water Company is owned by the Northfield Mountain Herman School and supplies that campus and other nearby customers in East Northfield.

1795 Columbian Centinel, March 28, 1795, Page 4
For Sale, An eligible situation for the man of business or an elegant spot for a gentleman desirous of a rural seat at a distance from the capital, in the town of Northfield, on Connecticut river, on one of the handsomest streets on the continent, about a quarter of a mile from the meeting-house, and nearly the same distance from the water; where boats may receive and discharge their freight.  Consisting of a House and about 8 acres of Land, on which is a good Orchard, and a large new Store and Distill-house adjoining, completely supplied with Coppers, Worms, and every other necessary for carrying on the Gin Distillery on a large scale, with a right in an aqueduct which conveys the water directly into the Worm Tub.
The Whole will be sold together, or exclusive of the Coppers, Worms, and the Stock in the Store, as will be most agreeable to the Purchasers.  As all the obstructions to the navigation of Connecticut river will shortly be removed by Lock and Canals, the value of these Estates must be greatly appreciated, that receive these local advantages.
The Premises may be viewed at any time, by applying to Mr. Samuel Brewer, the present occupant, at Northfield.  The terms of payment will be made very favorable to the purchasers.  For further particulars, apply to Aaron Putnam, Esq. at Charlestown, or George Burroughs, at Boston.
N.B. The above Estate will be sold at Public Auction, on the premises, on Monday, the 1st of June next, if not previously disposed of at Private Sale.   March 21.

1797 An act to incorporate Solomon Vose and others, Proprietors of an Aqueduct in Northfeild,  March 7, 1797

1898 An Act to incorporate the Northfield Water Company, April 29, 1898.

1910 All about Northfield: A Brief History and Guide by Arthur Percy Fitt
Page 152: Water Companies
Northfield Water Company incorporated $10,000 capital (April 29, 1898).  Originally there were two water companies at the centre, both drawing upon the same sources on the easterly hills about two miles out Warwick Avenue.  On March 9, 1797, the first of these organized by nine citizens who incorporated as "Proprietors of the Aqueduct in Northfield," for the purpose of conveying water by subterranean pipes.  One company ran up Main Street to B. F. Field's, the other south to C. H. Green's.  When the log pipes gave out the two companies got together and formed the Northfield Water Company.  A reservoir was built with a capacity of 35,000 gallons, and new pipes were laid in Main Street as far as Dr. Pentecost's on the north and James Wall's on the south.  Pressure, eighty to ninety pounds.  President, C. H. Webster; treasurer B. F. Field.
Dry Swamp Aqueduct Corporation. This has operated for a hundred years, but was incorporated in November 1864.  There are eleven proprietors who are the users of the system, which draws its supply from springs and Miller's Brook, out Maple Street, in the section called the Dry Swamp in the early days of settlement.  The corporation is elected by three directors elected annually.  Clerk and treasurer, F. J. Stockbridge.
East Northfield Water Company.  Owned by Northfield Seminary.  The pipes connect with all the Seminary buildings, the Northfield Hotel, and a limited number of private residences.  The old system is in Bonar Glen, and connection is sometimes made to meet the extra summer demand.  There is a pressure of about 150 pounds, sufficient to throw a stream of water over the Auditorium towers.  Manager, A. G. Moody
Mountain Park Water Supply, with Crystal Spring reservoir, is owned by Mrs. Alice L. Woodbury, and serves cottages in the Mountain Park tract in East Northfield.
The water supply in town is quite inadequate for present demands.  The town ought to take over this public utility from the private companies and make far-sighted, generous provision for future increase in household and commercial needs. 

1937 A Puritan outpost, a history of the town and people of Northfield, Massachusetts by Herbert Collins Parsons
Page 213-214: The General Court of 1797 authorized the incorporation by nine citizens, headed by the postmaster, of "The proprietors of the Aqueduct in Northfield, for the purpose of carrying water by subterranean pipes." The subterranean pipes were wooden logs, with a bore of two and a quarter inches, coupled by iron castings driven into the ends. The supply was found in a small brook some two miles east of the town, whose crystal water poured into the "string" with no more of a reservoir than was necessary to cover the end of the log at the point of intake. What was accomplished was to turn enough of the mountain brook into the aqueduct to keep it supplied. There could be no need of storage on a brook that was constant in flow and never so low as not to fill a two-and-a-quarter inch bore. Let the storage be provided in each household, where a cistern in the kitchen would replace the pump. The string of logs—and "string" was the word bound to replace "aqueduct" in common speech —took a straight course into the town along the turnpike, which meanwhile came into existence, for it was six years before the water flowed.
Page 442:  Water supply had made some gain in the organization of the Northfield Water Company the first year of the century and the replacement of pump-log lines, each with a few families to supply, by iron pipes and a larger range. In 1915, it was taken over by the town and the reservoir, a modest one but fed by the purest spring, was somewhat enlarged. The first movement for fire protection came in 1904 with an appropriation of $450 for hose and cart had advanced gradually by the purchase of chemical apparatus and the organization of volunteer fire-fighters.

1965 An Act establishing the Northfield Water District in the Town of Northfield, May 10, 1965

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce