Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Peabody

Peabody, Massachusetts

Peabody was first settled in 1626 as a part of Salem.  A separate town of Danvers was formed in 1752, and the southern part of Danvers became the town of South Danvers in 1855, with the name being changed to Peabody in 1868.  Peabody became a city in 1916.

William Gray, Jr. and Joshua Ward of Salem, and Edward Southwick of Danvers were incorporated as The Proprietors of the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct on March 9, 1797 "for the purpose of conveying fresh water by subterraneous pipes into the towns of Salem & Danvers."  This company constructed a system using wooden pipes that began operation in 1799.  Stephen Cummings reportedly worked on the aqueduct before his death in 1797, boring logs with a bit of his own design.  His second cousin, Samuel Comings, built an earlier aqueduct in Nelson, New Hampshire using a similar machine. The first iron pipe was installed in 1834.  The company petitioned the legislature for power to secure additional water sources, which was granted in 1839.  Another act in 1850 further expanded their water sources, and also required that  "The corporation shall lay a six-inch iron pipe, from the square in South Danvers, through the main street, to Salem, for the supply of water to the inhabitants on said street."

The Union Aqueduct in Salem and Danvers was organized on December 30, 1799 by Caleb Low, Robert Shillaber, Samuel Purinton, Stephen Larrabee, Amos Purinton, and Lydia Trask.  The proprietors met in 1801 to discuss repairing the system, but no further information has been found on this system.

In 1846 a local tannery tapped into the pipes of the Aqueduct company with a 1 1/2 inch lead pipe and stole a significant amount of water.  The offender was caught and tried but larcency but this resulted in a hung jury.  A subsequent civil lawsuit was won by the Aqueduct company with damages exceeding $2,000.

Salem constructed its own water works works in 1869 after negotiations with the aqueduct company failed to produce a satisfactory result.  This had a negative effect on the stock of the company, and they entered into negotiations with the Town of Peabody in 1870.  After the town investigated the legality of purchasing the system, they purchased the remaining property of the aqueduct company in 1873 for $125,000, after which they expanded and improved the system.

The City of Peabody currently supplies water to the community.

1797 An act to incorporate William Gray Junr. and others for the purpose of bringing fresh water into the towns of Salem and Danvers by subterraneous pipes, March 9, 1797.

1806 Rules and Regulations of the Proprietors of the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct,: As Established by Their Directors, for the Direction of Those Persons who Have a Right to Take Water from the Same

1839 An act in addition to an Act to incorporate William Gray, Jr. and others, for the purpose of bringing Fresh Water into the towns of Salem and Danvers by subterranean pipes, April 6, 1839.

1846 Salem Register, September 21, 1846
Mr. A. Southwick, of Danvers, was brought before Justice Waters, on Friday, on a charge of the Salem Aqueduct Company of his having for several months past clandestinely applied the water of said corporation for his own use.  It seems there have been complaints made by individuals of a scarcity of water from the pipes, and the Company have been at great expense to discover the supposed leak.  But somehow or other, however, it has leaked out that said Southwick, by means of a lead pipe conveyed through his yard from the main log, has been extracting a large supply for manufacturing purposes.  The examination of not concluded, owing as we understand to the indisposition of Mr. S., and will be resumes on the 5th of October next.--Salem Adv.
Sprung a Leak.  A serious leak has been discovered the present week in the line of logs that convey the water of the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct Co., through the valley of North River to Salem.  It is said that the loss of water to the Company was 10 gallons per minute. We learn that there were some singular circumstances about the leakage, such as have not been before witnesses by the vigilant agent of the Company in all of his experience in searching for defects in the logs.  The leak was from a round hole, just one and a half inches in diameter, and the water run into a lead pipe of like capacity which had by some means, accidentally or otherwise, been connected by flanges &c. to the aperture in the log. It also happened,strangely enough, that the water was conveyed underground through the lead pipe, into a Manufacturing establishment, where it proved to be of essential benefit to the concern.
It also accidentally happened that there was a stop cock in the pipe, by which the water could at any time be stopped or let flow at pleasure, so that it will he very difficult for the Company to estimate their lose or rather the loss of their customers.
The strange mystery attending this leakage (which is said to have continued nearly two years) has created much excitement, and some persons connected with the Aqueduct Co. as well as others who use the water in Salem, have been so unreasonable as to attribute the leakage to design on the part of somebody who may have benefited thereby.  We have even heard that this moving of the waters has undergone an investigation  before Judge Waters, who is to decide sundry questions of law relating to underground larceny, the difference between honest and dishonest water, and generally all matters relating to the pure element.  Danvers Courier

1846 Amherst (NH) Farmers Cabinet, October 1, 1846
Water Stealing.--There has been quite an excitement in Salem for a few days past, occasioned by the discovery of a very remarkable fraud on the Aqueduct Company, which supplies the city with soft water.
It seems that for some eighteen months, frequent complaints have been made of the failure of the usual supply of water; and the water in the fountain has been unusually low.  The company satisfied that there must be an extensive leakage, have expended a great deal of labor and money in attempts to discover the leak and to furnish the needful element, but all in vain, until last week, when they were informed by a laborer in one of the Danvers tanneries, that one of the logs of the aqueduct had been tapped for the purpose of supplying a tanning establishment, near the monument in South Danvers occupied by Mr. A. Southwick.
The superintendent immediately visited the spot indicated by his informant, and discovered after considerable digging, that a large lead pipe had been inserted into a main log of the aqueduct, capable of drawing off ten gallons of water a minute, or more than fourteen thousand gallons every twenty-four hours.  With this an extensive tannery has been supplied, and also a steam engine; and not satisfied with this, the thief had let out a right to one of his neighbors, who, ignorant of the source from which the water came, had also been furnished with the stolen water.  The whole quantity of water thus abstracted from the Company, it is estimated, would have supplied a hundred families.
As may be supposed, the discovery of this wholesale theft, which had occasioned the company so much trouble and expense, and the city so much inconvenience, produced a burst of indignation among the inhabitants of Salem.  Mr. Southwick has been arrested and held to bail in the sum of $1,000, to answer to the charges against him.

1846 Salem Register, October 8, 1846, page 2
Court of Common Pleas.  In the case of the complaint of the Salem Aqueduct company, against a Danvers tanner, for stealing their water, which occupied two days and a half, the jury did not agree, and a new trial must be had.
Adna H. Southwick, larcency, taking water from the Salem Aqueduct, plea not guilty--jury did not agree--bonds $1000 for appearance at a new trial.

1847 Salem Register, June 17, 1847, Page 2
Aqueduct v. Southwick.  In the case of the Proprietors of the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct and A. H. Southwick, which we mantioned has having been on trial before ex-Chief Justice Williams as referee, we understand that the referee has made an award, giving the Aqueduct Company two thousand and ninety-two dollars and sixteen cents damages, and costs of reference, amounting to something over two hundred dollars, to be paid by Southwick.

1850 An Act in further addition to "An Act to incorporate William Gray, junior, and others, for the purpose of bringing Fresh Water into the towns of Salem and Danvers, by subterranean pipes," May 3, 1850.

1860 "History of the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct" by Charles M. Endicott, from Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, Volume 2, Number 3 (June 1860)

1864 "Extracts from the Records of two Aqueduct Corporations in Salem and Danvers", communicated by Henry Wheatland from Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, Volume 6, Number 1 (February1864)

1869  Account of the proceedings upon the transfer of the Salem water works, to the city authorities, Nov. 16, 1869: and the addresses of W.P. Phillips, and William Cogswell.  This includes further history of the Salem & Danvers Aqueduct.

1881 An Act to enable the town of Peabody to improve its water works and increase its water supply, April 6, 1881.

1882 Peabody, from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1883 "Peabody" from Engineering News 10:496 (October 20, 1883)

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

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

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

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

1903 The Cummings Memorial: A Genealogical History of the Descendants of Isaac Cummings, an Early Settler of Topsfield, Massachusetts, Compiled by Rev. George Mooar.
Page 106: 93. Samuel Comings 
Page 154:  136. Stephen Commings.  He died Apr. 25, 1797.  He was, according to Mr. Perley D. Cummings, "the inventor of a bit used for boring pump logs and aqueduct tubes of wood.  He built Salem Aqueduct, as well as a long one on Cape Cod.

1907 "Recent improvements to the water works at Peabody, Mass, including pumping plant and distributing reservoir," by Frank A. Barbour from Journal of the New England Water Works Association 21(4):348-366 (December 1907)

2015 Morris A. Pierce