Documentary History of American Water-works

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

South Hadley, Massachusetts

South Hadley was incorporated as a town in 1775.

The first water system was built by Fire District Number One in 1872.  The Grove Street and Spring Street aqueduct companies also operated in South Hadley Falls as early as 1876, but nothing is known about their systems or how long they operated. 

Fire District Number two was form in 1909 and built a water system serving the northern part of the town.

Water in South Hadley Falls is provided by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority from Quabbin Reservoir and distributed by South Hadley Water District No. 1.  Other areas are served by South Hadley Fire District No. 2.

1872 An act to supply the village of South Hadley Falls with water.  March 19, 1872.

1876 South Hadley Falls Directory
Page 25:  Aqueduct Companies
Grove Street Aqueduct Co. Treasurer, Charles Rannenberg; Secretary C. W. Rannenburg; Executive Committee, Maurice Thieme, Martin Dressel; Superintendent, Wm. Hennich.
Spring Street Aqueduct Co. Treasurer, Benj. Aldrich; Superintendent, Levi Dickinson.

1881 South Hadley Falls, from Engineering News 8:414  (October 15, 1882)

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

1885 South Hadley Falls Directory
Page 310:  Fire District No. 1. Clerk – H.W. Taylor; Treasurer – Benj. Aldrich; Prudential Committee – Benj. Aldrich, Harvey Carey, Horace Hatfield.
Page 311  Aqueduct Companies.
Grand Street Aqueduct Company. Secretary and Treasurer. – Maurice Thieme; Executive Committee. – Charles Rannenberg, William Hennick.
Spring Street Aqueduct Company. Treasurer. – Benjamin Aldrich.

1885 Benjamin Aldrich (1815-1885) grave

1888 "South Hadley Falls," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "South Hadley Falls," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "South Hadley Falls," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1897 "South Hadley Falls," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1909 An act to establish Fire District Number Two in the town of South Hadley.  March 31, 1909.

2003 Town of South Hadley 250th anniversary book, by Irene Cronin and Dale H Johnston, II.
Pages 74-76:  Fire District No. 1.
Water  for  domestic  purposes  in  the  Falls  was  supplied  by  the Grove and Spring Street Aqueduct Companies. The hill portion of the District was dependent for water upon shallow wells and a water famine occurred often in midwinter as well as in summer.  After several attempts the hill residents got the District to obtain authority from the state legislature to install a system of waterworks throughout the village for fire and domestic purposes.
A Board of Water Commissioners was elected on April 2, 1872 consisting  of  Benjamin  Aldrich,  Benjamin  Congdon,  Charles Bardwell, Hiram Smith, Jr., Frank Carew, Isaac N. Snow. They established  Buttery  Brook  Reservoir.  As  the  town  grew,  the demand for water increased. The use of water had to be restricted during times of drought. Buttery Brook had a capacity of about nine million gallons or 176,000 gallons a day.
The Board of Water Commissioners voted on June 8, 1891 to build a new reservoir at Leaping Well Brook, and it was constructed the next year. It had a capacity of 30 million gallons, yielding 322,000 gallons per day. The two reservoirs took care of the District’s needs until around 1948, but it became apparent that a new source had to be found. Studies were made of possible other sources, and in 1951 a 45 year contract was signed to buy Quabbin water from the Mass. District Commission’s Nash Hill aqueduct in Ludlow.
On Nov. 14, 1952 Fire District No. 1 began to draw on Quabbin water.  The  Buttery  Brook  supply  was  abandoned  at  the  same time, and in 1958 the District voted to transfer the property to the town to be used for recreational purposes. The Leaping Well Reservoir was maintained for a short time but also phased out. Vigorous attempts have been made to locate other sources and are still ongoing. In 1989 Water District 1 moved into a new building on the Granby Road.
Fire District No. 2.
After the big fire that destroyed the Mount Holyoke Seminary building in 1896, demand grew for a more adequate water
system and fire protection in the Center. A committee to organize Fire District No. 2 was appointed, and the district was formally established on April 26, 1909.  The original committee consisted of E. M. Burnett, W. A. Burnett, C. A. Gridley, J. C. Mellen and A. L. Wright.
The  first Prudential Committee included L.B. Allen, E.M. Burnett, and W. A. Burnett. The First Water Commission was made up of H. T. Brockway, A. R. Wilson and A. L. Wright.
As demand for water continued to increase, the district purchased the west branch of Elmer Brook and its watershed. All the real estate of the Mount Holyoke Spring Water Co. was transferred to Fire District No. 2 on October 29, 1931, and Lithia Spring became part of the district’s water system.
In 1941, a new reservoir was built with a concrete core wall. In 1949 the district authorized the Board of Water Commissioners to increase the storage capacity of the reservoir, and in 1950 Scott Brothers of Ludlow completed the work of raising the height ofthe dam 11 feet and extending it to 302 feet. The improvements increased the reservoir’s capacity from 4½ million to 49 milliongallons. The dam impounded Lithia Spring and the north branch of Elmer Brook.
As  demands  for  fire  and  water  services  continued  to  increase, use of a well at Dry Brook was started in 1963. It is capable of pumping 920 gallons a minute.  Plans to enlarge Lithia Spring were approved in 1970, but as time went on, use of it decreased because of its limited capacity and because as surface water supply, water has to be filtered and chlorinated.  By 1996, it was no longer used,  and in February 2000 the Water Commissioners voted to inactivate the Elmer Brook Pumping Station that had been used to pump water from the Lithia Spring Reservoir.

2015 Local historian Leo Labonte gave a presentation on aqueducts in South Hadley Falls, but no copy of this has been found.

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce