Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Springfield, Massachusetts

Springfield was founded in 1636.

The Springfield Aqueduct was chartered on June 14, 1798 by John Worthington, Samuel Lyman, Chauncy Brewer, John Hooker, Joseph Stebbins, and Zebina Stebbins.  There was an aqueduct operating in the center of Springfield the following June, which may have been built by this company.  No further information about this early aqueduct has been found.

An aqueduct was built using rolled sheet lead around 1816, and one or two years later Charles Sterns and a neighbor built an aqueduct to supply their property using drawn lead pipes. This pipe failed from corrosion after fifteen years and was replaced.  Around 1838 Stearns built a larger aqueduct to serve twenty or twenty-five families using a heavy lead pipe.  This pipe corroded quickly after three or four years, and Stearns replaced it with word, which proved more durable.  In the spring of 1843 Stearns built a more extensive water system and investigated other piping materials and methods by visiting systems in Syracuse and Boston.  Stearns and his associates applied for a corporate charter in 1848, and the Springfield Aqueduct Company was chartered on May 10, 1848 by Charles Stearns, Festus Stebbins, and George Hastings. (See 1858 reference below.)

The City Aqueduct Company was organized on September 10, 1860 by R. A. Chapman, P. B. Tyler, G. R. Townsley and D. L. Harris. This company ran a seven-inch pipe from Lake Como afforded fifty gallons
per minute, but this was opposed by residents whose wells it drained.  The following year it was purchased by the city for $2,921.12 and abandoned.

The City of Springfield bought the system on July 1, 1872 but did not take possession until June 1873.

The Springfield Water and Sewer Commission, which was formed in July 1996, currently owns the system and supplies water to the community. Their web site includes a water system history.

1798 An act to incorporate John Worthington Esqr. and others for conveying water in subterraneous pipes in Springfield, June 14, 1798.

1799 Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), June 1, 1799, Page 4.
To be Sold - in Springfield, a genteel dwelling-house,two stories high, four rooms on a floor; a large Kitchen adjoining, and four acres of Land; delightfully situated in the centre of the town.  The lot is 140 feet front on the street, and extends to Connecticut River, and has convenient out buildings, and excellent Garden, and a variety of Fruit-Trees - an aqueduct supplies the house and barn al all times, with the purest spring Water.  For particulars, apply to William Smith, Springfield, or Daniel Tuttle, of Boston.

1848 An Act to incorporate the Springfield Aqueduct Company, May 10, 1848

1849 A Statement of facts in connection with the petition of the Springfield Aqueduct Company, for an addition to their act of incorporation: Also Hon.W.G.Bates' argument before the committee of the legislature, on the subject, March 23, 1849

1849 A Reply to Charles Stearns' 'statement of Facts': In Connection with the Petition of the Springfield Aqueduct Co. for an Addition to Their Act of Incorporation, by Joseph Charles Pynchon

1858 "Pipes for Conducting Water," by Charles Stearns, New England Farmer 10(7):325-327 (July 1858).  History of the aqueducts in Springfield.

1859 Lumbard vs. Stearns, Supreme Court of Massachusetts.  Case involving water rights of Charles Stearns and the Springfield Aqueduct Company.

1872 An Act to supply the city of Springfield with water. May 6, 1872

1872 "The Water Question," The Springfield Daily Republican, June 4, 1872, Pages 5-6.
Report of the City Water Committee.

1875 Report of the Board of Water Commissioners of the City of Springfield  This volume contains several early annual reports with many historical documents and agreements.

1879 History of the Connecticut Valley in Massachusetts: History of Franklin County. History of Hampden County, Volume II

1881 Springfield from Engineering News, 8:302-303 (July 30, 1881)

1882 "Springfield Water Supply," Engineering News 9:113 (April 8, 1882)

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

1884 "The Water Department," King's Handbook of Springfield, Massachusetts: A Series of Monographs, Historical and Descriptive by William Clogston

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

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

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

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

1904 Report of Special Commission on Water Supply to the city council of the city of Springfield, Mass., March 28, 1904.

1908 "The Construction of the Little River Water Supply for Springfield, Mass.," Engineering Record 58(24):656-659 (December 12, 1908)

1909 Report to the City Council, March 28, 1904: Including ... Reports .

1910 Springfield's new Little River water system : a complete history and pictorial description of the great work in construction for three years, wonder work in concrete shown in detail, by James F McPhee

1926 Western Massachusetts; a history, 1636-1925 Volume II
Page 895-896:Water Supply — Previous to 1843 Springfield was supplied with water from wells on private lands, but after the construction of the Western Railroad the rapidly increasing population demanded more water than could be afforded by wells. The water systems first in use after 1843 were private undertakings, the first of which was headed by Hon. Charles Stearns. In June, 1843, he commenced
building a reservoir and strung a long line of log pipes therefrom to the depot, down Main street as far as Howard street. The size of the bore was four, six and seven inches. In 1848 Mr. Stearns and associates were granted articles of incorporation by the Legislature, and in June, 1848, the "Springfield Aqueduct Company" was organized with a capital of |25,000, all of which was paid to Mr. Stearns for his water improvements. The water rents at that date amounted to $2,700 per year and 700 families were customers. In 1860 it was seen that more and better systems must obtain and the city council looked for more water sources. In 1860 the City Aqueduct Company, composed of R. A. Chapman, P. B. Tyler, G. R. Townsley and D. L. Harris, was organized. The seven-inch pipe laid by this company from Lake Como afforded fifty gallons per minute.

The next advance was made in 1875 when water was conveyed from Ludlow through pipes by gravitation. The works were then placed under a board of water commissioners. As time went on more water was needed and has been provided by the scientific spirit of the age. There are now 269 miles of water pipe laid in the city; number fire hydrants, 2,231; average water pressure on Main street, 140 pounds ; in the Hill section it is eighty pounds per square inch. Immense storage plants are located in Ludlow and Little River country. The aggregate storage capacity is now 4,030,518,000 gallons. Since 1872 the water works have been the property of the city. The present average daily consumption per capita is eighty-nine gallons. Features of the water of Springfield are its "softness" and purity and freedom from mineral tastes.

1946 "Springfield, Massachusetts—Survival and Retirement Experience With Water Works Facilities: As of December 31, 1942," Journal of the American Water Works Association,
Vol. 38, No. 5 (May 1946), pp. 662-685.  This includes details of all the pipe installed for this system since 1864. 

2008 Springfield's Little River Water System by Ralph Slate

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce