Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Worcester

Worcester, Massachusetts

Worcester was incorporated as a town in 1713.

The first water supply was built by Daniel Goulding, who was authorized by a 1798 law.  

The Worcester Aqueduct Company was incorporated on February 28, 1845 by "The inhabitants of the Centre School District in the town of Worcester, in the county of Worcester."  This act was not to take effect until "the same is accepted at a meeting of the inhabitants of said district, called for that purpose, by a majority of those present and voting thereon."  The act was amended in 1850.  This company built an aqueduct taking water from Bell Pond.  The system was completed in 1845 and the City purchased the aqueduct company on March 8, 1848.

The city expanded the system in 1863 under the direction of engineer Phinehas Ball, who was a member of the water commission and elected mayor in December, 1864.  Ball later formed the Union Water Meter Company in Worcester.

Several other small aqueducts operated during the 19th Century.

The City of Worcester owns and operates the water works.

1798 An act authorizing Daniel Goulding to conduct water in subterraneous pipes from a certain spring in his own land, within the town of Worcester for the accommodation of himself and some other inhabitants of the said town.  March 2, 1798.

1845 An act to incorporate the Worcester Aqueduct Company.  February 28, 1845.

1850 An act in addition to "An act to incorporate the Worcester Aqueduct Company."  April 15, 1850.

1856 "Fire Department and Aqueduct" from The heart of the commonwealth, or, Worcester as it is: being a correct guide to all the public buildings and institutions, and to some of the principal manufactories and shops, and wholesale and retail stores, in Worcester and vicinity : with many engravings, and a new map of the city by Henry Jenkins Howland.

1863 Report of a Committee on the City Council on an additional supply of water, for the city of Worcester : with report, plan and estimates, by Phinehas Ball

1873 Annual Reports of the City Engineer, of the Water Commissioner, and of the Water Registrar of the City of Worcester for the year ending November 30, 1873.  Provided by the Worcester Historical Museum.
Page 38:  There are connected with the works seven hundred and seventy-one water meters, an addition of five hundred and seventy-- one during the past twelve months, varying in size from inch to 4 inches, as follows:
Most of these were manufactured by the Union Water Meter Company of this city. Wm. E. Desper, also of this city, having about seventy upon the works; Mr. H. R. Worthington, of New York, one; the National Water Meter Company, also of New York, one.

1874 Letter on the Water Supply of Worcester to A.G. Coes, Chairman of the Committee on Water Sept. 17, 1874 by Phinehas Ball

1875 Rates and Regulations of the Worcester Water Works Worcester, Mass. Water Committee

1877 Report of the Joint Committee of the City Council: On Rebuilding the Lynde Brook Dam; a Complete History of the Worcester Water Works from 1722 to 1877 by Worcester (Mass.). City Council 

1881 Worcester, Engineering News, 8:272 (July 9, 1881)

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

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

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

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

1895 "In Memoriam, Phineas Ball," from Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 15:138 (May, 1895)

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

1899 Worcester of Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-eight: Fifty Years a City : a Graphic Representation of Its Institutions, Industries, and Leaders by Franklin Pierce Rice
Page 41:  [1864] The sources of public water supply of the city at this time were as follows: The Allen, or Spring water, supplying thirty-seven different parties on Main street by an aqueduct two miles long from a source near Adams square; Paine spring, from Laurel hill, supplying 125 parties on School, Union, Main, Thomas and Summer streets through one mile of pipe; the Rice aqueduct, supplying sixty-one families near Grafton and Franklin streets; Bell pond, or Worcester aqueduct, which contributed the more general supply, on which the city relied for water in case of fire. This aqueduct had been transferred to the city by the company, which was incorporated in 1845 to construct it.
Pages 505-507:  Union Water Meter Company
Pages 553-556:  Phinehas Ball

1904 "The Water Supply of Worcester Mass" by F A McClure Civil Engineer in Municipal Engineering vol 27 no 1 (July 1904)

1916 Washington Square, Worcester  by Henry M. Wheeler
Page 18:  We have already spoken of the lack of information regarding the early history of this Square. An examination of the titles by which Hubbard, Kelly and Daniels held the land prior to its sale to Hathaway might throw light on the matter. A year and a half ago, in a conversation with the Librarian of this Society, he gave me his impression that Mr. Darius Rice, who lived at Rice Square on the Grafton road, but died in 1882, had constructed an aqueduct conveying water from his neighborhood to Washington Square in hollow logs, a method often used for short distances. I communicated with Mr. Rice's son, George H., who informed me that three aqueducts had existed in that part of the city, one of iron pipes, the first to be used in the town, was constructed in 1798 by Samuel Hathaway and others, from the foot of the present Barclay street to carry water to the distillery and bakery in Washington Square ; one a little later, of lead pipe, from Suffolk street, through the Boston & Worcester meadow and Washington Square, across the brook, by Mr. Hathaway to his house on Front street at the east comer of Church street. The third was built by his father, Darius, of lead pipe, about 1850, the water being carried from the comer of Grafton and Cutler streets. Mr. Rice bought the first aqueduct in 1850, and in 1864 turned the water of his spring into that of the iron pipes purchased by him, and sold eleven hundred dollars' worth of old lead pipe at the price of 14 cents a pound which cost him 5 cents a pound. How is that for a trade fifty years ago? Mr. G. H. Rice added this information, that his father was a member of the city council in 1845, when the city took over the rights in Bladder or Bell pond on Millstone Hill, and a Committee recommended placing three public watering troughs, one each at Washington and Lincoln Squares and one at the head of Front street. I called the attention of my friend at Lombard to the story of the log aqueduct, who replied that during his stay in the Square the bridge over the brook was repaired, and the small boys who superintended the work would have been sure to see any pipes laid across or under the water ; besides, he doubted if a wooden pipe would have stood the necessary pressure. But probably at that time any aqueduct ever existing would have been discontinued. 

1926 An act making additional provisions for the water supply needs of the Metropolitan Water District and other communities which now or hereafter may require water therefrom, and of the city of Worcester.  May 28, 1926.

1931 An Act relative to the taking of the waters of Quinapoxet river and South Wachusett Brook and their tributaries by the city of Worcester for water supply purposes. May 20, 1931

1949 An Act relative to the taking of the waters of Quinapoxet river, South Wachusett Brook and their tributaries by the city of Worcester for water supply purposes. August 16, 1949

Phinehas Ball Papers at the American Antiquarian Society

2015 Morris A. Pierce