Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Michigan Allegan

Allegan, Michigan

Allegan was incorporated as a village in 1838 and as a city in 1907.

The village built a Holly water works system that began service in September, 1872.  The system used two Holly rotary pumps that were replaced with Walker pumps in the mid-1880s.

Water is supplied by the city of Allegan.

References and Timeline
1872 Pontiac Weekly Gazette, July 26, 1872, Page 1.
Allegan is quarrels with its village board in regard to the water works.

1872 "Visit of the Muskegon Firemen," Allegan Journal, September 7, 1872, Page 3.
Trial of the Holly Water Works.

1880 History of Allegan and Barry counties, Michigan, by Crisfield Johnson
Pages 156-157:  Holly Water Works
In the fall of the year 1870 the question of adopting the Holly system of water-works in Allegan was very generally discussed by the taxpayers and voters of that village.
Negotiations were opened by the village officers with Mr. Holly, and that gentleman submitted a proposition to furnish the requisite machinery for such works, to be propelled by water-power, to the officers above mentioned. At the annual election of village officers in March, 1871, the whole question was duly submitted to the electors, with a further proposition to borrow $25,000 on tiine bonds (at not over ten per cent, interest), to be expended in purchasing the necessary machinery and putting it in operation. Three hundred and fifty-five votes were cast, of which 225 were for and the remainder against the measure.
Bonds were at first issued for $12,500, payable in five equal annual payments, and were negotiated at ten per cent. interest. The works were started with double turbine- wheels and attachments, and ten-inch mains up to the business centre of the village; then, as the mains were extended in different directions from that centre, they were reduced to eight inches, and finally to six inches, in diameter. At the expiration of a year a vote was carried to raise $15,000
more by the same means, to be used in extending the mains, and in December, 1873, about $4500 more was voted for the same purpose. All the bonds so issued were arranged
so that $2500 would become due on the 1st of September of each year. Thus far the payments have been promptly made.
The works have proved eminently successful. Double hydrants were early placed at suitable points along the lines of water-pipes. The hook-and-ladder and hose companies
are well equipped and under constant drill, and all fires have been promptly and effectually checked.
Along the line of pipes, water is furnished to all who desire at low rates, the tank at one of the railroad depots being thus supplied. The receipts about meet the current
running expenses, including superintendence and repairs. The first supply-well proving inefficient, a second one, 40
rods distant, was sunk, and is now in use. Its diameter is 20 feet, with a depth of water of 12 feet. This is inclosed in a substantial circular building of stone. The works are sufficiently powerful to throw from a double hydrant, situated on an elevation 100 feet above the machinery and over half a mile away, two three-quarter inch streams 70 feet higher than the hydrant.
Pages 513-514:  Alanson P. Holly, although not a pioneer in the township of Woodland, was one of its most enterprising men and citizens, being truly what is called a self-made man. He was born in the township of Whitehall, Washington Co., N. Y., June 7, 1817.  His father, Birdsill Holly, was a carpenter by trade, and Alanson, early giving evidence of a natural taste for mechanics, was apprenticed at the machinist trade and soon became one of the best, and worked as foreman in the shop of Abel Downs for twenty years. He then went to Lockport, N. Y., and worked for his brother—who was the inventor of the Holly water-works—in the Holly Manufacturing Company's shops.
In August, 1866, Alanson, together with his family, moved to Woodland, where he bought a tract of land, but for eight years traveled for the Holly Manufacturing Company; at the expiration of that time he returned to his farm in Woodland, and continued farming operations until his death, which occurred May 15, 1879.
Mr. Holly's wife, whom he married Oct. 13, 1840, was a Miss Harriet Stowell, a native of Bainbridge, Chenango Co., N. Y., and the second in a family of ten children. To
this union were born five children, — Ira A., born March 27, 1843; Susan J., born Feb. 22, 1845; William Perry, January 8, 1847; Fred Henry, born June 28, 1850; and Burt S., Born Nov 10, 1857.  Ira A. Holly is settled in Burlington, Iowa, and others in different places in Michigan, the mother and one son living on the second farm pucrhased by Mr. Holly, the one he first purchased when ht came to Michigan being one-half mile east of the centre, where he resided two years.  A view of their present home we give upon other page of this work.

1881 Report of the Pioneer Society of the State of Michigan, Volume 3
Page 290:  The village is provided with the Holly water-works, two wells, the water elevated by water power from the river, through three miles of pipe, at a cost of about $1,000 a year. The works have been constructed at an expense of $50,000. A handsome stone building contains the machinery of the water-works. Our efficient fire department work for the salvation of the town from fire, of which S. D. Pond is chief engineer.

1882 Allegan, Engineering News, 9:32 (January 28, 1882)

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

1884 Pontiac Gazette, March 21, 1884, Page 4.
In the case of the great fire at Allegan, the Holly water works proved of no avail.

1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan. November, 1884

1888 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan. August, 1888

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

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

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

1893 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan. July, 1893

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

1899 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan. December, 1899

1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan. May, 1906

1907 History of Allegan County, Michigan, by Dr. Henry F. Thomas
Pages 61-62:  The second result of the fire, was the institution of water works. Negotiations took place between the village officials and the originator of the Holly system of water works, and in March. 1871. the citizens, by a vote of 225 to 130. favored the installation of the system and the bonding of the village to the amount of $25,000 to carry the proposition into effect.
Double turbine-engines were first used for forcing the water, and mains were laid through the business district and gradually extended to the residence districts. By 1873 the works had been proved satisfactory, and the engine company of the fire department was then dispensed with, the pressure in the mains being sufficient. Before the system was complete nearly $50,000 had been expended by the village.
Even with water works and alert fire department, the village was not exempt from (ire. March 12, 1884. the most disastrous fire in the village's history swept tip the south side of Hubbard street, driven by a strong wind from its starting place in a wooden building about opposite the new Sherman House, and when its progress was stopped by the fire wall at the corner of Brady and Locust. leaped to the north side and consumed most of the structures on both sides of Locust street north to Trowbridge. The fire wall alone is said to have prevented its progress toward the manufacturing; district.
This was the last large fire in Allegan. The burned district was cleared of debris and, like American communities in general, the work of rebuilding soon commenced. Thus it is that the business portion of the village is quite new, most of the brick blocks being less than twenty years old; The village hall and fire house, on Trowbridge street, dates from 1888. The resolution calling for its construction was offered in the council December 2, 1887, and the following September the contract was awarded at $6,450. The first floor contains the hose carts and hook and ladder and other apparatus, while the upper floor is for council rooms and clerk's office.
The water works have been from time to time improved and extended. In March, 1896, the village voted an issue of bonds not to exceed $7,000 for repairing and improvement. September 11, 1901, at a special election, it was voted (242 to 67) to bond the village to the amount of $15,000 for the installation of new pumps at the water works.
In April, 1903, the proposition carried by popular vote to bond the village $26,000 for the improvement of the water works and the water power.

1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan. November, 1911

1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Allegan, Allegan County, Michigan. July, 1918

2011 "Allegan boasts one of the finest collections of well-preserved 19th century homes in the state," by Sharon Ferraro, Michigan Live
During the Civil War in 1863, Allegan residents began purchasing a hook and ladder truck and hose and building a firehouse. In 1869, a fire destroyed a block of buildings downtown, and Allegan city officials began investigating a water works to supply water for firefighting.
Fortuitously, Alanson Holly had recently settled in Woodland near Allegan. Holly had worked for several years in Lockport, N.Y., with his brother, the inventor of the Holly Water Works. The Holly system provided healthy clean drinking water piped into each home, as well as water for firefighting. In the late 19th century, innumerable cities, towns and villages installed Holly Water Works.

Digitized Allegan Newspapers from Allegan District Library.

© 2019 Morris A. Pierce