Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Michigan Alpena

Alpena, Michigan

Alpena was incorporated as a city in 1871.

The city awarded a water works franchise to Walter P. Hanchett in August, 1877, but his scheme proved to be infeasible and the contract was cancelled.

The Alpena City Water Company was incorporated in early October 1878 by local businessmen and entered into a contract with the city on October 14, 1878.  The company built a Holly water works system that began service in November, 1879, using two Holly rotary pumps and a Dixon duplex pump that delivered water through Wyckoff wood pipes.  The pumps were primarily driven by water, but had a steam boiler as a backup.  A second pumping plant was built in 1886 with two Walker pumps.

The city tried for years to buy the water company, and local voters decided overwhelming in 1904 to build a city-owned water and light plant, which was completed the following year.  Faced with this, the company agreed to sell the plant to the city in April, 1905 for $60,000.

The water system is owned by the city of Alpena and currently managed by Suez North America.

References and Timeline
1877 "Water Works," Alpena Argus, June 27, 1877, Page 3.
Geo. N. Fletcher comes to the rescue, and offers to form a joint stock company for the purpose of establishing and operating the needed water works.

1877 "Alpena," Detroit Free Press, August 26, 1877, Page 5.
Contract with Walter P. Hanchett, of Rochester, New York

1877 "Council Proceedings," Alpena Argus, August 29, 1877, Page 2. | part 2 |
Contract between City of Alpena and Walter P. Hanchett, Esq. of Rochester, New York.

1877 "Water Works," Alpena Argus, August 29, 1877 Page 3.
Contract with Walter P. Hanchett.

1877 "Council Proceedings," Alpena Argus, October 3, 1877, Page 2.
Communication from W. P. Hanchett stating that proposed plan is not feasible.

1878 Alpena Argus, October 9, 1878, Page 3.
Last week a Water Works Company was organized in this city, and we may now look forward to the time when our citizens will be supplied with pure and wholesome water for domestic purposes.  The officers of the company are:  President, W.H. Potter; Secretary, W.H. Johnson; Treasurer, Geo. L. Maltz; Directors, F.W. Gilchrist, H.R. Morse, A. Pack, Geo. L. Maltz, W.H. Johnson, A.W. Comstock and W.H. Potter.

1878 Contract between the City of Alpena and The Alpena City Water Company.  October 14, 1878.

1878 Alpena Weekly Argus, October 16, 1878, Page 3.
On Monday evening, the contracts and documents were all finished and signed between the city authorities and the officers of the Alpena Water Works Company, and the water works question is now settled.

1878 Alpena Argus, November 13, 1878, Page 3.
Every boat from Bay City now brings a load of large water pipe for the water works and business will soon be commenced.

1879 An act to authorize the city of Alpena to purchase and to raise money for the purchase and maintenance when completed, of the water works now in the process of construction in said city by the Alpena City Water Company.  May 28, 1879.

1879 "The Water Works," Alpena Weekly Argus, June 25, 1879, Page 2.
Description of the works and machinery.

1879 "Council Proceedings," Alpena Weekly Argus, November 19, 1879, Page 2.
Communication from the Alpena City Water Company.

1879 Alpena Weekly Argus, November 26, 1879, Page 3.
The Water Works Company gave a trial of the pipes on the south side of the river, one day last week, and it appeared that the works were equal to the emergency, being capable of throwing six or eight streets over one hundred feet in high.

1882 Alpena, Engineering News, 9:84 (March 11, 1882)

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

1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Alpena, Alpena County, Michigan. August, 1884

1886 "Good News for the Citizens," Alpena Weekly Argus, June 2, 1886, Page 3.
The Alpena Water Co. will soon have new pumping works in operation.  The pump house will be erected on the bay shore near Avery's mill.  There will be two pumps, each having a capacity of 1,500,000 gallons per day.  The present pumping plant will not be disturbed and will be useful in case of accident to the new works.  M. Walker, of Port Huron, will erect the works and expects to have them in readiness in about ninety days.  Pure bay water and a brand new railroad will make 1886 a remarkable year for Alpena.

1886 Alpena Weekly Argus, September 1, 1886, Page 3.
M. Walker, the contractor of the new water works, left for Fentonville last Friday.

1886 "New Water Works," Alpena Weekly Argus, December 22, 1886, Page 3.
Pure bay "water has long been a desire of the citizens, and at last their commendable wish is gratified, as the new waterworks are in complete running order and have been pumping water from Thunder Bay for some time past. The water now furnished as far as appearance and taste is concerned, is not excelled by that of any city.
The water works building is situated between Trowbridge street and Thunder Bay, not far from Avery's mill. They are about one mile from the business portion of the city. The building is of brick, and the interior is divided into two rooms, each 24x36 feet. From the works there extends into Thunder Bay for a distance of 1,200 feet, a wooden pipe, 12 inches in diameter.
The pump room is spacious and contains two double pumping engines.  In reality there are four pumps.  They can be run singly, in pairs, or all four as one, as may be desired.  The steam cylinders are each 12x14 inches with 12 inch stroke. Each of the four pumps is 8x12 inches with 12 inch stroke. They each pump five gallons per revolution. There ordinary speed is 52 revolutions per minute, and the four pumps supply 1,040 gallons per minute ; 62,400 per hour; 1,497,600 per day. The pumps can be run over 100 revolutions per minute, and furnish over 300,000 gallons of water per hour. The pumps are arranged so that any one can bo stopped without interfering with the work the others. They run without much noise and present a fine appearance.  The guages on the pumps, for ordinary speed, indicate 7 pounds low pressure, and 20 pounds high pressure.
In the boiler and furnace room there are two tubular boilers, each 5x14 feet. The ordinary steam pressure 70 pounds. Only one boiler is in use. The other is in readiness to start at a moments notice. Thus when it is necessary to clean out or repair the boiler that has been used, the other is put in operation, thus preventing delays in pumping water. It seems as if every possible means have been taken in order that the supply of water may not be stopped. Tho works were erected, and pumping machinery supplied by M. Walker, of Port Huron. The cost to the water company for pumps, building and grounds is about $20,000.  Next season it is the intention to clean up the grounds between the pump house and the bay and make a sort of lawn. The bay shore of the property will be wharfed, and no doubt some one will erect a boat house there. A fountain will also be erected, and that part of the city will undergo a great change, and bo very desirable for private residences. The Third ward is booming.
In addition to the new works, the water company still retain the old works and machinery at the dam, and the powerful pumps there will bo kept in readiness in case they are wanted. The water company deserves thanks for their enterprise in erecting the new works, and substituting bay water for river water. The company now owns seven pumps and have laid in the streets 13˝ miles of water pipe.

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

1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Alpena, Alpena County, Michigan July, 1890

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

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

1893 An act to authorize the city of Alpena to raise money for the purchase of or the erection and maintenance of water-works.  May 27, 1893.

1895 An act to authorize the city of Alpena to construct or purchase, own and maintain a system of water works, and to provide means of constructing or purchasing, maintaining and managing the same.  May 24, 1895

1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Alpena, Alpena County, Michigan November, 1895

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

1901 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Alpena, Alpena County, Michigan July, 1901

1902 Alpena City Water Co. v. City of Alpena, March 13, 1902, 130 Mich. 518, Michigan Supreme Court
A city may make a valid contract with a waterworks company under 3 Comp. Laws, § 8511, notwithstanding such contract violates a charter provision restricting the annual tax levy to a certain per cent, of the assessed valuation.
A contract providing that a waterworks company shall furnish water free of charge for public purposes, in consideration that the city will “save and keep harmless the waterworks from any city or school tax,” is not invalid as an exemption of property from taxation.
Such provision applies to all the waterworks which it is necessary to erect in the proper conduct of the business, though acquired after the execution of the contract.
A highway tax levied by authority of the city for highways under its control is a city tax, within the meaning of such contract.
Where, for 20 years, a city has received and paid quarterly for all the water it contracted for, evidence that the company failed to furnish the best quality of water, and that it allowed mains in the Streets to be frozen up and the hydrants to become out of repair, is inadmissible in an action by the company to recover taxes it was compelled to pay, and from which the city agreed to save it harmless.

1904 "Municipal Water Works!," Alpena Evening News, January 5, 1904, Page 3.
The Council adopted a resolution submitting question to the People.  It will be voted on March 14.

1904 "People Declare for Municipal Ownership," Alpena Evening News, March 15, 1904, Page 3.
1,012 in favor; 38 against

1904 "Suit to Restrain," Alpena Evening News, October 28, 1904, Page 3.
Started by City against Water and Lighting Cos.

1905 "Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Alpena," Alpena Evening News, April 3, 1905, Page 2.
Resolution to purchase Alpena City Water Company for $60,000.

1905 "Notice to the Public," Alpena Evening News, April 6, 1905, Page 1.
The city of Alpena has purchased from the Alpena City Water company the entire water works plant of this city and had taken possession thereof.

1905 An act to amend section three of act number four hundred ten, of the local acts of eighteen hundred ninety-nine, entitled “An act to authorize the common council of the city of Alpena to construct or purchase, own and maintain a system of electric light works, and to provide means for constructing or purchasing, maintaining and managing the same,” approved May twenty-five, eighteen hundred ninety nine, as amended by act number four hundred fifty-six of the local acts of nineteen hundred one.  April 26, 1905

1909 "Michigan Pipe Company Advertisement," Engineering Review 19(4):17 (April, 1909)
Letter describing continued installation of wood pipe by city.

1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Alpena, Alpena County, Michigan September, 1910

1914 Alpena, Dates of Early Events, by John C. Viall.
Page 17:  1877. Aug. 27.-The common council entered into a contract with W. P. Hanchett, for the construction  of water works, the water to be conveyed to the city by a large pipe, from the South Branch.
Page 18:  1878. Oct. 14. - Contract signed by city officials and Alpena City Water Co. for constructing water works in Alpena
Page 19:  1879.  May 12.-Work commenced on the construction of the water works.
Page 22:  1880. Nov. 10.-Water works in the city entirely completed. Water supply from the bay.

© 2019 Morris A. Pierce