Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Michigan Big Rapids

Big Rapids, Michigan

Big Rapids was incorporated as a city in 1869.

The city built a Holly water works system that was demonstrated on February 8, 1872.  The system had a steam- and water-driven driven Holly gang pump and may have initially had Holly rotary pumps, but Blake pumps were being used by 1882.  Water distribution was through Wyckoff wood pipes, although they proved unsatisfactory and were replaced with cast iron before 1882.

Water is supplied by the city of Big Rapids.


References and Timeline
1872 "Recapitulation of Local Events of 1872," The Big Rapids Magnet, December 26, 1872
February 8, Public test of the Holly Water Works in this city.

1882 Big Rapids, Engineering News, 9:100 (March 25, 1882)

1883 Mecosta County, Mich.  Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County
Page 646:  Soon after Big Rapids became a city, the question of water supply for fire protection and for private use became a general topic with the citizens. At a meeting of the Common Council, April 11, 1871, Alderman William Van Loo offered the first resolution, "That a committee be appointed to ascertain the expense of supplying the city with the Holly water-works." This resolution, with its amendment by Alderman Jacob O. Rose, "To investigate the cost of the works by both steam and water power" was adopted, and the committee appointed.  A majority of the council approved of the main resolutions, and went steadily on with their work and what they conceived to be their duty, despite the criminations and recriminations of the people, and the various petitions pro and can which were presented, and always respectfully discussed and considered. Its first proposed cost was increased through unforeseen causes incident to all enterprises, and ultimately amounted to perhaps $70,000.
The amount expended in the fall of 1871 was $30,271.40, of which $10,000 went to the Holly Company for machinery, and $11,192.93 to H. Phelps for pipe, and for laying same. The following spring, by a vote of 215 to 123, the citizens decided to raise a further loan of $15,000 towards completing the works. Then, at different times since, various other amounts have been expended, though it has undoubtedly been a good investment.

1882 Big Rapids 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 Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan. August, 1884

1886 Proceedings and Addresses at a Sanitary Convention Held at Big Rapids, Michigan, Nov. 18 and 19, 1886
Pages 22-: The Water Supply of Big Rapids, by J. L. Burkart, M.D.

1887 "How to obtain a pure supply of water," The Pontiac Gazette, August 20, 1887, Page 2.
Description of the Big Rapids Water Works.

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

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

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

1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan. April, 1892

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

1899 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan. May, 1899

1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan. November, 1908

1913 "Failure of a Michigan Dam," The Water Chronicle 2:173 (April, 1913)
On March 14th, the Big Rapids Electric Company's power dam on Muskegon River at upper Big Rapids, which for 53 years withstood many floods, was carried away by high water.  The city water works, also dependent upon the structure for its water and power, was closed for three days, until a centrifugal electric pump could be installed.

1914 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan. March, 1914




2019 Morris A. Pierce