Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Michigan Ionia

Ionia, Michigan

Ionia was incorporated as a village in 1865 and as a city in 1873.

The city contracted for water works in late 1875 and they began service in 1875 in a portion of the city using cast iron pipes.  An injunction prevented expansion of the system until 1878.  The city's dam gave way two or three times by 1882, and the city decided to build a new system that used Wyckoff wood pipes and Smith-Vaile pumps.

Water is supplied by the city of Ionia.

References and Timeline
1875 "Contract let for Ionia Water Works," Detroit Free Press, September 1, 1875, Page 1.

1876 The Ionia Sentinel, September 3, 1875, Page 1.
Contract for laying the water pipes was awarded to Jas. McEwan & Co., of Detroit for $1,846.00
Mr. Wickham, who is employed in distributing the iron water-pipes through Main street, narrowly escaped being killed while unloading one of the pipes.

1875 The Ionia Sentinel, September 24, 1875, Page 1.
The water pipes are being rapidly laid, and the work will be nearly completed next week.

1875 The Ionia Sentinel, November 12, 1875, Page 1.
Curiosity led someone to open the water hydrant near the city mills last week, and it took nearly an hour to stop the flow of water.

1878 Frederick Hall v. City of Ionia and James McEwan, April 3, 1878, 38 Mich. 493, Supreme Court of Michigan

1878 "Ionia," Detroit Free Press, August 3, 1878, Page 8.
The Common Council has leased the water privilege from Fred Hall for $600 per year.  The city had laid pipes and made connections with a reservoir which Mr. Hall claimed.  The case was carried to the Supreme Court and Mr. Hall was successful in the suit.

1881 History of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, Michigan, by John S. Schenck
Page 158:  The fire service of the city could be made exceedingly effective with the present supply of hand-apparatus in the event of the utilization of a strong water-power present on the hills north of Washington Street, and capable of being transmitted through mains to the lower portion of the city in force quite adequate to all emergencies.

1882 Ionia, Engineering News, 9:58 (February 18, 1882)
The dam built to retain water has broken away twice, and the city counsel have refused to rebuild or repair it until a plan for permanent enlargement of the works is decided on.

1882 Weekly Expositor (Brockway Centre, Michigan), August 10, 1882, Page 2.
The rainfall Friday afternoon and evening was enormous.  The Ionia water-works reservoir burst, the streets are flooded and the cellars and basements throughout the city filled.

1883 Ionia Daily Sentinel
July 5:  Election Notice. Notice is hereby given that a special election will be held in the several wards of the city of Ionia on Monday, the 16th day of July A. D., 1883. The voting places in the respective wards will be as follows to wit: First ward at Fireman’s hall. Second ward at Union hotel. Third ward at Geo. W. Webber’s barn. Fourth ward at Handell Beal’s store. The polls to be opened at eight o’clock a. m. and closed at 5 o’clock p.m. ... whether or not, the common council of said city shall be authorized to incur a bonded indebtedness ... to the amount of thirty thousand dollars ... for the purpose of establishing a system of water works in said city ... WALTER S. WALKER, Clerk.
July 11:   Ionia will have the cheapest water works in the state and as good water as can be obtained anywhere. All that is needed to make Ionia the most desirable place of residence in the state is the proposed water works.

1883 Ionia Daily Sentinel, July 16, 1883
The water works proposition has carried by a large majority. The indications at 4 o’clock were that it would receive seventeen votes for, to one against it. At that hour the ballots cast were 310 for and 18 against as follows: First Ward, 80 Yes, 5 No; Second Ward, 66 Yes, 5 No; Third Ward, 96 Yes, 4 No; Fourth Ward, 68 Yes, 4 No.
The board of public works have closed contract with Mr. Ayrault, of the Mich. Pipe Co., of Bay City, for furnishing pipe, hydrants and valves for our proposed water works. The entire amount of mains required for present use is about seven and one-half miles, sixty-seven hydrants and thirty-one stop valves ... they finally decided to use the Wyckoff pipe ... claiming that it has been used successfully as a water main for over 20 years and parties so using certify it to be now as good as ever. If, as claimed, the outward coating protects the wood from decay and the iron bands from corrosion for the period of 20 years, and the water on the inside will prevent decay, there can be no reason why it will not last for a century.

1883 Ionia Daily Sentinel
October 15:  The board of public works informs us that the water pipe has all arrived, and the pumping engines will be here this evening. The boilers are on the ground, the building is about completed, the well house is built, and it is believed that the works will be ready to operate by Nov. 1 or soon after ... F.C. Sibley has been circulating a paper for the benefit of the widow, and children of the unfortunate laborer who was killed by the caving of the water main excavation. The sum of $150 and over has been subscribed of which $40 was given to Messrs Sekell and Gibson the contractors.
October 16:  Board of Public Works ... Resolved: That Van Vleck be and is appointed engineer of the water works for such time as the board may think proper, with a compensation to be computed at the rate of one thousand dollars per year: said engineer at his own cost and expense to employ such assistance as may be necessary to properly perform the work. And it shall be the duty of such engineer to run the pumps night and day, to keep all of the machinery in good order, to have a supervisory care over all the property connected with the water works ...
October 19:  The pumps for the city works have arrived. The mains at the west end of the city are all in. Two weeks of fair weather will enable the board to complete the work and commence pumping.

1883 Ionia Daily Sentinel.
November 17:  The water works are nearly ready. The pumps have been running several days to test the well ... half a million gallons a day, about the capacity of the well, is more than Ionia will ever need for ordinary purposes. The water now in the pipes is the same we have been using all the time – from East creek. That in the well is pure, the other is not. The pumps work admirably.
November 22:  A partial test of the water works was made this afternoon. One of the pumps was set running at 50 pounds pressure and with a hose attached to the hydrant corner of First and Main streets, water was thrown nearly to the ball on the Baptist church steeple, which is 125 feet above the sidewalk. A full trial will be made on Saturday, when six or more streams will be thrown at the same time. Persons can see it by assembling on the square at 10 a.m., Saturday.
November 24:  The test of the water works was made this afternoon in view of a large crowd of spectators. The general verdict is that the works are a success. There was no accident of any kind, both the pumps, pipes and hose doing all that was requited of them. Citizens are congratulating each other that they have now something with which to cope successfully with fires, and pure water for all.

1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. December, 1884

1885 An act to connect the State House of Correction and Reformatory, and the Asylum for Insane Criminals, at Ionia, with the Ionia City water-works.  April 29, 1885.

1885 Pontiac Bill Poster, September 23, 1885, Page 8.
Ionia:  This city owns their own works, and have had them in operation about four years; they have about eight miles of pipe, and two Walker pumps; the supply of water is received from wells, the revenue is nearly sufficient to pay cost of operating and interest on investment.

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

1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. August, 1890

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

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

1895 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. March, 1895

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

1899 "Improved Wyckoff Water-Pipe," by George L. Wells, Civil Engineer, Bay City, Mich., Reading January 11, 1899, Journal of the New England Water Works Association 13(4):288-303 (June, 1899)
The writer has not access to records at the time of writing this paper, but would give as an off hand estimate of the amount of improved Wyckoff pipe in use as 1,500 miles. The total mileage of the pipe having wooden shells such as stave pipe, etc., will greatly exceed this mileage. The writer knows of but three systems in New England, those being at Antrim, Belmont and Penacook, all in the state of New Hampshire. There are a number of these works in Pennsylvania, New York, the Middle and Western States and Territories. Michigan probably has a greater mileage than any other one state. Some of the largest systems being Bay City, Michigan, containing about 35 miles of improved Wyckoff pipe, North Tonawanda, N. Y., 31 miles, with Tonawanda, N. Y., an adjoining municipality, with 14 miles more, Ishpenning, Michigan, 26 miles, Ionia, Michigan, 18 miles, DuBois, Pa., 16 miles. In Denver, Colorado, there is a considerable quantity of the pipe used and the entire system at Cripple Creek, Colo., is of improved Wyckoff pipe, but the writer does not remember the exact mileage in use in these places. There are a large number of municipal water works systems using from three to twelve miles of this pipe. It is a notable fact that the iron mining towns of Ishpenning, Negaunee and Norway, Michigan, make large use of improved Wyckoff pipe in their systems. 

1900 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. October, 1900

1901 "To Borrow $10,000," The True Northerner (Paw Paw, Michigan) March 15, 1901, Page 2.
Improve Ionia water works.  A fine new Worthington pump has been installed.

1907 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. December, 1907

1907 Souvenir, City of Ionia, Michigan 
[Page 9}: The city has a very complete water system for domestic purposes and fire protection.

1914 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. May, 1914

1916 History of Ionia County, Michigan: Her People, Industries and Institutions, with Biographical Sketches of Representative Citizens, and Genealogical Records of Many of the Old Families, Volume 1, by Elam E. Branch
Page 221:  The city has a very complete water system for domestic purposes and fire protection.

1920 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. June, 1920

1924 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Ionia, Ionia County, Michigan. May, 1924

1934 "Ionia Water Works Loan is Approved," Lansing State Journal, April 6, 1934, Page 8.

© 2019 Morris A. Pierce