Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Plainwell, Michigan

Plainwell was incorporated as a village in 1869 and as a city in 1934.

The village built a Holly water works system for fire protection, using a single water-driven rotary pump that began service in the spring of 1872.  The system was rebuilt in 1884-85 using Wyckoff wood pipes and the Holly rotary pump was replaced by two Walker pumps. The works were supplying domestic users by 1892.

Water is supplied by the city of Plainwell.


References and Timeline
1880 History of Allegan and Barry counties, Michigan, by Crisfield Johnson
Pages 228-229:  In March, 1870, a committee of trustees, consisting of Norton P. Kellogg, Dewitt C. Kenyon, and Jonas Rouse, was sent to Kalamazoo to inspect and report upon the Holly system of water-works there in use. It reported on the 26th of March, 1870, as follows: "In the opinion of the committee, the Holly system, in connection with our water-power, would afford the best and most secure protection against fire for the least money."
The following estimates were based upon information received from Horace Phelps, superintendent of the Kalamazoo water-works :
Holly pump and wheel  $1000
545 feet of 6-inch pipe      700
6B0   "       4  " "                560
5 double hydrants              250
3 gates                                100
Lead and oakum                 125
                                        $2735
At a session of the board of trustees held June 13, 1870, it was resolved to adopt the Holly system, and to expend on the work $3400, of which $2400 should be spread upon the tax-rolls of the year 1870, and a contract was made with Horace Phelps, to construct the works, on the 14th of June, 1870. In December, 1870, William Cox and O. M. Bradley were appointed the first fire-wardens.
Dewitt C. Kenyon was appointed superintendent of water-works Jan. 20, 1871, and was ordered to take full control of keys, fire apparatus, etc., until a fire company should be organized and a chief engineer appointed. J. J. Monroe was appointed the first chief engineer, March 13, 1871.
The water-works were completed in the spring of 1872, and on the 8th of April of the same year a contract was made with Messrs. O. D. Dunham and R. P. Corbyn for 1000 square inches of water from their race, for which they were to receive $1150. Jonas Rouse was appointed to take charge of the works in August, 1872.

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

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

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

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

1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Plainwell, Allegan County, Michigan., November, 1892
Sheet 1:  Water works,  Direct pressure system, 2 Walker pumps, Cap. 750,000 gal's ea. per 24 hours.  Run by water power day and night, domestic press: 40 lbs, Fire press 80 lbs.

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

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

1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Plainwell, Allegan County, Michigan. June, 1904

1907 A Twentieth Century History of Allegan County, Michigan, by Henry Franklin Thommas
Pages 395-396:  Public improvements were keeping pace with business. A fire department was established by the village council on February 3, 1870. and this was followed in the next month by the report of a committee recommending the installation of the Holly system of water works as "the best and most secure protection against fire for the least money." In June, 1870, it was resolved to appropriate $3,400 to install the water works, which were completed in the spring of 1872. Dewitt C. Kenyon was the first superintendent of the water works. The water supply from the race was at first obtained from the owners of the race, O. D. Dunham and R. P. Corbyn, but on the reorganization and incorporation of the Plainwelt Water Power Company in 1873 the village became part owner and obtained first right in the use of the water. In the same year the race was enlarged and the power for manufacturing and other purposes greatly increased. Suitable fire-fighting equipment was installed in connection with the water works. Halcyon Hose Company was formed in December, 1872, and Hook and Ladder Company No. i was formed in October, 1877. In January. 1878, a fire hall was completed at a cost of $700.
In- 1884-1885 the pumphouse was rebuilt, new pumps installed and the iron pipe taken up and replaced with wooden. For the next ten years the work of extending the pipe lines was pushed until every resident within the corporation was given fire protection. In order to furnish better fire protection to the property on the east side of the river the Scott Hose Company was organized and incorporated in 1888. A change in the water supply from the river to wells was effected in the spring of 1905, so now the best of well water is supplied. At the present time there are three and one-half miles of water pipe laid, about 2,000 feet of hose, a hook and ladder company and two hose companies that are second to none.
The water rights are divided among the different companies as their several interests appear, the Esley Light and Power Company owning the largest share. This company, which was organized and incorporated in August. 1904, has installed a modem plant from which street, commercial and residence lighting is furnished, besides power for operation of several mills and minor plants. 

1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Plainwell, Allegan County, Michigan. October, 1911

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

1969 Plainwell, 1869 to 1969 : the first hundred years
Page 4:  Since its incorporation and the completion of the two railroads, the village gradually increased in population. Street grades were established, miles of sidewalks were laid, and the Holly system of water-works were adopted.

1978 History of Plainwell, Michigan, by Joan B. Whitney




2019 Morris A. Pierce