Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Michigan Port Huron

Port Huron, Michigan

Port Huron was incorporated as a city in 1857.

The city built a Holly water works system that began service in September, 1873.   A Holly Quadruplex steam-driven pump was used, and two Gaskill pumps was added later.  Cast iron piping was used initially, with Wyckoff wood pipe used for extensions after 1879.

Water is supplied by the city of Port Huron.


References and Timeline
1878 "The Holly System of Water Supply and Fire Protection for Cities and Villages," Scientific American Supplement, 6(140supp):2219-2234 (September 7, 1878)

1880 "Water Works," The Times-Herald (Port Hudson, Michigan), January 27, 1880, Page 4.
Something New in this Line Invented by a Citizen of Port Huron.
Ever since Mr. M. Walker put in the Port Huron water works, seven years ago, he has been seeking to device some system of works that would accomplish all that is performed by the old reservoir system, as well as by the direct pumping of the Holly system.  He also sought to reduce the expense by simplifying the machinery, and in other ways, to such as extend that villages and the smaller cities could afford water works.
In this he has succeeded.  The trial works were trial at Holly some six weeks ago, and from men from experience who were there we learn that the new system works admirably.  These works have two miles of piping, with 16 hydrants, and are able to throw eight good fire streams.  The piping is large enough to meet the wants of a place containing 5,000 inhabitants.  The entire work cost $10,000.
One of the peculiarities of these works is the use of a large compression chamber, made of very heavy boiler iron.  The pumps force the water in at the base of the chamber and compress the air in the top to such as extent that after up a pressure of about 85 to 100 pounds, the chamber can be shut off, the works stopped, and left for several days with the pressure on, unless the water is sued for domestic purposes or ordinary supply.  In case of fire the valve on the chamber is opened, and instantly the pressure is on the entire system of piping, and from one to four streams can be thrown by this reserve until steam can be got up.
Another set of works was started at St. Louis, Gratiot county, last Wednesday.  These works will be used for fire purposes only, for the next year.  From a record of the official test made, it appears that 30 lbs. of steam was raised from cold water in five minutes, and in seven minutes three good fire streams were thrown.  During the trial two 1 inch streams were thrown 200 feet, and one 1 steam 275 feet.  At another time five good streams were thrown with one pump.  These pumps are peculiarly constructed, simple, compact and of great capacity.
The piping used at both these places is the Wyckoff patent wood pipe, manufactured by Ayrault, Smith & Co., of Bay City, and if other cities give it as severe a test as these two, and it gives as good satisfaction, it will supercede iron pipe entirely in a few years.

1881 Port Huron, Engineering News, 8:509 (December 17, 1881)

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

1883 History of St. Clair County, Michigan: Containing an Account of Its Settlement, Growth, Development and Resources, Its War Record, Biographical Sketches, the Whole Preceded by a History of Michigan
Page 491: The city is furnished with water from the St. Clair River, at the rapids, by the Holly system. The works have been in operation about a year, and are a perfect success. The water coming out ot the lake is pure and cool and perfectly healthy. As a fire protection, the Holly system is superior to all others.
Page 519:  City Water Works.  The bid of the Holly Company, of $25,000, was accepted May 8, 1872, on condition that the machinery would be completed before September 15, that year. The contract for piping was let to Walker & Rich, at $68.85 per ton, and $500 additional for each crossing of Black River. In August, 1872, the mandamus was replied to by Mayor Miller, declaring the contracts which he signed illegal. This resulted in postponing the completion of the work. All the petty disputes in this matter were subsequently settled, and, on September 6, 1873, the works were formally opened.
The water-works machinery cost the city $25,000, and is a very fine piece of mechanism and workmanship. The most important parts are the cylinders and pumps, there being four of each. The engines are rated 100 horse power each, or 400 horse power in all.
Two cylinders are placed upon each side of a heavy iron frame, with the pistons and connecting rods working at right angles to each other, upon a shaft placed at the top of the frame. The crossheads can be disconnected from the piston rods in a moment, so that each cylinder is practically independent of all others in its workings. On the lower side of each cylinder, the piston is extended to connect with) the piston of the pump, with a crosshead and key for instantaneous disconnection. The steam cylinders are 14x24 inches in size, and the pumps 9x24 inches. The pumps are capable of forcing into the pipes 4,000,000 gallons of water each twenty-four hours. By a new combination, the cylinders and pumps put in in this city can be run either high or low pressure, or with high pressure in one cylinder, and low pressure in all the others; that is, the exhaust steam from the cylinder which receives "live" steam, is passed on to the others, and moves them. At a trial made in September, 1873, with the "compound" throttle open 1-32 of an inch, the cranks made 17 revolutions a minute, and with the throttle open 1-16 of an inch they made 28 revolutions in minute, steam pressure being 46 1/2 pounds. With steam in all the cylinders, and throttle open 1-16 inch, 42 revolutions per minute were made.
Connected with the suction pipes are two air chambers, and the discharge pipes have the same number. The cylinders are cased in black walnut, and all the unpolished iron work is neatly painted.
The regulators are ingenious pieces of mechanism, and are essential to the proper working of the machinery under all circumstances. There am two of these; one of which acts as a fire signal, blowing a small whistle when hydrants are opened, and letting more steam into the cylinders at the same time. Gauges placed in conspicuous places also indicate, at all times, the exact pressure of water in the pipes, and of steam in the boilers.
The condenser, used when the engines are run on low pressure, is of the most approved pattern, and has connected with it two air pumps. There is also a "donkey engine," to supply the boilers with water in case of accident to the pumps connected with the machinery. All the steam pipes in the building are covered with asbestos, to prevent condensation.
The boilers are two in number, each five feet in diameter and sixteen feet long, with sixty 3 inch tubes. They are substantially placed on heavy cast iron fronts, and appear to be excellent in every respect. They weigh over five tons each, and the whole machinery weighs about 100 tons.
These works save the citizens an indirect tax of thousands of dollars. Diseases have almost disappeared since their establishment, while the fire fiend can be said to be fully under their control. The engineers in charge, and the officers of the water supply department of the city prove by attention to duty that they are proud of their service.
Page 600:  M. Walker, hydraulic engineer, is a native of Canada, and was born July 5, 1835. His parents were natives of Vermont. They came here during his boyhood. He entered a machine shop to learn the machinist's trade, and afterwards engaged in building steam engines and setting up machinery in saw mills and bridge building.  In 1857 he engaged in the jewelry trade, and carried on the leading business here for over twenty years, and during this time was engaged in building machinery.  He has given the study of hydraulics a great deal of time and attention. In 1873, he built the water works for the city of Port Huron, and for the past six years has served as member of the Board of Water Commissioners, and had charge of the Volunteer Fire Department for ten years. Three years ago, he invented Walker's System of Water Works, and for the past three years has built and put them in fourteen towns and villages. In 1859, he married Miss Marv E. Innes, a native of Wayne County, Mich. They have two children one son, Herbert A., now living in Denver, Colo., and one daughter, Alma D., at home.

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

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

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

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




2019 Morris A. Pierce