Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Central States
Mississippi Natchez

Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez was founded in 1716.

The first waterworks were built in 1819 by the Natchez Water Company, which was incorporated by Nathaniel Morrison, Samuel Postlethwaite, Lewis Evans, Edward Turner, Micajah Terrell, Charles B. Green, Walter Irvine, William Rutherford, and William Brooks to introduce "water into the city of Natchez, by means of leaden or wooden pipes."  

Captain Nathaniel Morrison [or Morison] was a merchant from Peterborough, New Hampshire.  While in Natchez in late 1817 he entered into an oral contract with local businessmen to construct a water system, and returned to New Hampshire to engage several men from that state to install the system, which probably included Cyrus Eastman of Amherst who had recently patented an improved method of making lead aqueduct pipes.  Morrison and his group arrived in Natchez in 1818 to find that the local businessmen had repudiated the contract, leaving the group without resources as they had mortgaged their property to raise funds for the system construction.  Morrison, Jesse Dunklee, and Jonathan D. Cochran died of yellow fever in September 1819. 

The water works ended up being built and owned by Horace Gridley and used a steam engine that also operated a clothing factory.  It was sold at a Marshall's Sale in 1823.  The water was tapped from artesian wells sunk at Natchez-under-the-Hill.  It is not known how long this system remained in service, but it is mentioned in a 1828 Gazetter.

The city granted a water works franchise to Samuel R. Bullock & Co. on March 23, 1887, and they incorporated the Natchez Water Company on June 6, 1887.

The City of Natchez advertised for water works bids in January, 1889, and J. A. Jones of St. Louis was the successful bidder.  He incorporated the Natchez Water and Sewer Company in Kansas and built a new systems, The owners of the company were J. A. Jones and John Fremont Thompson, who were both involved in water works companies in Kansas along with the Pine Bluff Water and Light Company in Arkansas, which was formed in 1888 and went into receivership in 1892.  The Natchez company went into receivership in 1891 and was sold to James S. Richardson, who was a large cotton planter from New Orleans.  At least two court cases resulted from the company's financial troubles.

The Natchez Water Supply and Sewer Company was incorporated in West Virginia in 1893 by James S Richardson, New Orleans, Louisiana; Edward H. Coffin, Brooklyn, New York: Henry S. Woodruff, Mont Clair, New Jersey ; Charles J. French, New York, New York; and George K. Greely, Brooklyn, New York.

The City of Natchez purchased the Natchez Water Supply and Sewer Company in 1903 for $150,000.

The waterworks are currently owned by the City of Natchez Water Works.

1819 "Resolution on the Petition of Nathaniel Morrison," Natchez Gazette, February 6, 1819, Page 2.
Resolved, That the project of Nathaniel Morrison, for the introduction of Water into the city, is deemed worthy of public patronage.
Resolved, That is is deemed inexpedient to give the said Nathaniel Morrison the exclusive privilege of vending water in the city; but in case he thinks proper to engage therein, the Selectmen promise the patronage due to so useful and important an undertaking.

1819 An Act to incorporate the Natchez Water Company, February 18, 1819

1819 Mississippi State Gazette (Natchez, Mississippi), March 6, 1819, Page 3
[Text of charter] The gentlemen named in the above law, are requested to meet at Walter Irvine's on Saturday Next, the 13th inst. at 3 o'clock. P.M.

1819 Farmer's Cabinet (Amherst, New Hampshire), October 9, 1819, page 3
Died- In Natchez, Sept 5. of the yellow fever, Mr. Jesse Dunklee, Age 24, son of Mr. Jacob Dunklee, of this town.

1819 Concord Observer (Concord, New Hampshire), October 18, 1819, page 3
Deaths - In Natchez, Mississippi, mr. Jonathan D. Cochran, or Pembroke; mr. Jesse Dunckley, of Amherst; and Capt. Nathaniel Morrison, of Peterborough, all of the yellow fever.

1819 Farmers Cabinet, October 23, 1819, Page 5
Died - In Natchez, Jonathan D. Cochran of Pembroke; Capt. Nathaniel Morrison of Peterborough, and Jesse Duncklee of Amherst; all of the yellow fever.  These persons belonged to the company which went to Natchez last fall from this vicinity for the purpose of laying a leaden aqueduct for the corporation of that city.

1820 "Water," Natchez Gazette, August 12, 1820, Page 3.
At the request of Mr. Gridley, we have analyzed the water of Major Minor's spring, opposite the theatre.  The water is hard, but as it has been used by many persons, and for a long time without injury, we do not hesitate to way, that its introduction into our city is an event greatly to be desired.

1820 "Natchez Water Company," Natchez Gazette, August 12, 1820, Page 3.
Annual meeting is requested on Monday the 28th instant. E. Turner, Secretary.

1821 "Pump & Block Making," Natchez Gazette, August 18, 1821, Page 4.
The Undersigned is now carrying on the above business at his shop near the Theatre, where he will make the Double Forcing Pumps, that will raise water from fifty to one hundred fifty feet with ease.  Horace Gridley, Natchez, July 28, 1821.

1822 "An Ordinance to open a street or highway at the Landing," Natchez Gazette, April 20, 1822, Page 2.
The street...shall be extended up the river to the water works, recently erected by Horace Gridley.  Ordained the seventeenth day of February, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-one.

1822 "Manufactory at Waltham," Natchez Mississippi Free Trader, November 14, 1822, Page 3. | rest of article |  Steam engine to manufacture clothes for Negroes and operate the water works, in conjunction with Mr. Gridley.

1823 "Marshall's Sale," Natchez Gazette, March 8, 1823, Page 4.
Jarvis & Wyeth vs. Horace Gridley. All the right, title, interest and claim of Horace Gridley, in and to the Houses and Water Works which he has erected at the Bluff, within the limits of the City of Natchez.

1823 Farmers Cabinet, October 4, 1823, Page 3
Died - At Claiborne, (Alabama), Aug. 25, William B. King, aged 43, formerly of Milford.  He was buried with the honors of Masonry.

1828 Darby's edition of Brooke's Universal gazetteer, or, A new geographical dictionary: containing a description of the empires, kingdoms, states, provinces, cities, towns, forts, seas, harbours, rivers, lakes, mountains, capes, &c. in the known world ... to which are added, the Constitution of the United States, and the constitutions of the respective states : illustrated by a neat coloured map of the United States, by Richard Brookes and William Darby
Page 682: Natchez, principal town in the state of Mississippi and the seat of justice for Adams county. ... It contains 280 dwelling houses, four places of public worship, ... an elegant court house and jail, 25 dry good stores, two steam saw mills, and a steam aqueduct.

1876 "Nathaniel Morison," from History of the Town of Peterborough, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire: With the Report of the Proceedings at the Centennial Celebration in 1839, by Albert Smith and John Hopkins Morison

1882 An act to incorporate the Natchez Water Works Company.  March 6, 1882.

1883 History of the Town of Amherst, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire: (first Known as Narragansett Township Number Three, and Subsequently as Southegan West) by David Franklin Secomb
Page 881-882:  Dea. Cyrus Eastman  Having an inventive genius he was constantly making experiments, and in 1815, or thereabout, devised a plan for making lead pipe, for which he obtained a patent, and engaged in its manufacture. In 1819 he went to New Orleans in the employ of a company who had a contract to furnish the city with water.  But the undertaking proved an unfortunate one, as most of the company sickened, and some died there.  The survivors returned home poorer but, perhaps, wiser men.  When Manchester began to be built up Mr. Eastman was one of a company to furnish the inhabitants with water by means of aqueducts.  He also furnished the pumps and pipes for the use of the railroad companies between Lowell and Franklin. [Eastman probably went to Natchez rather than New Orleans, as the latter city used wooden logs to distribute water which were installed after Eastman had returned in New Hampshire.]

1887 "An Ordinance," The Weekly Democrat (Natchez, Mississippi), March 30, 1887, Page 6.
To provide a supply of water, granted to Samuel R. Bullock and Company, March 23, 1887.

1887 "S. R. Bullock & Co.," The Weekly Democrat (Natchez, Mississippi), September 7, 1887, Page 2.

1888 "The Water Works Contract," The Weekly Democrat (Natchez, Mississippi), April 11, 1888, Page 3.
Contract to be annulled if water works on completed on May 23, 1888.

1888 "The Water Works Question," The Weekly Democrat (Natchez, Mississippi), June 6, 1888, Page 3.
Communications between water works company and city.

1888 "The Water Works Contract," The Weekly Democrat (Natchez, Mississippi), June 13, 1888, Page 5.
Samuel R. Bullock & Co. to allow city to cancel and annul their contract.

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

1889 Engineering News 21:202 (March 2, 1889)
Natchez, Miss.-The following proposals for the construction of a complete system of water-works were opened Feb. 21 by A. L. Howe, Chairman of the Committee on Gas and Water: Moffett, Hodgkins & Clarke, Watertown, N.Y.; rental plan, $5,400 for 90 hydrants or $5,700 for 110 hydrants; additional hydrants, $45 each, not less than 11 to the mile; to construct works for the city, $120,000.-R. E. H. Smith, Helena, Mont.; to construct works for the city, $120,000.- Ira C. Terry & Co., St. Louis Mo.; rental plan, 90 hydrants, 11 to the mile, $60 each; additional hydrants, $50 each; to construct works for the city, $138,000.- J. A. Jones, St. Louis, Mo.; rental plan, $5,500 for 90 hydrants or $5,000 for 100 hydrants. The contract was awarded to J. A. Jones for 100 hydrants at $5,000 per year. He has the right to buy the works at the end of every term of ten years. The contractor to furnish water free to all public buildings and four fountains, and also put an ornamental fountain in Memorial Park not to cost less than $1,500. Work will be commenced shortly and completed in 6 months, although the contract gives him 12 months. The city will put in a complete System of sewerage in connection with the water-works at no cost to the city, depending upon the citizens to take water.
Page 322: (April 6, 1889) Natchez, J. A. Jones, the contractor is at work on the pipe laying, and will have this done by June.
Page 466:  (May 18, 1889) Natchez. The Natchez Water & Sewer Co. will build water-works. Bonds for $200,000 have been issued. Mr. J. A. Jones is at the head of the company.
Page 538:  (June 8, 1889) Natchez, Miss.—The following was given by J. F. Thompson, Elmira, N. Y., President of the Natchez Water & Sewer Co.: Works will be completed in August, construction having been begun in April. with J. Jones as Designing, and P. K. Yates,. Natchez, Constructing Engineer. In addition to the water-works the company is building 7 1/2 miles of sewers. The contractors are: For masonry, -  Culberston, Pine Bluff. Ark.: sewers, Irwin & Maher, Greenville. O.; N. O. Nelson Mfg. Co.. St. Louis, Mo.; boilers, Mid Continental Boiler Works. Kansas City, Mo.; pipe and specials. South St. Louis Foundry: trenching and pipe-laying, Henry Diedrich, Natchez: standpipe, Frank E. Palmer, Kansas City, Mo. White hydrants and Eddy valves will be used. Water will he pumped from the Mississippi river to a stand-pipe 12 ft. in diameter by 150 ft. high. There will be a 1,500,000-gall. compound and a 1,000,000-gall. high-pressure pump; also 8 miles of 14 to 6-in. cast-iron mains, and 115 hydrants. The cost of water-works and sewerage combined will be $160,000. The franchise is for 30 years, and the annual hydrant rental is $50 each. Population, 12,000.

1889 The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, November 22, 1889, Page 8
Natchez, Nov. 21.-- At the residence of Mr. J. T. Chamberlain, brother of the bride, this evening at 6 o'clock, the Rev. F. J. Stratten united in wedlock Mr. J. A. Jones and Miss Laura Chamberlain.  The groom is the manager and builder of the waterworks here, and the bride one of the most prominent of the society belles.  The couple leave on to-night's train for a bridal tour of two weeks.

1890 Engineering News 23:142 (February 8, 1890)
Natchez, Miss.-- Notwithstanding experts have reported in favor of artesian well water, the Board of Aldermen demand that the supply be furnished from the Mississippi River.  If their plan it carried out filters and settling basins will be necessary.  The Natchez Water & Sewer Co. has the contract.

1890 J. Thompson, Trustee, et al., v. Natchez Water & Sewer Co. et al. (68 Miss 423) Mississippi Supreme Court, Decided March 2, 1891

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

1891 Engineering News 26:552 (December 5, 1891)
Natchez, Miss:  The works of the Natchez Water & Sewer Co. have been bought at a foreclosure sale by James S. Richardson, New Orleans, for liabilities and $19,l00.  The full amount of claims if said to be $154,000.  A new company will probably be organized.

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

1891 The Age of Steel 70(24):13 (December 12, 1891)
James S. Richardson, of New Orleans, recently purchased the plant and all the property of the Natchez Water and Sewer Company.  The plant was sold at a commissioners' sale for $19,000, the purchaser assuming a bonded indebtedness of $154,000 with accrued interest for two years.

1892 Times-Picayune (New Orleans), October 4, 1892, Page 9
Natchez. Sale of the Water works Plant Confirmed.  Natchez, Miss., Oct 3.- The chancery court convened to-day and confirmed the sale of the plant of the Natchez Water and Sewer Company made to James S. Richardson of New Orleans, by the trustee, George W.Koontz, some weeks ago.  The citizens of Natchez are very anxious to know what Mr. Richardson's future plans are in reference to this valuable property.

1893 Natchez Water Supply and Sewer Company, July 15, 1892 (West Virginia) 50-year term, $300,000 capital stock.

1896 New York Security & Trust Co. v. Equitable Mortgage. Co., (77 F1d 64) Circuit Court, S. D. New York, October 15, 1896.

1897 "Nathaniel Morrison," from John Hopkins Morison: A Memoir by George Shattuck Morison, Robert Swain Morison, Mary Morison.
Page 12:  "In justice to the people of Natchez, it should be said that the contract was not put in writing."

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

1901 The History of Milford, Volume 1 by George Allen Ramsdell
Page 811:  William B. King came to Milford in 1812 from Washington.  Was a clock and organ manufacturer.  He went south in 1818 with Nathaniel Morrison, who had a contract for water-works to supply the city of Natchez, and died at Mobile that year.

1902 An act to authorize the Board of Mayor and Aldermen of the city of Natchez to issue bonds for the purpose of purchasing the waterworks and sewerage system, owned and operated in said city by the Natchez Water Supply and Sewer Company, or for the purpose of building, constructing, or otherwise securing for said city a system of sewerage and waterworks. February 25, 1902.

1908 A Sketch of the Duncklee Family: And a History of the Descendants of David Duncklee of Amherst, N.H. : and of His Sister Hannah Duncklee Howe of Milford, N.H. by Ada Melinda Lakin Duncklee
Page 62:  Jesse Dunklee b. 8 Nov. 1794 in Milford and d. 5 Sep 1819, in Natchez, Miss. of yellow fever.  Employed on water works (with his Uncle Wm. B. King) by Morrison, of Peterboro',

1993 Antebellum Natchez by D. Clayton James
Page 84:  Water carriers were forbidden in 1819 to sell water taken from the river's edge where boats were liable to dock and make the stream "filthy."  That same year the Natchez Water Company was incorporated "for the purpose of introducing water into the city of Natchez, by means of leaden or wooden pipes."  The company was capitalized at $200,000 and could sell stock at $100 per share.  It was one of the few public services which the city did not monopolize.  The company's charter officials, including Edward Turner, president; Samual Postlethwaite, II, a future president; Lewis Evans, assessor and former sheriff; and Charles B. Green, later a city counselor, however, were closely linked with the municipal administration.  The water was tapped from artesian wells sunk at Natchez-under-the-Hill.

2007 Natchez, Mississippi, Model City of the Old South, by Philip Paul Scott. Essays in Public Works History, Number 26.

2015 "History of Natchez Water Works," from City of Natchez Water Meter Replacement Program for Successful Leak Control, March 2015

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce