Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
North Carolina Raleigh

Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh was chartered in 1792.

Raleigh was given permission to construct water works in 1815 and engaged Jacob Lash (1760-1821) to build the system.  Lash was a member of the Moravian Community and was probably familiar with their water works in Bethlehem and Salem.  This system had a pump and reservoir (like Bethlehem) but was abandoned after several years as the pipes became clogged with mud and burst under pressure.

The Raleigh Water Works Company was incorporated in 1886 and was reincorporated as the Wake Water Company in 1901.  This company built a system with pumps and a reservoir.

The city of Raleigh began to have trouble with the Wake Water Company in 1911.  After numerous legal wranglings, the City bought the water company for $250,000 in June, 1913.

Water is supplied by the City of Raleigh.

1815 An act to enable the Intendant of Police and Commissioners of Raleigh, to supply the City with water, and for other purposes. December 19, 1815.

1818 Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette, September 25, 1818, Page 3.
City Water Works.--We have pleasure in stating that these Works, which the Commissioners of the City have had on hand for about three years, are at length completed, and the city is furnished with a regular and constant supply of Water (in addition to their Pumps & neighboring Springs) which fills three reservoirs placed underground in different parts of the City, containing about 8000 gallons, besides supplying several Hydrants in convenient situations, affording Water sufficient for culinary and other purposes, and a supply, always in readiness, in cases of Fire.
The Water is conveyed from Springs nearly a mile and a half distant in Wooden Pipes.  No source of Water in the vicinity being of sufficient height to pass into the city by its own gravity, it became necessary to have resource to Machinery.  After running about half a mile, therefore, this Spring Water enters a Propelling Engine, worked by a Water-wheel (turned by a stream from Rocky Branch, conducted through Wooden Trunks for about 600 yards) which keeps in constant motion four Forcing Pumps that raise the water 110 feet into a Tower about 600 yards distant, whence it descends by its own gravity to a Reservoir in the State-House Yard (an elevated situation) a distance of 1200 yards; from whence the other parts of the City are supplied.
These Works, which have been constructed under the direction of that ingenious Mechanician, Mr. Jacob Lash (formerly of Bethany, but now of this city) do credit both to the Artist and to the citizens who have effected this desirable object, as they not only evince considerable mechanical skill, but a determination in the inhabitants of Raleigh to spare no expense or exertions to render the City not only a pleasant and healthy, but a safe and comfortable residence.

1821 Raleigh Register and North Carolina Gazette Oct. 19, 1821, Page 3.
Died At Fayetteville, on the 8th inst. after a sickness of some weeks, in advanced life, Mr. Jacob Lash, of Bethabara,in Stokes County. Mr. L. was a native of Bethlehem, in Pennsylvania, of German extraction, and a member of the Moravian Society. He was for some time a resident of this place, being employed by the Commissioners of the City, to supply the citizens with running Water from neighboring Springs, not only for common purposes, but to be kept in Reservoirs to be ready in case of fire. This engagement being finished, he returned to his Moravian Brethren; but, for some months past he had been employed in effecting a Water Conveyance for the town of Fayetteville. Mr. L. was originally a gunsmith; but possessed a great mechanical genius, and could make most kinds of instruments and machinery. He was also a Musician of great skill, and could not only play on several instruments, but could make and repair them. He built several small Organs, and made two or three Pianos and other instruments. He has left to lament his loss, an aged widow, a son and a daughter.

1821 An act in addition to former acts passed for the government of the city of Raleigh, December 22, 1821.  Established penalties for damaging the water works, "which the inhabitants thereof have erected and established at great expence."

c. 1836 "Water works excerpt from Recollections" by Joseph Gales, Gales Family Papers

1887 Annual report of the mayor and officers of the city of Raleigh, for the fiscal year ending April 30, 1887.
Pages 111-156: Report of Water-Works Committee
Page 123:  List of bidders

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

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

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

1892 The Early History of Raleigh, the Capital City of North Carolina: A Centennial Address Delivered by Invitation of the Committee on the Centennial Celebration of the Foundation of the City, October 18, 1892, Volume 1, Issue 1 by Kemp Plummer Battle
Page 48: FIRES. The first fire-engine in the city was bought by voluntary contributions in 1802. It employed sixteen hands, throwing eighty gallons per minute one hundred and thirty-two feet, and cost $374. Eleven years later the city bought a new engine, and in 1821 the first regular fire company was organized. Six years before this an abortive attempt to supply the city with water was made. A water wheel worked from a pond in front of the Insane Asylum hill, made by damming Rocky branch, forced the water to the top of a water tower on a hill in the southwest part of the city, whence it flowed by gravity to Hargett and along Fayetteville street. There was no filtration. The water was delivered at intervals through spouts. The engineer was Samuel Lash of Salem, an ingenious mechanic. The pipes were of wood. They became frequently clogged with mud. Often they burst with the pressure. Lash died and was succeeded by his son, who was a drunkard. The citizens living on the streets not benefited became clamorous against the taxation levied for repairs, and the scheme was abandoned.

1895 An act to declare The Raleigh Water Company a duly incorporated company, and to ratify, confirm, amend, and enlarge its charter. March 6, 1895.

1897 "Raleigh," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4

1910 Raleigh illustrated : Raleigh, North Carolina, containing a comprehensive review of the natural advantages and resources of Raleigh ... together with historical reviews of those representative concerns and biographical sketches of prominent men who have materially assisted in placing this community in high position, by Raleigh Chamber of Commerce
Page 18:  Wake Water Co.  The health of any community depends to such a great extent upon the water supply, that the Company in charge of this most important public utility must be absolutely dependable.  In Raleigh the water for domestic and drinking purposes, and general use, is supplied by the Wake Water company, which was incorporated in November, 1901, to take over the business originally started by the Raleigh Water Company in December, 1886.  The Wake Water Company is capitalized at one hundred thousand dollars, and has a most modern and approved pant.  The water is pumped from Walnut Creek, a never-failing creek of pure water, a few miles south of the city.  The entire stream and its source are carefully patrolled so as to prevent any fouling of the water, and the low death rate of Raleigh is sufficient evidence as to the purity of the water supply.
The officers of the Wake Water Company are:  President, Julius Lewis; vice-president, H. E. Litchford; superintendent and secretary, E. B. Bain; treasurer, F. H. Briggs; directors, Julius Lewis, H. E. Litchford, F. H. Briggs, B. G. Cowper and William Boylan.  Mr. Lewis is a retired gentleman who is largely interested in a number of local enterprises.  Mr. Litchford is cashier of the Citizens National Bank and is vice-president of the Boylan-Pearce Company.  Mr. Briggs is cashier of the Raleigh Banking and Trust Company.  Mr. Bain, who is the active manager of the business, is a Raleigh man by birth and has been in this business for thirteen years, before that time having been engaged in the State Treasurer's Department.  He is familiar with every detail of the Company's business and plant, and has proven himself a most capable man to have charge of this important and necessary public convenience.  The same gentlemen control the Wake construction Company, a company who engage in general construction work, principally construction of water works.  This company was incorporated in 1908, and occupies the same offices as the Wake Water Company. 

1991 Lash (or Loesch), Jacob by William S. Powell,

2012 Raleigh's Water History, Introduction, video by Scott Huler. | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6 |

2015 "A History of Raleigh’s Water," by Ariella Monti, Raleigh Public Record (January 5, 2015)

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce