Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States New Hampshire Keene

Keene, New Hampshire

Keene was originally settled around 1736.     

The first waterworks in Keene were in use by August, 1793, when William Bentley stayed at Richardson's Tavern.  This aqueduct system was likely built by Luther Emes (or Eames) and Abijah Wilder.  Emes built an aqueduct system in Lansingburgh, New York in 1795 and the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct in Boston that began service in 1798. 

Another aqueduct system was established for fire protection with several cisterns connected by an aqueduct to a main well with a pump.

The Keene Aqueduct Company was incorporated in 1857 by William B. Wheeler, Charles Faulkner, George H. Richards, William Dinsmore, Selden F. White, Thomas H. Leverett, Henry Pond and Daniel Buss "for the purpose of bringing fresh water into the compact part of tho village of Keene, in subterraneous pipes."

The current water system was started in 1869 and is owned by the City of Keene.

1793 The Diary of William Bentley, D.D. Volume 2  January, 1793 - December, 1802 
Page 42-42: [August 1793] At 6 in the morning we set out from Richardson's in Keene for Walpole 14 miles.  At this house we saw the spring which runs under the Street & for a small expense is led to the respective houses & furnishes already water for his troughs, & is intended for every domestic use.  The convenience is hardly imaged till it is seen.

1851 Annals of the town of Keene, from its first settlement, in 1734, to the year 1790; with corrections, additions, and a continuation from 1790 to 1815 by  Salma Hale.
Page 79-80: 1796  In this year, deacon Abijah Wilder brought water into the village from Beaver Brook, and it was used by himself and many other families for several years; but the logs in which it was brought decayed, and that source of supply was abandoned.  The exact spot where it was taken from Beaver Brook, is not remembered, but supposed to be just above the junction of the Sullivan and Gilsum roads.  It is remembered that the line of logs went West of the glass factory, and that the top of the rise South-west of the factory was about twenty feet lower than the source.
Page 106:  1794 An indenture of copartnership between Abijah Wilder and Luther Eames was executed Feb 25th.  This indenture had relation, as I suppose, to supplying Boston with fresh water, hereinafter referred to.
Page 107:  1795 Another indenture is drawn and executed between Abijah Wilder and Luther Eames, Jan 13th.
Feb 27th. Luther Eames and his associates were incorporated by the Legislature of Massachusetts into a society for bringing fresh water into the town of Boston.
May 12 Writings were executed between Abijah Wilder, Luther Eames and Church.  Here the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct had its origin. [Note: Church is not otherwise identified, but later accounts give his name as Jonathan, but he has not been clearly identified.]

1857 An act to incorporate the Keene Aqueduct Company.  June 24, 1857.

1881 "Keene," Engineering News 8:447 November 5, 1881

1885 Gazetteer of Cheshire County, N.H., 1736-1885 compiled and published by Hamilton Child

Page 249-250:WATER WORKS
The matter of supplying Keene with an adequate water supply was agitated at an early date. In 1861 a charter was granted for the purpose, the estimated cost of the proposed works being $40,000.00. Much opposition was met with, however, on the part of some tax payers, which combined with the troubles of the war, put the matter off. In 1866 the subject again came up, though it was not until August, 1868, that the vote was finally carried. A committee was appointed to act immediately, consisting of Samuel A. Gerould, Edward Joslyn, Thomas H. Leverett, Daniel H. Holbrook and George W. Ball, all of whom, except Mr. Leverett, are living. This committee was instructed to obtain land, right of way, make contracts, etc. It was decided to build the reservoir on Charles Wright's farm, utilizing Goose pond, about fifty acres, lying on the right side of the old road leading to Surry, about three miles north of and 152 feet above the city. Contracts for pipe, etc., were let within a month, and everything put in active operation. A solid granite gate-house was built at the outlet of the pond, and an earthen dam with a center wall of stone and cement constructed, and the whole was completed in 1869, about a year from the date of beginning. It was found, however, that the supply was scarcely adequate for all occasions, so in 1873 another reservoir, of about five acres, was built on Beach hill, three-quarters of a mile -east of the city. Goose pond reservoir, or Spring lake, as it is more politely called, has an area of fifty-one acres and a capacity of 150,000,000 gallons.  It is a natural basin between the hills, 152 feet above Central square. The reservoir on Beech hill has a capacity of about 12,000,000 gallons. The streams are all small which feed these reservoirs, however, and even now the city is agitating the subject of an increased supply. The works have twenty-five miles of mains, 118 fire hydrants, capable of throwing a stream of no feet, and up to the present time have co .t $1 70,000.00. The net earnings for 1884 were $10,034.84.

1904 A history of the town of Keene from 1732: when the township was granted by Massachusetts, to 1874, when it became a city by Simon Goodell Griffin, Frank H. Whitcomb, and Octavius Applegate (Jr.)
Page 297:  It was during 1794 that a copartnership was formed between Abijah Wilder and Luther Eames of Keene, for the purpose of building aqueducts.  The next February, "Luther Eames and his associates were incorporated by the Legislatuare of Massachusetts into a society for bringing fresh water into the town of Boston."  Further writings were executed in May between Abijah Wilder, Luther Eames and Jonathan Church, for building the Jamaica Pond aqueduct; and thus Boston is indebted to Keene enterprise "for the introduction of pure water into the town."

Page 302:  During the year 1796, Dea. Abijah Wilder utilized his skill in laying aqueducts by bringing water in logs from the spring1 at the north end of the village to supply his own and other families.  Afterwards the same aqueduct was used to supply water to some shops and manufactories; and others were laid in town about the same time and did good service for many years.
1 The Annals say from Beaver brook, but it has since been ascertained that it was from a spring.

Page 570: On the night of the 19th of October, 1865, the entire group of buildings on the east side of the Square, between the Cheshire House and the town hall, was destroyed by fire. It consisted of Richards's block (formerly Lamson's) on the corner of Roxbury street ; the handsome iron front building of the Messrs. Colony, of the Cheshire Mills of Harrisville; and the Shelly and Sawyer block. The small wooden building owned by Thomas M. Edwards and occupied by the post office was demolished to save the town hall. It was believed that all except Richards's block, where the fire originated, might have been saved but for the failure of the supply of water. Many of the occupants lost heavily. The total loss was nearly $70,000, about one-half of which was covered by insurance. The post office was removed to the northwest corner room in Elliot's block, on West street, now the Chinese laundry.

Page 530: The failure of the water supply at the fire on the east side of the Square in 1865 gave a fresh impulse to the project of bringing aqueduct water into the village. The subject had previously been agitated for many years in consequence of the inadequate supply of water in case of fires, and for manufacturing and other purposes, and the first action of the town in relation to it had been taken at the annual meeting in 1860, when the town voted "That it is expedient to introduce into the compact part of the Town a supply of water for the extinguishment of fires;" and a committee of five was appointed, with Wm. P. Wheeler chairman, to report a plan and obtain the necessary legislation. Action was again taken in 1862 as stated, but the enterprise had not been pushed, and active interest in it had lain dormant until reawakened by the fire of 1865. At this annual meeting of 1866, a committee of seven was chosen to take the whole matter into consideration and report at a meeting to be called for that purpose. That committee, after examining several bodies of water, reported on the 2d of June, recommending "Goose pond" as the source of supply; but an adjourned meeting, on the 16th of the same month, voted to postpone the whole subject indefinitely 143 to 64.

Page 532: On the 12th of August [1867] the large shops on Mechanic street were destroyed by fire. They were occupied by Nims & Crossfield for making sash, doors and blinds, and by several smaller manufacturing concerns and individuals. The houses of Mr. Arba Kidder and Mr. John F. Prindell and several small buildings were also burned. Loss, $44,300; insured for $13,075. The fire started in the engine-house of Nims & Crossfield. Soon afterwards a corporation was formed, called the Keene Steam Power Company, which rebuilt the mills at a cost of about $40,000. 

Page 533:  Notwithstanding the indefinite postponement of the subject in 1866, the demand for aqueduct water was imperative, and at a special meeting to consider that question held on the 5th of October, 1867, another committee of seven was chosen to take the whole matter under consideration. That committee reported on the 5th of November recommending Goose pond as the source of water supply; and on the 18th of December the town voted to purchase Goose pond, and a committee consisting of Samuel A. Gerould, Edward Joslin, Daniel H. Holbrook, Reuben Stewart and George Holmes was appointed to employ engineers, make examinations and estimates, and report at a subsequent meeting. That committee reported on the 13th of August following, and the town then voted, 381 to 86, to construct the works. A committee for that purpose was chosen consisting of Edward Joslin, Thomas H. Leverett, Samuel A. Gerould, Daniel H. Holbrook and George W. Ball. A contract was made and the water was introduced in November, 1869. The same meeting authorized the issue of bonds for a loan of seventy-five thousand dollars (the sum afterwards increased as the works were extended) and chose a "water loan committee " to prepare and sell the bonds, consisting of Thomas H. Leverett, Royal H. Porter and George W. Tilden. 

1968 The Keene Fire Department by H. Emile De Rosier from "Upper Ashuelot"; a history of Keene New Hampshire by the Keene History Committee
Page 571:Over the years the town placed a number of wells within the are a for a water supply for fires. By 1845 there were eight on Main Street, connected by aqueducts from a central well at the head of the
Common. Here a pump was installed to keep the other wells supplied.

2015 Morris A. Pierce