Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States
New Jersey Morristown

Morristown, New Jersey

Morristown was settled around 1715.  

A group of Morristown citizens formed an Aqueduct Committee in early 1799 and engaged Pelatiah Ashely of West Springfield, Massachusetts to construct the system using bored logs.  The system began delivering water in the fall and in October the committee petitioned the state legislature for a charter, and The Proprietors of the Morris Aqueduct were chartered on November 16, 1799 by John Doughty, William Campfield, James Richards, David Ford, Aaron Pierson, John Halsey, William Johnes, Gabriel H. Ford, Henry King, Caleb Russell, Daniel Phoenix Jr., Israel Canfield, Benjamin Freeman, David Mills, George O'Hara, Rodolphus Kent, Joseph Lewis, Lewis Condict, Abraham Canfield, Samuel Ogden, Elijah Holloway, Edward Mills, William Tuttle, Matthias Crane, Jonathan Dickerson, and Daniel Lindsley. 

Henry C. Pitney purchased the aqueduct in 1869 and operated it until 1923.  Pitney was also involved in the Mendham Aqueduct Company.

The Town of Morristown purchased the water system in December 1923 and the Southeast Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority acquired the system from the Town of Morristown on January 20, 1977 and currently operates the system.  Their web site includes a history page.


1799 An act to incorporate John Doughty and his Associates, Proprietors of the Morris Aqueduct.  November 16, 1799

1799 Genius of Liberty, November 21, 1799
Of 4 miles in length, including the various branches, has been laid down and completed in this town, since the 20th of June last, which affords to the citizens, at their doors, a constant flowing spring of as pure and fine water as may be found in the United States; it is equal to the purest rain-water for washing.  The fountain, from whence this water is taken, is abundant, and advantageously situated at least 100 feet above the town, on the north side of a small mountain covered with wood. The pipe being been laid 3 feet under the surface of the earth, and running through woods for nearly a mile, is not only secure from the influence of the sun, but in all probability from the severity of the frost likewise.  From the height of the fountain, the water may be conducted at least 40 feet above any house that may be built on the most elevated part of the town.  The benefits arising from this work, to be the inhabitants of the town, far exceed calculation ; nor will its utility be properly appreciated by them, until they have experienced another drought, as severe as that which occurred during the last summer, when almost every well failed, and the gardens, in a great measure, were rendered useful and barren.
The expense of this aqueduct, which amounts to between 2 and 3000 dollars, has been defrayed by a company of the citizens of the town, and the work executed by, and under the immediate direction of Mr. Pelatiah Ashley, of West-Springfield, Massachusetts, whose industry, integrity, sobriety, and carefulness merit the hearty recommendation of the citizens of this town, and whose practical and experimental knowledge, in conveying water by aqueduct, will be found, on experiment, to be more useful to his employers than the theoretical knowledge of hydraulics.

1862 A further supplement to the act entitled "An act to incorporate John Doughty and his associates proprietors of the Morris Aqueduct Company," passed the sixteenth day of November, seventeen, hundred and ninety-nine.  February 17, 1862.

1882 Morristown, from Engineering News 9:74 (March 4, 1882)

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

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

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

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

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

1914 History of Morris County, New Jersey: embracing upwards of two centuries, 1710-1913, volume 1 by Henry Cooper Pitney.
Pages 227-28: The “fountain" was on the Jockey Hollow road, about one mile north of the town. The water was conducted to Morristown through brick tile, and for several years the aqueduct was in use, but then was allowed to become unused, the town returning to the wells. The charter rights were then purchased by James Wood, who relaid the aqueduct with chestnut logs having a two-inch bore. He built a small wooden cistern, holding one hundred barrels, for a reservoir, this being located on what is now Western avenue. In 1846, John F. Voorhees became the owner of the aqueduct. He relaid it with cement pipe, and built a reservoir eighteen feet square, on the site of “Fort Nonsense,” where the later day reservoir is located. In 1869 the aqueduct came into the hands of a strong company, and has ever since been a reliable source of supply. Large reservoirs have been constructed, and pure aerated water is furnished through many miles of mains to every part of the town, 184 street-hydrants furnishing connections with the mains in time of fire. The company still bears the name under which it was originally incorporated—The Proprietors of the Morris Aqueduct.

1914 A History of Morris County, New Jersey: Embracing Upwards of Two Centuries, 1710-1913, Volume II, by Henry Cooper Pitney.  Includes several references to individuals involved in the Morris and Mendham Aqueduct Companies.

2002 Morristown: A Military Headquarters of the American Revolution  by John W. Rae
Page 121:  In 1846, John F. Voorhees acquired the aqueduct, replaced the hollowed-out cedar logs with cement and cast iron pipe, and constructed a distributing reservoir on Fort Nonsense Hill (now the site of the two-deck Morris County parking garage).  When repairing Court Street in the 1970s, workmen uncovered several sections of the hollowed out cedar logs that had served as water mains.

2012 "The Morris Aqueduct Company:  New Jersey's First Water Company Part 1: 1798-1869" by Arthur Mierisch, from Garden State Legacy GSL18: December 2012. 

2013 "The Morris Aqueduct Company:  New Jersey's First Water Company Part 2: 1860-1923" by Arthur Mierisch, from Garden State Legacy GSL21: September 2013.

2013 The Morris County Library has prepared a Summary of the Morris Aqueduct Company by Amy Saloway and Sara Weissman

The Morris Aqueduct Records from 1799 to 1929 are at the The Morristown and Morris Township Library.  

The North Jersey History & Genealogy Center Digital Collections includes several photographs of the Morris Aqueduct Company, including this 1905 picture of workers and this 1916 picture of pipe being unloaded.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce