Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Middle Atlantic States
New Jersey Newark

Newark, New Jersey

Newark was founded around 1666.  

A group of Newark citizens met in early 1800 to consider forming an aqueduct company and opened a subscription book.  Construction began sometime that year and the The President and Directors of the Newark Aqueduct Company was chartered on November 11, 1800 by John N. Cumming, Nathaniel Camp, Jesse Baldwin, Nathaniel Beach, Stephen Hays, James Hedden, Jabez Parkhurst, David D. Crane, Joseph T. Baldwin, Luther Goble, Aaron Ross, John Burnet and William Halsey. 

In 1828 Sheldon Smith installed cast iron pipes made by Samuel Wright.  Smith would later build a water system in Derby, Connecticut. The City agreed in 1845 to pay for installation of iron pipes to improve fire protection.  These pipes were cement-lined wrought-iron pipes manufactured by J. Ball & Co.

American Railroad Journal 23:42 (January 19, 1850)

In 1845 the Mayor and Common Council entered into a contract with the Aqueduct Company for furnishing a full and sufficient supply of water for extinguishing fires, for washing, working, cleaning and trying the fire engines, hose and other apparatus used—to be used for the extinguishment of fires only. This was the first water contract the city entered into. 

On March 20, 1860 the Newark Aqueduct Board was created by an Act of the New Jersey Legislature. This Act authorized the mayor and Common Council to purchase the property of the Newark Aqueduct Company; property included all their rights, franchises, lands and property, real and personal, for the sum of $150,000—conveyed of the real estate consisted of 18 tracts, including the Branch Brook, Spring lots and Mill properties along the Mill brook, several smaller tracts and the reservoir lot at Springfield and South Orange Avenues.

On September 24, 1889, the Newark Aqueduct Board entered into a contract with the East Jersey Water Company to furnish a water supply of fifty million gallons daily, to be completed by May 1, 1892.  On May 2, 1892, the city of Newark took ownership of the water, water rights, reservoirs, dams and works serving the city. The East Jersey Water Company was allowed to use all of the water not used by Newark, up to 27,500,000 gallons per day, until 1900, and to keep the works in repair.  The city was allowed to provide water to itself and to Belleville, South Orange, East Orange, and Clinton.

In  1918,  the  Morris  Canal  and  Banking Company   (MCBC)   won   an   injunction against  the  North  Jersey  District  Water Supply   Commission   (NJDWSC)   to   prevent  the  Commission  from  completing
the Wanaque Reservoir.  They argued that the  Reservoir  would  divert  water  from the Pompton Feeder and make the Canal inoperable.    In  1922,  the  Court  of  Chancery  ruled  in  favor  of  the  Morris  Canal, effectively  halting  a  plan  to  supply  clean drinking water to New Jersey’s populated urban centers.  The State of New Jersey intervened, causing the Lehigh Valley Railroad to turn the Canal over to the State and enabling the Water  Supply  Commission  to  continue with construction.  In 1923, the Morris Canal was drained and bridges over the Canal  were  replaced  by  modern  roadways, in  preparation  for  full  abandonment  by 1929. 

The Newark Aqueduct Board ceased to exist when the City's Board of Street and Water Commissioners was established by state law on March 28, 1891 and the City of Newark continues to own the water system. 

1800 The Centinel of Freedom, February 4, 1800
Also, all the inhabitants who wish to promote Aqueducts for supplying the town with water, which may be supplied to every family for about 20 dollars.  If health, ease, cleanliness, and security from fire, are inducements, the inhabitants of this town will surely promote so desirable a measure, at so moderate an expense.
The habitants who assembled on the 8th of January, to hear the report of the committee appointed to view the springs, and make the calculations, where so well satisfied with the report, as to direct, That a Book should be opened at the house of Johnson Tuttle, at 10 o'clock on Wednesday the 5th of February, and to remain open until Saturday the 8th, at 6 o'clock, P.M. No person will be allowed to subscribe unless he is a freeholder, and no person to subscribe more than one share during that time.  Regulations for the government of the Aqueduct Company, will be prepared for the inspection of the inhabitants at the meeting this evening.  By order of the Committee, N. CUMMING  February 4, 1800

1800 An act to incorporate the Newark Aqueduct Company. November 17, 1800.

1850 Ball & Co's Patent Indestructible Water Pipe advertisement, American Railroad Journal, 23(3):42 (January 19, 1850)
Having for the past three years laid many of Messrs. Ball & Co's patent cement pipes in the Newark Aqueduct Co., I prefer them to any pipe that I have used, their cost being one-third less than iron pipe, and also being free from wear and rust, and can most cordially recommend them for all aqueduct purposes.
SHELDON SMITH, Superintendent, Newark, January 14, 1850.

1860 An act to authorize the mayor and common council of the city of Newark to purchase the property of the Newark Aqueduct Company, and creating the Newark Aqueduct Board.  March 20, 1860.

1861 Report to the Newark aqueduct board, upon the subject of a supply of water for the city of Newark, by George H. Bailey, January 31, 1861.

1861 A further supplement to the act entitled "An act to authorize the mayor and common council of the city of Newark to purchase the property of the Newark Aqueduct Company, and creating the Newark Aqueduct Board," approved March twentieth, eighteen hundred and sixty.  March 8, 1861.

1870 Report of the Newark Aqueduct Board, December 1, 1870, by George H. Bailey, Engineer

1873 An Act to provide Newark and Jersey City, and other places, with an ample supply of Pure and Wholesome Water for domestic and other purposes.  April 2, 1873.

1874 Report of the Newark Aqueduct Board of the City of Newark, December 1, 1874.

1878 The history of Newark, New Jersey, by Joseph Atkinson Page 190: Aqueduct water was introduced as early as the year 1800, being supplied to houses through wooden pipes. The Newark Aqueduct Company was incorporated November 17th, 1800.  ... In 1828 steps were taken which resulted in the substitution of iron for wooden pipes. Under an act of the Legislature, approved March 20th, 1860, “The Newark Aqueduct Board" was constituted, and by that authority the transfer was made to the City of Newark “of the capital stock and all the rights, franchises, lands and property, real and personal, of the Newark Aqueduct Company," the consideration being $100,000.

1879 Report on additional water supply, March 6th, 1879,  by J. J. R. Croes and George W. Howell, Newark Aqueduct Board (N.J.)

1879 "Report on the Water Supply of Newark, N. J.," Engineering News 6:83-84 (March 15, 1879)

1880 The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880: With Biographies and Genealogies by Samuel Orcutt and Ambrose Beardsley
Page 353: Sheldon Smith was a man of energy, foresight and perseverance ... Mr. Smith then with Mr. Wright in the spring of 1822 commenced the saddle and harness making business in Newark, New Jersey, where the co-partnership was highly prosperous, and accumulated wealth. While in Newark, Mr. Smith showed himself a public benefactor to the city. He introduced, and supplied at his own expense the inhabitants of the place with good water, a sanitary want much needed. This enterprise at first was looked upon as visionary, and Mr. Smith was laughed at for the undertaking by capitalists, but when the blessings of pure water, by the citizens, were realized, he was importuned to sell out to an envious corporation, giving it control of so valuable a public improvement, which he did without profit or loss to himself, satisfied to confer a lasting benefit on a place in which he had been so much prospered. The citizens of Newark to-day owe the introduction of water into their city to the enterprise of Sheldon Smith. 

1881 History of Newark Water Works from Engineering News 8:183 (May 7, 1881)

1881 Annual report of the Newark Aqueduct Board, Newark New Jersey, for the year ending, November 30th, 1881

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

1882 Annual report of the Newark Aqueduct Board, Newark New Jersey, for the year ending, November 29th, 1882.  Also includes reports for 1883 through 1886

1884 Newark Water Works from History of Essex and Hudson Counties, New Jersey, Volume 1 compiled by William H. Shaw

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

1888 Pollution of the Passaic River : embracing the report of the special committee appointed to represent the Newark Aqueduct Board in the board of inspection of the Passaic River and its tributaries, by Newark Aqueduct Board.

1889 Newark Aqueduct Board. Report to the Common Council of its proceedings and action on the subject of new water supply. January 15, 1889. 36 p. O. Ward & Tichenor.

1889 Newark Common Council. Report of the Committee on Water Supplies of the Common Council on the subject of a new water supply, referred to it January 18, 1889, on the presentation of the Newark Aqueduct Board.

1889 The Commercial and Financial Chronicle and Hunt's Merchant Magazine, 48:100, January 19, 1889.
Page 100:  Lehigh Valley -- Morris Canal. - It has been decided by the Lehigh Valley management to abandon the Morris Canal, and arrangements are about being completed with the City of Newark for supplying it with water.  The canal is fed from Lake Hoptatcong and Greenwood Lake and the railroad agrees to furnish 50,000,000 [gallons] of water daily, and to sell the plant when desired for $6,000,000.  This proposition has been approved by the Aqueduct Board of Newark, and will probably be ratified by the Common Council.  A bill was passed by the New Jersey Legislature some time ago permitting the company to cease operating the canal.

1889 The Newark Aqueduct Board v. The City of Passaic et al., 45 NJ Eq 393, May Term, 1889, New Jersey Court of Chancery.

1889 Newark Common Council. Agreement between the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company, the East Jersey Water Company, and the Newark Aqueduct Board, and the Mayor and Common Council of the city of Newark.  September 24, 1889.  | Held by the New York Public Library 28 pp |

1890 Commercial and Financial Chronicle, 50:137, January 25, 1890.
Annual Reports. Lehigh Valley Railroad.  The arrangement for supplying water to the city of Newark is referred to as follows:
"An agreement, dated September 24th, 1889, was entered into between the Lehigh Valley Railroad, the East Jersey Water Company and the City of Newark, N. J., to construct from a part of the water-shed in the northern part of the State of New Jersey, controlled by this company, to the City of Newark, a pipe line or conduit, together with such dams, reservoirs and works as may be necessary, and to supply to said city so much water as it may need and require, up to a maximum quantity of 50,000,000 gallons per day, with the right at any time within a stated period to exercise an option to become the absolute owner in its own right of the said water works, upon the payment therefor of the sum of $6,000,000, of which $4,000,000 is to be paid in cash or bonds of the City of Newark upon the delivery of the works, and the remaining $2,000,000, at the expiration of eleven years from the date of the contract, during which period the East Jersey Water Company retains the right to divert and use for its own benefit so much of the water as the city may not during that time need for its own use, up to 27,000,000 gallons daily. All water conducted in excess of that amount will be under the control of the Water Company. Said $2,000,000 to be secured by the deposit, with some person or corporation to be agreed upon, of bonds of the said city of Newark in that amount, interest upon which, however, shall not accrue until the expiration of said period of eleven years. Toe above option has been duly exercised in the manner provided for in the contract, by resolutions recently passed by the Newark Aqueduct Board and by the Common Council of the city, certified copies of which have been served upon the Water Company. This work is now in progress, with every prospect of being completed within the period contemplated by the contract."

1890 "Water for Jersey Towns," New York Times, November 9, 1890, Page 17.

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

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

1891 "Construction of the East Jersey Water Company's Aqueduct and Reservoirs," The Engineering Record, 24(9):138-140 (August 1, 1891)  Includes details of the contract.  | Part 2, 24(10):156-157 (August 8, 1891) |

1891 Annual Report of the Committee on the Department of Water of the Board of Street and Water Commissioners of the City of Newark for the Fiscal Year Ending December 31, 1891.  Also includes later reports. This report contains some good historical information on the Newark water system.

1892 "Newark's New Water Works," New York Times, May 2, 1892, Page 2.

1893 "The Works of the East Jersey Water Company, for the supply of Newark, New Jersey," by Clemens Herschel, Journal of the New England Water Works Association, 8(1):18-29 (September, 1893)

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

1897 The East Jersey Water Company, Plaintiff in Error, v. George W. Bigelow et al., Defendants in Error, 60 N.J.L. 201, March Term, 1897, New Jersey Court of Errors and Appeals

1913 Newark's First Water Company, 1801 and Current Water Supply from A history of the city of Newark, New Jersey: embracing practically two and a half centuries, 1666-1913 by Frank John Urquhart.

1919  "Proposed abandonment of Morris Canal," Fire and Water Engineering 65(26):1609 (June 25, 1919)

1922 An Act to authorize the acquisition by the State of the Morris canal, March 11, 1922.

1962 "Newark," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker

The New Jersey Historical Society has some records from the Newark Aqueduct Company.

The Hagley Museum and Library has records on Sheldon Smith's 1828 purchase of iron pipes in the Wright Family papers.

Newark's Water Supply, 1880-1890, New Jersey Digital Highway.  This site has some excellent information, but unfortunately does not include citations or references for a lot of the material they use.

RUcore Newark Aqueduct search

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce