Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Catskill, New York

Catskill was incorporated as a village in 1806.

The first water works were built by the Aqueduct Association in the Village of Catskill, which was incorporated in 1802 by James Bogardus, John Bogardus, Peter Bogardus, Thomas Thompson, John V. D. S. Scott, and Garrit Abeel "for the purpose of supplying the village of Catskill with pure and wholesome water, for the use of such inhabitants thereof and others, as may be inclined to take the same."  The company built a system using wooden logs.

As was common at the time, the company issued bank notes and in 1818 was granted banking privileges after a vigorous debate in the state legislature.  The banking business did not do well and the company stopped paying notes in late 1818.

The company was successful in changing its name to the "The Greene County Bank" in February, 1819, but that does not seem to have improved their fortunes, but Elisha Meiggs appears to have taken charge of the aqueduct system and tried to keep it working.  The Greene County Bank went into receivership and the aqueduct system was sold to Francis Sayre and other Catskill residents and were reincorporated under the original name.  No additional information have been found about the further operation of this system.

The village built water works in 1884.

Water is currently provided by the Village of Catskill

1802 An ACT for the incorporating an Aqueduct Association in the Village of Catskill, in the County of Greene, March 26, 1802.

1803 Catskill Western Constellation, May 21, 1803, page 3
NOTICE Those persons who are disposed to take the water from the Catskill Aqueduct Company, are hereby notified that they must call on the Treasurer, William Robb, to receive license; otherwise, agreeable to the by-laws of the corporation, they subject themselves to a fine of five dollars for every time they use the water from the 1st instant. S. HAIGHT, S. ROOT, Wm. ROBB -- Committee, Catskill, May 2nd, 1803

1818 AN ACT relative to the aqueduct association in the village of Catskill, April 21, 1818.  Granted banking privileges to the company.

1819 Catskill Recorder, February 3, 1819, Page 4
Aqueduct The subscriber contemplates putting the Logs in complete repair from the head of Main-Street to Wm. Van Began's Coffee-House, and is willing to supply the inhabitants on such part of that distance as lies between the head of the street and Mr. Willard's, with soft water, on Mondays and Tuesdays each week.  And he invites those persons and families who wish to contact for a supply of water from the logs, to make application to him during all of the month of March, in order that he may be enabled to determine on the quantity of logs which will be required in the contemplated repairs.--The aqueducts will be entirely completed by the first of May.  E. MEIGGS Catskill, Feb 24.

1819 AN ACT to alter the style of the Aqueduct Association, in the village of Catskill, February 5, 1819, name changed to "The President, Directors and Company of the Green County Bank," until May 1, 1832.

1819 Hudson Northern Whig, June 22, 1819, Page 3
The Aqueduct Association of Catskill, have following the example of the Hudson Bank, and shut up shop;-- that is in the banking department; we have not heard that they have yet stopped their water-cocks.

1826 Louisiana State Gazette (New Orleans), August 22, 1826, Page 2  From Noah's New York Enquirer.
Greene County Bank.--This was formerly the old Aqueduct Association, at Catskill, and broke; the notes were bought up at a considerable discount, and the name changed.  The notes of the Greene County Bank are circulated far and wide; the real banking house is in the Hudson Insurance Office, New-York.

1836 AN ACT authorizing Francis Sayre and his associates to supply the village of Catskill with pure and wholesome water, April 8, 1836.
The right and title to the water works and aqueducts thereunto belonging, which were sold by the receivers of the Greene county bank, is hereby vested in Henry Meiggs, Francis Sayre, James G. Elliott and Turham K. Cooke, of the village of Catskill, for the term of thirty years from the passage of this act; and they and their associates and successors, are hereby constituted a body politic and corporate, in fact and in name, by the title of  "The Aqueduct Association of the village of Catskill;" and nothing herein contained shall give to the present association any powers other than are given by this act.

1874 The History of the Descendants of John Dwight, of Dedham, Mass, Volume 2, by Benjamin Woodbridge Dwight
Page 1068: Francis Sayre (son of David Sayre and Jane Colston), b. Jan. 5, 1784, m. Feb. 15, 1810, Susan Taylor of Catskill, N. Y. (dau. of Capt. George Taylor). He was a tin and stove dealer at Catskill and an active Christian; and lived to a hale old age. He was the fireman on board the first steamboat on which Robert Fulton went up the river Hudson. The writer has heard him describe the singular, and even humorous, experiences of the trip. She d. Oct. 5, 1861: he d. in 1868, aet. 84.

1884 History of Greene County, New York: With Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men by Frederick L. Beers
The scheme of supplying the village with water by means of wooden troughs conducting water from a spring on the hill-side through the main street, was one of the early village enterprises. An association was formed for the purpose of carrying the project into execution, a spring of delightfully cool and pure water was found on the land of James Bogardus, and the connections were made. As early as 1803, it was in operation, and water was conducted into nearly every house in the village. In 1806 the association under date of August 1st, bought of James Bogardus “all that certain piece or parcel of ground including and containing the spring of water called the Cold Spring, as the same is Enclosed by Stone, Brick or otherwise, and taken and improved by the Aqueduct Association in the village of Catskill.” An association of this title was chartered by act of April 21st 1818. Its name was changed to Greene County Bank, February 5th 1819, at which time a new charter was obtained. The institution thus having diverged from its original purpose, failed in 1826. The aqueduct, however, appears to have been in operation for several years after that time. As late as the year 1837 at least, it was in the possession of Elisha Meiggs, who for more than fifteen years had been connected with it.
Under the authority of a general statute, which makes the village trustees a board of water commissioners, public water works are (1883) being established. A pumping station is to be built at the land end of a wharf extending into the river from the upper part of the village, and water from the Hudson is to be forced into a reservoir elevated 260 feet above mean tide, of 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 gallons capacity. The reservoir is to be located on a hill north of the village, and water will be raised by a 100 horse-power engine pumping about 2,000,000 gallons a day. From this it will be distributed over all parts of the village by about nine miles of water mains. The work is being conducted under the direction of W.S. Parker, a civil engineer, of New York. It is to be completed in 1884, and is estimated to cost $100,000.

1885 Catskill from Engineering News, 13:45  (January 17, 1885)

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

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

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

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

1927 History of Greene County, 1651-1800, Volume 1, by Jessie Van Vechten Vedder, County Historian
Catskill Village.  As early as 1803 Catskill had some kind of water system. The water ran through wooden troughs from Cold Spring on the lands of James Bogardus. Nearly every house in the village was supplied with water in this way.  The Acqueduct Association was chartered in 1818, its name changed to Greene County Bank February 5, 1819, and a new charter was obtained. The institution failed in 1826, but the acqueduct continued to be used as late as 1837, when Elisha Meggis was in possession of it.

1982 The Origins of the American Business Corporation, 1784-1855: Broadening the Concept of Public Service During Industrialization, by Ronald E. Seavoy
Page 90:  The necessity for systematic management was highlighted in 1818 when the Catskill Aqueduct Company succeeded in getting a charter when banking privileges by a subterfuge similar to the Manhattan Company affair.

1994 The Greene County Catskills: a history, by Field Home
Pages 108-109:  Catskill and Coxsackie initiated water systems very early, in 1803 and 1804.  The first Catskill system piped water from Cold Spring to most houses in the village through wooden troughs. It was succeeded by the Aqueduct Association, founded in 1818; this aqueduct was in use as late as 1837.  Catskill began pumping from the Hudson in 1883.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce