Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Jamestown, New York

Jamestown was incorporated as a village in 1827 and as a city in 1886.

Several small water systems were proposed in the early 1870s, including a Holly pump for fire protection at the Piousville mill complex.  Phineas Crossman and [Preston V.?] Bassett installed a windmill that pumped water from springs into a reservoir, from which they intended to supply water for domestic use, but it is not known if they ever did that.  John K. Derby installed a Holly water pump in a building he owned on the raceway to provide fire protection for his Derby Block and nearby buildings.  This pump was called into action for several fires.

The village engaged in a spirited debate about water works from 1871 to 1873, but did nothing until September, 1873, when fire insurance companies threatened to withdraw from the local market unless better fire protection was secured.  This prompted the village to spent $15,000 to install a system that included water-driven Holly pump, pipes along several main streets, and numerous hydrants.  This provided protection in a small area of the village, but only worked if there was enough water to drive the pump.

Another local effort in 1881 resulted in a vote on June 14, 1881 in favor of a private company building water works.  

One group of local residents submitted a proposal to build a reservoir system, which was accepted by the village Trustees.  The Jamestown Water Company was incorporated on October 14, 1881 by Reuben E. Fenton, Robert Newland, George W. Tew, Robert N. Marvin, Lucius B. Warner, Frank E. Gifford and Wm. C. J. Hall. Upon further examination they could not find a suitable location for an elevated reservoir and asked to withdraw their proposal

Another group submitted a proposal for a Holly water works direct pressure system in November, which the village accepted after the other group had withdrawn.  The Jamestown Water Supply Company was incorporated on November 12, 1881 by Alba M. Kent, Archibald F. Kent, J. Edward Mayhew,  C.H. Witmore, Edward Morgan and Jerome Preston.  T.T. Flagler, President of the Holly Manufacturing Company, was the vice-president of the company, indicating that they had taken a financial interest in the new company.  The local company contracted with the Holly firm to construct the project, which was completed the following summer.  By 1886, the company experienced severe difficulties with the quality of the water they were delivering, leading to an intervention by the state department of health.

The entire stock of the Jamestown Water Supply Company was bought by the American Water Works and Guarantee Company on April 20, 1889 for $250,000.

The city bought the system on April 1, 1903 for $600,000.

Water is provided by the City of Jamestown.


References
1857 "Wyckoff's Patent Boring Machine," Jamestown Journal, September 4, 1857, Page 3.

1868 "Fire Suggestions, Again," Jamestown Journal, May 27, 1868, Page 8.

1871 "Piousville Water Works," Jamestown Journal, September 15, 1871, Page 8.

1871 "Waterworks for Jamestown," Jamestown Daily Journal, October 31, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "The Water Works Question," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 8, 1871, Page 4.
From the Toledo Blade.

1871 "Water Works--The advantages of the Holly System," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 9, 1871, Page 4.
Opinions of John B. Jervis and J.L. Pillsbury

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Journal, November 10, 1871, Page 5.

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Journal, November 10, 1871, Page 8.
Proposal of O.A. White. Orsamus A O. A. White

1871 "Proceedings of Citizens' Meeting," Jamestown Journal, November 10, 1871, Page 8.
Water Works Committee

1871 "Water Works--The advantages of the Holly System," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 11, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Does the Holly System of Fire protection reduce Insurance rates?" Jamestown Daily Journal, November 14, 1871, Page 4.

1873 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 16, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "The Water Works Question--An idea of Messrs. Crossman & Bassett's Plan," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 14, 1871, Page 4.
Messrs. Crossman and Bassett have built the reservoir and laid pipes from the wind mill to connect with it, intending to establish a system of water works for the supply of spring water for the accommodation of private parties.

1871 "The Holly System of Water Supply," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 18, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 20, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 23, 1871, Page 4.
Annual report of Albany water works

1871 "Water Works Again," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 29, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 6, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Holly's System of Fire Protection and Water Supply," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 7, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Holly Water Works--Visit of Committees from Jamestown and East Saginaw," Jamestown Journal, December 8, 1871, Page 8.
Visit to Lockport

1871 "Water Works--How other Towns are Getting them-- Testimony of those already blessed," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 8, 1871, Page 8.

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 14, 1871, Page 4.
Crossman and Bassett on reservoir system

1871 "Holly's System of Fire Protection and Water Supply," Jamestown Journal, December 15, 1871, Page 5.
Saratoga water works.

1871 "Water Works Committee," Jamestown Journal, December 15, 1871, Page 8.
Visit to Watertown

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 16, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Fire at Paterson, New Jersey," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 18, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Water Works in Akron Ohio," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 20, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Taxes--Taxes--," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 21, 1871, Page 4.

1871 "Water Works," Jamestown Journal, December 29, 1871, Page 8.
Report of water works committee

1872 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 2, 1872, Page 1.

1872 "Report of the Water Works Committee," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 3, 1872, Pages 1 & 4.

1872 "Citizens' Meeting," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 3, 1872, Page 4.

1872 "The Report of L.B. Brown," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 4, 1872, Page 1.

1872 "Report of the Water Works Committee," Jamestown Journal, January 5, 1872, Page 8.

1873 Gazetteer and Business Directory of Chautauqua County, N.Y., for 1873-4

1873 "A Small Fire and an Insurance that Pays as it goes," Jamestown Daily Journal, February 1, 1873, Page 4.
But John Derby was on hand with his Holly Pump, and such a wetting down as he gave it

1873 "Destructive Fire on Second Street," Jamestown Daily Journal, August 29, 1873, Page 4.
A connection was made with John K. Derby's Holly pump, at his building on the race, and water was forced through the line of hose.
Who says John Derby's Holly pump isn't a big thing, and that it wasn't a god send this morning?  It would pay the town to own several of them.

1873 "The Holly Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, September 2, 1873, Page 4.

1873 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, September 5, 1873, Page 4.

1873 "Water Works," Jamestown Journal, September 5, 1873, Page 8.

1873 "The Question of Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, September 24, 1873, Page 4. | reprinted in Jamestown Journal on September 26, 1873, Page 8.  |
Fire insurance companies threaten to withdraw

1873 "Meeting at Masonic Hall," Jamestown Daily Journal, October 4, 1873, Page 4.
Trustees authorized to spend $15,000 for water works.

1873 "The Water Works Question," Jamestown Daily Journal, October 22, 1873, Page 4.
Contracts between Baker Bros. & Co. and the village, and R.H. and J.T. Baker and the village.

1873 "The Special Election--A large Majority in favor of Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, October 25, 1873, Page 4.

1873 "The Water Works--Progress of the Work," Jamestown Daily Journal, November 7, 1873, Page 4.

1873 Jamestown Journal, December 5, 1873, Page 3.
Titusville Holly water works test.

1873 "First Test of the Water Works--A Disgraceful Proceeding," Jamestown Daily Journal, December 22, 1873, Page 4.

1874 "Fire," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 31, 1874, Page 4.
Workman not on duty to start the pump

1874 "Official Test of the Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, February 6, 1874, Page 4. | reprinted in Jamestown Journal on February 13, 1874, Page 8.  |

1874 An act to authorize the trustees of the village of Jamestown to raise by tax upon the village a sum of money, for the purpose of laying water-pipe in certain streets in said village.  May 11, 1874

1876 "Destructive Fire!" Jamestown Daily Journal, September 12, 1876, Page 1.
The Holly pump was useless on account of low water

1881 "Views of a Correspondent on Water Supply," by J.K.D, Jamestown Daily Journal, January 24, 1881, Page 4.

1881 "The Water Works Meeting," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 26, 1881, Page 4.

1881 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 27, 1881, Page 4.
The Meeting To-Morrow Night -- The subject exciting attention - Facts regarding the Reservoir System.

1881 "J.K.D. Answered," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 28, 1881, Page 4.
A Spicy Reply to his Letter on the Water Works Question.

1881 "Water Works Meeting," Jamestown Daily Journal, January 29, 1881, Page 4.
Report of the Proceedings of the Tax-Payers Meeting -- Appointment of a Committee--With Hon R.E. Fenton as Chairman

1881 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, February 15, 1881, Page 4.

1881 "Water Works Matters," Jamestown Daily Journal, May 17, 1881, Page 4.
Mr. M.S. Frost of Akron, Ohio, who has been largely interested in introducing water works into large towns and cities, was in town today and conferred with members of the Jamestown Water Works Committee.  He represents the reservoir system as used in Akron, where the supply is obtained from a well fifty feet in diameter and thirty feet in depth.  From this well 2,500,000 gallons of water have been drawn by a Worthington pump into a reservoir in one day.  Mr. Frost left for New York this afternoon, but previous to his department, he made an appointment with the Committee and at a second meeting will more fully explain the advantages and excellencies of the system which he represents.

1881 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, June 11, 1881, Page 4.
Report of Proceedings of the Citizen's Meeting at Institute Hall - The Committee's Report
McRee Swift for reservoir and T.T. Flagler for direct pressure

1881 "Water Works," Jamestown Daily Journal, June 15, 1881, Page 4.
The result of the special election Tuesday.
Total number of votes cast - 555
In favor of a private company building water works - 431
In favor of a private company building water works on the reservoir plan - 238
In favor of the Village building water works - 37
Against the building of water works by either a Private corporate or the Village - 88

1881 "Village Trustees - Water Works," Jamestown Evening Journal, July 26, 1881, Page 4.

1881 "Village Trustees," Jamestown Evening Journal, August 10, 1881, Page 4.
Rob't N. Marvin then appeared in behalf of the Jamestown Water co., stating that said Co. will furnish from 13 to 15 miles of main pipe at the rate of $80 per annum on each hydrant, to use 100 hydrants, and asking that the Trustees give some encouragement respecting said proposition.
On motion the above proposition was held over until the next meeting, to be held on or before Saturday evening, August 13th.

1881 "Village Trustees," Jamestown Evening Journal, August 23, 1881, Page 4.
Mr. A.F. Kent and Mr. Doubleday appeared in behalf of a proposed Water Co., asking that the matter be held over a few days, awaiting more complete arrangements.
On motion, action on the water works question was postponed one week.

1881 "Village Trustees," Jamestown Evening Journal, November 1, 1881, Page 4.
Special Session, Oct. 19, 1881.  On the motion of Mr. Jeffords, it was unanimously resolved by the Board of Trustees that the draft contract between said Village and the Jamestown Water Company, considered by the Board, be and the same is hereby approved, and the President of the Village is hereby directed to execute the same in the name of the Village of Jamestown, and cause the same to be sealed with the corporate seal of said Village, and attested by its Clerk.

1881 "Village Trustees," Jamestown Evening Journal, November 11, 1881, Page 1.
Special Meetings--Water Works Matters--A New Franchise

1881 "Water Works Matters," Jamestown Evening Journal, November 11, 1881, Page 4.
A New Company Organized that Means Business - Facts of General Public Interest.

1881 "Village Trustees," Jamestown Evening Journal, November 15, 1881, Page 4.
Resolved - The Jamestown Water Company having failed to enter into contract to supply the village of Jamestown and its inhabitants with water, that the resolutioned passed by this board October 19th, 1881 be and is hereby rescinded.
Resolved - That the President of the Village is hereby authorized and directed to execute in the name of the Village of Jamestown, and cause the same to be sealed with the seal of said village and attested by its clerk the contract submitted by the Jamestown Water Company Company for furnishing said village and its inhabitants with water, upon said Jamestown Water Supply Company having on its part executed said contract.
Water Works. Contract signed to-day between the village corporation and the Jamestown Water Supply Company.   We have secured a copy of the contract which will be found below.

1882 "An Explanation Wanted," Jamestown Evening Journal, April 12, 1882, Page 3.
"Notice and water rates"

1882 "Water Supply Company," Jamestown Evening Journal, April 13, 1882, Page 4.
An interview with Supt. Kent concerning Water Rates - Another Analysis

1882 "Water Rates," Jamestown Evening Journal, April 15, 1882, Page 2.

1882 "Water Rates," Jamestown Evening Journal, April 15, 1882, Page 4.
An interview with Supt. Kent - Facts for Prospective Water Consumers

1882 Buffalo Evening News, April 29, 1882, Page 1.
Forty-five laborers employed in the trenches of the Jamestown water works have struck for a raise from $1.50 to $1.75 per day.  The contractors talk of hiring Italians in New York.  This is Jamestown's first strike.

1882 "Water Rates," Jamestown Evening Journal, May 3, 1882, Page 1.
Water rates in Warren, Pa.

1882 "Water Rates," Jamestown Evening Journal, May 12, 1882, Page 4.
What Dunkirk Citizens Have to Pay for the Aqueous Fluid.

1882 "Water Works," Jamestown Evening Journal, July 12, 1882, Page 4
The pumps to be started next Saturday - More wells to be driven.

1882 "Water Works," Jamestown Evening Journal, July 14, 1882, Page 4
To be put in operation tomorrow.

1882 "Water Works," Jamestown Evening Journal, July 29, 1882, Page 4
Inspection next Tuesday afternoon.

1882 "The Latest Mare's Next," Jamestown Evening Journal, August 1, 1882, Page 2.
The Water Works--How the Tax-Payers are swindled.

1882 "The Water Works 'Scare'," Jamestown Evening Journal, August 2, 1882, Page 2.

1882 "The Water Works," Jamestown Evening Journal, August 8, 1882, Page 4.
The Work Accomplished - Future movements

1882 Jamestown, Engineering News, 9:400 (November 18, 1882)

1884 An act to authorize the village of Jamestown to raise money to pay for water supplied for its use in extinguishing fires in said village.  April 12, 1884

1886 The Water Supply of the City of Jamestown: A Discussion of Its Quality, Including Reports Upon Examinations of the Water, by the Jamestown Water Supply Company

1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New York, shows water pipes

1887 Annual report of the State Department of Health of New York. 1886-87
Pages 190-334:  Investigation of Jamestown water supply

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

1889 "Bought the Entire Water Plant," The New York Times, April 21, 1889, Page 12.
JAMESTOWN, N.Y., April 20.--To-day the American Water Works and Guarantee Company of Pittsburg purchased all the stock of the Jamestown Water Supply Company, paying for it $250,000. The new purchasers are heavy investors in property of this kind, owning thirty other works. It will invest $100,000 in improvements on the plant.

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

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

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

1902 Fire and Water 31:104 (March 29, 1902)
The water committee, Jamestown, N.Y., met with Frank W. Stevens, attorney for the Jamestown Water Supply Company, and the company agreed to accept $600,000 for its plant, exclusive of certain real estate not necessary to the operation of the plant.  As this is a compromise price, it is expected the sale will be ratified at once, and the property handed over to the city by January next.

1903 An act to authorize the city of Jamestown to acquire and maintain a water supply system. Accepted by the city. March 6, 1903

1910 "Fire and Water Conditions are Jamestown," Fire and Water Engineering 48(12):201  (September 21, 1910) | Also here |

1921 History of Chautauqua County, New York and its people, by John P. Downs, Editor-in-Charge and Fenwick Y. Hedley, Editor-in-Chief.
Page 104.  The City of Jamestown.  The village grew so rapidly that in a few years it was found impracticable to adequately protect the buildings with the reservoir scheme, and a private company constructed a simple system of water works with mains running through the business section of Main street. Pressure was supplied by a large steam pump and thus the business section of the village was fairly well protected, residents of the outlying portions of the village still relying on the reservoirs and hand engines.
In 1886, a general system of water works was projected. This system covered the entire town, and with powerful steam pumps provided ample pressure for all localities. Then the old hand engines were laid away forever, and the volunteer firemen assumed the task of protecting the property of the village under more favorable auspices. In turn, the volunteer department gave way to the modern paid department with motor equipment on engines, hose carts and hook and ladder trucks. There are six fire stations with the most modern fire alarm system, having boxes all over the city.
Pages 166-167:  Public improvements followed fast, and finally an abundant and unfailing water supply became the great unsolved problem. The Jamestown Water Supply Company had succeeded to the earlier rights and franchises granted by village trustees and city aldermen, and had a plant which gave the city satisfactory pressure for fire protection, and there was no objection to the quality of the water or the service. But municipal water service was demanded and a committee was appointed to investigate the two plants which had been bought-the purchase of the plant of the Jamestown Water Supply Company and the erection of a new plant. The committee employed J. F. Witmer, a hydraulic engineer, who began his work January 21, 1901, reported in September, 1901, and negotiations were opened for the purchase of the plant of the water company. A proposition to purchase the plant for $600,000 was submitted to the voters, a bill was enacted creating a water commission, bonds of the city were sold, and on April 1, 1903, the city took possession of its own water supply system.
The source of supply is at Levant, three or four miles east of the city. Artesian wells tap an unfailing supply of pure and cold water. This supply has been constant even during the greatest drought and it is believed it will be ample to supply the city for all time to come.

2016 "Strange Stories of Chautauqua Lake," for the Ham Radio Club, October 21, 2016.
Through most of the 19th century rural drinking water came from springs and later dug wells, sometimes driven wells. Even in larger villages, Jamestown for example, the same situation prevailed. In that period the concern for public water systems arose from the need for fire protection. Domestic water use was something of an afterthought.
Around the early 1870's, a private system, windmill powered, began to provide parts of Jamestown with spring and driven well water. About 1874 this was supplemented, particularly when needed for fire fighting, by water drawn from the outlet by Holley pumps driven by two water turbines, six and four feet in size, locally cast.
The history books begin with the July, 1882 advent of the Jamestown Water Supply Company headed by A. F. Kent. This was intended as a city wide system. It drew from five driven wells, increasing to 26 by 1886. These were at Clifton Springs and the Marvin Tract, now Chadakoin Park. But the company also drew water via steam pump (first coal powered, later gas powered) from the outlet in emergencies as had been done before.
Customers complained that their water had a bad taste and was murky, especially when it had to be drawn from the outlet. Some found mud and algae coming from their taps. One even got a dead lizard, or so it was reported. The Jamestown Sun thought harassing the Water Company was a splendid way to increase circulation and it set about it with puckish zeal. It pointed out, among other things, that the outlet contained the sewage from all the resorts around the lake. In the winter of 1885 the Sun reminded Jamestowners that the body of fisherman Jack Wilcox who vanished from the lake in early November had never been recovered. Indeed, it remained lost in the lake until May. In March of 1885 the Sun even suggested, boldly but falsely, by means of a special flyer, that "a dead colored baby" had been found floating in the reservoir, which was then on Price Street.
By this time thoughts had turned to tapping the lake directly as a superior water source. Chautauqua Lake was considered to be exceptionally pure by late 19th century standards, and better than other city's sources. At the start of 1885 the Water company decided to build a crib in Chautauqua Lake and draw water from that. This crib, 30 feet square and covered, built in late March, served as a gravel and sand filtration device, on the same idea as the one used in the outlet. The company buried a ten inch pipe of a peculiar coiled cast iron design. It intended to use pumps at its building above the boatlanding to suck the water down.
That building was, by the way, one of the most beautiful in Jamestown at the time and much photographed. The grounds were carefully landscaped. They boasted 100 varieties of roses.
The suction immediately collapsed the pipe and further embarrassed the company. In 1886 the company employed between 40 and 50 men to replace the damaged pipe sections with a wooden conduit of matched two inch Norway pine planks, two feet by three feet. The company then apparently did use water from Chautauqua Lake when necessary, but in August, 1887 it leased 75 acres at Levant for drilling, and by 1889 it was already scouting the Cassadaga aquifer.
By the time the development of Celoron Park began in 1893, the crib was abandoned.






2018 Morris A. Pierce