Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Lebanon Springs, New York

New Lebanon was settled about 1756 and became a town in 1818. 

New Lebanon Springs, later Lebanon Springs, was the most well-known location in the town as the site of numerous springs, Columbia Hall (opened in 1794), and a well-known Water-Cure establishment.  New Lebanon is also the name of the main business district in the town.

The nearby Shaker Community at New Lebanon, renamed Mount Lebanon in 1861, was the location of the earliest known water supply in the area.  The first wooden pipes were installed prior to 1800, and earthen conduits were used starting in 1809.  Isaac Newton Youngs wrote in 1835 that "The long aqueduct at the new sawmill was put into the ground—170 feet long." This system was expanded and improved over time, and the water sources (and perhaps other bits) are still used by the Mount Lebanon Shaker Museum, the Darrow School, and Abode of the Message, who took over the community's buildings.

The Lebanon Springs Water-Cure was founded in 1845 by David Campbell and others, who built a mile-long aqueduct to bring water to their building and "also for the people in the vicinity." The Lebanon Springs Aqueduct Company was incorporated in 1855 by Anson Parsons and David Campbell "for the purpose of supplying the village of New-Lebanon Springs, Columbia county, with good and wholesome water, by means of conduits and aqueducts."  A Massachusetts law passed the following year authorized the company to bring water from "the west side of Hancock Mountain."  This is likely the second system that piped water across a state line, the first being Guildhall, Vermont in 1841.

The Town of New Lebanon does not currently have any public water supply systems.

1829 A History of the County of Berkshire, Massachusetts, in Two Parts: The First Being a General View of the County; the Second, an Account of the Several Towns, by Chester A. Dewey and David Dudley Field.
Pages 20-21:  Hancock Mountain, on the west of Pittsfield, is chiefly in Hancock; 14 miles long; extends south into Richmond, an north along the west line of Lanesborough and New Ashford, and terminates at the south part of the Williamstown Valley.  Over this mountain passes the great road from Pittsfield to Lebanon Springs and Albany; and further north, the road from Lanesborough to Albany passes over the same mountain.

1834 A domestic journal of daily occurrences kept by Issac N. Youngs, January 1, 1834-December 31, 1846. Contains a detailed record of events at Mount Lebanon, such as worship services and other religious activities, commercial, and industrial activities. Also includes vital information on members.

1846 Water-Cure Journal, 1(1):15 (November 15, 1846)
Besides the pure water that does exist at Lebanon Springs, the village of the New Lebanon Shakers, in the same valley of the Springs, is abundantly supplied by an aqueduct from springs arising among the high hills adjacent to this most beautiful valley.  I am told, also, that the water used by the Hancock Society of Shakers just over the mountain, in Massachusetts, is pure and soft. 

1848 The Water Cure in America
Pages 38-40:  New Lebanon Springs Water-Cure Establishment.
In 1845, Mr. Campbell laid an aqueduct to the mountain stream, nearly a mile distant.   In 1846, the supply of water not being deemed sufficient, another aqueduct was laid to the same fountain, by which an abundant supply of water is afforded for the establishment, and also for the people in the vicinity. These aqueducts are first brought to the water-cure house and passed through in pipes, from which the patients are supplied with fresh water direct from the fountain. The surplus water is then conducted to a reservoir sunk beneath the surface, elevated eighty feet above the establishment. This elevation of the reservoir gives great power and force to the douche and other baths, which can be applied to the patient if necessary. The various baths are admirably and ingeniously fitted up, including the plunge, douche, hose, shower, spray, vapor, upward fountain, half-bath, eye, and ear, and other baths, as may be necessary, all under the same roof. These water-works have been built at an expense of more than $3000. The establishment is well fitted for winter treatment; the water-works are all secured from the frost, and the house is warmed by furnaces in the cellar. By a very ingenious arrangement, a boiler is so fixed that by applying a pipe from the reservoir, its pressure throws hot water to every part of the house, so that patients can be accommodated at any time with water of any desired temperature.

1848 "Water-Cure House," New Lebanon Springs, N.Y. Sept. 14th, 1848, Water-Cure Journal, 6:102 (September 1848)

1855 An act to incorporate the Lebanon Springs Aqueduct Company. April 19, 1855.

1856 An Act in aid of the Lebanon Springs Aqueduct Company.  May 31, 1856.

1857 "The Shakers," by Benson J. Lossing, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine 15(86):164-177 (July 1857).

1872 A Sketch of Lebanon Springs : its attractions as a summer resort : a visit to the Shakers : history of the town : Columbia Hall : railroad guide, &c, by Daniel Gale

1878 History of Columbia County, New York by Captain Franklin Ellis | Also here |

1975 "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Mount Lebanon Shaker Society" by Richard Greenwood, December 10, 1975 | Accompanying photos, from 1975 and 1967 |

1990 "Machines Among the Shakers:  The Adoption of Technology by the Mount Lebanon Community 1790-1865", by Andrew John Vadnais, MA Thesis, University of Delaware, August 1990.
Page 13:  The Church Family installed wooden and earthenware pipes as early as 1810. Work on the subterranean "main trunk" canal began in the 1820s and continued until the late 1840s, with the Shakers utilizing a quantity of hired help in the process.

2001 Ms.Inventor: The Remarkable Inventions of Ann Lee, by Robert F. Bencini
Page 23:  Also, an Augur Machine, for Boring Aqueducts, which will bore a hole six inches in diameter, at the rate of a foot a minute, while in operation. The form of the machine may be seen
gratis, at [bequest] of the Society at our profession ..-From the People called Shakers November l, 1813

2006 One Shaker Life: Isaac Newton Youngs, 1793-1865, Glendyne R. Wergland
Page 88:  Isaac had worked on drainage projects, an aqueduct, and waterworks, so he knew about public sanitation.
Page 188:  Another cause of his dementia must be considered, as well  Thirty years of exposure to lead.  He had spent decades soldering tin, working close enough to inhale fumes from melting solder.
Isaac Newton Youngs soldered tin roofs and pipe from 1823 until 1855.

[2009] North Family, Mount Lebanon Shaker Village, HALS NY-7, Historic American Landscapes Survey | more about this survey here |

2009 Plan of Shaker Village showing Aqueducts, from above survey.

2014 Hidden History of Columbia County, New York, by Allison Guertin Marchese
Page 94: One of the most important places that sprung up in New Lebanon Springs was the Water Cure Establishment, opened in May 1845 under the management of New Lebanon resident Joel Shew, who was a co-owner and advising physician.
The treatment center that Shew constructed cost about $3,000.  Its manager for ten years was Dr. David Campbell, also a New Lebanon resident.  The elaborate cure center required the building of a mile-long aqueduct to access the precious healing waters of the mountain.

2017 History of the Shakers at New Lebanon by Isaac Newton Youngs, 1780-1861, Edited by Glendyne R. Wergland and Christine Goodwillie
Page 148:  From 1796 to 1800 inclusive. The first aquaducts, (of wood,) were laid, to bring water, to the kitchens. 
From 1806 to 1810 inclusive.  Earthen aquaducts introduced, a large quantity made & laid in 1809 & onward.
Page 152:  A new line of Aquaduct, (cast iron,) was laid, among our buildings, (1841.)  An important job was done at the second order, at the water works, building a large cistern & laying a heavy lead pipe, with fixtures for attaching a hose, in case of fire. (1848)
Page 175:  Note 119. "Nicholas Bt & Isaac Y laid the line of earthern aquaduct, from the brick shop, to the cistern, at
the blacksmith's shop. It seems to be a great time for building cisterns among us in these years."  Isaac N. Youngs, Domestic Journal (1834-46), N 10,June 30, 1841, August 30, 1845,June 9, 1846. Later, he wrote that they laid new aqueduct of iron or lead pipe, an improvement over the old logs, board, and stone. But another problem cropped up. "There being great obstruction in our water--some hands went to examine the aquaducts, on the mountain-they find many polypusses, leaks &c. The old cement being rotten, fine roots find their way in & form polypusses -which nearly fill the pipes." Youngs,
DomesticJournal, OClWHi V:B-70, December 8 and 23, 1848,June 13, 1849.

© 2017 Morris A. Pierce