Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Watertown, New York

Watertown was settled in 1800.

The Watertown Water Company was incorporated in 1826 by Marinus W. Gilbert, Orin Stone, Noah W. Keniston, Orville Hungerford, and Henry Caswell "for supplying the village of Watertown, in the county of Jefferson, with water by means of aqueducts."

The Village of Watertown engaged engineer Timothy Dewey in 1844 to study potential water works for the community, which he summarized in a November 13, 1844 report.  Dewey (1784-1853) had worked on a survey for New York City's water supply in 1832 and also built the first gas works in that city in 1835.

The Watertown Waterworks Company was incorporated in 1849 by Loveland Paddock, Timothy Dewey, Frederick W. Hubbard, N. M. Woodruff,  and Orville Hungerford "for the purpose of supplying the said village of Watertown with pure and wholesome water."

In 1853, Loveland Paddock, George C. Sherman, Isaac H. Fisk, William H. Angel and Howell Cooper were incorporated as the Water Commissioners of the Village of Watertown "for the purpose of supplying said village of Watertown with pure and wholesome water."  They built a system pumping water from the Black River into an elevated reservoir using water-powered pumps which was successful and began service on November 23, 1853.  The system was expanded in 1871 and the original cement-lined wrought-iron pipes were replaced with cast-iron pipes beginning in 1874.  Filters were added in September, 1904.

Watertown suffered typhoid outbreaks in 1895 and a more serious epidemic in early 1904 resulting from polluted river water, which had been recognized but the significance was not appreciated until too late.

A local banker, John Fletcher Moffett (1841-1917), who was a water commissioner in the 1870s, became a water-works developer and was involved in about 40 water systems during the 1880s and 1890s.

Water is provided by the City of Watertown.

References
1826 An act to incorporate the Watertown Water Company.  April 10, 1826.

1849 An act to incorporate the Watertown Waterworks Company.  April 11, 1849.

1844 Watertown Jeffersonian, December 3, 1844.  Watertown water supply report, by Timothy Dewey.  No copy of this newspaper has been found, although it has supposedly been microfilmed.

1853 An act to supply the village of Watertown with pure and wholesome water, and for other purposes.  March 22, 1853.

1853 Rates of water rents : fixed by the water commissioners of the village of Watertown.  [Note, this is for the Watertown in New York, not Massachusetts as the web site says.]

1854 A History of Jefferson County in the State of New York: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, by Franklin Benjamin Hough
Page 276:  On the 21st of May [1828], $200 were voted for boring for water. In pursuance of this object, an Artesian well was commenced on the public square, and had been sunk many feet, when the work was stopped by the maliciously dropping of a drill into the hole with the steel point upwards.
Page 277-278:  In 1829, an association was formed for boring for water on Factory Square, and a hole two and a half inches in diameter was drilled to the depth of 127 feet, when water was obtained that rose to the surface, and having been tubed, has since discharged (except in very dry seasons, when it requires pumping) a copious volume of water, slightly charged with sulphur and iron. The cost of the work was about $800. On Sewall's Island, a similar well was bored, which at eighty feet discharged water and inflammable gas; but upon being sunk further, these were both lost.
An act was passed April 10, 1826, incorporating the Watertown Water Company, but nothing was effected.
An act was again passed April 11, 1845, by which L. Paddock, Timothy Dewey, F. W. Hubbard, N. M. Woodruff, and O. Hungerford, and their associates, were incorporated as the Watertown Water Works Company, but these did not attempt the erection of water works.
On the 22d of March, 1853, Loveland Paddock, George C. Sherman, Isaac H. Fisk, William H. Angel, and Howell Cooper, were incorporated as the Water Commissioners of the Village of Watertown; who were to be divided into classes, so that one should be annually elected, commencing on the first Monday of June, 1856. Before entering upon their duties, they were to give a joint bond of $60,000, and were empowered to borrow, on the credit of the village, a sum not exceeding $50,000 for a term of not less than twenty, nor more than thirty years, payable in five installments, with seven per cent interest, for the purpose of erecting water works in the village. The above commissioners, soon after their appointment, contracted with J. C. Wells for a pump house and reservoir; the latter to be 150, by 250 feet, at the water line, and 12 feet deep; to be lined with clay, covered with gravel, and divided by two walls six feet apart; the vacancy being filled with layers of gravel and sand, through which the water is filtered in passing from the receiving to the distributing side of the reservoir. The pump house, located on Black River, near the cotton factory, in the upper part of the village, was to be 28 by 40 feet, and 17 feet high, entirely fire proof. The machinery was contracted for by Hoard 8:. Bradford; and the pipes, from the pumps to the reservoir, and the main distributing pipes, were furnished and laid by J. Ball & Co., of New York. They are of sheet iron, lined and coated with cement, and warranted to last five years. For the reservoir, the commissioners purchased of John C. Sterling a lot of six acres, about a mile south-east of the village, on the brow of a limestone ridge, 180 feet above the public square. The site is beautiful and commanding, and when the improvements contemplated here are completed, the place will become one of great resort from the village. A lot, of twenty acres, has, with characteristic liberality, been presented to the village by Mr. Sterling, adjoining the reservoir, and designed for a public park. It was coupled with no condition, except that it should, within a given time, be enclosed and laid out as a. public ground. This, the village authorities have engaged to do; and should the future growth of the place be such as present prospects warrant, the premises will, ere long, become an attractive appendage to what must soon become the City of Watertown.

1854 The Plough, the Loom, and the Anvil, Part II. Vol VI. No 6. (June 1854)
Page 754-755:  Water Works At Watertown.—Messrs. J. Ball & Co., of this City, have been constructing water-works at Watertown, N. Y., under a great head.  We are informed that the water is forced from the Black River through their pipes into a reservoir some 7000 feet from the river, and elevated about 190 feet above the pump well. The Democratic Union speaks of the trial as follows:
"The trial of the water-works was in the highest degree gratifying to all the friends of that noble enterprise. Several hydrants were tried, and all worked to admiration. We witnessed the one near the Arcade entrance, which threw water in a perpendicular direction to the distance of 40 feet above the buildings. The fountain threw a jet of water to the height of 80 feet. It is well to remark that the triumph of the water-works at this trial was effected without letting on the full head of water. It is estimated that under a full head, the fountain will throw its jet to the height of 110 feet. The reservoir is situated about one mile from the centre of the village, at an elevation of 100 feet above the fountain. It will contain 3,500,000 gallons. The pump by which the water is forced from the Black River to the reservoir, was constructed by Hoard and Bradford. There are sixty-five hydrants, situated at different points in the corporation. The one at the Railroad depot is said to be over 200 feet below the reservoir. We reckon there will be some spouting if that hydrant should ever be uncapped under a full head of water. Eight of these hydrants can be brought to bear, at the same time, on any of the principal buildings. Mr. Ball, the enterprising and reliable contractor for the construction of the pipes, has finally triumphed nobly, in spite of the cavillings of croakers and faultfinders. The trial was a pretty good indorsement of his bonds. All credit is due to those of our citizens who have projected, encouraged, and sustained this great enterprise."

1859 An act to amend the act entitled "An act to consolidate and amend the act to incorporate the village of Watertown, passed April twenty-six, eighteen hundred and thirty-one, and the several acts amendatory thereto, and the act amending the same," passed April fifteen, eighteen hundred and fifty-four.  April 12, 1859.

1878 History of Jefferson County, New York by L. H. Everts and J. M. Holcomb
Page 142 WATERTOWN WATER-WORKS.  As early as May 22, 1821, a plan for supplying the village with water was discussed, and action was taken towards the erection of reservoirs, but the measures were not carried out. June 14, 1828, the sum of $50 was appropriated by the trustees for the purpose of boring for water on Factory Square. At the annual meeting in 1829, the proceeds of licenses in the First Ward were applied towards procuring water for the village.  May 21, 1829, the sum of $200 was voted for the purpose of boring for water, and in pursuance of this object an artesian well was commenced on Public Square. After it had been sunk many feet a steel drill was maliciously dropped into it, thereby stopping the work. In 1829, an association was formed for boring for water on Factory Square. A hole two and a half inches in diameter was drilled to the depth of 127 feet, when water was obtained, and having been tubed, discharged for many years, until about 1860, a copious volume of water slightly charged with sulphur and iron. On Sewall's Island a similar well was bored into the rock, which at 80 feet discharged water and an inflammable gas, but being drilled deeper these both were lost.
April 10, 1826, the Watertown Water Company was incorporated, but nothing definite resulted, and a similar result followed the incorporation of the Watertown Waterworks, April 11, 1845. But in 1853 (March 22), L. Paddock, G. C. Sherman, I. H. Fisk, and H. Cooper were incorporated as the Water Commissioners of the village of Watertown. These citizens gave a joint bond of $60,000, and were empowered to borrow on the credit of the village $50,000 for a term of thirty years. Soon after their appointment, the commissioners contracted with J. C. Wells for the construction of a pump-house and reservoir, the latter to be 150 by 250 feet at the water line, and twelve feet deep, properly made, with two centre walls for filtering. The reservoir was located about a mile southeast of the village, on a lot of six acres, upon the brow of the limestone ridge, 180 feet above the village, and was given a capacity of two million gallons. The site of the reservoir commands a superb view of the city and surrounding country, which forms a picture in the summer of exquisite beauty, only to be excelled by the same landscape in the tropical hues of the autumn. On the 23d of November, 1853, the water-works were completed, and the water for the first time was pumped into the reservoir and let into pipes communicating with residences and fire-hydrants. An experiment then made showed that the water could be thrown 120 feet perpendicular.  No serious fires have devastated the city since the completion of the reservoir, but the growth of the city, and the increasing demands of its people, led the water commissioners, in 1871, to construct still another reservoir. This was located by the side of the former, and was completed in 1873. Its dimensions are 250 by 200 feet, and its capacity four and a half million gallons. The water is distributed to residences and one hundred fire-hydrants throughout the city by sixteen miles of water mains and pipes.
The present Board of Water Commissioners is constituted as follows: President, R. Van Namee; Secretary, C. A. Sherman, J. F. Moffett, J. C. Knowlton, C. A. Holden ; Superintendent, Parson T. Hines; Clerk, N. P. Wardwell.

1882 Watertown, Engineering News, 9:131 (April 22, 1882)

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

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

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

1894  The Growth of a Century: as Illustrated in the History of Jefferson County, New York, from 1793 to 1894 by John A. Haddock
Page 184-185: WATERTOWN WATER-WORKS. As early as May 22, 1821, a plan for supplying the village with water was discussed, and action was taken towards the erection of reservoirs, but the measures were not carried out. June 14, 1828, the sum of $40 was appropriated for the purpose of boring for water on Factory Square. At the annual meeting in 1829, the proceeds of licenses in the First Ward were applied towards procuring water for the village. May 21,1829, the sum of $200 was voted for the purpose of boring for water, and in pursuance of this object an artesian well was commenced on the Public Square. After it had been sunk many feet a steel drill was maliciously dropped into it, thereby stopping the work.
April 10, 1826, the Watertown Water Company was incorporated, but nothing definite resulted, and a similar result followed the incorporation of the Watertown Water-works, April 11, 1845. But in 1853 (March 22), L. Paddock, G. C. Sherman. I. H. Fisk, and H. Cooper were incorporated as the Water Commissioners of the village of Watertown. These citizens gave a joint bond of $60,000, and were empowered to borrow on the credit of the village $50,000 for a term of thirty years. Soon after their appointment, the commissioners contracted with J. C. Wells for the construction of a pump-house and reservoir, the latter to be 150 by 250 feet at the water line, and twelve feet deep, properly made, with two centre walls for filtering. The reservoir was located about a mile southeast of the village, on a lot of six acres, upon the brow of the limestone ridge, 180 feet above the village, and was given a capacity of two million gallons. This reservoir was constructed by Gen. W. H. Angel.
On the 23d of November, 1858, the waterworks were completed, and the water for the first time was pumped into the reservoir and let into pipes communicating with residences and fire-hydrants. No serious fires have devastated the city since the completion of the reservoir, but the growth of the city and the increasing demands of its people led the water commissioners, in 1871, to construct still another reservoir. This was located by the side of the former, and was completed in 1873. Its dimensions are 250 by 200 feet, and its capacity four and a half million gallons. The water is distributed to residences and one hundred fire-hydrants throughout the city by sixteen miles of water mains and pipes.

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

1898 "The Water Supply System," from Our County and Its People: A Descriptive Work on Jefferson County, New York, edited by Edgar C. Emerson

1908 "The Management of the Typhoid Fever epidemic at Watertown, N. Y., in 1904," by George A. Soper, Ph.D., Consulting Engineering and Sanitary Expert, Read March 11, 1908.  Journal of the New England Water Works Association, 22(2):87-163 (June 1908)

1916 "Engineers' Report on Water Supplies," Municipal Journal, 40(3):82 (January 16, 1916)

1916 "New Water Supply for Watertown, N.Y.," Engineering and Contracting 45(5):21 (February 2, 1916)

1918 Watertown Public Water Supply, from Annual Report of the New York State Department of Health for the year ending December 31, 1918. Pages 450-454

1932 "The Watertown Water System," by Harold J. Haley, Superintendent, Watertown Water Works, Presented at the New York Section meeting, October 9, 1930,  Journal of the American Water Works Association, 24(2):249-258 (February, 1932)







© 2016 Morris A. Pierce