Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Ohio Elyria

Elyria, Ohio

Elyria was incorporated as a city in 1833.

The city granted a water franchise to the Elyria Gas and Water Company on February 9, 1879 and they built a system pumping water from the west branch of the Black River into a water tank on top of a stone tower.  The system began service in late 1879.

Elyria Water Tower and Tank (1879) Water Tower Nameplate

The city bought the water system from the Elyria Gas and Water Company for $45,000 on August 6, 1898, and built a new system that pumped water from Lake Erie.

Water is supplied by the city of Elyria.

1879 "Water-Works Progress," The Elyria Republican, August 21, 1879, Page 4.
The stone tower is seventy feet high above the door, and the iron tank is to be thirty feet in diameter and twenty feet high.

1880 "Value of the Hydrants," The Elyria Republican, January 29, 1880, Page 4.

1882 Elyria, from Engineering News 9:173  (May 27, 1882)

1885 "Water Works," The Elyria Republican, April 23, 1885, Page 4.
Agreement between the corporation of Elyria and the Elyria Gas & Water Company

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

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

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

1896 "A Proposition," The Elyria Reporter, March 21, 1896, Page 4.
The Elyria Gas & Water Co., Submits a Proposition to the City Council.

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

1898 The Elyria Gas and Water Co. v. The City of Elyria, 57 Ohio St. 174, January 26, 1898, Supreme Court of Ohio

1899 Elizer G. Johnson, a tax payer on behalf of the City of Elyria, Ohio, v. the City of Elyria, Ohio, et al., June 18, 1899, Lorain County Common Pleas
On or about the 24th day of May [1898], the city council entered into an agreement with the Elyria Gas and Water Company, a corporation, for the purchase of the waterworks of said company, for the sum of $45,000.

1899 "Counter Damages," The Elyria Reporder, July 13, 1899, July 13, 1899, Page 1.

1902 "Water Works Chronology," The Elyria Republican, September 18, 1902, Page 4.

1908 Report of an investigation of water and sewage purification plant in Ohio, made under authority of an act of legislature, passed February 23, 1906.
Pages 109-125:  Elyria

1910 Elyria Water Works Plant on Lake Erie (postcard)

1917 High spots in the history of Early Elyria, by Perry S. Williams
Pages 95-96:  Cisterns were not only a private, but a public utility, as under the auspices of the village government extra large father-size cisterns were located on the street corners, serving as our only protection in case of fire. The volunteer firemen worked with muscle and will to pump from cisterns sufficient force of water, by means of a hand engine, to subdue the flames. People here today who know no other fire service except that which is rendered by our automobile-equipped fire department with Lake Erie to back it. have no idea of the significance of a midnight fire as conditions w^ere in Elyria’s earlier days. If there ever was a time when patrician and plebean met on common ground, it was at the village fire. To remain at home, comfortable in bed, in such a crisis, would have been considered a crime. No man, woman or child who could possibly run, ever thought of staying in bed after an alarm of fire was given. The bells rang continuously until everyone was out shouting fire and going in every direction. It may he a lot easier to turn over and feel of the wall to make sure the flames are not very close, or take down the receiver and ask “central, where is the fire”; but it isn’t half as exciting.
The day came, however, when Elyria outgrew its cistern water supply, and a more abundant source was sought. Being properly encouraged, a family of modest Detroit financiers consented to accept a gracefully worded franchise, entitling them, not only to sell to Elyria its own river water, but giving to said financiers as well, a clear title to the streets and alleys of the town properly abutting thereon, all its future prospects and the souls of all its inhabitants, even to the second and third generation. It was a beautiful and serviceable franchise and it eventually stood a great deal of wear and tear. In pursuance of its provisions the Detroit people proceeded to dam up the waters of Black River.
As the town grew, emptying its sewage into this stream, its character as a water supply naturally improved very slowly. Typhoid fever represented Elyria's normal condition and germs its natural food
The river drained farms, villages, bogs and cemeteries. Its waters represented alike the quick and the dead; but withal, it was not without Its virtues, for when water from this source was played on our gardens and lawns, it served at once for both moisture and fertilizer and when the big fire engine coaxed this muddy fluid out -of the mains upon a building, the names had no chance for they were smothered and buried.
When the time came that Elyria needed and demanded a more wholesome and abundant water supply, it had its first real experience in battling with a private corporation in control of its most important public utility.  The war lasted for years. Again and again the people voted to heavily bond Elyria to construct a lake water plant, and just as often were restrained by injunctions and technicalities, until at last they surrendered to Berry Bros, and bought the plant for $40,000, thus making it possible to construct the splendid plant which we now enjoy.

1923 "The Water-Works of Elyria, Ohio," The American City 19:587-591 (December, 1923)
New Plant Completed in 1923 Provides for City's Needs for Many Years to Come.

1926 "Lake Erie as a Public Water Supply," by Howell Wright, Journal of the American Water Works Association 16(6): 737-744 (December, 1926)

2004 Elyria in Vintage Postcards, by Benjamin J. Mancine and Anne Fischer Mancine
Page 125:  Original Elyria Water Works.  In 1879, a private water company in Detroit received a franchise to install water mains in Elyria.  The Berry Bros. pumped water from the west branch of the Black River into the water tower still standing on Mussey Avenue.  In 1904 when the city of Elyria built a pumping station on Lake Erie, the water tower was purchased by the Iron and Steel plant across the street.

© 2019 Morris A. Pierce