Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Ohio Urbana

Urbana, Ohio

Urbana was incorporated as a city in 1868.

The Urbana Water Works Company was incorporated on April 7, 1877 and in May contracted with the city of Urbana for a ten year water works franchise based on the proposal of H. P. Clough & Co. to use McGowan pumps.  McGowan went bankrupt shortly after construction began, but Thomas T. Flagler, president of the Holly Manufacturing Company, stepped in with an offer to take over the franchise and replace the McGowan pumps with a Holly water system.  This was accepted and the system was tested on January 29, 1878 and a formal ceremony was held on Washington's Birthday, February 22, 1878.

The city extended the franchise for an additional ten years in 1888, but refused to do so in 1899 and ceased paying hydrant rentals.  After local court battles, stockholder Clarence H. Venner petitioned for a receiver in August, 1903, which was granted.  The receiver sued the city for back hydrant rentals, and the legal struggled continued until February, 1911, when Venner sold the company to the city for $100,000.

Water is supplied by the city of Urbana.

1877 "Urbana," Cincinnati Daily Gazette, July 18, 1877, Page 3.
In May last the City Council entered into a contract with H. P. Clough & Co. for the erection of Water Works, and work was commenced under the contract.  Before it had proceded far, however, a question was raised about the legality of the proceedings, and the work was stopped.  An election was held, at which Council was authorized to contract for the erection of Water Works and furnishing a supply of water.  An advertisement was published asking for bids in accordance with specifications adopted, and, Monday night, bids were received and opened, and the contract awarded the Urbana Water Works Company, an incorporated company, with T. J. McGown, or Cincinnati, President, Mr. H. P. Clough, the original contractor, being one of the incorporators and stockholders.

1878 Richwood Gazette (Richwood, Ohio), February 28, 1878, Page 3.
Account of Urbana water works celebration.

1881 The History of Champaign County, Ohio: Containing a History of the County; Its Cities, Towns, Etc.; General and Local Statistics; Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men; History of the Northwest Territory; History of Ohio; Map of Champaign County; Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, Etc., Etc
Pages 368-369:  Urbana Water Works
The subject of water works was brought prominently before the citizens early in 1877, and the matter finally took shape by the organization and incorporation of the Urbana Water Works Company April 7, 1877, with a capital stock of $100,000, by Messrs. Matt Weaver, R. R. Colwell, James Taylor, John H. P. Stone, Henry Fox, Dr. J. H. Ayers, F. Houston, C. H. Ganson and G. M. Eichelberger.
On Monday, May 21, 1877, the City Council concluded a contract with H. P. Clough and T. J. McGowan, as H. P. Clough & Co., wherein the city agreed to furnish the right of way for ten years and protect the same by ordinance, and to pay annually the sum of $6,000, one-half payable April 1, and the second payment October 1, beginning in 1878, for sixty hydrants, and $75 per annum for each hydrant above the number of sixty, and other provisions. Clough & Co. were to build a power house and well, and furnish the necessary machinery, etc. The work to be commenced in May, 1877, and completed by November 1, 1878, and to sell the works to the city at any time for the sum of $75,000.
A special election was ordered by the Council for a vote of the citizens to confirm or reject the proposed enterprise, to be held Monday, June 25, 1877. The vote stood — yeas, 822 ; nays, 35 ; total vote, 857. At a meeting of the City Council, held Monday evening, July 2, 1877, the plans and specifications were agreed upon; but, on July 31, 1877, a new contract was entered into for the reason that the laws of the State (Burns law) forbid a municipal corporation to enter into binding contracts for a period of ten years. The new contract provided for the erection of a power house, to be supplied by triplicate machinery, to furnish 1,500,000 gallons of water in twenty-four hours; seven miles of pipe ; sixty hydrants at $100 each per annum, and such additional hydrants as the city should require, at $75 each per annum ; one hydrant at the U. S. Rolling Stock Company’s yards and the public buildings to be supplied free; the cost to private individuals not to exceed that charged in Cincinnati in 1876, and a provision that the city might at any time purchase the works for $85,000, or for such sum as might be agreed upon by arbitrators.
The work of laying pipes and mains was commenced August 14, 1877, but had not proceeded far before operations were brought to a sudden stop by the insolvency of the McGowan Pump Company, of Middletown, Ohio, and they were forced to abandon the contract. We quote from the Citizen and Gazette newspaper :
“Under this state of affairs the prospects were slim indeed. But just then there arrived on the ground Mr. T. T. Flagler, President of the Holly Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, N. Y., who stepped into the place of Mr. McGowan. There immediately followed a re-organization of the Urbana Water Works, with T. T. Flagler, President ; J. H. Ayers, Vice President ; H. P. Clough, Secretary ; L. C. Hovey, Treasurer; Messrs. Flagler, Clough, Ayers, James Taylor and Joel Read, Directors ; E. G. Wiley and Joel Read, Trustees.”
A contract, supplementary to the first, with the City Council, which provided for the substitution of the Holly machinery for that of McGowan. Under this new arrangement, work was resumed, and went forward rapidly, and the time for the completion of the works extended to January 21, 1878. They were done at the time agreed. The power buildings, well and reservoir ~ are located in the southwest of the city, within the corporate limits, and are all as complete, substantial and handsome as could be desired.
A final test of the works was made under the direction of the city authorities, January 29, 1878, and, at the next meeting of the council, the works were formally accepted on behalf of the city, and plans entered into for a grand Water Works opening and jubilee on the 22d of February following. With their usual vim and hearty good will, the citizens prepared for the occasion.
The officials and prominent citizens of neighboring towns and cities were invited and every preparation made for a thorough test of the works, and a day of rejoicing that should exceed anything ever before held in the city. When the day arrived, many of the invited guests came, and the city put on its holiday attire. A street parade began at 1 o’clock P. M., in the midst of a lively shower, and was composed of military and fire companies, bands of music, civic societies, officials, etc., and paraded the principal streets. This was followed by a display of the powers of the water works that elicited the greatest praise and admiration of all. An evening entertainment was held in the city hall. J. H. Young opened with an excellent speech, and was followed by George W. Wilson, Senator of this District; Thomas A. Cowgill, D. W. Todd, W. R. Warnock, G. Ellis, J. F. Gowey, 0. E. Lewis, President of City Council, and S. D. Clayton. Excellent music by the bands, and a select choir of singers were interspersed. Thus closed the rejoicing of Urbana’s citizens over one of their best improvements and most useful and permanent enterprises.

1882 Urbana, from Engineering News 9:39  (February 4, 1882)

1882 Urbana from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1886 The Richmond Item (Richmond, Indiana), August 3, 1886, Page 4.
S. L. Wiley has recently become a part owner of the Urbana works.

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

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

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

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

1899 "Officers of Urbana Water Co. Get the Worst of Fight With City," Maysville Journal-Tribune, September 14, 1899, Page 3.

1903 "Urbana Knows How it Works to Have a Company," Bellefontaine Republican, August 21, 1903, Page 4.
Sheriff Seizes the Urbana Water Works Plant.

1903 "Receiver for Water Works," The New York Times, August 22, 1903, Page 1.

1903 "Urbana (O.) Water Works," The Commercial and Financial Chronicle 77(1992):455 (August 29, 1903)
Receiver. —Judge Albert C Thompson, at Cincinnati on Aug. 20, appointed Robert W. Kirby receiver for this company upon the petition of the C. H. Venner Co., a large stockholder and holder also of a confessed judgment for $10,108.  It is claimed that the water-works are being run at a loss.  The City Council has refused to pay the company anything for fire protection for four years on account of the alleged failure to give sufficient pressure.  The company claims that about $25,000 is due from the city.  At last account there was outstanding $100,000 stock and $113,000 8 p.c.bonds.

1904 "Urbana Water Works Case," The Dayton Herald, April 30, 1904, Page 6.

1909 "Urbana (O.) Water Co.," The Commercial and Financial Chronicle 89(2311):925 (October 9, 1909)
Urbana (O.) Water Co.-Reorganized Company.- This company was incorporated in Maine on June 28 1909 with $225,000 capital stock in $100 shares (the incorporators being all from Portland, Me.), as successor, no doubt, of the bankrupt Urbana Water Works Co. The amount of the funded debt of the new company is not known. The Secretary of the bondholders' committee of the water works company was Willis S. Shepard, 575 Atlantic Ave., Boston, Mass. - In Aug. 1903 Secretary Robert W. Kirby was appointed receiver on a confessed judgment owing to expiration of franchise and withholding by city of amounts claimed to be due for water. At last accounts the capital stock was $100,000 and the bonded debt $113,000 of 6% bonds on which interest was regularly paid at Farmers' Loan & Trust Co., N. Y. City Jan. 1 and July 1 for some time following the appointment of a receiver the Jan. 1908 coupon was so paid, but the July 1908 interest was purchased by C. H. Venner dc Co., 33 Wall St.. New York. C. H. Venner is or was President. Compare V. 77, p. 455; V. 89, p. 167.

1909 C. H. Venner Co. v. Urbana WaterWorks. Kirby v. City of Urbanal 174 Fed. 348, November 6, 1909, Circuit Court, Southern District of Ohio

1910 "Urbana, O., to Purchase Water Works Plant," Municipal Engineering 39(2):129-130 (August, 1910)
After years of litigation the city of Urbana, O., has decided to own and control its own water works plant. Some months ago Robert W. Kirby, receiver of the Urbana Water Works Company, sued the city to recover money claimed to be due him as a result of the raising of the rates for furnishing water to the city. He was awarded a very large sum as back pay, and thereupon the city authorities appealed the case to the Federal Court of Appeals.
Receiver KIrby reports that on June 24 last the city council of Urbana passed a resolution, approved by the mayor, providing for the purchase of the plant for $150,000 and to withdraw its appeal from the decree made last December in favor of the receiver. Judge Hollister at once made an order giving the receiver authority to accept the proposition, subject to the approval of the court.

1910 "Urbana," The Greenville Journal, September 9, 1910, Page 3.
The proposition to issue bonds in the amount of $150,000 for the purpose of purchasing the Urbana water works was defeated at a special election, the majority against the issuing of bonds being 150.  Urbana will not install a new municipal water works.

1910 "Says City Failed to Buy Water Works," Cincinnati Post, November 5, 1910, Page 7.

1911 "Urbana Buys Waterworks," The Marysville Republican, February 16, 1911, Page 2.
C. H. Venner, of New York, has sold the Urbana water works to the city of Urbana for $100,000 and also ended negotiations for $113,000 delinquent water rentals.  The deal ends ten years of litigation.

1917 History of Champaign County, Ohio: Its People, Industries and Institutions, Volume 1, by Evan P. Middleton
Page 990:  The year 1878 saw the introduction of the first waterworks plant in the city.  It was privately owned until 1910, when it was taken over by the city from one Venner.

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce