Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States Pennsylvania Columbia

Columbia, Pennsylvania

Columbia was first settled in 1724.

The Old Columbia Water Company was incorporated in 1821 but did not construct a system and the charter was repealed in 1823.

The Columbia Water Company was incorporated in 1823, with Christian Brenneman, Jacob Forrey, Jacob Mathiot, James Clyde, and James Sweeney appointed as commissioners to sell stock and establish the corporation "for the purpose of supplying the inhabitants of the borough of Columbia with water, and for no other purpose whatever."  This company built a system using wooden logs, which were at least partially replaced with cast iron pipes starting in 1829.  The company was authorized to expand its water supply by means of a steam engine in 1849 and to raise additional capital to rebuild the works in 1855.  The company was further authorized to build the entire system in 1857, but by 1858, the company, "owing to divers misfortunes, losses, et cetera," was "unable to meet and discharge its liabilities," and executed a deed of voluntarily assignment to Thomas Lloyd, esquire, in trust for the benefit of the company's creditors. The system was sold at public auction on August 14, 1858 to Samuel Shoch for $15,350, and he rebuilt and expanded the system.

Water service is provided by the Columbia Water Company.

1821 An act to incorporate the "Old Columbia Water Company."  March 31, 1821.

1823 An act to repeal an act entitled "An act to incorporate the Old Columbia Water Company."  March 29, 1823.

1823 An act authorising the Governor to incorporate the Columbia Water Company.  March 29, 1823.

1830 The Columbia Spy, December 16, 1830, Page 3.
The operations of the Columbia Water Company during the last season, are in our opinion of immense importance to the place, and contribute in no small degree to its many advantages.  Perhaps no town in the Union, of its size, is so well supplied with water--that article so necessary to health and convenience--as our own.  The springs from which the supply is obtained, are distant about a mile and a half, and the liquid is conveyed in pipes about a mile, to a reservoir at the head of the town--from whence it is distributed through the different parts of the borough as circumstances require.  The Company commenced their work about seven years ago, and went to an expense of about six thousand dollars at that time, in purchasing springs, building reservoir, and laying pipes, which were of wood.  Additional expenses were incurred from year to year, and during the last summer and fall, the wooden pipes (which were liable to burst where the pressure was great) were taken up in the principal streets, and those made of iron put in their place, at an expense of between three and four thousand dollars.  This proceeding reflects more credit on those engaged in it, as it is not a concern of money-making, the stock having been poor from the first.  The Managers are acted with prudence and foresight; and while they are themselves enjoying the benefits of their labors, they are leaving to the generations who shall come after them, an invaluable legacy.  We understand that further extensions of the iron pipes are to be made next season.  Every family can now be accommodated with the purest gravel water, for the small sum of four dollars a year--a sum so trifling that none should deny themselves its conveniences.  in addition to the benefits for ordinary purposes, the pipes are provided with fire plugs, so that in case of fire in the borough, water could be easily obtained.

1849 An act to authorize the extension of Cherry street, in the borough of Columbia, and to authorize the Columbia water company to erect an engine house in said borough.  April 9, 1849.

1855 A supplement to an act passed the twenty-ninth day of March, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three, chartering the Columbia Water Company, in the borough of Columbia, Lancaster county.  March 27, 1855.

1857 Further supplement to an act, entitled "An act authorising the Governor to incorporate the Columbia Water Company," approved the twenty-ninth day of March, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and twenty-three.  March 28, 1857.

1858 An act relating to the Columbia Water Company.  March 25, 1858.

1858 Pittsburgh Daily Post, August 16, 1858, page 2.
On Saturday last, the Columbia water works, at Columbia, Pa., were sold at public sale for $15,350 and purchased by Colonel Samuel Schock, cashier of the Columbia Bank whose intention we understand, is to form a company.  The works could not have fallen into better hands.

1862 A supplement to the act, entitled "an act authorizing the Governor to incorporate the Columbia Water Company."  March 27, 1862.

1865 An act authorizing the Columbia Water Company to hold real estate, and to repeal so much of said act as provides that no stockholder, not residing in the borough of Columbia, shall be eligible as a manager, or treasurer, of the company.  February 10, 1865.

1867 A supplement the act, entitled "An act authorizing the Columbia Water Company to hold real estate, and so forth," approved tenth February, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five.  April 9, 1867.

1868 An act further to increase the capital of the Columbia Water Company. March 26, 1868.

1869 An act authorizing the Columbia Water Company to borrow money.  February 11, 1869.

1872 An act to authorize the Columbia Water Company to borrow money and to issue bonds therefor. March 29, 1872.

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

1883 History of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, by Franklin Ellis and, Samuel Evans
Page 544-545:  Public Ground.--When Samuel Wright laid out his land into town lots, he left the plan at the Ferry House, then kept by Joseph Jeffries, where all the adventurers who purchased, or desired to purchase, tickets in the lottery could see where the respective lots were located.
Upon the drawing was the following note or memorandum written by Mr. Wright:
“The grounds between the front lots down to the road, is to be for the use of the inhabitants of the place, for to put any kind of lumber on, but no buildings to be erected.”
The road mentioned ran parallel with the river shore, and twenty or thirty yards distant therefrom.  It was used and intended to give free access to and from the ferry and the shad fishery, and also for the convenience of those who purchased produce or lumber from the up-river men. Up to the death of Mr. Wright, in July, 1811, the public ground was doubtless used by all the citizens who purchased lumber, and stored it there to dry free of charge. From this time there accrued a revenue derived from the rents paid by those who used the ground to store lumber upon.
By the fourteenth section of the act of Assembly incorporating the borough, passed Feb. 25, 1814, the corporation was expressly excepted from taking or holding the profits, rents, and emoluments arising from said ground.
Five trustees, who were to be chosen annually by the inhabitants of Old Columbia (by which is meant that part of the town laid out by Samuel Wright), who were to manage and lease or let the public ground.
The sums arising from ground rent were allowed to accumulate until the year 1820, when the same amounted to about two thousand dollars.
The gross sum collected was much larger, but some of it was swallowed up under the head of expenses. The citizens of Old Columbia. who had not participated in the enjoyment of these rents became restless and anxious about the matter, and on Tuesday the 14th day of November, 1820, they held a public meeting for the purpose of determining what disposition should be made with this accumulated fund. After a full and free discussion, it was finally decided that it should be applied to the purpose of devising means to carry spring water into said Old Columbia for the use of the inhabitants thereof.
A petition to the Legislature duly setting forth these facts was presented, and on the 31st day of March, 1821, an act was passed which made it lawful for the inhabitants of Old Columbia to elect seven managers annually, who were to be freeholders, and were termed “ Managers of the Old Columbia Water Company.”
If the revenue arising therefrom exceeded the expenses, a dividend was to be declared, and the money divided among the lot-holders. This was the germ of the Water Company.
This was one of the earliest efforts in the State to supply the inhabitants of an incorporated town with spring water conveyed in pipes under ground.

In the years 1821-23 the trustees of the Old Columbia Public Ground Company made liberal loans to the water company, which was then a separate corporation.

Page 573:  The Columbia Water Company was organized under an act of Assembly approved the 29th of June, 1823. William Wright was made president. The company met with but indifferent success, and failed  to answer the expectations of the people. In 1858,  after being in operation for thirty-four years without making a dividend or furnishing a proper supply of water for domestic use, the company was compelled to make an assignment for the payment of debts, and some time during that year the charter, with franchises and all the property, was sold at public auction to Samuel Shoch for fifteen thousand three hundred and fifty dollars, when a new organization was made.
The new company by an expenditure of more than $100,000 has erected a dam, two large reservoirs, with important improvements, and laid through the streets of Columbia large iron pipes in place of the smaller ones laid by the old company, by which the several steam-engines for the extinguishment of fires and other machinery requiring water can be abundantly supplied as well as the demands for domestic use. A full quantity of excellent water is drawn from natural springs north of the town and also from the Susquehanna River.
The capital has been enlarged to the sum of $100,000, and the affairs of the company are managed by Samuel Shoch, president; Joseph H. Black, Col. Wm. W. McClure, Samuel Truscott, K. A. Fondersmith, James A. Meyers, and W. Latimer Small, directors; Simon C. May, secretary and treasurer; W. B. Foeseg, superintendent.

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

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

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

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

1902 Harrisburg Patriot, August 28, 1902, Page 5.
Three of the large wooden filter tanks for the Columbia Water Company, are now complete and five more are to be erected.

1904 Philadelphia Inquirer, March 9, 1904, Page 2.
The pumping station of the Columbia Water company was submerged to the depth of ten feet and the town must depend on the reservoir supply.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce