Documentary History of American Water-works

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

York, Pennsylvania

York was founded in 1741.

In 1807 the Pennsylvania legislature authorized a lottery for the borough of York to "bring in a stream of water to supply their Fire-Engine."  No additional information has been found about this lottery or any system that might have been built from the proceeds.

The York Water Company was incorporated on February 23, 1816 by George Spangler, William Ness, John Barnitz, George Small, Charles F. Fisher, Abraham Gartman and Jacob Smyser "to proceed to bring and convey a stream of water from the lands of Peter Small, in York township, into the borough of York, by means of pipes, trunks or aqueducts, and also to provide proper cisterns or reservoirs for the reception thereof." The company bought 16,000 feet of wooden logs and served 35 families by the end of 1816.

The York Borough Water Company was incorporated in 1838 by Michael Doudel, Jonathan Jesup, Calvin Mason, John Evans, Thomas Kelly, Israel Gardner, John Stahley, Jacob Barnitz, Wm. Patterson, Jacob Deitz, Luke Rouss, T. N. Haller, James Webb, David Buehler, Jacob Smyser, John Schlosser, Samuel C. Bonham, Jacob Hay and Andrew Duncan "to bring into the borough of York an abundant supply of water from such spring or springs, stream or streams as they may select, not now owned by the York Water company, and shall have power, for that purpose, to force water,it necessary, by water or steam power into a reservoir or reservoirs which they may construct for its reception, and to bring the same in trunks or pipes through or across any field or enclosure, along any road or highway, and through any of the streets and alleys of the borough of York, or of Buttstown and Freystown."  This company paid tax on its stock in 1840 and is listed in 1909 as "not in operation," but no further information has been found about this company.

The York Water Company installed cast-iron pipes in 1840 and has acquired several nearby water companies since it was formed.  A Birkinbine pumping engine operated by both steam and water was added in June, 1850 to pump water from Codorus Creek into a reservoir.  This pump operated until 1897.  Today the company serves 48 municipalities in York and Adams County, Pennsylvania.

Water is provided by the York Water Company, which has a history page on their web site.  This is the third-oldest privately-owned water system in the United States, after Westminster, Vermont and Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania.  The York Water Company is also the oldest investor-owned public utility in the United States and will celebrate their bicentennial in 2016.

1807 An act to raise by way of Lottery, a sum not exceeding three thousand dollars, to enable the inhabitants of the borough of York to bring in a stream of Water to supply their Fire-Engine, and for other purposes. April 9, 1807

1816 An act authorising the governor to incorporate the York Water Company, February 8, 1816.  The company was incorporated on February 23, 1816.

1827 A supplement to an act, entitled "an act authorizing the Governor to incorporate the York water company," passed the eighty day of February, one thousand eight hundred and sixteen.  April 13, 1827.

1838 An act to incorporate the Luthersburg and Punxatawny Turnpike Road Company, and for other purposes. April 16, 1838
Section 51 incorporated the York Borough Water Company

1840 A further supplement to an act, entitled "an act authorizing the Governor to incorporate the York water company," passed the eighty day of February, one thousand eight hundred and sixteen.  April 11, 1840.

1850 An act ... relative to the York water company ... April 2, 1850.  Section 7 pertains to the stock certificates of the York Water Company.

1866 An act relative to elections in the York water company.  February 2, 1866.

1882 York, from Engineering News 9:91 (March 18, 1882)

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

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

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

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

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

1899 "The Reconstruction of the York, Pennsylvania Water-Supply," by John Birkinbine.  Proceedings of the Engineers' Club of Philadelphia 16(1):46-56 (January, 1899)
Page 47: Before describing the new work, I may be pardoned for referring with satisfaction to the continuous operation for forty-eight years of a pair of pumps designed and constructed for the York Water Company by my father, the late H. P. M. Birkinbine. The mechanism consists of two inclined pumps 12 inches in diameter and 24-inch stroke, geared through a master wheel to a water wheel and also to a high pressure slide-valve steam engine. These pumps, although in daily use from June, 1850, until the latter part of 1897, are in condition for additional service under the head due to the old reservoirs, and an offer to purchase them for resetting has lately been made.

1907 "York Water Company," History of York County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1, by George Reeser Prowell

1916 "The Water Works Plant at York," Fire and Water Engineering, 60(7):100-102 (August 16, 1916)

1927 York's Water Works, by Edgar P. Kable    
Pages 23-24: Cast iron mains were adopted in 1840.  Prices on the necessary pipe were secured and a contract made with Small and Geiger, now Smyser-Royer Company, North Beaver Street as follows:
7 inch calibre $1.10 per foot
6    "      "           .80    "    "
5    "      "           .65    "    "
4    "      "           .50    "    "
3    "      "           .37 "    "
The first cast iron mains were laid on Queen, High (now Market), Duke, George, Beaver, Water, Philadelphia, King and Princess Streets. This required eleven thousand four hundred thirty-six feet and was the foundation for the present Distribution System.

1966 The York Water Company, 1816-1966

1982 The York Water Company History of Raw Water Pumping, May 7, 1982

2014 The York Water Company History of Steam Engine Water Pumps, October, 2014

2015 115-ton 1914 Corliss Engine First Artifact Installed (2/24/15), National Museum of Industrial History.  Pumped water for York Water Company from 1914 to 1956.

2016 "The York Water Company was Founded in 1816: It's the oldest investor owned utility in the nation!" From The Water News Source, Pennsylvania Section of the American Water Works Association, 52(1):7,22 (Spring 2016)

2016 Charles Kurtz and The York Water Company, by Stephen H. Smith, December 12, 2016

2015 Morris A. Pierce