Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
New England States Rhode Island Newport

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport was founded in 1639.     

On October 21, 1802, William Langley, Jeffe Barlow, Moses Barlow, William S.N. Allen, Joseph Boss Jr., Benjamin Waite Case, Elisha Case, Robert M. Ambrose, J. Hammond, Benedict Smith, Robert Carter Jr., Edward Stanhope, W.S.N. Allen Jr., Samuel Almy, William Helme, John L. Boss Jr., Jonathan Marsh, Stephen T. Northam, Freeman Mayberry, and Jacob Richardson formed  a company to lead water into the town of Newport from the town spring.  They received a charter from the state and the following March hired Jonathan Olney of Providence to perform a survey for them. Wooden logs were purchased to be bored as pipe and the system appears to have operated until 1837 although it may have been taken over by the town at some point.

On June 1, 1876, the General Assembly of the State of Rhode Island passed an act authorizing “the Town Council of any Town or the City Council of any City to grant to any individual or corporation the exclusive right to lay water pipes in any of the public highways of such town or city for supplying the inhabitants of such town or city with water, for such term of time and upon such terms and conditions as they may deem proper, including therein the power and authority to exempt such pipes and the works connected therewith from taxation.”  

On June 28, 1876, Mr. George H. Norman, a prominent water works contractor from Boston who had been born in Newport, made a proposition to “construct a complete water works for the supply of the City of Newport upon the condition that the City Council will grant me. and my heirs and assigns, the exclusive right and privilege of laying pipes in all the streets and roads of Newport, for the purpose of selling water therefrom, for the term of fifty years, and exempt all of said water works from taxation; and will also grant me all rights the City has in Easton's Pond and the marsh lands around it, and north of a line running parallel and fifty feet north of the center of the road crossing the beach.”  The City accepted this proposal on July 6, 1876, with the condition that he begin construction within six months, which he did.

George H. Norman was granted a corporate charter in February, 1877 to construct and own water works in Newport.  The Newport Water Works Company was incorporated in 1879 by George H. Norman, William P. Sheffield and Norman Weaver.  George H. Norman transferred his property to the new corporation on August 8, 1881 for $500,000. 

The majority of capital stock of this company was purchased by the Newport Water Corporation in June, 1928.  The City received authority in 1933 to take or purchase the water, and proceeded with eminent domain proceedings against the company, in which it prevailed in the 1937 case City of Newport v. Newport Water Corporation.  This was the first instance of a private company in Rhode Island being acquired by a city or town through eminent domain proceedings.  A commission appointed to appraise the value set it at $3,184,157.12 in October, 1939.

The water system is currently owned by the City of Newport.

1802 An Act to Incorporate the stockholders of the Newport Aqueduct Company, October 1802

1803 Rhode-Island Republican, February 26, 1803, Page 3
Logs wanted by the Newport Aqueduct Company
Any person of persons wishing to contract to furnish Logs of the following dimensions, will be pleased to write a line to the Subscriber, with their lowest terms--Two Thousand feet of straight Pitch Pine Logs, none less than ten inches diameter at the smaller end and long hearted, twelve feet in length or upwards, to be delivered in Newport by the fifteenth day of April next.
JACOB RICHARDSON, Jun; Sec'ry, Newport, February 25, 1803

1803 Rhode-Island Republican, March 5, 1803, Page 3
[The above ad was reprinted on page one of the March 5, 1803 issue, with the following on page 3;] ERRATA-- In the Advertisement of The Newport Aqueduct company, for Logs, in the first page of this paper, instead of "long hearted," read "large hearted."

1803 Newport Aqueduct Survey by Jeremiah Olney, March 8, 1803, from Jeremiah Olney Papers at the Rhode Island Historical Society Manuscripts Division

1833 Newport Mercury, June 19, 1833, Page 3
TOWN-MEETING.--An adjourned Town-Meeting was held on Monday last, H. Y. Cranston, Esq. Operator.
The Finance Committee made their report, which was read and received;--and a Tax of Eight Thousand Dollars ordered to be assessed.--The sum of $1500 was appropriate for the repair of Streets; $800 for Public Schools, and $200 for repairs of the Aqueduct.

1837 Rhode-Island Republican, June 14, 1837, Page 2
Town Meeting, on the 6th inst--Henry Bull was appointed to repair the Aqueduct at the foot of the Parade.

1877 An Act for Supplying the City of Newport with Pure Water, February 8, 1877

1877 An act in amendment of Chapter 482 of the public laws, entitled, "An Act for Supplying the City of Newport with Pure Water," May 31, 1877

1879 An Act to incorporate the Newport Water Works, May 30, 1879

1882 Newport from Engineering News, 9:6 (January 7, 1882)

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

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

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

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

1918 Annual Report of the Public Utilities Commission of the State of Rhode Island, for the year ending December 31, 1918.  This document includes a detailed history of the Newport Water Works from 1876 to 1918, including copies of several important contracts.

1937 City of Newport v. Newport Water Corporation, 57 R.I. 269, January 28, 1937, Supreme Court of Rhode Island

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce