Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
South Central States
Tennessee Knoxville

Knoxville, Tennessee

Knoxville was settled in 1786.

The Knoxville Water Company was incorporated in 1809 by a group of citizens who "have at considerable expence procured water to be brought in pipes into the town of Knoxville."  This company brought water from McCampbell's spring, two miles north of town, using bored wooden logs.  It is not known how long this system operated.

The City of Knoxville made an attempt to build waterworks in 1837, purchasing a site for the works, engaging Albert Stein to engineer the works, and requesting bids for cast iron pipes.  This system was apparently not built for reasons unknown, although the financial panic of 1837 might have been a factor.

Knoxville voters were asked to vote on a waterworks question on August 17, 1850.  The outcome of this vote is unknown, but another waterworks vote on April 26, 1852 to issue $100,000 in bondswas favorable, but the following year voters agreed to allocate half of the bond issue to support of the Knoxville and Lexington railroad company.

On February 27, 1854, the city granted William M. Churchwell and William G. Swan exclusive rights to construct gas light and/or water works in the city.  The Knoxville Water-Works Company was incorporated in 1856 by George W. Harris, James H. Cowan, Samuel T. Atkin, William G. Swan, and Samuel A. White. The Knoxville Gas Light Company was incorporated on March 2, 1854 and built a manufactured gas plant and distribution system.

The Knoxville Water-Works Company was incorporated in 1856 by George W. Harris, James H. Cowan, Samuel T. Atkin, William G. Swan, and Samuel A. White.  No evidence has been found that this company built anything.

Another Knoxville Water Company was incorporated in 1870, but no information has been found about it.

Yet another Knoxville Water Company was incorporated in January 1882 by Peter Staub, John M. Brooks, F. M. Loweree, Joseph T. McTeer, Hector Coffin, Alvin Barton, and H. H. Ingersol.

The Knoxville City Water company was incorporated in June, 1882 by F. H. McClung, W. W. Woodruff, S. B. Luttrell, James D. Cowan, C. J. McClung, M. L. Ross, John S. Van Gilder, C. M. McGhee and George W. Ross.

These two companies submitted proposals to the city to build water works, and the offer of the Knoxville Water Company was accepted in June 1882.  They built a system pumping water from the Tennessee River to elevated reservoirs using two steam engines.  The system began operation on May 30, 1883, but water in one of the elevated reservoirs drained into an unknown underground chamber.  The company rebuilt the system in 1894 and added filtration, but encountered legal difficulties with the City after the turn of the century that led to protracted court battles (includes two appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court).  The city was ultimately successful and bought the Knoxville Water Company was purchased on June 20, 1909 for $1,250,000.

The waterworks are currently owned by Knoxville Utilities Board, which has a system timeline on their web page.


References
1809 An act to incorporate a Water company in the town of Knoxville, and for other purposes. April 22, 1809.

1856 An act to incorporate the Knoxville water-works company.  January 30, 1856.

1866 An act to incorporate the East Tennessee Manufacturing Company.  May 26, 1866.
SEC. 3. Be it further enacted, That a Company, to be entitled the "Knoxville Water Works Company," shall be, and is hereby established.

1870 An act to incorporate the Knoxville Water Company. February 24, 1870

1882 The Tennessean, January 5, 1882, Page 4.
The Knoxville Water Company Chartered.  The charter of the Knoxville Water Company was registered by the secretary of state yesterday.  The incorporators are Peter Staub, John M. Brooks, F. M. Loweree, Joseph T. McTeer, Hector Coffin, Alvin Barton, and H. H. Ingersol.

1883 "The Knoxville Waterworks," The Atlanta Constitution, May 31, 1883, Page 1.

1885 Knoxville, Engineering News, 13:205 (March 28, 1885)

1887 History of Tennessee from the Earliest Time to the Present: Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of from Twenty-five to Thirty Counties of East Tennessee, Volume 4, by Goodspeed Publishing Co.
Page 928: In 1809 the Knoxville Water Company was incorporated. Logs bored through the center were used to bring water from McCampbell’s spring, two miles north of town. The plan was not successful.

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

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

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

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

1900  Standard History of Knoxville, Tennessee: With Full Outline of the Natural Advantages, Early Settlement, Territorial Government, Indian Troubles, and General and Particular History of the City Down to the Present Time,  edited by William Rule, George Frederick Mellen, John Wooldridge
Pages 93-94: In 1809 The Knoxville water works were incorporated and pure spring water from McCampbell's springs was brought to the city by means of logs bored through the center and laid along Tazewell pike.
Page 96: In 1837 and 1838 the subject of water works occupied a great deal of attention in the board of mayor and aldermen.  Messrs. Oldham and Moseley offered the site of their factory for a site for such works for $1,500, the board offering the bonds of the city for $1,000 bearing interest, and the bonds then held by Mr. Kennedy as they stood.  In March, 1838, correspondence was opened with Albert Stein looking to his engagement as engineer to superintend the erection of the contemplated works, and he was thus engaged. On November 24 the proposition of Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Morgan was accepted, and the mayor ordered to have the premises surveyed, and was authorized to execute the bonds of the city for the payment to Mr. Kennedy, to the amount of $6,500, due six months after date, and to execute a bond of the city for $1,000 to Calvin Morgan, payable twelve months after date, and also an obligation to furnish a hydrant within fifty feet of the reservoir to be used by Mr. Morgan exclusively for domestic purposes, in payment for a piece of land two hundred feet square, for a site for the proposed reservoir. December 31 Capt. S. S. Thatcher was appointed to superintend the removal of Mr. Kennedy's dams on First creek. On January 26, 1839, sealed proposals were called for for furnishing 160 tons of cast iron pipe for the water works. On March 30. 1839, the mayor was authorized to execute the bonds of the corporation for $6,500 to the trustees of the East Tennessee college to run fifteen years, with interest payable semi-annually, for the purpose of taking up the bonds previously issued to Mr. Kennedy in payment for a site for the water works.
Page 98: August 7, 1850, the people were notified that on the 17th of that month an election would be held for the purpose of ascertaining whether the mayor and the board of aldermen should go into the erection of waterworks for the town.
Pages 100-101: On March 26, 1853, an election was held for the purpose of ascertaining the sense of the voters upon the proposition to subscribe $50,000 to the bonds of the Knoxville and Lexington railroad company, the result being that ninety-two out of ninety-three votes were cast in favor of the bonds. This railroad is now the Knoxville and Ohio. On October 4, 1856, it was voted to increase the amount taken in the stock of this company to $100,000. This increase was effected by diverting the amount, $50,000, from the amount voted on April 26, previous, namely, $100,000, toward or for the erection of waterworks for the city. The vote on April 26 was 58 in favor of the waterworks bonds, and on October 4, on the diversion of $50,000 to the railroad, was 144 in favor and 26 against.
Page 103: [1854] February 16, William M. Churchwell and William G. Swan were granted the exclusive right to light the city with gas and supply it with water or either, the gas works being required to be in operation within eighteen months, the mayor and aldermen of Knoxville as a corporate body to be supplied with as much gas as they might require at no greater price per cubic foot than was then being paid by the city of Nashville.  On April 1 it was ordained that when the above-named gentlemen had expended twenty per cent of the cost of the water works the city would issue ten per cent of the cost in bonds, and so on, until the works were completed, the parties erecting the waterworks to mortgage them to the city and after their completion these parties should invest ten per cent of the profits therefrom in the bonds of the city or of the county or state, to be used as a sinking fund for the payment of the bonds issued to them on the construction of the works.
Pages 112-119: "Water Works"
Pages 129-132: "Water Companies"

1901 Mayor, etc., of City of Knoxville v. Knoxville Water Co. et al.  Supreme Court of Tennessee, Nov. 2, 1901

1903 An act to authorize the city of Knoxville to issue bonds to purchase and acquire the plant and property of the Knoxville Water Company, build extensions thereto and maintain and operate the same.  February 2, 1903.

1903 Knoxville Water Co. v. Knoxville, 189 U.S. 434, March 23, 1903, U. S. Supreme Court

1909 Knoxville v. Knoxville Water Co., 212 U.S. 1, January 4, 1909, U. S. Supreme Court

1909 "The Knoxville Case," Engineering Record 61:369-370 (March 26, 1910)








© 2015 Morris A. Pierce