Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville was founded in 1779.

Lottery for Water Works - In 1809 the State of Tennessee approved an act to "authorize the mayor and aldermen of the town of Nashville to raise a sum of money by lottery for the purpose of bringing water to town."  The town conducted several series of water lotteries, with the first in 1810 for $30,000 managed by John Anderson.  The lottery offered 12,500 tickets for $2.50 each, totalling $30,000, and offered $30,000, but prices were discounted 15% which is probably how the town would make money.   Several drawings were conducted in 1810, but it is unknown how much money was raised.

The Mayor and Aldermen appointed a committee on January 29, 1823 to inquire into the expediency of supplying the city with pure and wholesome water.  On May 5th they contracted with Samuel Stacker to build water works, and he  had managed to pump water from the river to a reservoir through black locust logs which extended to the Square.  The town found this unsatisfactory for reasons unknown, and the contract was teminated. 

On January 13, 1826 a new lottery series was advertised for a drawing on February 2, 1826, managed by Dyer Pearl.  On January 21, 1826 the town contracted with Daniel Avery and William L. Ward to complete the works.  Avery and Ward were partners in a local firm that sold cotton gins, cabinets, and other goods. Avery and Ward agreed to complete the works on January 1, 1828 and the town advanced them $5,000, interest free, with the proviso that the town would take possession of the works after ten years and pay any additional amount over $5,000 that they had spent.  A "third class - new series" drawing was held in August, 1826 for $35,760 and a fourth class in October, 1826 for $20,240, both managed by Dyer Pearl. 

Avery and Ward failed to meet the deadline and terminated their partnership on June 5, 1827.  On September 22, the town contracted with Avery to complete the works by January 1, 1828, which he did.  He also constructed a sawmill to use excess power from the steam engine at the pumping plant, as was allowed in his contract.  In June 1827 Avery conveyed his interest in the works to Wilkins Tannehill to secure a payment of $1,067 that Avery owed to Dyer Pearl & Co.  Pearl apparently ended up running the sawmill and pumping plant, but the water supply abruptly stopped when the pump house burned on March 9, 1830.  Avery did not have the financial resources to rebuild the plant and the city took over the property, but chose to build new water works rather than rebuild and operate the system in place. 

Dyer sued the town of Nashville in 1833 to recover the funds owed by the contract, and prevailed.

On July 9, 1830, the town of Nashville borrowed $50,000 from a Pennsylvania company, for which they apparently mortgaged all other city property.  In 1833, Albert Stein was engaged to build new water works for the city. The water was pumped from the river into a reservoir using a steam engine.  Iron pipes were laid from the reservoir to Broad Street, and up Second Avenue to the Square.  The system was built by twelve Negro slaves bought by the city.

A new pumping plant, filter, and reservoir was built in 1888.

The waterworks are currently owned by the Metro Government of Nashville and Davidson County Tennessee.

1809 An act to authorize the Mayor and Aldermen of the Town of Nashville, to raise a sum of money by lottery, for the purpose of brining water to town, November 8, 1809.  Allowed to raise a net sum not to exceed $8,000.

1810 Nashville Review, January 12, 1810, Nashville Water Lottery, with description of prizes, etc.

1826 The National Banner, January 13, 1826.  From The Tennessee Genealological Magazine 43(1):22 (Spring 19996).
In accord with an act passed by the state legislature authorizing the mayor and aldermen of Nashville to raise $8,000 by lotteries for the purpose of supplying the town with water, Dyer Pearl has been hired as manager of the lottery. Tickets will be sold for $5, and the first drawing will be on Feb. 2, 1826. The price will advance to $6 for subsequent drawings.

1826 Nashville Gazette, July 26, 1826, page 1,Nashville Water Lottery, Third class, new series, managed by Dyer Pearl, $35,760 in prizes

1826 Nashville Gazette, October 25, 1826, page 4, Nashville water lottery, Fourth class, managed by Dyer Pearl, $20,250 in prizes.

1830 Weekly Arkansas Gazette, March 30, 1830, Page 3
Nashville, March 12.  Last Tuesday morning about two o'clock, we were alarmed by the sudden breaking out of a fire in the building on Water street near the river, belonging to the City Water Works, and occupied, under lease, as a steam saw mill, by Messrs. Dyer Pearl & Co.--The works had been for sometime undergoing repairs, which were just completed, and the mill was expected to recommence operations this morning.-- The whole machinery was destroyed, and a considerable quantity of wood laid in for fuel was consumed with the building.

1833 "City Water Works," Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), October 25, 1833, Page 4.
Nashville, October 1.  On yesterday, for the first time, the Water Works which have been in the course of construction for the last two years, were put in operation, and a fair experiment made, fully testing the excellence and capacity of the works, as far as completed.
Too much credit, in truth, cannot be accorded to Mr. Stein, for the skill, industry, and success with which he has accomplished this important work, amidst difficulties, as we understand, of no ordinary kind.

1833 An Act to Authorize the Mayor and Aldermen of Nashville to borrow Money, and for other purposes, November 23, 1833.  Town authorized to borrow up to $25,000 to extend the water works.

1834 National Banner and Daily Advertiser (Nashville) October 15, 1834, page 3
Corporation of Nashville, Thursday, 9th October, 1834
On the subject of the property belonging to the Corporation, your committee conceive it necessary to the object of the present inquiry to notice that which is under incumbrance; they therefore pass over, without further remark, all the real estate, with the exception of the water works, belong to the Corporation, which is mortgaged to the Pennsylvania Company to secure the loan of $50,000 - the remaining property of the Corporation consists of seventeen negro slaves -- fifteen men, one women and one child -- and the water works, including the land they occupy.  The value of this property your committee conceive it is unnecessary to state, further than that the cost of the land and the expenses of constructing the water works thus far, has been $55,000, or thereabouts.  These are all mortgaged to secure the payment of $10,000 due to the U. S. Branch Bank; but your committee respectfully recommends, that a loan be obtained, on a pledge of this property, of $30,000, which will be sufficient to pay off all the pressing debts of the Corporation, and put it in an easy and flourishing situation.
The sources of revenue to the Corporation are 1st, the water works - 2d, taxes - 3d, licenses, stall rents, &c, and 4th, wharfage and fines.  From the first of these sources there is as yet but little revenue, but few persons having advantage of the water.  your committee find that the revenue of the present year is
1st, from water works, about $1,100
2nd, Taxes, $9,000
3d, Licenses, stall rents, &c, $5,200
4th, Wharfage and fines $800
Amounting to about $16,400
And that expenses are about $6,800,
Leaving a surplus of $9,600
From which deduct interest on the loan of $50,000
and on the recommended for $30,000
$80,000, at 6 percent per annum  $4,800
and we shall have left a surplus of $4,800 to be employed as a sinking fund for the reduction of the principal, and for the improvements which may be deemed necessary.

1834 Boston Traveler, November 14, 1834, Page 2.
The town of Nashville is supplied with water from the river by works, which, with the iron pipes through which it is conveyed to the houses, cost $50,000.

1836 Pearl and others v Corporation of Nashville, December, 1836 in Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Tennessee, Volume 18.  This has some interesting details of the 1826 water works.

1838 Pearl v Nashville, December 1838, in Reports of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of Tennessee, during the years 1838-9.  This has even more interesting details of the water works.

1841 "The Mayorship," Nashville Union, April 26, 1841, Page 2.
We shall vote for him who will promise to abolish our water-tax altogether.

1850 "An act to regulate the Water Works of the City of Nashville," June 20, 1850, from Revised Laws of the City of Nashville

1860 A compilation of the general laws of the city of Nashville: together with the charters of the city, granted by the states of North Carolina and Tennessee, and a list of the chief officers of the municipal government of Nashville in each year, from 1806 to 1860
Pages 121-123:  An act fixing the rates of Water Tax.  June 11, 1859.

1868 A Digest of the Charter, Amendments and Acts of the General Assembly Pertaining to the City of Nashville, with the Ordinances of the City, in Force June, 1868
Page 182:  An act fixing the rates of Water Taxes, June, 1866.

1868 Evansville Journal (Evansville, Indiana), October 30, 1868, Page 1.
Nashville. The Sale of the City Waterworks Not to Take Place.
Nashville, October 29. - The sale of the city water works, advertised by the United States Marshall, did not take place to-day.  The executions in the Marhsll's hands ammounts to upwards of $60,000.  The authorities paid $46,000, and the creditors gave an extension of time on the remainder.

1870  "City Water Works," from Nashville and Her Trade for 1870: A Work Containing Information Valuable Alike to Merchants, Manufacturers, Mechanics, Emigrants and Capitalists, by Charles Edwin Röbert

1881 Nashville, Engineering News, 8:503 (December 10, 1881)

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

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

1890 Smith v. Nashville, 88 Tenn. 464, February 1, 1890, Supreme Court of Tennessee

1890 Water works from History of Nashville, Tenn.  by Bp. Elijah Embree Hoss, William B. Reese

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

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

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

1899 "Water Supply of Nashville," Fire and Water 26:357 (October 21, 1899) New filter plant.

1912 "Water System at Nashville, Tenn.," by W. W. Burton, Fire and Water Engineering 52:276-277 (October 9, 1912)

1962 "Nashville," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker

1975 Building of Nashville by Wilbur F. Creighton and Leland R. Johnson

2011 Albert Stein, by Greg O'Brien, in the Encyclopedia of Alabama
In 1832-1833, he designed and built a water works for Nashville, Tennessee, and consulted on the New York City water works that was completed in 1835. While in Nashville, Stein met and married Caroline Troost, 20 years his junior and the daughter of famed scientist and geologist Gerard Troost, on November 21, 1833. Census records from 1850 list seven children in their household.

2013 Nashville Facts 1779-2013 includes several references to early water works.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce