Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
Virginia Fredericksburg

Fredericksburg, Virginia

Fredericksburg was established in 1728.

On February 15, 1803, the town granted Seth Barton permission "to dig up the streets lay pipe for conveying water through the town." Barton (1755-1813) was a wealthy Baltimore merchant who had moved to Fredericksburg and purchased the Kenmore estate.

The Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company was chartered in 1831 by William A. Knox, Fayette Johnson, William H. White, and Alexander Henderson. They built a system using cast-iron pipes that was used primarily for domestic consumption.  In 1882 it had four miles of cast-iron mains with 225 taps using lead service pipe.  The company was supplying 75 customers in 1906, 10 in 1928, and just 1 in 1976. The company ceased to exist at some point and was purged by the Virginia State Corporations Commissions on December 31, 1992.

The City built their own system in 1885 that distributed water from the Rappahannock River.

The waterworks are currently owned by the City of Fredericksburg.

1803 Council Minutes, City of Fredericksburg, Virginia
February 15, 1803 The petition of Seth Barton for leave to permit him to dig up the Streets at such places as shall be proper for the purpose of laying down pipes to convey the water from house to house in this Corp is granted agreeable to the prayer of the petitioner.

1831 AN ACT to incorporate the Fredericksburg aqueduct company, March 30, 1831

1831 Alexandria Gazette, June 10, 1831, Page 3
Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company--It gives great pleasure to state, that the Iron pipes for bringing the water into Fredericksburg have just arrived and that the work will be forthwith commenced and prosecuted with energy. It is supposed that a portion of our citizens will be supplied early in the ensuing autumn.--Arena

1832 An act to amend the act, entitled, ďan act to incorporate the Fredericksburg aqueduct company." January 26, 1832.

1833 An act to amend the act. entitled "an act to incorporate the Fredericksburg aqueduct company." February 28, 1833.

1855 Alexandria Gazette, November 23, 1855, Page 2
The Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company have contracted with Mr. Bolies, of Baltimore, for a full and plentiful supply of water, to be furnished on the lot of ground by which Popular Spring is situated.  Mr. B. has had much experience in boring for water in other quarters of the country, and from the thorough examination of the premises, feels confident of being able to get just such water as the Aqueduct Company has furnished hitherto, and in a quantity to supply the wants of the people.

1861 Richmond Examiner, November 8, 1861, Page 3
Confederate District Court - The following cases, arising under the confiscation law passed by the Confederate Congress, have lately been placed on the docket of this court:
Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company -- Mary Chew, alien enemy
Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company -- Julia M. Wood, alien enemy
Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company -- Caroline M. Stanard, alien enemy

1865 New Era (Fredericksburg, VA) November 21, 1865, page 2
The Common Council wisely propose to purchase the works of the "Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company."

1866 New Era (Fredericksburg, VA) February 13, 1866, page 2
The attention of subscribers to the Fredericksburg Aqueduct Company is called to the following rules and regulations:
The water may be used for cooking, washing, ironing and drinking, and for no other purpose, unless by special agreement with the Superintendent.
The water will be stopped in any hydrant, where the occupant allows others to use or draw the water without a written permit from the Superintendent.
The superintendent shall at all times have the privilege of examining the hydrants or pipes, without let or hindrance from the proprietors thereof.
I shall be compelled to enforce the above rules and regulations.  J. W. SENER, Sup't F.A.C.

1866 New Era (Fredericksburg, VA) February 16, 1866, page 3
A Sort of Water Haul.-- A Novel theft was perpetuated last Sunday. The Superintendent of the Aqueduct Company having cut off the water from the hydrant of a vacated yard, some evil-minded person dug up and stole the hydrant.  He should be caught and drowned.

1882 Fredericksburg from Engineering News, 9:387 (November 11, 1882)

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

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

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

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

1908 "Water Works" from The History of the City of Fredericksburg, Virginia by Silvanus Jackson Quinn

1921 Historic Periods of Fredericksburg, 1608-1861 by Emily White Fleming
Page 30: A private company, called The Aqueduct Company, brought the Poplar Spring water into the city in 1832. Fredericksburg was noted for its beautiful women, and it was said that they owed their lovely complexions to the pure water. 

1950 "Fredericksburg Digs Up Some Old Ones," from The Mueller Record 37:13-17  (July August 1950)

1964 "City has Old, Old Competitor," The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, VA  July 16, 1964, page 15.

1979 "Not for 'Barter and Speculation,' A Comparative Study of Antebellum Virginia Urban Water Supply," Thomas F. Armstrong, Southern Studies 38(3):304-319  (Fall 1979)
Page 306:Fredericksburg's common council, having relied on wells and nearby springs since its founding in the late 1720s, allowed the entrepreneur, Seth Barton, to dig up the streets to lay pipe for conveying water through the town. Beyond this grant of permission, they did little else to encourage Barton. ["Fredericksburg City Council Minutes, 1789-1871,'' Fredericksburg City Hall, Fredericksburg, Virginia, 15 February 1803.] There is no indication that Barton's enterprise succeeded in helping many of Fredricksburg's citizens to have piped water. For the majority of town's households, the town council continued to rely on pumps and wells. It appointed a standing committee on pumps and charged it with the responsibility of meeting the public water supply needs. Only small appropriations were made for the committee's work thus discouraging anything more innovative than mere maintenance.  The leadership in the town of Fredericksburg recognized the public nature of water demands and admitted their responsibility for maintaining supply, but refused to fund adequately any provisions for that supply.
Page 307:  [November 1831] Fayette Johnston, company agent, felt constrained to remind subscribers that they were " ... privileged to use it [the water] for the following purposes: Drinking, Cooking, and the Ordinary Washing of Clothes, &c ... "  A year later, exasperated by the misuse of water, the company resolved that they were using "every means in their power to furnish a constant supply of water, but if subscribers should not be satisfied, " ... the agent is authorized to stop the water, and to refund to each subscriber ... .'

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce