Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
Virginia Lynchburg

Lynchburg, Virginia

Lynchburg was first settled by Europeans in 1757.

The Lynchburg Fire Company was authorized to "sink several wells along the main street," but this did not prove to be an adequate public water supply. 

In 1811, the town formed a watering committee that recommended installing a system using wooden pipes, but this did not work out and a contract was made with John Lynch, Jr. for him to build and own a water system which he did.  This system appears to have worked well for Lynch but not so much for the town, and in a new water committee in 1825 recommended that the town construct a new water works.  This was approved in 1827 and Albert Stein was engaged to design and build the system.  A ceremony on August 23, 1828 marked the beginning of construction, with another held on its completion on August 18, 1829.  The system used a water-wheel to pump water to a reservoir 245 feet above the river, from which it was distributed through a network of cast-iron and wooden pipes.  The system worked quite well and further embellished Stein's reputation as the premier water-works engineer in the country.

In 1869 Samuel Miller bequeathed to the city $20,000 on condition of its use in 10 years toward payment of the cost of "furnishing a supply of water to persons residing on the hill west of the city not now supplied with the James River water."  (1881)

Water is currently provided by the City of Lynchburg.

1829 An act concerning the Lynchburg Water Works, February 13, 1829.  Allowed cast-iron pipes, machinery and other material to pass toll-free on the James River Canal.

1829 "Lynchburg Water Works," Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), August 1, 1829, Page 2.
Lynchburg, (Va) July 23.- This important work has so far progressed, that on Saturday last the machinery was put in motion, and a column of water, nine inches in diameter, was propelled through the main pipes from the pump house to the reservoir, a distance of 2200 feet with an elevation of 245 feet.  We know of no works in Europe or America, where water is raised to so great an elevation.  The machinery was again put in motion on Monday last, and operated about one hour.  The experiment made is highly satisfactory.  The machinery operates with great regularity and trueness -- and the labour of lifting so great a column of water is performed with apparent ease -- by these experiments the pump and pipes have been subjected to all the pressure they are designed to sustain -- and the fact that in all the range of pipes not a leak is discoverable, and the water was raised to its distant point on the first application of the power, without the occurrence of the last casualty -- a circumstance no in the history of any work of similar kind, reflects great praise on our able and persevering Engineer, Mr. Albert Stein.

1830 Annual Report of the Lynchburg Watering Committee, March 24, 1830, from Revised Ordinances of the Corporation of Lynchburg: Together with a Digest of the Acts of the General Assembly Relating to the Town of Lynchburg, 1845.  Includes February 15, 1830 water works report by Albert Stein, 1827-30 ordinances concerning water works debt, and an 1844 ordinance with water systems rules and rates.

1830 Mrs. Royall's Southern Tour, or second series of the black Mrs. Anne Royall
were commenced in 1826, under the superintendence of a committee of the Town Council, called the Water Committee; Albert Stein, Esq. Engineer. The water is raised from a pump-house, on the margin of the river, to a reservoir, 245 feet above the surface of the water in the river, a distance of 2000 feet! The pump is a double forcing pump—diameter of the pump barrel, nine inches—it operates with a stroke of the piston, of four and a half inches—by a breast water wheel, 17½ feet diameter; length of buckets, 8 feet. Under a useful head of water of 7 feet 9 inches, and fall of 2 feet 6 inches, the water is raised thro' cast-iron pipes 7 inches in diameter from a quarter to three-quarters of an inch thick, varying according to the degree of pressure they have to sustain. The weight of water on the piston by the pump, is about 8000 lbs.—makes ten strokes a minute, and raises into the reservoir 10,000 gallons of water per hour. The leading, main pipe from the reservoir to the principal street, is 8 inches in diameter; the pipes of conduit through the different streets, are three and four inches in diameter, all of cast-iron.—At the intersection of each street and alley, fire plugs are erected ; and so great is the head of water, that with the use of hose it can throw over the tops of the highest houses, without the aid of an engine. The reservoir contains upwards of 300,000 gallons of water, and is divided into two apartments. The water is thrown into A, and when sufficiently settled, it is drawn off into B, whence it is distributed through the town.
The cost of the works, say, pumps, pipes, canal, dam, &c. &c. was about $36,000. The sum paid for water power, and site for reservoir, pump house, &c., about $5,000. To finish the pump-house in a handsomer style, and improve the lots on which the house and reservoir are situated, will cost from eight to ten thousand dollars more.
The funds to effect this work, were obtained by the corporation, on loan, bearing an interest of six per cent, per annum, the principal not redeemable until 1850, and afterwards, at the pleasure of the corporation. The loan was taken by a citizen of the town, J. D. Murrel, Esq. at par. This is the only work of the kind in Virginia, and the height to which the water is thrown, is greater than in any other place in the United States ; that of Philadelphia being only 92 feet, and Cincinnati, 175 feet.
Albert Stein, Esq., (Engineer) the projector and executor of this important and useful work, has done himself much credit.—
He is said to be a man of great industry, science and skill, and I was sorry I had not the pleasure to see him.

1835 A New and Comprehensive Gazetteer of Virginia, and the District of Columbia by William Henry Brockenbrough
Page 138-139:The Lynchburg Water Works, for furnishing the town with an unfailing supply of pure and wholesome water, were constructed in 1828-29, under the direction of Albert Stein, esq. Engineer, at an expense of $50,000. The height—unprecedented in this country—to which it was necessary to raise the water, renders this one of the most interesting undertakings of the kind in the United States. An arm of the James, formed by an island about 2 miles in length, is crossed, a short distance above the limits of the corporation, by a dam 10 feet high. A canal of half a mile in length conveys the water to the pump of an uncommonly broken country, house on the river bank, at the foot of 3rd alley. A double forcing pump on the plan of De la Hire, worked by a large breast wheel, impels the water through the ascending pipe which is 200 feet long, to a reservoir containing 400,000 gallons, situated between 4th and 5th streets, and at the elevation of 240 feet above the level of the river. Fire plugs are connected with the distributing pipes at every intersection of the alleys with 2nd and 3rd streets, and afford an admirable security against the danger of fire.  The height of the reservoir, above these streets (the only ones compactly built,) gives a jet of water by means of hose pipes, of from 60 to 80 feet elevation, and throws it, in bold and continuous streams, over the roofs of the highest houses. The water is extensively taken by the inhabitants, and the rents are already accumulating a sinking fund for liquidating the debt incurred in constructing these valuable works.
The water power created by the dam for the water works, is amply sufficient for working a large additional amount of machinery, and waits only for a clearer perception by capitalists of the manufacturing advantages of this town, to be brought into extensive use. The cheapness of la hour, the abundance and the extent and of provisions, wealth of the country looking this way for its supplies of domestic as well as of foreign goods, unite with the vast water power actually prepared and ready for an application, in inviting the attention of men of capital and enterprise, to this important subject.

1860 An act to authorize the Council of the city of , and Ordinances in references thereto, to the Suburbs of said City.  February 28, 1860.

1860 "Water Wheels and Printing Presses," Grand Haven News (Grand Haven, Michigan), March 28, 1860, Page 2.
The Lynchburg Virginian is printed on an Adams press which is driven by a small water wheel, under a high head, with only an inch discharge pipe.  The water is conveyed from an elevated reservoir by a pipe, and it passes out into the sewer of the street, after having operated the wheel.  This is the most simple mode of driving small presses where a considerable head of water may be obtained.  In New Castle, England, and in Stirling, Scotland, two weekly newspapers are printed on presses driven by small water engines, but a small turbine wheel is about the best form of a water motor that can be used.

1881 Lynchburg Water Works, from Engineering News 8:373 (September 17, 1881)

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

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

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

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

1900 Lynchburg and Its People, by William Asbury Christian
Page 27:  The first movement towards supplying the town with water was made in 1799, when the trustees granted the “Lynchburg Fire Company the privilege of sinking several wells on the main street, and of erecting pumps for the safety and convenience of the citizens.” The well at Jamison's corner, which appeared to be Eighth street, caused a great deal of trouble, and finally had to be filled up.
Pages 42- 45:  In February, 1811, a fire company was organized, and the engine, buckets, one hundred and eighty feet of ladders, six axes, eight fire-hooks, and sixty feet of hose, the town's outfit, was turned over to John Victor, John Thurman, and James Wade, a committee representing the company. The council also built a place for the engine at the lower end of the market, and one of the ladders was to be kept here, one at Friends', and one at Liberty Warehouse. Following soon after the purchase of the fire apparatus, was another move that was of as much importance as anything done since the place was begun—that was to supply the town with water. The "watering committee" consisting of Samuel K. Jennings, John Stewart, and Will Norvell, which had been appointed a few months previous, made their report April 16.  They recommended that the corporation arrange with John Lynch, Sr., to take water from the springs in his wood, and to convey it by wooden pipes into the town, and to keep the pipes in good order forever.  As a remuneration to Mr. Lynch, the town was to pay him "one equal fourth part of all the profits and emoluments accruing therefrom, excepting the water used for putting out fires." If the corporation failed to use it, it was to revert to Mr. Lynch or his heirs. The water was already conveyed by ditches, or races, along Horseford branch, so as to supply some portion of the town. Mr. Lynch requested that, in addition to the fourth part of the profits, he and his children be allowed to use the water free of cost. This was not granted, but the rest of the plan suggested by the committee was adopted, and a committee appointed to see David Ross, Esq., and to secure from him the timber from which the pipes were to be made. This plan failed, and in December the council decided to abandon the water-works and to allow John Lynch, Jr., to conduct water up Third (Church) street as far as Third alley (Eighth street) as a private enterprise, provided he gave the town the water needed in time of fire. Lynch went to work at once, and before many months passed he had the wooden pipes laid along Horseford branch to Twelfth street, up Twelfth to Church, and up Church as far as Eighth. These pipes were only pieces of wood, with a three-inch hole bored through them, and joined with an iron band. As can be imagined, he derived a large revenue from his "waterworks," but the town did not derive much benefit from them, so far as extinguishing fire was concerned, for the supply of water was not large enough. In August, 1813, the council decided to build a reservoir. This was to be situated on "Water street, just beyond the line of Church street, where the fountain now stands. The first plan was to have it twelve feet on each side and four or five feet deep, and to have four " fire hydrants " on Second (Main) street : one at Gait's corner, junction of Water street ; one at Davis' corner, junction of Second alley ; one at Moorman's corner, junction of First alley ; and one at Murrell's corner, junction of Third alley. This plan was changed, and it was finally decided just to build the reservoir at the foot of the hill on Water street. This reservoir, which was no more than a large wooden tank, nine feet deep, was completed in 1815. It cost six hundred dollars, and was not worth five dollars to the town. It was built on a brick foundation above ground, and never had more than four or five feet of water in it, and even then it leaked badly, notwithstanding the contractor "chinked and caulked it." This first reservoir proved a failure, and was afterwards removed as a nuisance.
Pages 92-97: Lynchburg's water works 

2004 Lynchburg: A City Set on Seven Hills, by Clifton W. Potter and Dorothy Bundy Turner Potter
Page 37:  In 1825, a committee chaired by Mayor John Victor hired Albert Stein, a noted Philadelphia civil engineer to recommend solutions.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce