Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
Virginia Petersburg

Petersburg, Virginia

Petersburg was settled in 1635.

The town of Petersburg was authorized to have water conveyed from springs in the town in January, 1800.  Robert Colquhoun, Donald Mackenzie, James Byrne, Robert Bolling and James Knox advertised for proposals to build a reservoir and underground pipe in 1806.

The Petersburg Aqueduct Corporation was chartered in 1822 by Jabez Smith, Edward Pescud, Donald McKenzie, Joseph Bragg, Dandridge Spotswood, Lewis Mabry, and Russell Hill, and built a system that served a portion of the town until the early 20th Century.

The city was unhappy with the Aqueduct Company and in 1842 gained the right to install iron pipes to distribute water.  This effort was finally completed in 1857.  The Aqueduct Company continued to have an adversarial relationship with the city until 1915, when the city refused to buy the company's property.  The Aqueduct Company was still filing reports in 1921, it is unclear when it went out of business.

The Swift Manufacturing Company was given authority to supply water to the city of Petersburg in 1854, but they apparently never did so.

The waterworks are currently owned by the City of Petersburg. The city is a member of the Appomattox River Water Authority, which was formed in the 1960s and provides wholesale water to Petersburg and other communities..

1799 Petition asking for a law to authorize the inhabitants of the town of Petersburg to convey water from private springs to such parts of the town as may be found most beneficial to the inhabitants December 10, 1799 from the Library of Virginia

1800 An act authorizing the conveyance of water from the springs in the town of Petersburg, to convenient places therein,  January 14, 1800.

1806 Petersburg Intelligencer, February 14, 1806, Page 1
PROPOSALS FOR BUILDING A RESERVOIR, At the Town Spring, to contain 300 hogsheads of water, and convey the same in wooden pipes under ground, thro' Bollingbrook street, to the market house, having several fountains of discharge in its course, distance about 2000 feet.  The subscribers being duly authorised to contract for the execution of the work, will receive proposals until the 10th day of February next, stating therein the price and manner of executing the work; after which due notice will be given to him whose plan and price may be most approved of.  Any person desirous of this undertaking, we presume will of course confer with us, to be fully informed of our views, and there by enable him to form an estimate of its value.  The reservoir must be composed of materials sufficient to render it durable & watertight in every repect.  The necessary timber for the pipes will be furnished by us. Rob't Colquhoun, Don. Mackenzie, Jas. Byrne, Robert Bolling, James Knox.  Petersburg Jan 6, 1805.

1822 An Act to incorporate the Petersburg Aqueduct Company, February 22, 1822

1842 An act amending the charter of the town of Petersburg for certain purposes, January 8, 1842.

1851 Richmond Enquirer, January 14, 1851, Page 4.
The Petersburg Water-works are also to be commenced and pushed forward with energy.

1854 An act to amend the act entitled an act to incorporate the Swift creek manufacturing company, passed April 21st, 1852, so as to authorize said company to supply the city of Petersburg with water.  March 1, 1854.

1855 "Contract Awarded," Daily Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia), November 13, 1855, Page 1.
The committee on the Petersburg water works have awarded the contract for building the dame and reservoir on the heights to Mordecai Sizer of Richmond.  The entire work is to be completed by January, 1957.

1882 Petersburg from Engineering News 9:130 (April 22, 1882)

1884 Historical and industrial guide to Petersburg, Virginia by Edward Pollock
Page 35-36:  The question which most agitated the public mind in 1842 was that of the water supply. For twenty years the lower part of the town had been supplied by the Aqueduct Company with a limited quantity of spring water, but this was no longer adequate to the demands of the increasing population, nor was it compatible with the existence of an efficient Fire Department. The Common Hall was authorized to levy a tax and proceed to lay pipes from the Basin of the Upper Appomattox Company, whence it was thought a sufficient supply of water could be obtained ; but a much more elaborate and satisfactory plan was afterwards adopted, which has, except only in rare seasons of protracted drought, always assured to the town a plentiful service of pure and wholesome water. Reservoirs were constructed on the elevated land near the southern boundary of the city, below which flows the limpid source of supply " Lieutenant Run." These reservoirs were not completed, however, until 1856. Henry D. Bird was the engineer in charge and superintended their construction, which resulted mainly from the energetic labors, in that behalf, of the Hon. R. Kidder Meade, for many years a member of Congress from this district, and a gentleman who had acquired a strong hold upon the popular affections.

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

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

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

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

1900 "The Petersburg Water Works," The Times (Richmond, Virginia), January 10, 1900, Page 3.
Chamber of Commerce Oppose Their Sale

1902 The Times (Richmond, VA) March 28, 1902, Page 5
The Petersburg Aqueduct Company is now laying pipes on Third, Adams, Franklin, and Old Streets.  The company has not yet made public its plans, but it is evident that it contemplates considerable improvements.

1902 Richmond Dispatch, November 28, 1902, page 4
It is reported that a movement, said to be backed by the Petersburg Aqueduct Company, is under consideration to furnish the city with its supply of water. The matter has been discussed for some time, but no formal or official proposition has yet been made. The scheme would involve the purchase of the city's water plant, on which a large amount of money has been expended. In case the deal is made, the water would be drawn from the canal above the locks, and, it is said, could be furnished to consumers, filtered and purified, at 2 1-2 cents per 1,000 gallons, greatly less than the present cost.

1904 City of Petersburg v. Petersburg Aqueduct Co. June 16, 1904. The Virginia Law Register Vol. 10, No. 3 (Jul., 1904), pp. 259-260

1912 Map of Petersburg Water Works System, October 2, 1912.  Contributed by Andrew Barnes, P..E., General Manager of Utilities, City of Petersburg

1914 Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 9, 1914, Page 5. | also here |
Mayor recommends purchase of Aqueduct Company Property.

1915 Richmond Times-Dispatch, May 6, 1915, Page 5.
Purchase of Aqueduct Company Property is defeated.

1940 "Petersburg Opens Bids on Pumping," Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 23, 1940, Page 4.
The Federal Government will furnish $50,000 for enlarging the Petersburg Water Works and the money will apply on the purchase price of water furnished Camp Lee, which is expected to require 1,500,000 gallons daily.

1954 "Varied Improvements Made in Water System," The Progess-Index (Richmond, Virginia), February 5, 1954, Page 32.
New Mains and Plant Improvements Represent Outlay of $200,000 - Health Standards Met.

1956 "City Water Works Came into Being Century Ago," The Progress-Index (Petersburg-Colonial Heights, Virginia), April 8, 1956 Page 19.| part 2 |

1964 "1856- And Still Going as Water Plant," The Progress-Index (Petersburg-Colonial Heights, Virginia), August 25, 1964 Page 9.

1968 "Water Works Closed Permanently by City," The Progess-Index (Petersburg-Colonial Heights, Virginia), February 13, 1968, Page 9.

2006 Petersburg, by Laura E. Willoughby
Page 113: In 1800, an act was authorized to establish a network of subterranean pipes from several springs in and around Petersburg to furnish water to the city's inhabitants. The system was upgraded in 1822, when the Petersburg Aqueduct company was incorporated.  Their mission was to obtain water from the canal, river, and springs located within one mile of the city and build pipes to convey the water through city streets.  Bollingbrook, Old, and North Sycamore Streets were served by the company.
In 1856, Petersburg's municipal water system was established.

2008 Artisan Workers in the Upper South:  Petersburg, Virginia, 1820-1865, by Dana Barnes
Page 98:  Some locals lauded unskilled Irish laborers for their industrious nature and good work habits in the construction of the Petersburg Water Works in 1856. A. D. Banks, editor of the local Democratic paper, recognized the competition between Irish immigrants and free black workers, and found the Irish to be the superior workmen.

2015 Morris A. Pierce