Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
Virginia Staunton

Staunton, Virginia

Staunton was first settled in 1732.

The inhabitants of Staunton petitioned the state legislature in 1806 for authority to hold a lottery for various improvements, including bringing water from a nearby spring.  This petition was unsuccessful, and another petition was submitted the following year and according to 1979 history was granted, although no implementing law has been found as was the case in other communities such as Charles Town, Petersburg and Fincastle.  In any event, no money was raised by the lottery and the matter was studied for the next three decades.

The Western Lunatic Asylum opened in Staunton in 1828, and in 1833 and 1838 the state appropriated funds for construction of water works.  The town of Staunton had been looking into their own options, and the town and asylum agreed to build a common system although this was not successful due to an insufficient water supply and disagreements between the two parties..  The town built their own works that began service in July, 1843, and in 1849 the two entities built a new system. 

This was replaced by a new system in 1876 that used earthen pipes to collect water from springs into a basin, where a Worthington steam engine pumped it into an elevated reservoir and distributed through cast-iron pipes.

Water service is provided by the City of Staunton.

1806 Petition from inhabitants of Staunton asking for authority to hold lottery to raise $30,000 to aid Staunton Academy and for town improvements, including permission to "to convey in pipes water from a  neighboring spring to different parts of the town."  December 8, 1806.  From Library of Virginia.

1807 Petition from inhabitants of Staunton asking for authority to hold lottery for general benefit of Staunton, including  a water supply. December 24, 1807.  From Library of Virginia.

1833 An act to provide for extending and enlarging the lunatic hospitals.  March 1, 1833.
3. Be it further enacted, That the court of directors of the Western lunatic hospital shall, in like manner, be and they are hereby authorized to contract for conducting an ample supply of good spring water to the said hospital, in iron pipes, without the use of forcing pump or other machinery: Provided, The whole expense thereof shall not exceed one thousand dollars.

1839 An act concerning the lunatic hospitals of this commonwealth.  April 10, 1839.
1. Be it enacted by the general assembly, That the directors of the western lunatic hospital shall be, and they are hereby authorized to contract for conducting an ample supply of good spring water to the said hospital in iron pipes, without the use of forcing pumps or other machinery, from some point sufficiently elevated to allow the water to be conducted into the upper story of the principal building of said hospital, and for the purpose of defraying the expense thereof, the said directors are hereby empowered to direct their treasurer to draw upon the treasurer of the commonwealth, (to be audited by the auditor of public accounts,) for any sum not exceeding five thousand dollars, in addition to the sums heretofore appropriated for that purpose.

1843 Staunton Spectator, July 27, 1843.  Water works in operation

1849 Staunton Spectator, September 19, 1849.  New water works in operation with Asylum

1850 "Response of the Board of Directors of Western State Lunatic Asylum to the Report of the Investigating Committee."Document 72 in Governor's message and annual reports of the public officers of the state, and of the boards of directors, visitors, superintendents, and other agents of public institutions or interests of Virginia.  The Eighth Charge on page 9 refers to the water works.

1872 An act providing a Charter for the City of Staunton.  March 22, 18T2

1875 "Staunton (Va) Water Works," The Baltimore Sun, June 23, 1875, Page 4.

1875 "Staunton Water Works. Notice to Contractors," The Baltimore Sun, July 17, 1875, Page 2.
It is expressly understood that no conflict labor is to be employed on said works.

1875 "Staunton (Va) Water Works Contract," The Baltimore Sun, August 5, 1875, Page 4.

1882 Staunton from Engineering News 9:208 (June 24, 1882)

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

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

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

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

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

1900 An act to provide for a bond issue in the city of Staunton for a water supply when approved by a vote of the people.  March 5, 1900.  $200,000 in bonds authorized.

1966 "Staunton Water Works and Pump House,"  from Staunton Parks and Recreation Brochure. 2011
By Paul Shirey - Water was first brought to Staunton from county springs in 1839. Western Lunatic Asylum and the town united to bring water from Kinney’s Springs (on Middlebrook Avenue) in iron pipes, but the quality was inadequate for both places. In 1848, Staunton piped water from “Buttermilk Spring.” This spring is on the road by the same name which is an extension of Straith Street. This spring is also formerly known as “Stoney Spring”. Later Staunton began piping it’s water from the springs in Gypsy Hill Park, then known as “Spring Farm”, when owned by Peter Hanger. from The Mirror of Staunton, March 25, 1966, Page 4.

1979 "Not for 'Barter and Speculation': A Comparative Study of Antebellum Virginia Urban Water Supply," by Thomas F. Armstrong, Southern Studies An Interdisciplinary Journal of the South, 18(3):304-319 (Fall, 1979)

1902 Annals of Augusta County, Virginia, from 1726 to 1871, 2nd Edition, Revised and Enlarged, by Jos A. Waddell
Page 436:  The subject of supplying the town of Staunton with water, by means of iron pipes leading from a spring in the country, was introduced in the town council as early as 1833, but nothing was accomplished till 1839. The Legislature in that year passed an act for supplying the Western Lunatic Asylum with water, and the town united with the asylum in bringing water from Kinney's Spring. The county contributed one thousand dollars to the cost. The quantity of water furnished, however, proving inadequate to supply both town and asylum, the former, in 1848, piped the "Buttermilk Spring." Dwellings soon sprang up on the hills surrounding the town. The contract for the present extensive city water works was awarded July 27, 1875.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce