Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Wisconsin Racine

Racine, Wisconsin

Racine was incorporate as a city in 1849.

The Artesian Well Company was formed in 1875 and contracted with John Gray to drill a well in the first ward, which was completed in September.  The company secured permission to install pipes in the first and second ward and initially used wrought-iron cement-lined pipes..  Other artesian wells were proposed prior to the construction of a general water supply.

Colonel Jacob T. Foster, who had designed the Holly water works systems for Hyde Park and Lake, Illinois, gave a presentation to the common council on March 12, 1883 recommending the Holly system.  The city secured a law that allowed them to contract for a water supply, and awarded a twenty-five year franchise to the Holly Manufacturing Company on March 10, 1883.  The Holly firm was unable to proceed with the project.

The city then advertised for water works proposals in November 1885 and received seven responses in January, which are summarized in an 1886 report by the city engineer.  The city chose the proposal of .A. H. Howland of Boston.  He formed the Racine Water Company and the city awarded a twenty-five year franchise to them on March 18, 1886.   The Racine Water Company as incorporated on April 30, 1886 with a capital stock of $5,000, which was increased to $400,000 on May 11.  On that date the Wisconsin Construction Company, of Racine, was incorporated, and it actually built the system as well as others in the state.  At some point in 1886 control of the company was transferred to the newly formed Boston firm of Turner, Dillaway, and Rawsom, who built a standpipe system that was accepted by the city on August 17, 1887. 

After a long struggle, the city bought the water company on May 1, 1919 for $1,225,000..

Water is provided by the city of Racine, which has a history page.

Racine Water Company stand pipe built in 1886 at 10th St. and the Northwestern Railroad tracks was razed in 1953.

1875 Racine County Argus, September 9, 1875, Page 3.
The Artesian Well Co. have secured license to lay water pipes along the streets in the first and second wards.

1875 "The Artesian Well," The Racine Journal, September 19, 1875, Page 3.
The Contract is Finished, and a flow of ninety feet obtained.  The Messrs. Gray have given us one of the best wells in the country. We may soon expect to have hydrants the length of Main Street.

1875 "Artesian Well Company," The Racine Journal, November 10, 1875, Page 3.
Meeting of subscribers, officers elected, Artesian Well Company of the City of Racine."

1876 "Proposition of the Artesian Well Company to the City of Racine," The Racine Journal, August 9, 1876, Page 3.
City to pay $500 annually to use waters from the Artesian Well of said company.

1877 "Communication from Artesian Well Company," The Racine Journal, May 16, 1877, Page 3.
City unable to pay for water, company to disconnect hydrants.  Henry T. Fuller, President.

1881 Racine, from Engineering News 8:489 (December 3, 1881)

1883 "Water Works," Racine Daily Journal, March 7, 1883, Page 3.
An expert wishes to make a proposition to the city for putting in water works - It should be heard and considered.
Col J. T. Foster, President of the Union Stock Yards Water Works, in the town of Lake, Ill., owned by the American Water Works Association.

1883 "A Question," Racine Daily Journal, March 13, 1883, Page 2.
Whether it would be best to grant a monopoly of the water works to a corporation.
Presentation by Colonel J. T. Foster, representing the Holly Manufacturing Company.

1883 An act to empower the common council of the city of Racine to grant franchises to private water companies. and contract for the use of water therefrom. and amendatory of chapter 313, of the laws of 1876, and the several acts amendatory thereof.   March 31, 1883.

1883 "Water Works," The Racine Advocate, May 10, 1883, Page 8. | also here |
An ordinance to provide for a system of water works for the City of Racine for the prevention and extinguishment of fires, for sanitary and other purposes.
The Holly Manufacturing Company or assigns.  Exclusive right, twenty-five years.

1885 "Want Pure Water," Racine Daily Journal, May 16, 1885, Page 3.
A move to establish an Artesian Well Stock Company of $8,000 Capital on College Avenue.

1885 "Water We Want," Racine Daily Journal (Racine, Wisconsin), November 12, 1885, Page 3.
D.H. Darling, a banker and capitalist of Boston, and a civil engineer, Mr. A. H. Howland.  Mr. Darling, it appears, furnishes the money for putting in water works and Mr. Howland lays out and superintends the work.  They have constructed water works in many cities throughout the country.

1885 "The Water Meeting," Racine Daily Journal, November 13, 1885, Page 3.
The Ordinance Contract Presented and Explained by Mr. Howland.

1885 "Times Extended," Racine Daily Journal, December 12, 1885, Page 2.
For Receiving Bids to Build Water Works 30 days to January 22.  An interesting talk by Mr. Linneen of the Holly Manufacturing Co.

1886 Racine Daily Journal, January 16, 1886, Page 3.
First Ward - You should know by this time that no payment is required for using artesian well water in your ward.  Any necessary expenses of the well are paid from the ward fund the same as any other item of expense.

1886 "Water Works," Racine Daily Journal, January 28, 1886, Page 3.
Meeting of the committee to select from the bids.  The Offer of A. H. Howland, or Boston, Mass, the Best out of Seven.

1886 Racine Daily Journal, March 5, 1886, Page 2.
Contract with Racine Water Company for twenty-five years..

1886 Racine Daily Journal (Racine, Wisconsin), March 5, 1886, Page 3.
George H. Pierson, a gentleman who has put in more water works than any more man in the country, arrived in the city last evening.  He is associated with Howland & Co., who are to put works in this city, and Mr. Pierson will mostly likely be here most of the time while the work is in progress.  The gentleman is mourning the loss of a gold watch, valued at $300, which was picked from his pocket at St. Paul a few evenings since, while he was leaving the opera house.

1886 "A Waterloo," The Racine Journal, March 24, 1886, Page 3.
Is What They Call the Election for Water Works Held Yeterday.  The Majority 3,058 in Favor - only 94 votes against it.

1886 Annual Report of the City Engineer to the City Council of the City of Racine, for the Year Ending April 19, 1886
Pages 6-10:  Water Works
November 25, 1886 request for proposals, due January 22, 1886.
Seven proposals received:
A. H. Howland, Boston, Mass.
Goodhue & Birnie, Springfield, Mass.
Hinds, Moffett & Co., Watertown, N.Y.
Holly Mf'g. Co., Lockport, N.Y.
E. B. Martindale, Indianapolis, Ind.
Geo. R. Norman, Boston, Mass.
S. R. Bullock & Co., New York City
Proposal of A. H. Howland, Esq. of Boston, Mass. was recommended, approved almost unanimously by the citizens at an election held March 16, 1886, and ordained by your honorable body March 18, 1886.

1886 "Signing the Contract," Racine Daily Journal, April 28, 1886, Page 3.
The Contract Which the Racine Water Works Company have issued for workmen to sign.

1886 Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin), April 30, 1886, Page 4.
The Racine Water company, with a capital stock of $5,000, has filed articles of association with the secretary of state, the incorporators being J.E. Dodge, F.M. Fish and J.W. Knight.

1886 "The Waterworks," Racine Daily Journal, May 3, 1886, Page 3.
A.H. Howland, of the waterworks company, arrived in the city to-day, and is pushing matters along as fast as possible.  The contract for the pipe was awarded to Dennis Long & Co. of Louisville, Ky., who will commence shipping to Racine as soon as possible.  When four or five miles of pipe arrive work of digging trenches will be commenced.  It will probably be three weeks yet.  The contract for gates and hydrants was given to the Coffin Valve Co., of Boston; the standpipe to Tibbets & Wood of New Jersey.  Proposals for pumping machinery will be opened this afternoon.  Between 80 and 90 men have thus far signed to work.  Messrs. A.B. Turner and A.B. Rawson of Boston, two of the capitalists are also here.

1886 The Racine Journal, May 5, 1886, Page 3.
A. B. Turner, of Boston, one of the heaviest stockholders of the Racine Water Company, arrived in the city Saturday night and is looking over the city.

1886 Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wisconsin), May 11, 1886, Page 4.
The Racine Water Company filed amended articles, increasing its capital stock from $5,000 to $400,000.
The Wisconsin Construction Company, of Racine, filed articles, the incorporators are E.C. Deane, L.R. Clement and R.C. Carpenter.  The object is to construct water, gas or other works and to operate or sell them, and the capital stock is $3,000. 

1886 "The Water Works," Racine Daily Journal (Racine, Wisconsin), June 4, 1886, Page 3.
Mr. Howland, Mr. H.H. Hall, Mr. G. A. Ellis, Mr. C. W. Paine, Mr. G. A. Ransom.

1886 "On a Strike," Racine Daily Journal, July 14, 1886, Page 3.
Some twenty or thirty of the laborers engaged digging trenches for the Racine Water Company on Park avenue, struck for higher wages this morning.  They received $1.35 per day and demand $1.50.  The demand was not conceded and it is expected more will strike as the work is considered by them too hard at $1.35 per day.  After being out a short time the majority of the men wishes to resume work at the same pay but were refused and they went home.

1886 "Increase in Wages," Racine Daily Journal, August 2, 1886, Page 3.
All the employees of the Racine Water company engaged in laying pipe at $1.35 per day, received an increase to $1.50 this morning without asking for it.  There are over one hundred men employed all together.  This is an indication that the company intends to be fair in all its dealings and it deserves the highest praise.

1886 "The Fun Commences," Racine Daily Journal (Racine, Wisconsin), August 27, 1886, Page 3.
Notice serviced on Hayden W. Hall who was to lay the waterworks pipes in the lake.

1886 "The Lake Pipe," Racine Daily Journal, August 31, 1886, Page 3.
Nothing being done toward the work at present.

1886 "Waterworks Talk," Racine Daily Journal (Racine, Wisconsin), September 7, 1886, Page 3.
Everything to be Finished and Water to Flow before Winter.  Mr. Dillaway, a lawyer residing in Boston, and one of the principal owners of the water works, is at present in the city in connection with the business of the company.  Mr. Howland, however, who originally planned the works, is still retained as consulting engineering.

1886 Racine Daily Journal, September 9, 1886, Page 3.
Geo E. Rawson and W.E.L. Dillaway of the Racine Water Co., have gone to Plattsmouth, Neb., to view the work on the new plant in that place.

1886 "Has Visited Racine," The Oshkosh Northwestern (Oshkosh, Wisconsin), September 22, 1886, Page 1.
Racine, Wis., Sept 22 - The defaulting treasurer of the First National Bank, Portland, Me., who got away with $87,000 has visited this city as the guest of E.C. Deane, cashier of the Union National.  Mr. Gould came up to look the water works scheme over and if he found it satisfactory it was his intention to make a large investment.  He was satisfied and with Mr. Darling proposed to secure a controlling interest, meantime Messrs. Turner, Dillaway and Rawson had secured the stock leaving him out.  Mr. Gould appeared to be a well posted, prudent, cautious business man.

1886 Racine Daily Journal (Racine, Wisconsin), November 26, 1886, Page 3.
George A. Rawson, president of the Racine Water Co., has returned from an extended trip west.

1886 History of Chicago: From the fire of 1871 until 1885, by Alfred Theodore Andreas
Page 141:  Colonel Jacob Thomas Foster.

1887 "Great Day for Racine," Racine Daily Journal (Racine, Wisconsin), March 10, 1887, Page 3.
Everybody pleased with the results of the waterworks exhibition and test. 
Alluding to Mr. Howland's early connection with the scheme of our water supply, and of the transfer of his interest in the Wisconsin construction Co. to Messrs. Turner, Clarke & Rawson, of Boston, who have constructed the works.

1887 "Racine, Wis.," Engineering News 18:212 (September 17, 1887)
At a meeting of the City Council on Aug. 17, the water works recently constructed by the Racine Water Co. were accepted.

1887 "Racine Water Works," by George A. Ellis, Member of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, Read December 31, 1887, Journal of the Association of Engineering Societies 7(4):115-125 (April, 1888)

1887 Water Works, A. H. Howland, Geo. A. Ellis, Engineers.
Includes details of water works in Menimonee, MI; Montgomery, AL; Sterling, IL; Quincy, MA; Framingham, MA; Racine, WI.

1887 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin. January 1887

1888 "Racine Water-Works," by George A. Ellis, a paper read before the Boston Society of Civil Engineers, December 31, 1887, Engineering News 19:376-377 (May 12, 1888)

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

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

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

1894 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin.

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

1898 "Racine's Standpipe and its Brick Casing," Fire and Water 24(9):280-281 (August 27, 1898)

1899 Boston Safe-Deposit & Trust Co. v. City of Racine and Racine Water Company, 97 Fed. Rep. 817, November 18, 1899, Circuit Court, Eastern District of Wisconsin

1902 "The Waterworks of Racine," August 8, 1902, Fire and Water Engineering 32(8):60 (August 23, 1902)

1906 Charter of the City of Racine: As Amended by the Adoption of Certain Sub-chapters of Chapter 40a R.S. Wis. 1898
Pages 263-266: Relating to the Artesian Well in the First Ward
Pages 322-331: Racine Water Company Franchise

1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin. Central business district

1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Racine, Racine County, Wisconsin.

1909 Charles O L Dillaway (1842-1909) grave

1913 James et al. v. City of Racine et al., 155 Wis. 1, October 28, 1913, Supreme Court of Wisconsin

1916 Racine, Belle City of the Lakes, and Racine County, Wisconsin: A Record of Settlement, Organization, Progress and Achievement, Volume 1, by Fanny S. Stone
Pages 21-22:  First ward artesian well.
Pages 154-155:  Waterworks
On March 12, 1882, J. S. Foster, of Chicago, addressed the Racine City Council on the subject of waterworks. At that time the city had no authority to put in waterworks along the lines suggested by Mr. Foster's address, and on the 14th a committee of the council, to whom the matter had been referred, recommended legislation that would enable the city to enter into a contract with any company to build a system that would supply the city with water. During the legislative session, in the winter of 1882-83, a special law was enacted giving the city the desired authority, and on May 7, 1883, the council passed an ordinance granting to the Holly Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, New York, a franchise for twenty-five years to build, equip and operate a waterworks plant for the purpose of supplying the City of Racine with water, and including the exclusive privilege of laying mains upon the streets of the city.
The Holly Company failed to exercise the privileges granted by the franchise ordinance, and on March 18, 1886, a franchise was granted to the Racine Water Company. This ordinance was approved by Mayor Joseph Miller the next day and was accepted by A. H. Howland, president of the company. The new company went to work immediately upon a plant. A pumping station was built on the lake shore just north of the Root River, a stand pipe of steel with a capacity of 330,480 gallons was erected on Tenth Street, and a twenty-four inch cast iron pipe was run out 7,240 feet into the lake, where the end was turned up and is encased in a crib. The stand pipe was afterward encased with brick, with a roof of concrete and a castellated top. The daily pumping capacity of the plant is 8,500,000 gallons. The first section of main was laid on July 1, 1886, water was first turned into the mains on January 11, 1887, the water tower was filled on the 27th of the same month, and on February 1, 1887, the first private consumers were supplied.
The franchise granted by the ordinance of March 18, 1886, was for twenty-five years. Upon its expiration in 1911 some of the citizens expressed themselves in favor of having the city purchase the plant and give Racine a municipal waterworks, but nothing definite along that line has been done up to this time. It is probable, however, that within a few years the works will be owned by the city.

1920 Racine, an Historical Narrative, by Eugene Walter Leach
Pages 67-68: Water Supply
The city acquired possession of the plant by purchase on May 1, 1919.

1956 "Pioneers were hardy folk," The Racine Journal-Times, October 28, 1956, Page 67.
They Didn't Pay Much Attention to Little Things Like Sanitation
Racine Artesian Well Corporation formed October 25, 1876 by Reuben A. Doud, Fred Wild, George W. Slauson, Stephen Bull, Henry S. Durand, Robert S. Baker, L. S. Blake, William K, May, David Lawton, Henry T. Fuller, A. C. Sandford, John T. Fish, Jerome I. Case and Henry Mitchell.

1959 "Took 4 Years in '80s to Get Racine Water System Built," Racine Journal-Times, November 19, 1959, Page 6.

Some documents of the Racine Water Company are included in the Eugene Walter Leach Collection of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

2019 Morris A. Pierce