Documentary History of American Water-works

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Biography Benjamin Park Gilman

Benjamin Park Gilman

Benjamin Park Gilman was born in Exeter in 1763.  After attending Phillips Exeter Academy he did silversmithing for a while, but gained a reputation as an excellent clock and instrument maker.  Exeter clockmaker Benjamin Clark Gilman was hired to construct the Portsmouth Aqueduct, the first phase serving Congress and Daniel Streets being completed on November 25, 1798. 

In March, 1797, Benjamin Clark Gilman and his associates were granted the privilege of installing an aqueduct.  Samuel Brooks, Benjamin Lamson, Benjamin Clark Gilman and Bradbury Johnson were incorporated as the "The proprietors of the Exeter Aqueduct" on June 16, 1801 for the "purpose of bringing water by subterraneous pipes into the said Town of Exeter."  The aqueduct may have been constructed prior to the granting of the corporate charter, as William Bentley in September of 1801 noted the existence of an aqueduct.



Benjamin Park Gilman's Water Works Experience
City State Years Projects
Portsmouth NH 1796-1798 Contracted to build system
Exeter NH 1797 Incorporator of Exeter Aqueduct
Boston MA 1811-1813? Superintendent and Treasurer of Aqueduct Company from 1810 to 1812.
Salem MA 1816
Hired to find leaks, but proved to be unsatisfactory
New London CT ? Several secondary sources state that Gilman worked on this system, but no details are known.


References
1798 Portsmouth Oracle of the Day, November 3, 1798
Portsmouth, Nov 3.  The Aqueduct.  The whole was undertaken by Mr. Benja. Clark Gilman of Exeter, by Contract.

1801 An Act to incorporate certain persons for the purpose of conveying Water into the Town of Exeter by subterraneous pipes, June 16, 1801.  Samuel Brooks, Benjamin Lamson, Benjamin Clark Gilman and Bradbury Johnson.

1811 "Aqueduct Corporation," Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), April 20, 1811, Page 2.
Notice is hereby given to the Members of the Aqueduct Corporation, that their annual meeting will be held at their Office, in Congress-Street, on Saturday, 4th of May next, at 12 o'clock, M. for the choice of Officers; and for acting on such other concerns of the Corporation as they may think proper.---
A general attendance is requested.  Benj. C. Gilman, Sec'y. Boston, April 16, 1811.

1812 "Aqueduct Corporation," Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), April 18, 1812, Page 2.
Notice is hereby given to the Proprietors of the Aqueduct, that their annual meeting will be held at their Office, in Old State-House, on Saturday the 2d of May next, at 12 o'clock, M. for the choice of Officers; and for acting on such other concerns of the Corporation as they may think proper.
A general attendance is requested.  Benj. C. Gilman, Sec'y. Boston, April 18, 1812.

1813 "Aqueduct Corporation," Columbian Centinel (Boston, Massachusetts), April 28, 1812, Page 1.
Notice is hereby given to the Members of the Aqueduct Corporation, that their annual meeting will be held at their Office, in State-street, on Saturday the first day of May next, at 12 o'clock, M. for the choice of Officers; and for acting on such other concerns of the Corporation as they may think proper.
A general attendance is requested.  Benj. C. Gilman, Sec'y. April 21.

1813 The Boston Directory for 1813
Page 128:  Benj. C. Gilman, Superintendent of Aqueduct

1835 Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics, October 24, 1835.
Deaths.  In Exeter, Benjamin Clark Gilman, a worthy and respected citizen, 72.

1860 "History of the Salem and Danvers Aqueduct" by Charles M. Endicott, from Historical Collections of the Essex Institute, Volume 2, Number 3 (June 1860)
Pages 109-110:  In 1816, the Corporation paid B.C. Gilman eight hundred dollars for instruments and machinery to discovery leaks in the aqueduct - this proved an unnecessary and dissatisfactory expenditure.

1888 History of the Town of Exeter, New Hampshire by Charles Henry Bell
Page 101-102: At the adjourned annual meeting in March, 1797, it was voted by the town that Benjamin Clark Gilman and his associates should have the privilege of sinking an aqueduct in Fore street, and such other streets as they might find convenient, for supplying water to customers; and of breaking ground to repair the same; on condition that they should put the streets in as good a state as they found them in, within a reasonable time, and should indemnify the town against prosecutions on that account.
Page 103: In 1801 the "Exeter Aqueduct" received incorporation from the Legislature of the State, and brought into the village water drawn from springs not far from the present station of the Boston and Maine Railroad. It was conveyed through perforated logs, and, of course, the supply was quite limited. Benjamin Clark Gilman was the projector of the enterprise in 1797; and in later time the management of the aqueducts fell into the hands of Nathaniel S. Adams, and finally of John Bellows. It was abandoned a number of years ago.

1943 "An Ingenious Yankee Craftsman," by Frank Oakman Spinney, Antiques 44:116-119 (September, 1943)  Benjamin Clark Gilman, silversmith, clockmaker and instrument maker.
Page 117:  Just before and after the turn of the century, Gilman was active in engineering and construction jobs.  In 1797, a Town Meeting of Exeter voted that "... Benjamin Clark Gilman and his associates should have the privilege of sinking an aqueduct in Fore street, and such other streets as they might find convenient, for supplying water to customers ..." It was not until 1801 that the "Exeter Aqueduct" received a charter of incorporation from the State Legislature, but before that time Gilman was engaged in building water supply systems in other places.
Nearly simultaneously there appeared an urge in many cities to develop this type of public utility.  In 1795 the "Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Company" received a charter to supply water to parts of Boston.  Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Salem, Massachusetts, made beginnings in 1797.  In 1800 the "New London (Conn.) Aqueduct Company" was incorporated.  Gilman was connected with the construction of all five projects during these years.  They were all made after the same pattern.  Wooden pipes were used as water mains to conduct the supply from various reservoirs or springs to the customers.  Gilman installed various sizes of bored logs for this purpose, depending on the flow of water required.  From a letter written by him to his daughter Clarissa in 1821 comes this first-hand description:  "Those [pipes] which I laid, leading into Portsmouth in 1798 have required but little repairs.  They have begun however to take them up and cut a little of the ends and relay them.  They were fine & good large timber, with five inch bore which has worn to six inch."
That Gilman knew his business with wooden conduits is proven by the fact that more than a century later some of his installations were still supplying water to certain sections of Boston, and recent work of the present Exeter Water Company brought to light some of the original pipe laid down in that town by Gilman and his associates. 

2008 "The Innovative Mind of Benjamin Clark Gilman," from  Exeter: Historically Speaking, by Barbara Rimkunas
Like engineers everywhere, Gilman couldn't help tinkering with projects. When the city of Portsmouth needed a way to get fresh drinking water into the downtown, Gilman was the one hired to build a wooden aqueduct
system. He built the same kind of system in downtown Exeter, drawing water from the west end of town. He used pine logs with a four-inch bore as pipes for his system. Lead pipes brought the water into basement
cisterns from which homeowners would either haul or pump it to the upper floors. Wood pipes weren't foolproof; they frequently leaked at the joints and the roots of trees tended to puncture them, but Gilman preferred them to the all-lead system that was in use in some communities. He said that earthworms tended to eat the lead but seemed to dislike pine. He created five aqueduct systems in all: Portsmouth, Exeter, Boston, Salem, Mass., and New London, Conn.He created five aqueduct systems in all: Portsmouth; Exeter; Boston; Salem, Massachusetts; and New London, Connecticut. Gilman spent his later years in his house on Front Street living with his daughters. He continued to build his tall clocks and served as a town selectman. He died in 1835.





2018 Morris A. Pierce