Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography

Biography J. Nelson Tubbs

J. Nelson Tubbs

Joseph Nelson Tubbs was born in 1832

J. Nelson Tubbs, from A History of the City of Rochester (1895) 2001 plaque honoring Tubbs at Highland Park reservoir in Rochester, complete with incorrect birth and death dates.

He died in 1909. 

J. Nelson Tubbs's Water Works Experience
City State Years Projects
Rochester NY 1872-1890 Chief engineer of the city's water works
Mt. Morris NY 1879 Engineer for Mills Water-Works Company.
Geneva NY 1889 Engineer for Geneva Water-Works Company
Geneseo NY 1887 Engineer for village water system
Syracuse NY 1892 Provided engineering for Skaneateles Lake supply
Medina NY 1893 Engineer for Medina Water-Works Company.

1869 "Appointment of Engineer by the Canal Board," The Brooklyn Union, July 22, 1869, Page 3.
The Canal Board has appointed J. Nelson Tubbs, of Rochester, resident engineer of the western division of canals.

1872 Annual Report of the State Engineer and Surveyor on the Canals of the State of New York for the year ending September 30th, 1872.
Page 72:  Engineering Department.  During the past fiscal year this division has been under the charge of J. Nelson Tubbs, up to February 20, 1873, and Byron M. Hanks, from said date as resident engineers. 

1872 "The New City Government," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, April 2, 1872, Page 4.
On motion a ballot for city surveyor was taken up with the following results:
William S. Grantsyn 25
J. Nelson Tubbs 3

1876 "Jennings, the False Medium," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, September 12, 1876, Page 4.
Upon the occasion of one of the first test seances our reporter and J. Nelson Tubbs examined the cabinet as closely as possible and concluded that if there were any fraud it was through the medium of the closet upon the right of the room.

1877 "Protection against Floods," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, February 9, 1877, Page 4. | part 2 |
Interesting and Valuable Report of Engineer Tubbs to his Honor, Mayor Parsons.

1890 Rochester Union and Advertiser, September 22, 1890, Page 5.
J. Nelson Tubbs opened office at 405 Wilder Bldg.; will act as consulting engineer.

1895 Rochester Union and Advertiser, February 28, 1896, Page 6.
J. Nelson Tubbs appointed a general inspector along the canals.

1895 A History of the City of Rochester from the Earliest Times, by the Rochester Post Express. | also here |
Pages 230-231: J. Nelson Tubba
Joseph Nelson Tubbs, whose name must be of interest to Rochester and many other cities as long as water flows, was born in Esperance, Schoharie county, New York, September 24, 1832. His parentage on his father's side was of English and on his mother's side of Scotch descent. His early education was obtained in the public schools of Esperance and Albany, and he was graduated from the State Normal college at Albany in October, 1850. He pursued special mathematical studies with George R. Perkins, the author of a series of mathematical text books. Mr. Tubbs began the study of law with John E. Mann, since Justice of the Supreme court of Wisconsin, and with Judges Frazer and Stewart of Johnstown, New York. In consequence of ill-health he abandoned the profession when nearly ready to be admitted to the bar, and in 1854 accepted a position in an engineer corps on the enlargement of the Erie canal at Little Falls. He remained in the service of the State on the Eastern and Western divisions, acting as assistant and resident engineer, until early in 1872. Mr. Tubbs came to Rochester in the Spring of 1860. In May, 1872, he was appointed chief engineer of the Rochester water-works and designed and supervised the construction of the system by which the water of Hemlock lake was first brought to the city. He remained in charge as chief engineer until June, 1890. During a portion of 1872-3 he was also superintendent and engineer in charge of the construction of the Elmira Reformatory. In 1890 he established an office in the Wilder building as consulting engineer. During the years 1890 to 1894 he was personally employed in a great variety of work as an expert engineer; among the important cases in which he was called were the condemnation proceedings instituted by the city of Syracuse, in connection with the construction of its water works; condemnation proceedings connected with the construction of the new water-supply conduit for the city of Rochester; the legal contest of the Delaware and Lackawanna railroad against the town of York; the town of Geneseo against the Board of Supervisors; the case of White against the Delaware and Lackawanna railroad; the mill-power owners of the Oatka creek against the salt manufacturers; and the water-works contractor against the village of East Syracuse. At various times Mr. Tubbs has designed works or acted as consulting engineer or expert for water-works at Rochester, Syracuse, Geneva, Geneseo, Medina, Dryden, Albion, Mt. Morris, Lyons, Oneida, Port Jervis and Penn Yan in this State, and in several cities and towns in other states. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Water Works association, the New England Water Works association, of various Masonic societies of the city and of the Whist club. He has held no political offices other than those named, except that of commissioner of the board of health of Rochester. His first vote was cast for the nominees of the Whig party, but since the organization of the Republican party he has been affiliated with it. Mr. Tubbs was married March 5, 1856, to Elithea Mandell Wooster, and has two sons and one daughter, William N., Frank W., and Josie Elithea. His residence is 65 Glasgow street.

1897 Illustrated history of the Rochester Trades Assembly and the Building Trades Council, Rochester, N. Y commercial history of the city of Rochester, photographs and biographies of officers, state, city and miscellaneous labor laws, etc. | also here |
Page 130:  J. Nelson Tubba was born in Esperance, Schoharie County. N. Y., September 24, 1832. He graduated at the State Normal College at Albany in 1850, and was a teacher until 1854, when he accepted a position as an engineer on the enlargement of the Erie Canal. He continued in this employment until 1872. In this latter year he was appointed as Chief Engineer of the Rochester Water Works, and also engineer and superintendent of the construction of the Elmira Reformatory. During the years of 1872 to 1876, he designed and constructed the Rochester Water Works, and continued in charge of the same as engineer and superintendent until the summer of 1890. At that time he opened an office as a consulting engineer, and continued in that business until February, 1895. While so engaged, he designed a huge number of water works systems, and was employed as an expert on others, and in a large number of litigations involving important hydraulic questions. In 1895 he was appointed by Hon. George W. Aldridge as the General Inspector for the Department of Public Works of this State, and is still so employed at the present time.
Mr. Tubbs is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, of the New England Water Works Association, of the American Water Works Association, and of the various Masonic bodies of this city.

1908 History of Rochester and Monroe County, New York: From the Earliest Historic Times to the Beginning of 1907, Volume 1, by William Farley Peck
Page 497:  J. Nelson Tubbs.
J. Nelson Tubbs, a consulting engineer of Rochester, New York, was born September 24, 1832, in Schoharie county, this state. He is a son of Jesse A. Tubbs, a farmer. His early educational privileges were afforded by the common schools and were supplemented by study in the academy at Esperance, New York, and in the State Normal school at Albany. He engaged in teaching school for four years and afterward entered the service of the state in connection with the enlargement of the Erie canal in 18.34. He was employed at different places in the state in this capacity and in 1861 established his home in Rochester, where he has since remained. He continued in the service of the state, however, until 1872, in which year he was appointed chief engineer on the construction of the Rochester water works. He also did some surveying about that time and soon afterward was appointed chief engineer and superintendent for the Elmira Reformatory, at the same time continuing in the office of chief engineer of the Rochester waterworks. In fact he continued in that capacity for eighteen years or until 1890 and throughout that period was doing work in outside cities as consulting engineer. In 1892 he resigned in order to concentrate his energies more largely upon private business interests and established an office in Rochester as consulting engineer, since which time he has constructed waterworks in various parts of the state. He was chief consulting engineer for the construction of the waterworks at Syracuse where water was brought to the city from Skaneateles lake. This was a stupendous undertaking of a most difficult nature and required most thorough and able understanding of mechanical engineering from both a scientific and practical side. Early in 1894 he was appointed executive official of the public works of all canals in the state and for a period of ten years, under the title of general inspector, he maintained his office in Rochester. This period included the time of the first improvement of the canal until the canal had nine feet of water and the appropriation for that purpose was nine million dollars. Mr. Tubbs' connection with the canal ceased in 1905 and since that time he has done more or less in consulting engineering work. He has been called upon as an expert in cases at law in New York and other states, covering questions of mechanical engineering and construction, and is now a member of a commission to decide a proposed route of the Brockport, Lockport & Rochester Electric Railroad through Brockport. He is regarded not only as a peer but as the superior of the great majority of business men in his line in this part of the country and has been very successful.
Mr. Tubbs was married to Miss Elithea Mandell Wooster, of Esperance, New York, a descendant of General David Wooster, and they now have two sons and a daughter: William N., who is special agent on the canal at Syracuse and who married Gertrude Shuart, daughter of Judge Slvuart, of Rochester; Frank W., who is with his father in business; and Josephine Elithea, at home.
Mr. Tubbs has always been a stanch advocate of the republican party since its organization. He has attained the thirty-second degree in Masonry and is a member of various clubs in Rochester. He has membership relations with the Rochester Engineering Society; the American Society of Civil Engineers; the New England Waterworks Association; the American Waterworks Association, and many others, but recently he has withdrawn from some of these. His prominence is the outward manifestation of an ability that has enabled him to work his way steadily upward. He has done with thoroughness and accuracy whatever his hand has found to do, neglecting no duty, and his fidelity and worth are so widely recognized that he stands today as one of the distinguished mechanical and consulting engineers of the Empire state.

1909 "Death Comes to Nelson J. Tubbs," Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, September 21, 1909, Page 7.
For many years an engineer in state service. Expert on waterworks.

1909 "Tribute to the Late J. Nelson Tubbs," by George W. Mische, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, October 1, 1909, Page 9. | part 2 |

2014 Engineer Joseph Nelson Tubbs and Rochesterís first water supply system, by Louise Felipe Bendezu, paper for REL 167, Speaking Stones, University of Rochester

© 2020 Morris A. Pierce