Documentary History of American Water-works

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Ownership and Financing of American Water Works
Comegys & Lewis

Comegys & Lewis

Henry C. Comegys and Jared E. Lewis were New York City contractors who formed a partnership sometime before 1885 to build and own water systems.  They also worked on railroads and gas works.

Advertisement in Statistical Tables of American Water Works (1887) Page 53

City State Company Franchise
Belleville IL City Water Co. of Belleville
February 10, 1885 1885? Sold to bondholders June 30, 1890
Crawfordsville IN Crawfordsville Water Works Co
Bought from Brown and Martindale
December 16, 1886
Shelbyville IN Shelbyville Water Co

Warsaw IN Warsaw Water-Works Co

Shelbyville IL Shelbyville Water-Works Co

October 9, 1885
Paola KS Paola Water-Works Co.
August, 1885
April 27, 1886 Sold to bondholders in 1889?
Ashtabula OH Ashtabula Water Works Co

Lawrence KS City Water Company
June 15, 1886
April 21, 1887 Sold at bonholders February 10, 1890
Nebraska City NE City Water Co
March, 1887
Chillicothe MO Chillicothe Water and Gas Co.
October 16, 1886
1887 In hands of receiver in 1889
Fort Scott KS Fort Scott Water-Works Co.

Bought May 16, 1887 Sold in January, 1890
Lower Merion PA Lower Merion Water Co
January 4, 1886

Charter revoked March 7, 1892 for non-performance
Radnor PA Radnor Water Co
January 4, 1886

No work done, company dissolved.
Haverford PA Haverford Water Co
January 4, 1886

No work done, company dissolved

1887 Fire and Water Engineering 2(9) (August 27, 1887)
In 1S71 the firm of Henry C. Comegys and Jared E. Lewis of New York commenced constructing water and gas-works. Since that time thirteen water-works systems have been built by the firm, and others are on the way to completion. The works they have constructed and own are those of the City Water Company, Belleville, Ill.; Crawfordsville Water-works Company, Crawfordsville, Ind.; Shelbyville Water-works Company, Shelbyville, Ind.; Warsaw Water-works Company, Warsaw, Ind.; Shelbyville Water Company, Shelbyville, Ill.; Mattoon Gas Light and Coke Company, Mattoon, Ill.; Citizens Gas Light Company, Westchester county, N. Y.; City-Water Company, Lawrence, Kan.; Chillicothe Water and Gas Company, Chillicothe, Mo.; City Water Company, Nebraska City; Ashtabula Water-works Company, Ashtabula, O.; Fort Scott Water-works Company, Fort Scott, Kan.; Paola Water Company, Paola, Kan. These works were designed and their construction superintended by Col. S. H. Lockett, chief engineer of the firm.

1887 Light, Heat and Power 3(3):116 (March, 1887)
New gas works at Rye, N.Y.

1889 Shickle, Harrison and Howard Iron Company, Plaintiff and Respondent, against Rowland N. Hazard, Impleaded with Others, defendents and Appellants, Papers on Appeal, New York Supreme Court, General Term, First Department

1889 New Castle News, January 2, 1889
Comegys & Lewis, of New York, under the name of the North and South American Construction Company have just closed a contract with the government of 

1889 Fire and Water Engineering 6(8) (August 24, 1889)
Comegys & Lewis, water-works contractors of New York city, have dissolved partnership. Mr. Comegys will continue the business on his own account.

1889 The Railroad Gazette 21:575 (August 30, 1889)
Judgments for $58,516 have been entered against Comegys & Lewis, contractors, at No. 15 Cortlandt street, New York City, in favor of the following creditors: Schickle Harrison Howard Iron Co., of St. Louis, $26,635: Wing & Evans, $15,635 ; Coffin & Stanton, $11,955 : Thomson-Houston Electric Co., $3,128; Penn Iron Co., $1,163. Messrs. Comegys & Lewis have been in business for about 10 years, principally as water-works contractors. In explanation of the Judgments the representatives of the firm said that they were taken with a view of settling up the partnership of Comegys & Lewis. The firm would be dissolved, and Mr. Comegys would continue the water-work business on his own account. Mr. Lewis is in Chili.

1890 The Electrical World 15:157 (February 22, 1890)
Chillicothe, Mo.- The plant of the Chillicothe (Mo.) Water Works, Electric Light and Gas Company has been sold by Receier W. E. Gunley, in a suit of the bondholders for default of interest, to A.G. Black, a New York capitalist and president of the reorganization company for $50,000.  The estimated cost of the plant is $85,000.  The works were built by Comegy & Lewis of New York, and, it is said, were bonded to English capitalists for $200,000.

1891 "End of a Chilian Scheme," The New York Herald, February 17, 1891, Page 11.
Henry C. Comegys and Jared Lewis made a contract with the Chilian government on October 17, 1888, to build and equip with rolling stock, stations, depots, telegraph lines, &c., 680 miles of railroad.

1891 "Its Stock Wiped Out," The Evening World (New York City), July 21, 1891, Page 3.
The American Loan and Trust Company's bad showing.

1892 In re Lower Merion Water Company, March 7, 1892, Montgomery County Law Reports 8:54

1893 Henry C. Comegys (1840-1893) grave "Col. Henry Clay Comegys Civil war veteran who commanded a regiment sent from Maryland to augment the Union forces".

1893 The American Gas Light Journal 58:558 (April 17, 1893)
With regret we chronicle the death of Col. Henry Clay Comegys

1893 Clow, et al. v. Brown, et al., 134 Ind. 287, April 25, 1893, Supreme Court of Indiana

1894 "Coffin & Stanton Retire," The Sun (New York City), October 6, 1894, Page 5.
They were mixed up in the failure of Comegys & Lewis.

1894 Bruner, Receiver of the Crawfordsville Waterworks Company, v. Brown, 139 Ind. 600, October 11, 1894, Supreme Court of Indiana

1895 "Belleville Water Works," United States Investor 6(2):386 (May 4, 1895) | also here |

1898 Clow, et al. v. Brown, et al., 160 Ind. 185, January 4, 1898, Supreme Court of Indiana

1898 "Final Decision in the Chillicothe Water Case," Water and Gas Review 9(5):12-13 (November, 1898)

1915 The Contractor 21:39 (February 15, 1915)
Heart disease brought about the death of Colonel Jared E. Lewis, Civil War veteran and retired railroad builders, at his home, 2833 Delancey street, this city.  He had been ill for several yars.  Col. Lewis was formerly a member of the large contracting firm of Comegys & Lewis, but poor health forced his retirement.

1915 Jared E. Lewis (1838-1919) grave

2016 The Yankee Plague: Escaped Union Prisoners and the Collapse of the Confederacy, by Lorien Foote
Page 10:  More than 100 Federal officers escaped from the train on the way to Columbia, jumping off at one or the other of its two stops to fill up with water.  Among the latter were Captain Jared E. Lewis.   

2017 "The 1850 Rudder-Lyons House - No. 7 West 19th St," by Tom Miller, March 8, 2017, A Daytonian in Manhattan
Rev. Lyons died at the age of 63 on August 12, 1877.  Congregation Shearith Israel would move north to West 70th Street in 1897; but before then they leased the house at No. 7 to divorced contractor Henry C. Comegys, formerly a partner in the firm Comegys & Lewis.  In 1875 he had married Malinda Grove, described by The New York Herald as "a Baltimore belle."  His firm had "performed large and profitable contracts with the Peruvian and Chilian governments" constructing water works, according to the newspaper.
Trouble had come for the couple when Malinda visited her parents in Baltimore in the spring of 1885.  She returned home to find that Henry and a "niece" had taken adjoining rooms in a hotel; and according to Malinda's attorney he "had been too familiar with his alleged niece."  Malinda sued for divorce, and was granted $100 a month alimony.
But by the time Henry moved into the 19th Street house he had stopped paying and owed his ex-wife $1000--nearly $27,000 in 2017.  On January 2, 1891 Malinda obtained an order for his arrest and, according to the Herald, "a deputy sheriff hung around his home, No. 7 West Nineteenth street, for a week without finding him."
Henry's attorney could explain that.  Comegys, he said "was suffering from vertigo and neurasthenia and couldn't go outdoors unattended or on foot."  And, he said, his client was "bankrupt and dependent upon friends for his living."
Malinda's attorney was doubtful.  He pointed to the $100 a month cab bill Henry carried at the Miles' Stable, on 19th Street.  And there was the matter of his frequenting the race track and his interest in the race horse Juggler.  Malinda added through her lawyer that "he maintains the house No. 7 West Nineteenth street in a style as fine as that he affected before his alleged failure."
While Justice Andrews mulled over the case, The New York Herald offered its own thoughts.  "Comegys is known to men about town as a good liver and a fairly high roller--not too high, but just high enough.  His horse Juggler won several good races at Guttenburg last winter."
It was possibly the unflattering publicity or the judgment against him that prompted Comegys to leave West 19th Street later that year.

2019 Morris A. Pierce