Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Illinois Alton

Alton, Illinois

Alton was incorporated as a city in 1837.

The Alton Water Works Company was incorporated in 1857 by Henry W. Billings, William H. Mitchell, Perry B. Whipple, Samuel A. Buckmaster, and John J. Mitchell "for the purpose of supplying the said city of Alton with pure and wholesome water."  This company did not build anything.

Another Alton Water Works Company was incorporated in 1875 by Henry Watson and Harry Taylor, and built a system that pumped water from the Mississippi River into an elevated reservoir.  Taylor died in 1878 and Watson decided to sell the company in 1885 due to his involvement in many other businesses.  He offered the system to the city, but limitations on municipal debt in Illinois made that impossible.  The system was sold in December, 1886 to Clarence Herbert Venner of Boston; Truman Ashley Taylor, Omaha, and William Allen Underwood, an attorney who was a long-time adviser to Venner, who had a long history of litigation against corporations.

The Alton system was sold to the New England Water Works Company in 1893, but was still controlled by Venner.  The water supply from the Mississippi became increasingly bad, and the city sought to force the company to deliver "filtered water" as was required in the contract.  Venner resisted, but in 1897 another Venner entity, the Boston Water and Light Company, started construction of a new pumping plant despite the opposition of the New England company.  Venner removed the machinery from the New England company plant and installed it in the Boston Water company plant, without bothering to get permission from the New England company owners.  They then brought suit against Venner, and a long court battle ensued that resulted in the foreclosure and sale of the company to its bondholders, led by William A. Underwood, in 1905.  The city offered to buy the works, but Underwood refused to specify a firm price.  His death in late 1905 opened up an opportunity for a group of local investors to buy the plant, which they did and formed the Alton Water Company in March, 1906 with Joseph F. Porter, Louis A. Shlaffey and Samuel Wade as incorporators.  Other creditors of the former system brought several lawsuits against the new water company, which reached the U. S. Supreme Court in 1912.

The Alton Water Company owned and operated the system until 1925, when the stock was sold to the American Water Works and Electric Company.

Water is provided by Illinois American Water.

1857 An act entitled "An act to incorporate the Alton Water Works Company."  February 18, 1857.

1874 Alton Telegraph, April 17, 1874, Page 3.
Water Works.- On Monday last Mr. Richardson, representing the Holly system of Water Works, addressed the Council in explanation of the advantages of that plan, and a committee consisting of Aldermen Cappinger, McPike, Guelich, and Hathaway were appointed to examine into the cost of such works and obtain facts to report to a special meeting of the Council.  The committee will hold a meeting in a day or two when we will give a full report of their action.

1875 Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), April 15, 1875, Page 2.
The Alton Water-works Commissioners have returned from a visit of inspection of the water-works systems of Rock Island, Davenport, Clinton, and Hyde Park.  They will report favorably to the Council in regard to the construction of water-works in Alton.

1875 "Water Works. To Contractors and Builders," Alton Telegraph, July 1, 1875, Page 3.
Sealed proposals for the erection of Water Works in the city of Alton, Madison county, Illinois, will be received by the Water Commissioners of said city, until the 1st day of July, 1875.

1875 Alton Telegraph, July 29, 1875, Page 4.
Council Proceedings.  Passed "An ordinance to provide for the erection and maintenance of Water Works in the city of Alton."  Authorized to execute a contract as agreed to with Messrs. Watson & Taylor in accordance with an ordinance this day adopted.

1875 Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), August 17, 1875, Page 3.
The site for the reservoir of the Alton water works has been purchased.  It has an elevation of 175 feet above the business portion of the city.  The reservoir will have a capacity for holding 5,000,000 gallons, and will cost $6,000.

1875 "Proposals for City of Alton Water Works Bonds," Alton Telegraph, August 19, 1875, Page 4.
$50,000 in bonds.

1875 "Progress the Water Works," Alton Telegraph, August 26, 1875, Page 3.
Bonds sold.  Thirteen car loads of iron pipes have arrived.

1875 An ordinance granting unto Henry Watson and Harry Taylor the right to build, erect and maintain water works in the city of Alton.  November 8, 1875.

1875 Alton Telegraph, November 11, 1875, Page 3.
The Water Works.- Review of the work.  The laying of the water mains was completed on Saturday the 6th inst.

1875 Alton Weekly Telegraph, November 25, 1875, Page 3.
Our Water Works System.  Information Concerning the Height and Pressure in Different Portions of the City.

1876 Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), January 29, 1876, Page 2.
Both pumping engines of the Alton water works were put in operation for the first time Wednesday last.  The final test came off yesterday.

1877 Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), April 25, 1877, Page 3.
The Alton Water Works Company are preparing to issue $75,000 in six per cent, gold bearing bonds, interest payable semi-annually, and place the same on the market.

1877 "To Guardians, Investors, and Capitalists," Alton Telegraph, May 31, 1877, Page 3.
The Alton Water Works Company (incorporated 1875) offer for sale $75,000 of First Mortgage Water Works Coupon Bonds.

1878 "Death of Mr. Harry Taylor," Alton Telegraph, October 31, 1878, Page 3.

1881 "Water Works Exhibition," Alton Telegraph, May 26, 1881, Page 3.
Visitors from Fort Worth.  Backus Water Motors in use.

1881 Alton, Engineering News, 8:406 (October 8, 1881)

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

1885 "Buying the Water Works," Alton Evening Telegraph, August 12, 1885, Page 3.

1885 "The Water Works," Alton Evening Telegraph, August 21, 1885, Page 3.
The city cannot purchase the works due to debt limitations.

1885 "The Water Works Question," Alton Evening Telegraph, September 10, 1885, Page 3.
Proposed terms of sale to city.

1886 "Sale of the Water Works," Alton Evening Telegraph, December 28, 1886, Page 3.
A company composed of C. H. Venner, of Boston; Truman A. Taylor, Omaha, and Judge W. A. Underwood, of Detroit, Mich., have purchased a controlling interest in the Alton Water Works.  The formal transfer was made late yesterday afternoon.  The new company organized with Truman A. Taylor, President; Judge W. A. Underwood, Secretary.
The sale was made simply because Mr. Watson has so many business enterprises on his hands that he had no time to devote to the management of the Water Works.

1888 Daily Illinois State Journal (Springfield, Illinois), July 4, 1888, Page 4.
Increase the capital stock of the Alton Water Works Company from $150,000 to $200,000.

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

1889 An ordinance to make a contract with the Alton Water Works Company, grantee of Henry Watson and Harry Taylor, supplemental to, and in modification of, an ordinance of the city of Alton, Illinois, entitled, "An ordinance granting unto Henry Watson and Harry Taylor the right to build, erect and maintain water works in the city of Alton," adopted November 8th, 1875.  August 13, 1889.

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

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

1893 "The Water Works," Alton Telegraph, June 1, 1893, Page 5.
The Alton Water Works Company is now owned by the "New England Water Works Company," of New York City, a corporation that is gathering under its control a large number of concerns in the West.

1897 "A Big Price for Mud," Alton Evening Telegraph, January 28, 1897, Page 3.
Diluted with Mississippi River Water.

1897 "The Waterworks Contract," Alton Telegraph, March 11, 1897, Page 9.

1897 "Water War in Alton," Alton Evening Telegraph, September 8, 1897, Page 3.
Boston Water and Light Company building new plant.  New England Water Works Company vows to resist.

1897 "Pushing Things," Alton Evening Telegraph, September 9, 1897, Page 3.
The Boston Water and Light Company getting everything in readiness.

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

1900 "Making Progress," Alton Evening Telegraph, February 23, 1900, Page 3.
Municipal Ownership is being Pushed by Council's Water Commission.

1900 "Venner's New Mortgage," Alton Evening Telegraph, June 11, 1900, Page 3.
Aaron M. Lyman in the New Owner of the New England Water Works Plant in this City.  The Boston Water and Light Company purchased some two years ago all that then existed of the New England Company.

1900 "Venner's Three Days," Alton Evening Telegraph, June 14, 1900, Page 3.

1903 "Alton Water Works," The Jacksonville Daily Journal, December 24, 1903, Page 2.
Decree of foreclosure.

1905 New England Water Works Co. et al. v. Farmers' Loan and Trust Co. et al., 136 Fed. 521, February 7, 1905, Circuit Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

1905 "Ownership of Alton Water Works Decided," Water and Sewage Works 28(3):247 (March, 1905)

1905 "Alton Water Works to be Sold," Alton Evening Telegraph, March 13, 1905, Page 1.
At Edwardsville on Tuesday, April 18th.

1905 "Bondholders Purchase Alton Water Works," Alton Evening Telegraph, April 18, 1905, Page 1.
The Alton Waterworks were sold at noon today to W. A. Underwood, of New York, who represented the bondholders for $220,000.

1905 "Thinks Alton Can Buy Water Works," Alton Evening Telegraph, June 2, 1905, Page 4.

1905 "Underwood Will Sell Water Works," Alton Evening Telegraph, June 17, 1905, Page 1.

1905 "Death of W. A. Underwood," Alton Evening Telegraph, December 11, 1905, Page 1.
Backbone of Water Works Combination is Broken by Demise of Legal Adviser.

1906 "Water Works Will be Sold to Alton Syndicate," Alton Evening Telegraph, February 10, 1906, Page 1.

1906 Daily Illinois State Register (Springfield, Illinois), March 23, 1906, Page 10.
The Alton Water Company was incorporated yesterday, capital $400,000, incorporators, Joseph F. Porter, Louis A. Shlaffey and Samuel Wade.

1906 "Contract Between the City of Alton and the Alton Water Company," March 31, 1906. The Alton City Code, Comprising the Laws of Illinois Relating to the Government of the City of Alton, and the Ordinances of the City Council

1909 James Hamilton Lewis et al., Petitioners, v. The Alton Water Company, 212 U.S. 581, January 11, 1900.  Petition for a writ of certiorari denied.

1909 "Blow to James Ham Lewis," Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1909, Page 2.  Alton Water Works Suit.

1909 "Alton Water Company's Litigation," Water and Sewage Works, 36(2):121 (February, 1909)

1912 Allen A. Brown v. Alton Water Company, 222 U.S. 325, January 9, 1912, United States Supreme Court

1920 In the Matter of the Compliant of M. Mahoney v. Alton Water Company Relative to Water Service, November 23, 1920, Illinois Public Service Commission.

1925 "Water Co. Sale In Accord with City Ordinance," Alton Evening Telegraph, October 27, 1925, Page 1.
Approval of council not required, because only stock is sold.

1925 "Alton Water Co. Changes Owners This Afternoon," Alton Evening Telegraph, November 18, 1925, Page 1.
Promise is made of good service.

1925 Boston Herald, December 4, 1925, Page 29.
American Water Works & Electric Company has acquired Alton Water Company.

1933 "Death of C. H. Venner in New York Recalls Water Plant Deal 30 Years Ago," Alton Evening Telegraph, June 27, 1933, Page 1.

1937 "Water Company to Boost Intake 4 Million Gallons, Bathtub Ring Will Stay," Alton Evening Telegraph, June 12, 1937, Page 1. | Part 2 on Page 2 |

1962  City of Alton v. Alton Water Co., 25 Ill. 2d 112 (1962)


2017 Morris A. Pierce