Documentary History of American Water-works

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North Central States
Illinois Galesburg

Galesburg, Illinois

Galesburg was incorporated as a village in 1841 and as a city in 1857.

The city installed pipes and hydrants for fire protection sometime before 1877.  Wells and pumps were located at George W. Brown's Corn Planter Works and at the Frost Manufacturing Company.

The city granted a thirty-year water works franchise to Nathan Shelton on May 12, 1883 and later sold him its existing water pipes.  Shelton built a system which he transferred to the Galesburg Water Company and secured a mortgage for $125,000.  The source of water proved inadequate and the city cancelled the contract.  The company was foreclosed and sold to the bondholders, who sued the city.  The case worked its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the city and the bondholders lost everything.  Some accounts state that the city bought the company or some portion of it, but this has not been verified.

Water was purchased from the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad for some period of time

The city built its own water works that began operation in 1891.

Water is provided by the city of Galesburg.

1869 Revised Ordinances of the City of Galesburg.
No mention of pumps or pipes.  Mentions Frost Manufacturing Company and George W. Brown's Corn Planter Works in preface.

1877 "Illinois Firemen," Chicago Tribune, September 1, 1877, Page 2.
Close of the Tournament at Galesburg.  The remainder of the day was devoted to an exhibition of the Galesburg water works.

1878 History of Knox County, Illinois
Pages 632-633:  Water Works. The water supplies for the city of Galesburg are furnished from wells and cisterns. Of the wells there are two, one located in George W. Brown's works, and the other at the Frost Manufactory. The one at Brown's is 12 feet in diameter, and was dug as deeply as it could be for the influx of water. The city has constructed a large reservoir on Seminary street, with a capacity of 1,100 barrels, and one on West street, holding 1,500 barrels. These are kept constantly filled from the wells. The water pipes extend only through the central portion of the city. At various points on the mains are located 12 hydrants. The water is forced through these pipes by two large steam pumps, one at Mr. Brown's works, and one at Frost Manufacturing Company's works. Besides these wells the city has made some 20 large cisterns.

1883 Revised ordinances of the city of Galesburg comprising the charters and amendments, the state laws relating to the government of cities, and the ordinances of the City council
Page 97-98:  Water works

1883 "The Water Works," Daily Journal and Republican, May 7, 1883, Page 4. | part 2 |
The Visit to the City of the Galesburg Committee, and What a newspaper of that city thinks of the works.

1883 "New Business Enterprises," The Inter Ocean, June 23, 1883, Page 7.
The Galesburg Water Company, at Galesburg; capital, $150,000; incorporators, Nathan Shelton, T. B. Sylvanus, and William B. Davidson.

1883 The Evening Gazette (Monmouth, Illinois), December 28, 1883, Page 4.
The Galesburg Water-works Company have mortgaged their works for $125,000 before its completion. The company receives a revenue from the city of $8,000 per year, as rental for 80 fire plugs, and pays $9,000 in gold as interest on these bonds. l The Farmers' Loan and Trust Company of New York takes the entire issue of the bonds at six per cent, which are secured by the mortgage that is here stated to be on record in the recorder's office at Galesburg.  Bonds to the amount of $25,000 more are to be floated as soon as the completion of the works.  The Galesburg company seems to be paying too much interest, and partis in Monmouth have stated that water-works bonds would be readily taken up at 5 per cent.

1884 Galesburg, Engineering News, 11:153 (March 29, 1884)

1884 "Failure of Galesburg Water Supply," Chicago Tribune, September 23, 1884, Page 7.1

1884 "Shelton's War at Galesburg," Daily Journal and Republican (Freeport, Illinois), September 24, 1884, Page 4.

1885 "The Galesburg Water Works," The Daily Journal (Freeport, Illinois), June 15, 1885, Page 4.

1885 "Receiver for the Galesburg Water Company," The Indianapolis Journal, November 6, 1885, Page 5.
Chicago, Nov. 5. The Farmers' Loan and Trust Company of New York filed a bill in the United States Circuit Court, Yesterday, against the Galesburg, Ill., Water Company, to foreclose a trust deed securing an issue of $150,000 worth of bonds by the defendant.
John C. Stewart was appointed receiver.

1886 "Water Works Foreclosed," The New York Times, May 21, 1886, Page 3.
CHICAGO, May 20.--In the case of the Farmers' Loan and Trust Company against the Galesburg Water Company Judge Blodgett has entered a decree of foreclosure and sale.

1886 "Figures Can Be Made to Lie," The Evening Gazette (Monmouth, Illinois), June 25, 1886, Page 4.
A report for rebuilding the Galesburg water works has been made by Moffett, Hodgkins & Clarke.

1886 Portrait & Biographical Album of Knox County, Illinois
Page 768:  The paper-mill died more than 25 years ago with the same disease that caused the untimely taking off of the Galesburg Water-works, in 1884-5, to-wit : chronic drouth.
Page 789:  Hon. John C. Stewart. On the 5th of November, 1885, he was appointed by Judge Blodgett Receiver of the Galesburg Water-Works Company, and still has the property in charge.
Pages 1043-1044:  Galesburg Water-Works. The projector and sole beneficiary of the Galesburg Water-Works appears to have been a man by the name of Nathan Shelton. Sometime in 1883, the franchise of the city was granted to Mr. Shelton for the purpose of erecting water-works. A stock company was organized by him, which was incorporated, and the works were prosecuted to completion.  They are located about three-quarters of a mile northeast of the Public Square. The water was intended to be obtained through a gravel seam or stratum of some 13 feet in thickness at a depth of about 80 feet, by means of gang-wells bored through and piped into the gravel stratum. These wells were connected by a large main 14 feet below the surface of the ground. The water was to rise up through these pipes by automatic pressure to the surface, or the main connecting the wells. The Holly system was adopted, with the Worthington pumps. The machinery consists of three duplex pumps, with a total capacity of 4,500,000 gallons per day. The machinery is covered by a suitable brick building.  Near the works rises the iron tower or standpipe, which is 25 feet in diameter and 132 feet high. This pipe is connected with the mains, and so arranged that it can at any time be disconnected.  About nine miles of mains were laid through the city, distributed along which were 80 hydrants. According to the ordinance the city was to pay $100 each for these hydrants, or $8,000 per annum.
There is but little else to say about these works. They look well. The tower rises majestically toward the heavens. They are certainly an ornament to the city. If the world possesses an inventive genius who could bring the water down this tower, which seems to look imploringly at the blue sky and the clouds, it would be a good thing. We wish we could say that there was water here; that it was distributed throughout this beautiful city, supplying all the necessary wants of an advanced civilization, but we cannot without lying. The great mistake the company made was in constructing these water-works before they got the water. They should have followed the sage's advice caught the rabbit before they prepared to cook him. However, the projector made it profitable, and with him, at least, it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Galesburg Water Company.

1888 "Galesburg Water Mains," The Inter Ocean, February 15, 1888, Page 1.
The Council Agitated Over the City's Right to Use Them.

1888 City of Galesburg v. Galesburg Water Co. et al., 34 Fed. Rep. 675, March 20, 1888, Circuit Court, Northern District of Illinois

1888 "Judge Gresham on Water Bonds," Commercial and Financial Chronicle 46(1,189):432-433 (April 7, 1888)

1888 "Refuse of buy the Water-Works," Chicago Tribune, May 1, 1888, Page 8
Galesburg, April 30 - The city council last night refused the officer of the bondholders to sell the city the Galesburg Water-works plant and settle up the pending litigation for $62,500.

1888 Chicago Tribune,June 15, 1888, Page 10.
Judge Gresham appointed James Whittaker receiver of the Galesburg Water Company.

1888 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois. July 1888

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

1890 Farmers' Loan & Trust Co. v City of Galesburg, 133 US 156, January 27, 1890, United States Supreme Court

1890 "Water Bonds and the Galesburg Decision," Commercial and Financial Chronicle 50(1,285):191-192 (February 6, 1890)

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

1891 "Water Pipe for Sale," Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1891, Page 14.
Proposals are invited for the purchase of about 27,890 feet of cast iron water-pipe, formerly the property of the Galesburg Water-Works company. 

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

1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois. May 1892

1896 Revised Ordinances of the City of Galesburg, Illinois: Together with the State Laws Relating to the Government of Cities
Pages 152-159:  Water Department, including rates

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

1898 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois. September 1898

1899 Historical encyclopedia of Illinois and Knox County
Pages 680=681:  Water Supply.  The city is situated on a prairie, with no large stream within its borders or in its vicinity.
Wells sunk in a retentive sub-soil afforded a satisfactory water supply until within a few years. In the early days the average well sunk to the level of the hard blue clay, an ordinary depth of from sixteen to twenty feet, seldom failed to supply the domestic wants of a family. A shaft sunk to greater depth, in the underlying strata, was likely to pierce into a sand vein, with which the clay was penetrated, and might liberate a strong underground current, which sometimes rose to nearly the surface of the ground.
A mammoth well on the grounds of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad for many years supplied all the wants of the company at this, a division point, even after the establishment of the Stock Yards. Gradually, however, there came to be felt a necessity for fire protection. Cisterns were placed at points of convenience, to be filled from wells and kept in readiness for emergencies. The well at Brown's Corn Planter works not only supplied this extensive manufacturing plant, but was also utilized for filling the public cisterns.
The first agitation for the establishment of a system of public water works had its origin in the appreciation of the necessity of better protection of the city against conflagration.
Court Creek, a part of the head waters of which rise within the city limits, enters Galesburg about two miles from the heart of the city through a deep valley extending twelve miles eastward to Spoon River. The elevated lands upon either side are cut by rapidly falling valleys, becoming narrow and deep, and affording a natural sluice-way for the drainage of the country for many miles on both sides. George W. Brown had, upon his own land, formed a small artificial lake in one of the valleys for his own pleasure. Afterwards, he excavated another, much larger, now known as Lake George, a charming and favorite resort, a more particular description of which is given on another page. There was also a public well upon hla premises, and another on the grounds of the Frost Manufacturing Company.
The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, needing a more abundant supply of water, had excavated a lake in Court Creek Valley, with pipes running thence to the depot grounds. At this time the entire municipal supply consisted of a reservoir on Seminary street, holding eleven hundred barrels, and one on West street with a capacity of fifteen hundred barrels. Two steam pumps and twelve hydrants constituted the distributing force.
During Mayor Foote's administration, in 1883-84, it was proposed to follow the example of the railroad company, and to create a lake in one of the valleys connected with Court Creek Valley, from which a supply of water might be obtained for general municipal purposes. It was pointed out that no limit could be placed upon the city's needs for years to come, as its wants were likely to increase beyond any provisions first made; and that an additional chain of lakes was a feasible project, which might furnish a water-shed of one hundred square miles.
The proposition was followed by an offer on the part of Nathan Shelton to construct a system of water works, requiring of the city only a franchise and an agreement to pay a given price per annum for a fixed number of hydrants for fire supply.
Under an agreement, such a system was constructed, with several miles of pipe and a water tower, the supply being obtained from a single well some eighty feet in depth and suml through a fifteen foot gravel seam. Worthington duplex pumps were to be installed, with a capacity of 4,500 cubic feet per day. A standpipe, fifteen feet in diameter and one hundred and thirty-three feet high, was also included.  Nine miles of water main were laid and eighty hydrants put in. The annual cost to the city was to be eight thousand dollars.
Mr. Shelton was the promoter of the company, whose plant was located near the Burlington tracks, on North street. The supply proved inadequate, and citizens who had, in the anticipation of its success, provided for taking water, found themselves without return. Yet the project proved sufficiently successful to float a mortgage, with bonds enough to reimburse the promoter.
The city refusing longer to pay for the service, a protracted litigation followed, resulting in the release of the municipality from the company's claim. In the meantime (July, 1890), Galesburg had commenced the construction of a system of its own, and subsequently purchased the Shelton works.
The Cedar Fork Valley, near the west line of the corporate limits, was chosen for the site. The supply is obtained from wells sunk into an extensive, water-bearing stratum beneath the valley of Cedar Creek. These were subsequently re-enforced by artesian wells, penetrating the Trenton and St. Peter's limestone. The wants of the public are so fully met that there is no reason to doubt that the supply from the same sources can be indefinitely increased, and, should necessity arise, there is still Court Creek Valley, with its unlimited subterranean and surface springs. Seventy-six tubular wells are now in operation, connected by twenty-seven hundred feet of sixteen inch suction mains. A pump-house has been erected with two Gaskell-Holley, non-compound condensing engines, and three one hundred horse power boilers. A storage reservoir, with a capacity of four million gallons, has been constructed near the pumphouse. In 1896, two artesian wells were drilled, which are operated by the Hewlitt air-lift system. There are twenty-seven miles of distributing mains, from four to sixteen inches in diameter, and two hundred and ninety-four hydrants. This system has cost the city about $230,000. At present 1,500,000 gallons of water can be furnished daily, 1,000,000 of which are obtainable from the drift tubular wells.

1904 "The Theory and the Law of Water Works Securities," by Ambrose Tighe, The Yale Law Journal 13(4):165-181 (February, 1904)
Galesburg Water Bonds

1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois. April 1906

1911 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois. September 1911

1912 History of Knox County, Illinois: Its Cities, Towns and People, Volume 1, by Albert James Perry
Page 402:  Fire Department.  The greatest difficulty was the lack of water.  The only source of supply were private wells. George W. Brown & Co. had a well which they thought inexhaustible and The Frost Manufacturing Co. had one, but the area over which these two could be made servicable was very limited. A large cistern was dug one block east of the Brown factory and another one near the Frost company's works. These cisterns were kept full from the two wells. A fire district was reached by water pipes that were connected with or rather served by these two cisterns. But such service was necessarily very imperfect. In 1870 there was a movement in the council for the purchase of a steam fire engine. The better judgment prevailed and nothing was done. The fire apparatus already owned was equal to the water supply.
Pages 403-404:  It has already been stated that the water supply was very inadequate to the necessity of the city, and that private wells and large reservoirs, in the shape of cisterns, located at different points, were resorted to. These cisterns were kept filled with water as storage for use in case of fire, but the city council became uneasy and dissatisfied with this meagre chest for a water supply. There was a spot south of Main street and lying on both sides of Henderson street that seemed to be yielding a great deal of water. A small artificial lake had been constructed there and was supplied with water that seeped into it from all directions. It was believed that this locality would furnish all the water that the city needed. A committee of the council had recommended the purchase of a part of this ground, but the proposition did not carry.
In 1883, a Mr. Nathan Shelton came to Galesburg and convinced the council that he could procure a sufficient supply of water by sinking a large well just west of the Burlington track, in the valley of Cedar Fork. A contract to that effect was made with Mr. Shelton who went ahead and sunk the well, laid water mains, constructed a standpipe and engine house and purchased all of the old water mains then owned by the city and, in fact, did everything necessary so far as construction was concerned to make a complete system of water works. In December, 1883, he gave notice to the city that he had assigned his franchises, etc., to the Galesburg Water Co., incorporated under the laws of Illinois, and further that the hydrants as listed in the notice were ready for use.
It soon began to appear that the water works would be without water before very long, and the council began to inquire what could be done to relieve the situation. Various notices were made but it finally came to the point where the city declared the contract forfeited, and instructed the water committee to disconnect the old water mains, formally owned by the city, from the Shelton works, and fall back upon the old water supply, and, at the same time, the council instructed the city attorney together with added counsel to begin at once the necessary legal proceedings to annul the contract with the Galesburg Water Company, on the ground of insufficiency in quality and quantity of water furnished.
On June 1, 1885, Alderman Easier introduced an ordinance repealing the ordinance providing for a supply of water to the city of Galesburg and authorizing Nathan Shelton or assigns to construct and maintain water works. The repealing ordinance was put upon its passage and was passed by the following vote: Yeas : Easier, Hamblin, Shaw, Anderson, Johnson, Overstreet, Brooks, Crocker, Drury, Moulton, Waste and Huston, 12. Nays: Hammond. Absent: Kennedy.
At the same time the city attorney was authorized to take such legal steps as he may deem necessary. To have declared null and void any and all rights granted under, and by, virtue of an ordinance passed May 12, 1883, in relation to water works and to employ legal assistance if necessary.
This case was fought strenuously, from the Circuit Court through the Supreme court of the state and the Supreme court of the United States, and the decision was uniformly in favor of the city, and by this decision every cent of valuation in $125,000 of water bonds was eliminated.
The city then began to consider the question of a water supply in earnest. The tract of land above referred to, which had been known as Crystal Springs property, lay on the south side of Main street and on each side of Henderson street, was again examined. It was finally voted to purchase a certain part of that property. A test had been made and it was found that the water supply appeared to be ample.
The city had repurchased from the Galesburg Water Co., the old Shelton works for a very reasonable sum. It was decided to erect the necessary buildings, pumps, etc., upon the property purchased for that purpose, and sink a series of wells from which water would be pumped and delivered, not only to reservoirs, but directly to the mains. The works were completed and the supply has been quite fit up to the present time. Additional ground has been purchased, additional wells were sunk and the quality of water has been first class and the quantity not ample but adequate. The wells which were first sunk have been abandoned. Other wells have been sunk and today the supply is better than ever before.
A brief abstract from the engineer's report, for the year 1910, will close this account and give a very clear idea of what there is today.
Source of Supply.  The water for the city of Galesburg and the residents thereof is secured from  six 8-inch wells and from one lo-inch well, at an average depth of 80 feet, and  three artesian wells at a depth of 1,225 feet.  The manner of pumping the 8 and 70-inch wells is by an Impellor type of pump, and by means of the air-compressor for the artesian wells.  During the past year we have put down four 8-inch wells and, with the one just completed on the reservoir bank, making a total of seven wells..

1918 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois. April 1918

1927 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Galesburg, Knox County, Illinois. March 1927


2019 Morris A. Pierce