Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Indiana Indianapolis

Indianapolis, Indiana

Indianapolis was founded in 1821, incorporated as a town in 1832 and as a city in 1847.

The Central Canal Manufacturing, Hydraulic, and Water Works Company was incorporated in 1851 by Francis A. Conwell, Henry Van Bergess, William Burnet, Luther G. Bingham, and David F. Worcester for the purposes "of supplying the city of Indianapolis in the county of Marion and State of Indiana, with water for the use and convenience of said city and its inhabitants."  This company made improvements to the Indiana Central Canal, but did not build water works.  Several men from western New York bought this company in 1859 and later that same year engaged Rochester, New York engineer Daniel Marsh to study the potential for a water works system.  He prepared a report on December 24th that was delivered to the Indianapolis City Council, which had it printed in the Indianapolis Journal on February 29, 1860.  Jonathan Ball of Elmira, New York submitted a proposal for water works to the City Council on April 7, 1860, which was reprinted in a local newspaper on October 6, 1865.  Ball had patented cement-lined wrought-iron pipes in 1843 and sold the rights to the Patent Water & Gas Company of Jersey City, but retained the rights to sell the pipe in Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.  Ball had made a similar proposal to Columbus, Ohio in August, 1859.

The Central Canal Manufacturing Company was reincorporated as the Indiana Central Canal Company on January 13, 1863.  In July of 1864, Edward H. Avery, a director of the Canal Company, presented a detailed plan for water works to City Council which was based on the Holly water system then being constructed in Auburn, where he was also directory of the Auburn Water Works Company.  The Council took no action at the time, but after the state passed a law authorizing the formation of water companies the following year the Mayor and Council took steps to form a water company in October, 1865.  On October 6, the 1860 proposal from Jonathan Ball was published in a local newspaper, and on the 17th the Council reported that it had received a communication from " a gentlemen named Woodruff, of Auburn, New York, desiring that our water works be not built until theirs can be seen and inspected by a committee from Indianapolis, which will be about three weeks from this time," which the Council agreed to.  In 1866 the city again expressed interest in having a company built water works, and a proposal was received from Robert E. Catherwood of New York, who had built the street railway system in Indianapolis.  His proposal was accepted, he was granted an exclusive franchise for fifty years on November 3d, and he formed the Indianapolis Water Works Company with Governor O. P. Morgon, Hon. Thomas A. Hendricks, Hon. E. B. Martindale, R. B. Catherwood, John D. Tarkington, David Stevenson, H. H. Catherwood, John Carlisle, D. W. Grubbs, William Braden, Valentine Butsch, A. A. Catherwood, A. F. Roberts, and E. J. Catherwood as incorporators. The company laid about 50 feet of pipe along North street to maintain their charter, but otherwise did nothing.

The Central Canal Company held a meeting with the Mayor on the last day of 1868 at which Charles Keep of the Holly Company discussed the details of the Holly water system.  The City Council formed a committee that was to visit an operating water works, but it if unclear if this was done.

James O. Woodruff of Auburn, New York made a proposal to the City Council in September, 1868 to install a Holly water works system if the council would grant a franchise.  The Water Works Company of Indianapolis was incorporated on October 7th with the following incorporators Thomas A. Hendricks, William Braden, James E. Mooney, Albert G. Porter, Dr. John A. Comingore, William M. Wiles, J. George Stilz, George F. McGinnis, James O. Woodruff, William P. Fishback, and William Woolen.  Director elected were:  James O. Woodruff, Thomas A. Hendricks, Albert G. Porter, J. George Stilz, George F. McGinnis, Dr. John A. Comingor, William Braden, William M. Wiles, and James E. Mooney.   The company was granted an exclusive franchise for a five-year term on November 15th, which was replaced with another ordinance on January 3d, 1869.  The company built a system that began operating on June 1, 1871.  Woodruff also was an incorporator of the Kansas City Water Works Company on March 30, 1871, but they did not build anything.

The company went into receivership in 1881 and was sold to its bondholders, who formed the Indianapolis Water Company.    This company was sold to the city of Indianapolis in 2002, and in turn sold on August 26, 2011 to Citizens Energy Group, a Public Charitable Trust that also provides natural gas, thermal energy, and wastewater services.

The water system is owned by the Citizen's Energy Group, which is managed by Veolia Water Indianapolis, LLC.

1851 An act to incorporate the Central Canal Manufacturing, Hydraulic, and Water Works Company.  February 13, 1851.

1859 "The Central Canal," Daily State Sentinel (Indianapolis, Indiana), August 11, 1859, Page 3.
This fine water power has passed into the hands of a company who are determined to develop it to the fullest extent for their own, and, as a necessary consequence, the interests of the city at large.  Some enterprising and wealthy citizens of Western New York have become interested in the enterprise, and we know of none that promises to pay better as an investment.  We believe it is the design of the owners of the canal to eventually erect water works for the city.

1860 "Report on the Introduction of Pure Water into the City of Indianapolis," December 24, 1859, by Daniel Marsh, Civil Engineer, The Indianapolis Daily Journal, February 29, 1860, Page 3.

1863 Articles of Association of the Indiana Central Canal Co.  Filed April 1, 1863.

1864 "City Council," July 15, 1864, Daily State Sentinel (Indianapolis, Indiana), July 16, 1864, Page 3.
A special meeting of the City Council was called last night to take into consideration the matter of establishing water works for supply the city with water.
E. H. Avery, of Auburn, N.Y., a member of the Central Canal Company, detailed the plan of supply the city with water, and suggested that perhaps that plan might be adopted with reference to Indianapolis.  Mr. Avery made a lengthy and detailed statement with regard to machinery, pipes, &c., and thought the Auburn system was perfectly adapted to the necessities of Indianapolis.

1865 "The Proceedings of the City Council," Daily State Sentinel, October 3, 1865, Page 3.
Message from Mayor authorizing formation of a water works company.

1865 "Water Works - Plan and Estimates," Daily State Sentinel, October 6, 1865, Page 3. | text enabled PDF |
Messrs. Editors:  A copy of the following letter, addressed to Eric Locke, late Councilman, by Mr. Ball, of Elmira, New York, came into my possession in 1865, Mr. Wood, our City Engineer, having obtained it and furnished it to a Committee of Council, of which I was Chairman.  As the question of water works is now again being agitated, I have thought the publication of the plan and estimates of a practical hydraulic engineer and constructor, made six years ago, after a view of the whole ground, might be of interest to your city readers, and, therefore, send it to you for that purpose.  Austin H. Brown.
Includes March 23, 1865 letter from J. Ball to James Wood, Esq. and J. Ball's 1860 water works proposal.

1865 "The Proceedings of the City Council," Daily State Sentinel, October 17, 1865, Page 3.
A communication was received from a gentlemen named Woodruff, of Auburn, New York, desiring that our water works be not built until theirs can be seen and inspected by a committee from Indianapolis, which will be about three weeks from this time.  Our Council unanimously agreed not to build water works until that time.

1866 "Indianapolis Water Works,"  The New York Times, November 6, 1866, Page 6.
Indianapolis, Sunday, Nov. 4.  The Common Council of this city last night passed an ordinance giving to R. B. Catherwood, of New-York, and his associates, exclusive franchise for fifty years for the construction of water works to supply the city with water.

1866 Articles of Association of the Indianapolis Water Works Company.  Filed October 27, 1866.

1866 "An Ordinance," Indianapolis Daily Herald, November 5, 1866, Page 4.
"An Ordinance Authorizing the Indianapolis Water Works Company to construct, maintain and operate water works, and supply water to the city and citizens of Indianapolis.

1866 "The Indianapolis Water Works--The Provisions of the Charter, &c.," The Evansville Daily Journal, November 7, 1866, Page 4.

1868 Daily State Sentinel, December 1, 1868, Page 4.
City Council.  An ordinance repealing an ordinance authorizing the Indianapolis Water Works Company to construct and maintain water works, was passed.

1869 "Water Works Meeting," Daily State Sentinel, January 1, 1869, Page 1.
Charles Keep of Lockport explained the Holly principle.

1869 Daily Wabash Express (Terre Haute, Indiana), January 6, 1869, Page 1.
A special committee of five has been appointed in the Indiananpolis City Council to investigate the matter of Water Works, with power to visit some city where the Holly system is in use.

1869 "City Council," Daily State Sentinel, September 28, 1869, Page 1.
Sewerage and Water Works.  The Holly System.  Proposal from James O. Woodruff, Esq.

1869 "Water Works," Daily State Sentinel, September 29, 1869, Page 2.

1869 "Water Works Company," Daily State Sentinel, Indianapolis, October 6, 1869, Page 4.

1869 Articles of Association of The Water Works Company of Indianapolis.  Filed October 7, 1869.

1869 "The Water Works Question," Daily State Sentinel, November 8, 1869, Page 2.
The Water Company is neither in whole nor in part, composed of members of the Canal Company.  It is made up of our own citizens almost exclusively.  Here are the names:  Thomas A. Hendricks, William Braden, James E. Mooney, Albert G. Porter, Dr. John A. Comingore, William M. Wiles, J. George Stilz, George F. McGinnis, James O. Woodruff, William P. Fishback, and William Woolen

1869 "The Water Works Ordinance," November 15, 1869, Daily State Sentinel (Indianapolis, Indiana), November 20, 1869, Page 4.  This ordinance was repealed and replaced on January 3, 1870.

1870 An Ordinance authorizing the Water Works Company of Indianapolis to construct, maintain and operate water works, and supply water to the city and citizens of Indianapolis.  January 3, 1870.

1870 Indianapolis News, March 12, 1870, Page 1.
The opening of the Holly water works at Dayton next month will be attended by a party of gentlemen from this city.

1870 Indianapolis: A Historical and Statistical Sketch of the Railroad City, a Chronicle of Its Social, Municipal, Commercial and Manufacturing Progress, with Full Statistical Tables, William Robeson Holloway
Page 112:   A plan to supply the city with water was proposed by a Mr. Bell of Rochester, in the spring of 1860, but it was discussed without result.

1871 Indianapolis News, February 22, 1871, Page 3.
James O. Woodruff has tendered his resignation of the office of President of the Indianapolis Water Works Company, to take effect upon the completion and inauguration of the works.

1871 First Annual Report of the Water Works Company of Indianapolis for the Year Ending December 31st, 1871.

1872 William C. Smock v. Wm. Henderson, James O. Woodruff, Deloss Rott, William Braden, Thomas A. Hendricks, 1872, Superior Court at Indianapolis

1872 The Water Works Company of Indianapolis et al. v. Burkhart et al., 41 Ind. 364, November Term, 1872, Supreme Court of Judicature of Indiana
Page 367:  The Central Canal, which was constructed by the State under the acts upon the subject of internal improvements and conveyed to said Conwell, is the same canal passing through the real estate described in the complaint, and through the city of Indianapolis, and the portion thereof passing through said real estate is the subject of litigation in this action.
The canal passed by a united chain of title, by proper conveyances, to the defendant, The Indiana Central Canal Company, a corporation organized and created on the 13th of January, 1863, under "an act to provide for the organization of canal and water works companies, and for the completion of the unfinished canals in the State of Indiana," approved June 17th, 1852.
The defendant, The Indiana Central Canal Company, on the 1st day of May, 1870, by a proper deed of conveyance, conveyed said canal to the defendant, The Water Works Company of Indianapolis, a corporation organized under an act authorizing the formation of companies for the construction, etc., approved March 6th, 1865. The company was organized on the 7th day of October, 1869. The articles of association are set out, and by the sixth its business was declared to be "that of furnishing water, which it may do to the city and citizens of Indianapolis, the State, public institutions, firms, and individuals, and all desiring the same in said city and the vicinity thereof."

1872 Second Annual Report of the Water Works Company of Indianapolis for the Year Ending December 31st, 1872.

1873 Indianapolis People, June 15, 1873, Page 2.
There was an interesting suit in progress last week between the Holly Manufacturing Co., of Lockport, N.Y., on one side, and our Water Works Company on the other. The latter claim that the works had never been tested or proven to have the capacity claimed by the former company and guaranteed by the contract. The citizens generally, we believe, rather agree with our company that they have never, except on gala occasions and when showing off with a canal full of water, exhibited the force requisite at a large fire. Mr. B. Holly was present in the city looking after the interests of his company, but somehow or other a compromise was effected and each party paid its own costs. We are sorry the trial was not permitted to go on, there might possibly haviB been some rich developments.

1876 The Indiana Central Canal Company v. The State, 43 Ind. 575, November Term 1876, Supreme Court of Judicature of the State of Indiana.

1878 "Indianapolis Water-Works," Chicago Tribune, April 16, 1878, Page 6.
A transfer of the water-works from a company to the second-mortgage bondholders, to take effect May 1, was completed today.

1879 "A Promising Life Ended," The New York Times, June 5, 1879, Page 2.
Death of James O. Woodruff - Sketch of an Active Career.

1881 An act in relation to the formation of water works companies by purchasers of the property of pre-existing water works companies at judicial sales.  February 4, 1881.

1881 "Sale of the Water Works," Indianapolis News, April 18, 1881, Page 1.
The works were bought, there being no other bidders, by Edward T. Hambleton, John M. Denison and E. D. Woodruff, the committee representing the bondholders for $500,000.

1881 Certificate of Incorporation of the Indianapolis Water Company.  April 23, 1881.

1881 Indianapolis, from Engineering News 8:227-228 (June 4, 1881) | Part 2 9:233 (June 11, 1881) |

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

1883 "Water Supply of Indianapolis," Engineering Record 8:183 (July 26, 1883)

1884 History of Indianapolis and Marion County, Indiana, Part 1, by Berry Robinson Sulgrove
Page 140:  The first proposal for a water supply was made in 1860 by a Mr. Bell, of Rochester, N. Y., but idly.  The company that had come into possession of the canal renewed it in 1864 as idly as Mr. Bell. Mayor Caven recommended to the Council the initiation of a water system, with Crown Hill as the site for a reservoir, but the Council decided that while a supply system was desirable, it was not desirable that the city should make it. Nothing further was done till 1866, when the mayor again brought the matter before the Council, and in November of that year the inevitable [R. B.] Catherwood came forward and accepted a charter requiring the water to come from the river far enough up to avoid contamination, with other conditions needless to specify, as nothing came of the affair.  In 1869 the Central Canal Company, then mainly a resident of Rochester, N. Y., tried to get the Council into a joint-stock company to introduce the Holly scheme, which sets by direct force without a reservoir, and put in their canal a a source of supply, at a price that would make that heretofore unless property remunerative; but that would not work.  In the fall of 1869, Mr. Woodruff organized a company for a water supply on the Holly plan independently of the city, and he was given a charter under strict limitations, and produced the supply slowly and not very successfully at first.  The company has changed a good deal, and is now under the presidency of Gen. Thomas A. Morris, with Mr. John L. Ketcham as secretary, and supplies a large part of the domestic and manufacturing service of the city and all its fire service. Two or three years ago, the sources of its supply being suspected of impurity, it was decided to bring the whole of it from a point so far above the city as to make contamination impossible, and a point was selected near the river above the Fall Creek “cut off."  This has been reached by a costly conduit which brings water from a “gallery," or elongated well, about twelve hundred feet long by fifty wide and fifteen deep, which cannot be damaged by river infiltration, or by any cause that does not equally damage all springs.  Below its bed, about forty feet, is a second current which has been reached by boring, and rises above the surface of the “gallery" water.  This can be depended on to maintain a pure supply if needed.  Several analyses have proved this "gallery" to be nearly pure as anything drawn from the ground and undistilled can be.

1887 "The Water Works System," Indianapolis News, May 26, 1887, Page 2.

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

1890 The Indianapolis Water Company v. Nulte, 126 Ind. 373, December 19, 1890, Supreme Court of Indiana
Pages 374-375: Under a judicial decree rendered in the superior court of Marion county, all of the water-works property of the water-works company of Indianapolis, Indiana, was sold on the 18th day of April, 1881, and purchased by Edward Hamilton, John M. Dennison and Delivan Woodruff. On the 23d day of April, 1881, said purchasers, under the provisions of an act of the General Assembly of the State, approved February 4th, 1881, organized the Indianapolis Water Company, the appellant here, as a corporation, which succeeded to all their rights in said property. 

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

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

1892 "The Regulation of Private Water Rates," Engineering New 27:201-202  (February 27, 1892)

1893 "Experience with Deep Wells in Indianapolis," by F. A. W. Davis, Proceedings of the Annual Convention of the American Water Works Association 13:80-84 (September, 1893)

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

1898 Hyman's Hand Book of Indianapolis: An Outline History and Description of the Capital of Indiana, by Max Robinson Hyman
Pages 170-174:  Indianapolis Water Company. 

1899 "Waterworks Purchase," Fourth Annual Message of Thomas Taggart, Mayor of Indianapolis with Annual Reports of Heads of Departments of the City of Indianapolis, January 1, 1899.

1903 "The Indianapolis Water Company," by F.A.W. Davis, Vice-President and General Manager, Municipal Engineering, 25: 361-364 (November 1903)
April 21, 1881 the Water Works Company, including canal, was conveyed to Hamilton, Woodruff and Dennison, who conveyed the same to the present Indianapolis Water Company.

1903 "Death of R. B. Catherwood,"  The New York Times, November 15, 1903, Page 7.
The body of Robert B. Catherwood, who died at his home, 88 Decatur Street, Brooklyn, on Wednesday, was taken to St. Louis yesterday for interment.  Mr. Catherwood, was eighty-four years old, was for many years a leading contractor and builder in Brooklyn.
Among his works was the construction of a large part of the street railway system of Indianapolis.

1904 The General Ordinances of the City of Indianapolis, includes several relating to water works

1906 "Indianapolis Water Service," Public Service 1(2):48-50 (October, 1906)
Page 48:  The Indianapolis public water supply is furnished by a private corporation, the Indianapolis Water Company.  In 1870 there was organized a company called the Indianapolis Water Works Co. This corporation built the works and had expected to sell it to the city. The sale was not made at once, as expected, and, as it went on, it developed that the operation and maintenance of a water works in a city like Indianapolis, with its broad streets and large lots, made it a difficult and unprofitable enterprise. The result was that there grew up a strong sentiment against municipal ownership. In 1881 the Indianapolis Water Works Company found that it could not continue business, a judgment was rendered against the company, and it was sold out by the sheriff, resulting in a loss of more than $1,000,000 to the stockholders and bondholders. In the meantime the bondholders had organized a committee of three, authorizing them to purchase the property and organize a new company. This they did, and the present company is the result. The present company found, in the beginning, that the competition from first, second and third vein waters underlying the city was very great indeed, and its revenues grew very slowly, but with care, economy and skillful management the company has been successful; not so successful, however, as those not understanding the situation would think that it should have been, but a moment's consideration of the competition will show that the company has done well under all circumstances.

1907 "Problems in Municipal Economics: Indianapolis Water Company," by W. C. Jenkins, National Magazine 26:900-902 (1907)

1909 An ordinance ratifying, confirming and approving a certain contract made and entered into on the 4th day of November, 1908, between the Indianapolis Water Company and the city of Indianapolis.  April 23, 1909.

1910 Greater Indianapolis: The History, the Industries, the Institutions, and the People of a City of Homes, Volume 1, Jacob Piatt Dunn
Pages 330-335:  Water Works

1926 McCardle v. Indianapolis Water Co., 272 U.S. 400, November 26, 1926, U.S. Supreme Court

1938 McCart et al., v. Indianapolis Water Co., 302 U.S. 419, January 3, 1938, United States Supreme Court

1939 "City to Dicker for Water Company; Advised Price $1,500,000 Too High," The Indianapolis Star, July 2, 1939, Page 1. | Part 2 |

1939 "City Drops Plan to Buy Water Utility," The Indianapolis Star, August 30, 1939, Page 1. | Part 2 |
Agents Fail to Guarantee Estate Title.

1962 "Indianapolis," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker

1981 Water runs downhill : a history of the Indianapolis Water Company and other centenarians, by Marjie Gates Giffin. (66 pages published by the Newcomen Society)

1981 Water runs downhill : a history of the Indianapolis Water Company and other centenarians, by Marjie Gates Giffin ; Herbert P. Kenney, Jr., consulting editor.  (251 pages, privately printed)

1983 "Review of Water Runs Downhill:  A history of the Indianapolis Water Company," Indiana Magazine of History 79(2):189-190.

1986 "Indianapolis Water Company," Water 27(4):34-37 (Winter 1986)

1992 Bland Ambition:  From Adams to Quayle- The Cranks, Criminals, Tax Cheats, and Golfers Who Made It to Vice President, by Steve Tally.
Pages 167-173:  Thomas Andrews Hendricks, 1885.

Indianapolis Water Company, from Digital Indy at The Indianapolis Public Library

Proceedings of the Indianapolis Common Council and City-County Council

© 2017 Morris A. Pierce