Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Central States
Kentucky Frankfort

Frankfort, Kentucky

Frankfort was founded in 1786.

The first waterworks were built in 1804 by Richard Throckmorton, who laid about three miles of wooden pipes from the Cedar Cove spring into the town of Frankfort, and also into the penitentiary, supplying both by the natural flow of the water.  The Frankfort Water Company was established in 1805 by John Brown, William Trigg, and Achilles Sneed.  This system was "never a complete success," and in 1838 the state authorized a lottery to raise $100,000 for the town of Frankfort to build a public school in Frankfort and a water system from Cove Spring. 

The town built this water system in 1839 at a cost of $38,000 using cast-iron pipes, but may not have worked entirely as planned (see 1882 reference).

A second Frankfort Water Company was incorporated on December 19, 1883 under the general corporation law and it entered into a contract with the City of Frankfort to supply water and purchase the 1839 Cove Spring water works for $20,000.  This contract was confirmed by an 1886 state law.  The company built a filter plant in 1912, which was the object of a lawsuit between contractors (see 1917 below). 

The Frankfort Water Company was purchased by the Associated System of New York in April, 1931 and became part of the Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company that provided electricity to Frankfort.   The gas and electric systems were transferred to the Tri-City Utilities Company in June, 1942.

The Frankfort Utilities Corporation was formed in April, 1942 to purchase the Frankfort gas and electric systems after the Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company decided to divest them, but the city stepped in and offered to purchase them.  After some delays the city's water and electric plant board took over the systems on August 20, 1943.

The waterworks are currently owned by the Frankfort Plant Board, which was formed as the Franklin Electric and Water Plant Board in July, 1943, to own the electric and water systems in the City of Frankfort.

1805 An act incorporating the Frankfort Water Company, December 13, 1805. 

1809 An act to amend the several acts of assembly concerning the Town of Frankfort, and the act incorporating the Frankfort Water Company.  February 9, 1809.

1838 An act for the benefit of the City School in the town of Frankfort, and for other purposes, February 1, 1838.  Authorized a lottery to raise $100,000, half for a new school in Frankfort and half for a water supply from Cove Spring.

1882 Frankfort from Engineering News 9:173 (May 27, 1882)

1882 Collins' Historical Sketches of Kentucky: History of Kentucky, Volume 2, by Lewis Collins
Page 243:  The First Water Works in Kentucky were established at Frankfort, in 1804.  Richard Throckmorton laid wooden pipes from the Cedar Grove Spring into the town of Frankfort, and also into the penitentiary, supplying both by the natural flow of the water.

1884 Rules and Regulations of the Frankfort Water Company, of Frankfort, Kentucky, for the Government of Its Water Consumers, and the Tariff of Water Rates, Together with Rules and Regulations for the Government of Plumbers

1886 An act for the benefit of the Frankfort Water Company, of Frankfort, Kentucky, March 11, 1886

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

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

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

1897 "Frankfort," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4

1911 Lexington Herald, September 20, 1911, Page 2
Franklin Indicts Its Water Company
Frankfort, Ky., Sept 18.-- The Frankfort Water Company was indicted today by the Franklin County grand jury for furnishing foul smelling and filthy water to the citizens of this city.  For some time past a fight has been made on the Water Company to make them install a filter at their plant and the indictment by the grand jury is the result of this fight.

1912 The history of Franklin County, Ky., by Lewis Franklin Johnson
Page 45: The first water works ever built in Kentucky were commenced by Richard Thockmorton in 1804. On December 23, 1805, the Frankfort Water Company was incorporated with John Brown, William Trigg and Achilles Sneed as incorporators, for the purpose of completing the works. Wooden pipes were laid from Cedar Cove spring about three miles out on the Owenton road, along Brown's bottom in to the town.
A strong wall about twenty-five or thirty feet high was built across the ravine some distance below the spring, and in that way a reservoir was formed; the pipes used were cedar bored through the center with an inch and a half auger; and they were fastened to each other with wooden pins. These works supplied Frankfort with water until 1880, when the most approved system then known was established instead.  The system of piping the water through cedar, was never a complete success.
Page 104-106:  There was also an act approved February the 1st, 1838, the preamble and a part of which is as follows: "Whereas it is represented to the present General Assembly that it is the desire and intention of a number of individuals to establish a public school suited to the wants and conditions of all classes of the Commonwealth, in the town of Frankfort, and whereas the Frankfort Seminary has been pulled down and removed from the public square, thereby depriving the citizens of the only house of public instruction in said town as well as the entire loss of the proceeds of six thousand acres of land granted by the Legislature to the County of Franklin for seminary purposes; and whereas it is a matter of great importance to the public, that the town of Frankfort shall be supplied with water, as well for private as for public uses, and it is represented to the General Assembly that the same can be done by conveying it from the Cove spring in the neighborhood of said town; and that the security of the private and public buildings thereof would be greatly protected. Section 1 Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, that it shall be lawful for Edmund H. Taylor, Philip Swigert, Thomas S. Page, Mason Brown and John J. Vest to raise by way of lottery in one or more classes, as to them may seem expedient, any sum not exceeding one hundred thousand dollars to be appropriated, one-half for the use and benefit of a city school in the town of Frankfort, and the other half for the construction of such reservoirs, pipes, conductors, and other works, that may be necessary and proper to convey the water from the Cove spring into said town, in such "manner and quantities as the aforesaid persons may think suitable to the convenience of the people of said town and the safety of the private and public buildings therein." The act further provides that the managers shall execute a bond to the Commonwealth for a faithful discharge of their duties, and their powers are defined. The amount to be raised was to be paid to the Trustees and expended by them.
The provisions of this act were carried out; that part in reference to the public school became the basis of one of the best public schools in the State, the interest on the money raised has been used to pay the running expenses of the city school for three-quarters of a century.
The proposed water works were completed in 1839, at a cost of about $38,000 and the city was supplied with water by reason thereof until the latest improved water works were completed in 1886. At a meeting of the Board of Trustees of the town of Frankfort held on the 4th day of November, 1839, it was unanimously resolved: "That this Board entertains the highest respect for the integrity and moral worth of John Moore, Esq., and that they hereby tender him the individual thanks of the trustees and the acknowledgments of the citizens of the town for the faithful, skillful and workmanlike manner in which, as contractor for the water works, he has introduced fresh water into the town of Frankfort."
The pipes were supplied by a never failing spring known as Cove Spring, sufficiently elevated to throw the water into any building in the town.
The city sold these water works to the Frankfort Water Co., in 1885, for the sum of $20,000 in cash and for other valuable considerations.
The said company erected upon one of the hills south of the city two reservoirs of an aggregate capacity of five million of gallons, the flow line of which was two hundred and fifty feet above the intersection of Broadway and St. Clair streets. The pumping machinery has a capacity of delivering into the reservoirs 2,000,000 of gallons in twenty-four hours. The supply of water is taken from the bottom of the channel of the Kentucky river some distance above the sewerage of the city. The water mains are of the best quality of cast iron, tested to withstand a hydrostatic pressure of three hundred pounds to the square inch.
The original cost of the construction of the said water works was $125,000, to which has been added many thousands of dollars for improvements. Frankfort boasts of the best water works in the State.
Page 267: During the present year the Frankfort Water Company has commenced the installation of a filter plant which will cost seventy-five thousand dollars. 

1913 Charter, Ordinances and Resolutions for the Government of the City of Frankfort, Kentucky: In Effect July 1, 1913 Includes the contract between the City and the Frankfort Water Company.

1917 Pittsburgh Filter Mfg Co. v. Smith (Court of Appeals of Kentucky. June 22, 1917) from The Southwestern Reporter, Volume 196.  Lawsuit between contractors installing the City's filter plant, contains many details of the construction.

1931 Lexington Leader, April 11, 1931, Page 8
Water Company at Frankfort is Sold
Frankfort, Ky. April 11.-- The Associated System, of New York, a public utility corporation engaged in the business of holding stock of service corporations throughout the country, has acquired the capital stock of the Frankfort Water company.
Possession of the property will be taken over immediately by the new owner and its policy of operation outlined.  It is expected that many improvements will be made as soon as engineers have completed a study of the plant and conditions here.
A majority of the capital stock was owned by the George Long estate, Louisville.
The Associated System has many interests in Kentucky cities and towns, one of its properties being the Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company which furnishes light to Frankfort.

1936 Frankfort Water Company plant (picture)

1942 Lexington Herald, April 30, 1942, Page 15
Right Granted to Buy K-T Facilities
Frankfort, Ky., April 29.-- After advising the Frankfort Utilities Corporation to submit a financial outline of its structure, the State Public Utilities Commission today granted tentative approval for it to purchase for $1,350,000 the Frankfort water and electric facilities of the Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company.
Personnel of the purchasing syndicate was listed as John Kirtley, president, former Public Service Commission chairman; Harold K. Hines, vice president, present manager of K-T's Frankfort facilities, and State Senator Louis Cox, syndicate attorney and former commission secretary.
Cox said he, Kirtley and Hines have purchased for $100,000 the common stock in the company and will issue through Bankers Bond, Louisville, $160,000 worth of preferred stock.
No mention was made of the remaining $1,090,000 valuation of the property.

1942 Lexington Herald, May 29, 1942, Page 6
Municipal Ownership is Trend, Mayor Says.
Frankfort, Ky., May 28.-- A "rising public sentiment" for municipal ownership of the Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company's electric and water properties here was noted today by Dr. C. T. Coleman, mayor of Frankfort.
Dr. Coleman said, "lots of people--but not the company--have talked" to him recently about the city's prospects of purchasing the facilities while K-T is attempting to sell to a local three-man syndicate for $1,350,000.
"The city is not making any plans to buy the properties right now--and yet we might buy them," the major said.

1942 "Kentucky City Seeks to Buy Public Utility," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 21, 1942, page 17
 officials in Frankfort Journey to New York To Propose Purchase
N.Y. Aug 20.-- Mayor C. T. Coleman and members of the Frankfort (Ky.) Electric Plant Board, representing that city, today offered to buy electric and water properties in Frankfort operated by the Tri-City Utilities Company.
Representatives of Tri-City and its parent company, Associated Electric Company, met with the Kentucky delegates in preliminary discussions.
The sum offered was not disclosed.
Tri-City since June 1 has been successor to Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company.

1943 Lexington Herald, June 6, 1943, Page 11
Sale of Frankfort Utilities Approved
Frankfort, Ky., June 5.-- Sale of the stock of Tri-City Utilities Company, owner of the local light and water systems, to the city of Frankfort, has been approved by directors of the Associated Electric Company, of which Tri-City is a subsidiary, City Attorney Marion Rider said late today.

1992 The Kentucky Encyclopedia, John E. Kleber, Editor-in-chief
Page 352: Frankfort - In 1803 the General Assembly authorized Martin Hawkins to make navigational improvements on the Kentucky River.  The following year, Richard Throckmorton began building the town's first public water system, leading to organization of the Frankfort Water Company in 1805.

2003 A Walking Tour of Historic Frankfort, Russell Hatter
Page 96:  Sanford Goin Home - Goin was among the men who excavated the Cedar Cove Spring Reservoir for the Frankfort Water Company in 1838.

2004 Historic Images of Frankfort, Volume 1, by Nicky Hughes, Russell Hatter, Gene Burch
Page 48:  Frankfort purchased the first fire engine in Kentucky in 1809, but reliance was still placed upon bucket brigades for many years.  Low water pressure, caused by the great distance between the Cove Spring reservoir and downtown, long frustrated Frankfort firefighters.
Page 102:  In 1884, the City of Frankfort abandoned the old Cove Spring water system and contracted with the Frankfort Water Company to draw water from the Kentucky River.  By 1885, pumps and boilers in these Lawrenceburg Road buildings were moving water from the river to a hilltop reservoir above South Frankfort.  The reservoir remains in service.  Only in 1913 was a treatment facility with a settling basin and filter plant installed.  Chlorination of Frankfort's water supply began in the 1930s.  In 1943, the Frankfort Water Company became the Frankfort Electric and Water Plant Board.

2015 Morris A. Pierce