Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
South Central States
Kentucky South Union

South Union, Kentucky

South Union was a Shaker community established in 1807.

The first waterworks were built by the community in 1837 under the direction of Micajah Burnett, a resident of the Shaker community at Pleasant Hill where he had constructed a similar system a few years earlier.  South Union also used a horsepump to force water into an elevated tank, from which it was distributed to individual buildings through lead pipes. The horsepump was replaced with a steam pumping plant  in 1866, and it was rebuilt in 1893.

The Shaker community was abandoned in 1922, but one building remains as a museum.

The East Logan Water District installed a water system in South Union in 1977.

Water service is provided by East Logan Water District, which buys wholesale water from the Logan-Todd Regional Water Commission.

1836 Receipt written 15 June 1836 by Nathaniel Hardy of Day, Schmitz and Baldwin, Louisville, Kentucky, to Eli McLean, South Union, Kentucky, for payment of $300 on castings for water works for the Shaker Society at South Union.

1894 The Manifesto, 24:23. (1894)
South Union, Ky. Dec. 1893. The Brethren are engaged in replacing the old steam-plant at the water-works with new.

1977 "Todd, Logan counties given grants, loans, for water lines." The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky, August 17, 1977, Page 7.
In Logan County, the $1,551,500 will be used to take water lines to the communities of ... South Union.  It is the last major section of Logan County without a water distribution system.

1996 "A Thread of Evidence: Shaker Textiles at South Union, Kentucky," by Jonathan Jeffrey and Donna C. Parker. The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 94(1): 33-58  (1996)
Page 14:  On October 11, 1866, the two new steam engines reached South Union via the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.  One behemoth with forty-five horsepower was to run the “factory machinery and grist mill, when the water is low;” the smaller one with three horsepower was employed to pump water.  Upon chimney flue’s completion, the boiler was fired, and on November 10, 1866, Eades exclaimed: “Steam! At last. Steam is introduced at South Union.”

2006 The Shaker Communities of Kentucky: Pleasant Hill and South Union, James W. Hooper

2015 The Kentucky Shakers, by Julia Neal | also here (subscription required) |
Page 22: By the spring of 1837 the South Union trustees were corresponding with Micajah about the installation of their own water system. During the summer they gathered together the recommended supplies in anticipation of his arrival in October, when he was "to take the oversight, direction, and management of the business relating to our contemplated water works according to a previous arrangement between Pleasant Hill and South Union."
It was found that the North House spring or well would be a dependable supply. The well was paved or lined with stones to a height of about twenty feet and stairs were built down into the well which was "some 10 to 12 feet in diameter." By means of horse power, the water was pumped through "cast metal aqueducts," into a cistern about 100 rods away. An earthen mound braced the walls of the circular cistern which measured 9 feet in depth and 13 feet across. The cistern wall was made of brick, plastered inside with hydraulic cement. The bottom of the cistern was described as being two feet above the natural surface of the ground.
From the cistern, the water was conveyed by gravity flow through lead pipes to "all the kitchens, wash houses, and stables" that pertained to the first and second families, including the West House. The North family received water from "branches that lead off the main aqueducts." Micajah's helpful visit to South Union was not an exceptional one, for it was customary for the Shaker leaders to ex-change both ideas and actual labor in large undertakings.

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce