Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Middle Atlantic States
New Jersey Elizabeth

Elizabeth, New Jersey

Elizabeth, originally known as Elizabethtown, was founded in 1664 and incorporated as a city in 1855.

The Elizabethtown Water Company was incorporated in 1854 with a capital stock of $200,000 by Francis B. Chetwood, Francis Harris, jr., John D. Norris, George R. Chetwood, Reuben Van Pelt, Keen Pruden, John Kean, John H. Rolston, and Cyrus Manvel "for the purpose of effectually supplying with water the borough of Elizabeth, its vicinity, and the inhabitants thereof, and the corporate authorities of the said borough, and manufacturing and other corporations, companies and associations desiring the use of water.  The company built a small system that pumped water from the Harris Brother's mill on Golden Street into a reservoir and began service on April 1, 1855.  The company attracted the interest of Joseph Battin, who had built water works in Buffalo as well as gas system in many cities.  He and Obadiah Allen Thayer (1808-1857) had formed the Water and Gas Pipe Company in Jersey City in 1854 to manufacture Jonathan Ball's cement-lined wrought-iron pipe.  Battin and Thayer bought stock in the Elizabethtown company and were elected directors in July, 1855.  The following month the company accepted their proposal to build complete water works for $94,750, including a new reservoir on Chatham Street, six miles of cement-lined pipe, and two 2 MGD steam pumping engines built by Hewes and Phillips of Newark.  The expanded system was completed in late 1855 or early 1856, with the engines installed in the Harris Brother's mill, where they likely used any excess power in their milling business.

Newark Daily Advertiser, December 28, 1855, Page 7. Elizabeth Directory for 1870, Page 107.

The company built the Ursino Reservoir 1874 with a 2 MGD water-driven pump, and installed a 2.5 MGD Worthington pumping engine in 1883 and a 3.5 MGD Davidson steam pump sometime before 1888, the latter two in at the Harris Mill site on Westfield Avenue.  Another reservoir on Irvington avenue was opened in 1886. 

The company faced difficulties in acquiring sufficient water for their system, and bought several other nearby water companies, starting with the Somerville Water Company in 1904.  Systems in Piscataway, Watchung, and Raritan were merged in 1922 to form Elizabethtown Water Company, Consolidated.

After years of negotiations, the City of Elizabeth bought the water distribution system within the city on July 15, 1931 for $3,998,277.

The corporation was reorganized in 1961 as the result of a consolidation of Elizabethtown Water Company Consolidated and Plainfield-Union Water Company. The Princeton Water Company was bought in 1963 and the Mount Holly Water and Bound Brook Water Companies in 1969.  The water system in Cranberry Township was acquired in 1993.  The E'town Corporation, was formed in 1985 as a holding company.

The Elizabethtown Water Company merger into the New Jersey American Water Company was approved by the New Jersey Public Utilities Commission on November 15, 2006.

The water system in Elizabeth is own by the City of Elizabeth, which in 1998 entered into a 40-year contract with Liberty Water, a subsidiary of American Water, to operate and maintain the system. 

Water service is provided by Liberty Water and water is provided by New Jersey American Water and the City of Newark.

1854 An act to incorporate the Elizabethtown Water Company.  March 3, 1854.

1854 Newark Daily Advertiser, April 8, 1854, Page 2.
A patent indestructible Water and Gas-Pipe Co. has been organized in Jersey City, with Joseph Battin of Newark, President.

1855 Newark Daily Advertiser, July 24, 1855, Page 2.
The stockholders of the Elizabethtown Water Company met in that city, on Saturday and elected the following gentlemen as Directors of Company:  Francis B. Chetwood, George R. Chetwood, Francis Harris, Jr., and Cyrus Manvel, of Elizabeth; Joseph Battin, Obadiah Thayer, William A. Righter and John C. Littel, of Newark, and Isaac M. Ward of Clinton.
The directors will meet to-morrow to complete the organization.  The prospects of any early completion of the work are very favorable.

1855 Newark Daily Advertiser, August 7, 1855, Page 2.
The Elizabeth Journal announces that the preliminary arrangements for the vigorous prosecution of the Water Works have been completed.  At a meeting of the directors it was resolved to purchase the lot of ground on Chilton st., containing two and a half acres, belonging to Dr. M. M. Woodruff; the stipulated price to be $5,700.  A proposition was received from Messrs. Battin & Thayer, of Newark, for building the whole of the works, including the laying of some six miles of pipe, the erection of the reservoirs, engine house, and the furnishing of power complete for $94,750.  The proposition was accepted as the basis of a contract, and the company are sanguine in their expectations of having the work completed and in full operation early in the spring.

1855 Newark Daily Advertiser, September 7, 1855, Page 2.
Messrs. Hewes and Phillips.  They are also making the pumping machines and engines for the Elizabeth City Water Works.
Elizabeth.- The Water Works are expected to be completed in December next.

1857 Newark Daily Advertiser, February 18, 1857, Page 2.
The fire at Elizabeth on Saturday night last, was the most destructive in that city for several years.  The Journal says, in relation to our statement of the failure of the water, that the hydrants were not used until the fire had nearly burned itself out, when the great superiority of the supply was immediately observed by the continuous stream which the engine was enabled to throw upon the fire.  The firemen were deterred from using the hydrants (which were only about 300 feet distant,) at the breaking out of the fire, by the knowledge that the Common Council had not made any arrangement with the Water Company for the use of the water, and were obliged to depend on a number of small cisterns and wells for the supply which they did obtain, until they were until the necessity of soliciting the use of the hydrants from the Water Company, which they have been obliged to do in every case since the work has been erected.

1857 Newark Daily Advertiser, July 16, 1857, Page 2.
The Water Company in Elizabeth offer to supply, for three years, 25 street hydrants, to be erected by themselves, and as many other hydrants on the line of the pipes as the city may erect, for a rent of $500 for the first year, $750 for the second year, and $1,000 for the third year.

1864 Newark Daily Advertiser, April 27, 1864, Page 2.
The Elizabeth Water Co. has obtained a judgment against the city for $3,000, for the use of the water taken from their hydrants by the several fire companies of the city, during the time which has elapsed since these hydrants were constructed.  The case is to be carried to a higher court.

1866 Newark Daily Advertiser, August 1, 1866, Page 2.
$25,000 is to be loaned by the city to the Elizabeth Water Co.

1867 An act to authorize the city of Elizabeth to issue city bonds in aid of the improvement and enlargement of the water works in said city.  March 27, 1867.

1868 An Act for the appointment of Commissioners in relation to supplying the city of Elizabeth, with pure and wholesome water.  April 9, 1868.

1868 Jersey Journal, March 2, 1868, Page 1.
The distributing reservoir of the Elizabeth Water Works burst its embankments on Thursday and flooded the streets and the Central railroad.  Fish, bricks, cobble stones and loose matters were floated about promiscuously.  The water being drawn from beneath the ice, which had formed two feet thick on the reservoir, the ice fell forcing a gap of forty feet in the masonry.  The city will not be depreived of water, a main from the receiving reservoir being uninjured.

1869 "Elizabeth Water Commissioners Report," Centinel of Freedom, January 19, 1869, Page 3.

1870 Jersey Journal, January 6, 1870, Page 1.
The Elizabeth Water Works are to be improved by the erection of a new filtering reservoir at Harris' pond.  It will cover nearly an acre of ground.  It is also proposed to increase the pressure so that water can be forced 17 feet higher than at present.  The improvements will cost about $30,000.

1872 A Further Supplement to an act entitled "An Act to incorporate the Elizabethtown Water Company," approved March third, eighteen hundred and fifty-four.  March 26, 1872.

1874 Camden Democrat, March 14, 1874, Page 2.
Col. Jon Kane, the wealthiest man in Union county, added $220,000 to the capital of the Elizabethtown Water Company on Saturday.  This company in future will increase the water supply, a want that has long been felt.

1874 "A Big Reservoir," Jersey Journal, August 29, 1874, Page 4.

1874 Jersey Journal, September 19, 1874, Page 4.
The reservoir for the Elizabeth water works has been completed.

1875 Trenton State Gazette, February 8, 1875, Page 2.
The new reservoir of the Elizabeth Water Company gave way on Thursday night.  The company assure the public that even in case of a large and sudden break there is no possibility of danger to any persons or property near the reservoir or creek, and there will be a full supply of water from the old reservoir till the new one is again fixed and filled.

1875 A Supplement to an act entitled "An Act to incorporate the Elizabethtown Water Company," approved March third, eighteen hundred and fifty-four.  March 10, 1875.

1881 Elizabeth, N.J. from Engineering News 8:433 (October 29, 1881)

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

1882 "Elizabethtown Water Company," History of Union and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey, by W. Woodford Clayton

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

1889 "Water Supply," The City of Elizabeth, New Jersey, Illustrated

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

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

1893 "Inventor Battin Dead," The World (New York City), August 30, 1893, Page 7.

1893 "Mr. Joseph Battin," The Times of London, September 12, 1893, Page 7.

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

1897 History of Union County, New Jersey, by Frederick William Ricord
Pages 217-218:  The Elizabethtown Water Company. 
This company was founded and incorporated in 1855. It is furnishing the citizens of Elizabeth over four and one-half million gallons of water a day, the same being conveyed through seventy-six miles of mains. They also have two hundred and sixty-one hydrants, six thousand taps, and sixty meters, with large independent mains for manufacturing purposes, offering special low rates to manufacturers.
The pumping system is located on Westfield avenue, near Harrison street. Here they have seven pumping engines of the Worthington system, with four boilers, of four hundred horse-power capacity. A new plant has just been completed, two and one-half miles from the city. In the hummock forty-six wells were sunk, at depths ranging from two hundred and fifty to five hundred and eighty feet, and a supply of water furnished, which, on being analyzed by Professor Leeds, is pronounced to be the purest and finest that nature can afford. The cost of the entire plant will be about two hundred thousand dollars. The capital stock of the company is two hundred and forty-five thousand dollars. The officers are as follows: John Kean, president; Julian H. Kean, vice-president; J. W. Whelan, secretary and treasurer ; and L. B. Battin, engineer.

1905 "Municipal Ownership," The New York Times, August 29, 1905, Page 6.
Alleged to be a Failure in Nine Cases Out of Ten.

1905 "Elizabeth's Water Supply," The New York Times, September 4, 1905, Page 6.
Never a Municipal Plant, Therefore Never Abandoned by the City.

1914 State v. Elizabethtown Water Co., 83 N.J.Eq. 216, February 6, 1914, Court of Chancery of New Jersey
Service commenced April 1, 1855.

1922 "Re Elizabethtown Water Company et al," March 15, 1922, New Jersey Board of Public Utility Commissioners, Public Utilities Reports, 1922

1922 "Approves Merger of Gas, Water Concerns," Asbury Park Press, December 30, 1922, Page 15. Elizabethtown, Piscataway, Watchung, and Raritan combined to form Elizabethtown Water Company, Consolidated

1923 "Local Water Concerns to Be in Merger," The Courier-News (Bridgewater, New Jersey), January 2, 1923, Page 13.

1925 "Offers $4,391,699 for Water Plants," The New York Times, August 14, 1925, Page 23.
City of Elizabeth Makes Definite Move to Control its Own Supply.

1927 "A New Jersey Water Case," by Louis L. Tribus and C. C. Vermeule, Journal of the American Water Works Association 18(2):250-248 (August, 1927)

1959 "Joseph Battin: Father of the Coal Breaker," by Edward Pinkowski, The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 73(3):337-348 (July, 1949)
Page 345: With the advent of the Supreme Court victory, some citizens of Elizabeth, New Jersey, repeatedly asked him to construct a water works for their sprawling city which lay fourteen miles southwest of New York City. Finally, he could resist no longer. A water company was organized with Battin as its first president.  He liked the city so much that he moved his family from Newark, where they had lived for twenty-two years after leaving Philadelphia, to a large brownstone mansion on South Broad Street in Elizabeth.

1968 "Elizabethtown Water Company," by Robert W. Kean Jr., President, Elizabethtown Water Company, Journal of the American Water Works Association 60(110):1244-1246 (November 1968)

1982 Water Ways: A History of the Elizabethtown Water Company, Robert D. B. Carlisle

1988 "Elizabethtown Water Company," by Alice Dawn Wendel, Water 29(4):52-55 (Winter 1988)

1993 E'Town Corporation Annual Report 

2009 Liberty Water Company/City of Elizabeth, American Water
This partnership provided the City of Elizabeth with an up-front cash payment of $19 million the first year, $12 million the second year and $19 million the third year. This enabled the City to upgrade infrastructure and make other needed improvements. Additionally, the Liberty Water Company regularly returns a portion of collected revenue to the City for continued system investment and enhancement, which may be used for additional infrastructure investments.
The system’s water source is surface water supplied through a 60%-40% split: New Jersey American Water, operating as the Liberty Water Company, provides 60% from the Raritan and Millstone Rivers, while the City of Newark provides 40% of the spply from the Wanaque Reservoir.

2014 Water Infrastructure in New Jersey's CSO Cities:  Elevating the Importance of Upgrading New Jersey's Urban Water Systems, by Daniel J. Van Abs, Principal Investigator for New Jersey Future.  The report focuses on the 21 New Jersey municipalities that have combined sewer systems (CSS) that discharge through Combine Sewer Overflows (CSOs) in part or all of their area.
Page 91:  Elizabeth.  The water supply is provided by NJ American Water (a subsidiary of American Water, an investor-owned company), which derives its supplies mostly from the Raritan System of the NJ Water Supply Authority, a state agency, but also from Newark (using a portion of Newark’s contract with NJDWSC). The Raritan System has amply available capacity to address the projected needs of Elizabeth (from 2.3 to nearly 3 MGD), with NJ American Water itself having over 29 MGD in net available capacity. The water supply distribution system within the city is operated by Liberty Water (another subsidiary of American Water) under a 40-year concession contract from June 1998. Average demand is approximately 12.47 MGD and the peak demand is approximately 13.95 MGD, primarily in summer months and related to lawn watering and pools. Liberty Water handles all day-to-day operations, maintenance, emergency repairs, billing and collections. On the water side, Liberty has significantly improved the system, through hydrant and meter replacements, hydrant locks, etc. Water loss rates are approximately 16% per Liberty Water, which indicates a fairly tight system as some water “losses” actually represent legitimate water uses that are not billed (e.g., firefighting).

© 2017 Morris A. Pierce