Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Wisconsin Fond du Lac

Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Fond du Lac was incorporated as a village in 1847 and as a city in 1852.

The first artesian well was bored in 1846 to supply the Badget House.  Since then several others have been bored and supply water to a series of underground cisterns through pipes.  In 1847 an attempt was made to introduce a general water supply from Colonel Conklin's farm, but was apparently not built.

The Fond Du Lac Water Company was incorporated in May 1885 and received a franchise from the city on May 29, 1885.  The company contracted with the Holly Manufacturing Company for a system, which was tested in January, 1886.  Control of the Water Company passed into the hands of three local men in 1899..

On October 3, 1911 the people of Fond du Lac voted to buy the plant from the Fond du lac Water Company for $345,091.33, a price which was established by the old Wisconsin Railroad Commission.  The city took over the system on November 1, 1911.

Water is provided by the city of Fond du Lac, which has a history page.

1880 The History of Fond Du Lac County, Wisconsin
Page 570:  1847.  Measures are being taken to form a company for the purpose of supplying the village with pure and wholesome water, from the beautiful spring of Col. Conklin, by means of a water-line pipe and reservoir.
Pages 588-589:  ARTESIAN WELLS. One of the most noticeable features of Fond du Lac is its large number of fountains or artesian wells. From them the place took the popular name of "Fountain City." Theodore Conkey, now of Appleton, was building the Badger House, on the corner of Main street and Western avenue, during the summer of 1846, and, desiring to know how deep a well must be to reach the gravel bed, that he might calculate how many cords of stone to secure for walling it up, set Mr. Curtis to drilling for the required information. Mr. Curtis drilled to what he considered an unusual depth without reaching water, and one night about the 1st of August, thinking Mr. Conkey might not desire any more money expended, asked if the drilling should be continued. "Yes," said Mr. Conkey, "go on if you reach purgatory." The drill had then been sunk between eighty-five and ninety feet, and when Mr. Curtis returned to pull out the tools for the night, water in liberal quantities, cold and of good quality, began to flow with considerable force. The discharge was at the rate of 1,000 gallons per hour.
Since that time, fountains have been sunk in every portion of the city. The water is used for domestic purposes, to supply the Fire Department, and to furnish the boilers of steam machinery. For this latter purpose, the water of some fountains is not well adapted, the lime and mineral substances with which it is impregnated being injurious to the iron. These substances, which more strongly impregnate the water of some fountains than of others, possess medicinal properties. These are contained in the oxide of iron, chloride of sodium, sulphate of lime, sulphate of magnesia, sulphate of soda, carbonate of soda, and carbonic acid, which have, by analysis, been discovered in liberal quantities. Hunter's Magnetic Fountain, which discharges a strong stream several feet above the surface of the ground through a two-inch pipe, became particularly famous for the cures wrought by its use in cases of kidney disease and rheumatism.
The fountain was sunk to get water for a paper-mill, which proved to be unfit for the desired purpose. The analysis ordered by Mr. Hunter, to discover what the water contained to render it unfit for use in the manufacture of paper, resulted in developing the fact that it possessed valuable curative properties. A large bath-house and hotel were then erected on the spot and the fountain advertised. This resulted in bringing invalids from all parts of the Union, many of whom came on crutches and returned home cured.
For fire purposes these fountains furnished an ample supply of water at a trifling cost without cost, in fact, except to maintain pipes and reservoirs. The water from the large fountains on the high-school grounds, at B. Wild & Co.'s bakery, on the premises of S. B. Amory, and from others, is discharged into the fire reservoirs which are located at all the necessary quarters of the city. These are all connected by large underground mains with each other, so that when water is being pumped from any one of them it receives a supply from all the others and also from the several fountains whose flow never ceases. No city has a cheaper or more effective water supply than Fond du Lac.
For ornamental purposes, the fountains can also be utilized in all possible ways, as the supply is inexhaustible and not effected by frost or drought. Those who have put up ornamental fountains with the best effect are S. B. Amory and T. F. Strong, Sr., the jets being about twenty feet in height, and of undiminished volume at all seasons. Mr. Strong's fountain throws over 100 distinct jets of water, and Mr. Amory's has three large jets in as many different localities, all supplied from one bore.
No fresher, purer, sweeter water can be found anywhere than flows from these fountains, and no city in the West is so fortunate in this respect as Fond du Lac.

1882 Fond du Lac from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.
Water first introduced in 1840

1884 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. January 1884
Sheet 1:  37 Public Cisterns connected by 10" wooden pipe fed by three Artesian Wells, with 60 ft. head; also 33 other public cisterns, and river easy of access.  In all 100 places for engines to pump water.

1885 Engineering News 13:190 (March 21, 1885)
Fond du Lac, Wis., is asking for plans and estimates for water-works.

1885 Articles of Incorporation of the Fond du Lac Water Company, May 21, 1885 | also includes some annual reports and 1912 certificate of dissolution. |

1885 The Oshkosh Northwestern, May 29, 1885, Page 4.
The attorney for the Holly Company is now in Fond du Lac engaged in drawing up the contract for putting in the water works for the city.  He is accompanied by Messrs. Lineen and Flagler.

1885 The Oshkosh Northwestern, September 19, 1865, Page 3
The Fond du Lac Water Works Company has filed a mortgage at the register of deeds office in Fond du Lac for a total of $200,000.

1886 Wisconsin State Journal, January 6, 1886, Page 1.
Ordinance repealed as works not completed on time.

1886 Brandon Times (Brandon, Wisconsin), January 21, 1886, Page 1.
The Fond du Lac water works were successfully tested, last Friday, and repealed water ordinance has been re-enacted with some amendments, and the war is over.

1888 "Fond du Lac," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Fond du Lac," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Fond du Lac," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1892 The Fond du Lac Water Company, Appellant, vs. The City of Fond du Lac, Respondent, 82 Wis. 322, May 24, 1892, Wisconsin Supreme Court

1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. August 1892

1897 "Fond du Lac," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1898 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Fond du Lac, Fond du Lac County, Wisconsin. July 1898

1910 In Re Fond Du Lac Water Company, August 19, 1910, 5 W.R.C. R. 482

1911 In Re Fond Du Lac Water Company, November 22, 1911, 8 W. R. C. R. 259

2019 Morris A. Pierce