Woodstock Aqueduct Company
Celebrating 130 years.
The subject of supplying the village of Woodstock with pure and wholesome water from some of the outlying streams of the town "began to be agitated" about the year 1878. It wasn't until January, 1879 at a village meeting where O.P. Chandler, Justin F. Mackenzie, and Charles Chapman were appointed to a committee to “inquire as to the feasibility of obtaining a supply of water from Blake Hill, or other hills of the vicinity.” On January 5, 1880, the committee reported their findings and estimated that such a project would cost $17,000. The report was accepted and ordered to lie on the table. In 1880, an act was passed by the Legislature incorporating the Woodstock Aqueduct Company. By the 11th section of this act, the village was authorized to contract with said corporation for supplying said village with water for fire purposes, for watering the streets, and for other uses, and applying the same for a term not exceeding ten years.
The company was incoporated in the summer of 1886 with a capital stock of $36,000, in shares of $50 each. The project was under the management and direction of the following persons: J.J. Randall, designing engineer; T. William Harris, constructing engineer and subcontractor; R.D. Wood & Co., contractors. In early June, 1887, work commenced on the reservoir which was built about two and a half miles westerly of the village on Thomas Brook, at an elevation of 260 feet above the Town Hall. With an insufficient number of workers in the region, the construction company brought in a large number of Italian laborers to work. Eventually, ten other nationalities were represented on the project. Within two months these hardy men had nearly completed the dam.
The Original Reservoir
The original reservoir had the capacity of about 2.5 million gallons. The dam was constructed with a packed earth embankment about ninety feet wide at the bottom and eight on the top, with a stone and cement core. The remnants of the original dam gate (which was constructed out of cedar) can be seen in the photograph on the left.
The Project Continues...
The mains included 13,310 feet of eight-inch cast iron pipe, extending from the reservoir to the center of the village, 2,012 feet of six-inch cast iron pipe and 14,350 feet of four-inch cast iron pipe (including a four-inch supply from the Williams Brook or Saw-mill Brook to “strengthen” the supply) which totals nearly 7 miles of pipe. The mains were laid six feet underground and gates were placed to shut off any street if so desired. In late October, workers closed the reservoir gates and the waters slowly rose behind the dam. Within two weeks, the new impoundment was full and water was released into the mains. Only two pipes sprung leaks. To demonstrate the pressure present in the system, the village fire department attached a one-inch diameter hose to the hydrant located near the Congregational Church and shot a powerful stream of water directly over its high steeple.
The water started flowing into homes and businesses in late November, 1887. “The water is pure, clear, palatable and soft, enough for all household purposes. It is being used for cooking and drinking by all who have it, and to say that they are delighted with it feebly expresses the satisfaction manifested.”
“The STANDARD is this week for the first time printed by water power, the water being supplied by the Woodstock Aqueduct Company and our machine the Chicago Motor. It works to perfection and to say that it is a comfortable thing ‘to have in the house’ but faintly expresses our satisfaction. No fuel, no fire, no heat, no smoke, no dust, no care—really a wonderful little servant, always ready and always reliable.”
"The water is safe and pure..."
There were 28 hydrants in the Village and 2 in West Woodstock. According to the 1st Annual Report of the Woodstock Aqueduct Company in November 30, 1888, the company made $1,584.07. The following year's Annual Report states, “There are now in force 122 services, the rental from which and from the village in 1889 will amount to $2,024." The company’s directors at the time were: Frederick Billings, F.N. Billings, Justin F. Mackenzie, F.S. Mackenzie, W.E. Johnson, L.O. Greene, F.W. Wilder.