Massachusetts. General Court.

Statement of evidence before the Committee of the Legislature, at the session of 1839, on the petition of the city of Boston, for the introduction of pure soft water online

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Online LibraryMassachusetts. General CourtStatement of evidence before the Committee of the Legislature, at the session of 1839, on the petition of the city of Boston, for the introduction of pure soft water → online text (page 1 of 6)
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No. 18 State Street.


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No. 18 State Street.





February 27, 1839.

Thomas P. Gushing. Question. Please state your place
of residence in the City, the quality and quantity of the
water you use, and any other information relating thereto.

Answer. I live near the State House, had a well deep
and inconvenient ; have a filtering apparatus, and drink only
rain water ; the machinery might cost ^50.

Back roof of house, 25 ft. by 23 ft. > g^ ^ ^

Wood House, 30 ft. by 8 ft. 5 ^

gives me 5605 galls. If 36 inches fall annually, it will
give 16,814 galls, or 46 galls, for each day.

The front roof included, at 30 inches, would give 24,325

The front roof included, at 36 inches, would give 29,190
galls., or nearly 80 gallons per day.

The smallest quantity of rain, for any one year, was in
1837, 29.98 inches

The largest quantity in 1831, - - 60-87 "

Mean of last 21 years, - - - 39.52 "

My family consists of nine persons, the water is pure in
winter, has taste of soot, but we are used to it, and do not
dislike it. I know of no necessity for an act for the intro-
duction of water into the neighborhood — should not want
pond water as long as I can get rain water ; when filtered it
has no color ; never suffered in my health ; the neighbors
use my well, the water has 5 grains of lime in 5,000.

Cross Examined. There was a well in the house when
I bought it ; did not use the well water, because I thought


the pure rain water was better ; had a preconceived opinion
that it was better, the best in the world.

The capacity of my cistern is 5 feet diameter and 12 or
13 deep, at the lower part a reservoir. Cost was to be as
mechanics said, first 60a70 dollars, afterwards thought it
might cost 150 dollars ; thought it would last 100 years
without cleaning ; has been in use 2^ years, it is made of
brick and Roman cement, at ^7 a cask ; frequently runs
over, I do not know how much, probably two or three times
as much as the family use ; should prefer this to any pond wa-
ter ; once lived in Bulfinch street, water very fine, very much
admired ; I think it better than Vv'here I am now. My well
not used by the neighbors ; became dry when Mr. Greene's
estate was dug away, deepened it about 8 feet, now 85 to
87 feet deep ; expenses of deepening well in 1836 not
far from ^300 ; should now fill it up if dry again. Have a
cistern in the garret. Was absent two months, and yet
there was no impurity in the water.

Thursday, February 28.

Dr. Giles Lodge. I have a table prepared by me of
bills of mortality ; it may have some errors not affecting
materially the result, one for 1828 and one for 1832. They
are taken from Dr. Emerson, who states the population in
the American Medical Journal. If white population alone,
the proportion of deaths would be in Philadelphia, la40.
1830 113,942 ratio lc46

1835 201,000 " la37

1836 61,697 " la58

1837 79,464 " la47
80,335 " ]«46

Cross Examined. My own calculation is from authori-
ties of Philadelphia population in the North American Jour-
nal of Medical Science.

Re-examined. Paris is well supplied with water by river.

Cross examined. Never saw but one well in Paris. I
do not know as to Rome.

The Faculty suppose water affects the health ; many things

are supposed, though not proved ; there are no well grounded
facts to conclude from. I do not know as to the well water
of Boston, whether it has any effect on the health of the
inhabitants. I am a son of one of the remonstrants.

[Dr. L. afterwards handed in a detailed table of mortality
containing comparative views of different places.]

Thomas Hudson. I live in Charter street, have a well,
it gives satisfaction to ail. There are wells in the vicinity
and good ; should not be willing to pay for water. I liv-
ed in Cross street 30 years ago, had aqueduct and well.

To question by Committee. I could not have done with-
out aqueduct or rain vv^ater.

Ebenezer Chadwice. I live in Mount Vernon street,
have a good well and cistern, drink rain and well water. I
should not want to pay for aqueduct ; built a cistern as I
feared my well might be afiected ; my v/ell is 24 feet deep,
well in State House yard is 80 feet, my cistern is 9 feet in
diameter and 9 feet deep, contains 35 hogsheads ; first had
water from Dearborn's machine, soon after rain came and
I bought no more.

I before lived in Hancock street, good supply, do not
know that I should not want a larger cistern. I am ac-
quainted with Jones's estate in Somerset place, they had to
deepen the well there, had good water.

Cross examined. Should be content with well water
except for washing, drink the rain water myself. Cost of
well do not know. Cistern cost from 250 to 300 dollars,
very expensively built, I was charged eight casks of Roman
cernent at ^7.

James Clark. I live in Hanover street, near Hancock
School House ; have a good supply of water, quality very
good, as good as generally through the City, have a cistern,
supplied except in dry time ; occasionally deficient, but
might be remedied by sinking wells. I think the neighbor-
hood well supplied with good water. Estates on Mill Pond
not well supplied, do not know of any reason why they
cannot be by Artesian wells. I lived once in Prince street,
the quality of the water is not so good in the house where I


lived ; it was abundant and did not use enough of it to keep
it sweet ; this was in 1820 and 1822.

Cross examined. I am a Pump Maker; have fixed
wells of various depths, to over 100 feet — there are some
sections of the City where the water is not so good. A well
100 feet deep costs say ^250, pumping apparatus ^100
more. I never used rain water for drinking, price of dig-
ging and stoning perhaps 2 50 per foot.

Re-examined. It is difficult to account why water is
bad in some wells ; if water should be introduced, should
not at present be willing to pay for it ; if the water is as for-
merly in Prince street, should.

Cross examined. On the Mill Pond, Smith's well is an
Artesian, good water ; one well in Friend street, water of
very good quality. I do not know if they will v/ash or not.

Sewall Kendall. I live in Friend street. Ward No. 3.
Water good, from cistern — supply the neighbors ; lived in
Hawkins street ; no water in the well, owing to distil-house
wells near, and distil-houses there now — should not be
v/illing to pay water rent, nor to have it come there if for
nothing — many very good wells in the neighborhood. T.
Gould's well bad, because not properly boxed.

Cross examined. For deepening wells I hiive given ^3
a foot ; am by trade a mason ; deepening is a common
operation ; last year lowered three wells about 30 feet,
deepened 3 or 4 feet ; in Hamilton place good water, never
analyzed any, judge from taste.

Isaac Dupee. I live on the right side of Friend street,
Ward 3 ; good well, there are 25 persons on the premises ;
was formerly a Pump and Block Maker ; water pretty good
from Deacon street to Hanover street ; own estates at
north end, one in Murray place. Prince street, all good
water ; one well in South Russell street, owned by Walter
Welsh, constantly overflowed ; should not be willing to pay
for water for any of these estates ; presume neighbors
have good water. Mr. Kendall and Deacon Sutherland
have wells never known to fail ; Gould's not so good ; water
on the other side of street good.

RoBEKT Marsh. I live in Hanover street, Ward No. 3,
well supplied with very good water, have a cistern also.

Cross Examined. Our well failed about a year since,
dug it about 3 feet deeper, well now about 30 feet deep.

Ephraim Marsh. I live in Pleasant street, [old Ward
12] Ward 11, have very good pump water; have rain water
and take the aqueduct which is better for washing at this
season, on account of coal-dust in rain water. Fayette
street supplied by aqueduct ; I own real estate in Franklin
street and other places, pretty generally supplied with water.
If the pond water was preferable to aqueduct, should take
it ; I have sunk about 55 or 60 Artesian wells, generally
favorable, some about 60 feet below low water mark ; water
generally rises and falls with the tide ; commenced about 8
years since ; soft water from South Cove, analyzed by Mr,

Cross Examined. Cost of Artesian wells from ^400 to
$1,000; South Cove Company paid $1,600. We went
down about 250 feet, the water rises within 14 feet of sur-
face, generally rises and falls with tide ; quality of water
different in Artesian wells ; on Mill Pond, north side, very
difficult to get good water ; on Cooper street dug down 72
feet, drilled about 8 feet farther, expenses over $800, lost
$200 by it, water did not rise as usual, not more than 18
to 20 or 30 feet ; might be pumped dry ; on Commercial
street a good supply of water ; they often lock up the pumps ;
on Fulton street Adams &- Hammond sell a large quantity ;
there is a good deal of water carried from the New Eng-
land House ; have two Artesian wells there which cost over
$400 each ; water at rail road depot, not so good as some.

In Canton street thought to be good water, I call it good
water ; any in the City of that quality I call good ; one well
sunk just above Land Agent's Office, thought to be very
extraordinary good water ; never attempted Artesian wells
in high parts of City, generally in low places ; attempted a
Well in Treraont place, but met with stone about 15 feet
deep ; meet with stones, but not always, go through hard
pan and then quicksand. I have lived in Pleasant street


54 years ; at the corner of Water and Congress streets, on
Dalton's estate, there is good water ; rise of that spring was
above the bottom of the cellar, constant stream, do not
know how large, hardly so much as a pump ; the water in
Franklin street I call good, it will not wash.

Ezra Trull. I live in Alden lane, Ward 4. Water at
house very good ; first had suction, it was left with dirt, &c.
Dexter dug it out, it cost ^'60; I have a cistern, I own a
house in Havv^kins street, the well was dry and I deepened
it, have one large well, bricked, &.C., and three iron ones ;
the house where I live has a cistern and is scarcely ever
out ; supply City dinners with water ; sell warm water to
masons ; have cistern water also at distil house ; dug distil-
lery well 25 feet, through putty mud, to clay and red cedar,
trunks sound, but small stubs or limbs crumbled ; it was
marsh where the red cedar lay ; well over 25 feet, but
crushed in, and reduced it to 6|- feet, it is of brick, 65
feet deep.

Cross Examined. I sell perhaps 400 hogsheads of wa-
ter a year, at Is a hogshead ; Dearborn has bought consider-
able ; should not take water from the City unless short, iron
wells cost not far from ^300, I do not know the cost of
stone, a well over 70 feet costs more than one smaller of the
same depth ; cost I should think more than ^ 1 ,000, cistern
at distil house cost ^300, cistern at private house cost over
^*50 ; some hold ten and some 15 hogsheads ; did not con-
tract, oversee it myself, poor families take rain water, and I
give away hard water ; do not know how many families are
supplied, charge 25 cenis a hogshead for soft water ; Dear-
born takes it in his machine.

Samuel May. I live in Atkinson street, Ward No. 8,
have aqueduct for washing, well water as good as ever was.
There was an examination of wells by Mr. Lester, he said I
suppose I must report it as the rest, bad ; asked him to go
in and taste, he declined. I own houses in different parts
of the City, and have the care of three houses in High
street ; one well for all, supplied by suction. The father of
Mrs. Scudder thought it would wash, I thought not, think

it would not. The well at Tilestou's wharf contains excel-
lent water and the quantity is inexhaustible, never knew it
to fail. There is also a well at the head of Russia wharf,
Mr. Inches set his men to pump it out, two men could not
do it. Water good all round Fort Hill and there is a
good supply ; have aqueduct in High street, should not take
water from the City if brought in at water rent ; say the
same of all my estates. Country friends say my water is
good, make exception of mine over other Boston water.

Cross Examined. Do not use aqueduct for drinking ;
one tenant has it ; never interruptions of aqueduct, if de-
prived of it should take from the City.

Benjamin Russell. I live in Lincoln street, am three
fourths of a century old ; have water abundant from aque-
duct and well ; think I could do without aqueduct ; born in
Court street, lived on bread and water before the Revo-

Have lived in Nassau street, cannot remember how many
parts of the City I have lived in ; never found any difficulty
about water ; never drink anything else with dinner ; should
not take City water, to pay for it. In Pinckney street, Dr.
Warren said the water was more nourishing than Madeira

Cross Examined. The water generally in Boston is
what I call good. The sources are Fort Hill, Beacon
Hill and Copp's Hill. In Pearl street, water washed, as I
was told, for a number of years, but afterwards they com-
plained of it as being hard or taking more soap.

Ezra Dyer. I live at the corner of Chambers street,
Ward 5. Water for well and cistern good and abundant,
well only 5 J feet deep, I think ; got three men but could
not clear it ; three houses in connection with mine, never
short of water in Eaton street ; if water was brought into
the City should not be willing to take it at a rent ; cistern
holds about 30 hogsheads.

Cross Examined. I do not drink rain water, there is no
other water like mine, an uncommon spring, people rather
give mine the preference over some others.


John Gkeen. I live on Washington street, Ward 11 ;
supplied for four years past by aqueduct, have a pump on
Lucas place ; a well on Deacon May's estate supplies 40
people, beautiful water, used for washing. Well on my
premises Artesian, abundance of water, but it became im-
pure by not using it after we took the aqueduct ; bored 110
feet, 5 feet above flats it boiled over; there is an Artesian
well on Front street, by J. D. Williams ; went with engine,
worked by a stop watch, took two minutes to play it out ;
the well would supply 100,000 gallons in 24 hours. May's
water is a little extra ; I think proper wells sunk on the
Neck would supply the City.

Ci'oss Examined. Would supply, as I judged, by en-
gine playing ; she will hold 30 gallons or more ; would sup-
ply as above with proper apparatus ; did not exhaust it, put
down hose and exhausted it in 2 minutes ; it rose up again
in 4 minutes, quality of water fair but not so good as May's,
Aqueduct never stops only half hour at a time.

Friday, March 1st, 1839, 3 P. M,
Nathaniel Hammond. I live in Ward 5, bought in
1820, abundantly supplied with good water ; my tea kettles
were never furred ; have rain water for washing ; own estates
in Leverett street, and have care of others in Cambridge
street and Pemberton square ; have 3 houses ; that nearest to
Somerset street had well 98 feet before striking water, in 24
hours water made 48 feet, secured v/ell with curbs till 1837,
began with horse power to reduce the quantity ; reduced it to
20 feet and could do no more, leaving 25 feet in the well ;
reduced it again and stoned it, water rose to 35 feet, filled
in well with paving stones about 9 feet, put in pump, while
masons were using water it was good, when not so it grew
stagnant ; well is about 30 feet from houses and 55 feet from
other wells ; about 23 feet from surface met a spring very
fine and abundant. Another well to first estate 95 feet
deep ; did not find water ; dug 14 feet and struck a power-
ful spring, on the avenue leading from Pemberton square
to Somerset street, water pure soft and good ; at the mid-


die house water good ; none of the water has proved bad
except one (above first mentioned) had clay which I am
told contains sulphur. In Leverett street there is some va-
riation in the depths of wells, have several in that neighbor-
hood, average about 25 feet deep ; think there is a ledge
under the City, som3 have to drill through it ; should not
for any estates I now ov»^n be willing to pay for water ;
should have been glad to have had it if I had foreseen the
difficulties ; do not recollect of any complaint in houses I
have as to quality of water ; I found enough to supply a
large proportion of the neighborhood ; after laborers struck
the spring, heard a singing noise as they called it ; I think
Artesian wells might be used advantageously.

In Pemberton square (next to B. Adams's) dug 95 feet,
then bored 14 feet ; a moderate spring ; came to a rock but
could not get through it and stopped ; good water and
enough for one family. Erected a block of buildings for
Merchants' Insurance Company, corner of Water and Con-
gress streets ; struck a very povv^erful spring, could i.ot con-
fine it till they got a mechanic to make iron pipes of a par-
ticular construction ; would be enough to supply a very large
number of inhabitants ; very good water indeed. During
the past year sunk an Artesian well for Mr. Hubbard on
Washington street ; (second from Washington bank) think
we dug 83 feet ; water rose within 14 or 15 feet of the sur-
face ; very soft water, used it with soap ; would make a fine
lather, equal to any rain water; cost I think, about ^600 by
the contract. Earth there very different from any I ever
met with ; stratum of clay began about 9 feet from surface.
In Cambridge street my estate had an excellent well, about
30 years ago of good quality ; its character changed and the
water was not used for family purposes. I rebuilt on it in
1831, 2 or 3, and dug a well on another part of my estate,
14 or 15 feet, then clay, then dug 14 or 15 feet and came
to good water. The City sunk a well at the junction of
Spring and Leverett streets, met a spring, not over 16 feet.

Cross examined Water in J. P. Thorndike's house very
excellent, taken from spring by suction from the front of the


houses ; do not know as to quantity ; Boston and Worcester
Rail Road Artesian well does not compare with Mr. Thorn-
dike's. The aqueduct does not go to any of my estates ;
well at Rail Road cost over ^2000 I believe, think it is 240
feet deep. They have used chalk to get out gas and think
it better ; talked of having the aqueduct ; do not have it be-
cause it is expensive to take it over ; v»^as referred to the
Committee of the Board, but do not know what was done ;
understood they had not sufficiency to spare it ; do not re-
collect hearing they gave us notice to stop. Cost of wells
in Pemberton square, 2 cost not far from ^'600 each, or
something over. On Cambridge street not over 50 to 75
dollars each, including pump. On Leverett street cost
about 50 to 75 dollars each ; some wells fail on Somerset
street, Mr. Hammond's ; W. W. Stone's failed about a year
ago in Bov/doin street, think they were about 35 feet deep ;
also Dr. Cutler's estate on Tremont street failed a year ago
last December ; they sunk 2^ feet and found water suffi-
cient. At the Parsonage House it failed also, repaired by
sinking wells deeper. Col. Pickman's well, Mt. Vernon
place, failed about 1834; dug another well 83 feet deep
and struck a powerful spring ; do not know if the deepen-
ing draws from other wells or not ; do not know of any
better wells than those I have spoken of; it is more like
country water, the one of 98 feet and Mr. Hubbard's.

One there comes to my mind, S. Hammond's in Conduit
alley, Artesian, sunk in passage way, think 150 feet deep ;
Hammond fixed a pump to the well, but in a year after-
wards there was such a difficulty about calling for the
water that he took up the pump and put leaden pipes to
his houses, &c. The water was used for washing.

Simon Wilkinson. I live in Charter street. Ward 1,
have abundance of water both rain and pump, very excel-
lent ; own another estate in Unity street, well there would
supply 100 families, does not wash, it is like other water in
the City ; hear no complaint from the Revere estate ; on
Swift's estate water enough, Darracott's the same. In my
own where I live, I deepened it 45 feet, should not be wil-


ling to pay a cent if the City brings it in ; might take it
gratis ; no trouble in getting water if they put down cisterns,
do not know of any exigency in that part of the City. In
Bennet street is a spring that could not be cleared of water.
There is a well near the Methodist meeting house which
has been celebrated for forty years, some years ago worked
it, could not clear ii. Water in Mr, Lucas's well abundant
and good. Asked Dr. Ware once, why he signed that the
water was not good. His reply was, it was a matter he never
had taken particular interest in, and he signed it on the paper
being presented to him ; I asked him how Boston could be
so healthy, if the water v/as so impure. He said it was a
healthy place, and that all water when closely analysed
would have a sediment, and still the water might be

Cross examined. Cost of deepening 45 feet, was I be-
lieve, about ,$225 ; gave him (Fitch) %3 a foot; think it
would cost more to deepen than to dig anew; 50 to 100
people are supplied from my well in summer ; pump going
all day, pretty steady when dry weather. In Unity street
also a great many people supplied. Hutchinson's well also
used, but not so good as some others.

Re-examined. Something like 7 wells in the neighbor-
hood, but pumps not in order; abundance of water, no
doubt as good as mine, some pumps have been out of order
for, perhaps, 15 years.

In Hanover street, Mrs. Porter's well is good, supplies a
great many people, do not know how many ; its reputation

J. Green called. Eleven specimens of water produced,

No. 1. Canton street. Artesian well, 75 to 105 families
supplied daily.

No. 2. City well. Artesian, by Mr. Williams's, 100,000
gallons a day.

No. 3. J. French's well, 637 Washington street, never

No. 4. Hinkley's well, Front street, Artesian, abundance.


No. 5. Hinkley's well. Front street, old shop, excellent
and abundant.

No. 6. Brewhouse, Castle street, Artesian, 90 feet deep,
used 100 barrels a day, were 6 or 8 hours pumping.

No. 7. Oil Factory, near Mall, on the neck. Artesian,
85 feet deep, good and large supply. (Simmons & Thorn-

No. 8. May's, pump in street, opposite Lucas place,
supplies as many as 40 families.

No. 9. Oak place, do not know if Artesian, abundant,
as Mr. Builard told me ; it washes.

Mr. Marsh called again.

No. 10. Granite wharf, Artesian well, great abundance.

No. 11. North Market street, believe there is a suffi-
ciency ; clerk of market occasionally locks it up.

S. Wilkinson called again. I know Granite wharf;
great supply of water, frequently fill casks for ships ; pump
going from morning till night, situated about centre of arch,
think about 600 feet from upland.

J. Green called again. I was requested to go to pump
with engines ; worked 2 minutes to get down to make it
suck ; went down 17 feet, pipe 12 inch bore, it takes 4 min-
utes to fill up again, by stop watch. I calculated 30 gal-
lons a minute that we pumped out ; there had not any come
in ; first part fills up almost immediately, last part not so

Otis Munroe. I live in Hanover, near Charter street,
well 17 feet deep, dry for a short time, twice in 10 years,
one was last year ; the supply in neighborhood good ; plenty
so far as I know ; soft water ample from rain, thouglit I
should deepen my well ; from there down to the ferry ;
same kind of land. A well on the Abrahams estate goes
with a crotch and sweep, great many go to get water there.
In neighborhood of 18 Commercial street in the rear, the

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Online LibraryMassachusetts. General CourtStatement of evidence before the Committee of the Legislature, at the session of 1839, on the petition of the city of Boston, for the introduction of pure soft water → online text (page 1 of 6)