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The History of the Emmitsburg
 Water Company

(Originally Published in the Frederick News Post  April 9, 1963)

The Town of Emmitsburg officially took over the Emmitsburg Water Company recently, which it purchased in mid-February for $168,000.

Approval of the sale and of the retirement of the water company were granted March 27 by the Maryland Public Service Commission. 

The sale terminated several years of negotiations between the town and water company, which had operated the system more than three quarters of a century.

The early records of the company show that the first meeting for the purpose of establishing the company was held on May 4, 1883 at the so-called "Engine House." The announced purpose of the meeting was to determine if sufficient funds could be raised to supply the citizens of Emmitsburg with pure mountain water. John Donoghue, Esq., was elected the first president and E. R. Zimmerman was elected secretary.

Shortly after the first meeting there was an issue of stock which was subscribed without difficulty. This step was handled by a committee of six men whose family names have been a part of the Emmitsburg history for many years. They were James A. Elder, Isaac S. Annan, Maj. 0. Horner, George R. Ovelman, J. Taylor Motter and John Donoghue.

The first piece of property consisted of two acres purchased from Thomas Clabaugh on which was located an excellent spring of water. Purchase price was $100. R. K. Martin, a water engineer from Baltimore, was employed to examine the reservoir site and offer advice concerning the pipe line. His fee was established at $50.00.

Bids were solicited for the construction of a reservoir. William H. Ashbaugh and Son being the successful bidders at $500.00. Ashbaugh encountered so many unforeseen difficulties that he decided to abandon the job and the reservoir was completed by the Water Company. It is interesting to note that the total cost of the first water system, Including the reservoir, pipe line, service lines, land and supervision was, $16,000.

On June 12, 1883, the first stockholder’s meeting was held and seven directors were elected: Isaac S. Annan, James A. Elder, Lewis M. Motter, 0. A. Horner, Eugene S. Rowe, George R. Ovelman and Ezra R. Zimmerman. Isaac S. Annan was elected president and Ezra Zimmerman was named secretary. On April 21, 1884, bids were received for laying pipe from the reservoir to Emmitsburg, a distance of approximately 12,000 feet. Nathaniel Rowe and Son was the successful bidder.

By the year 1894, more storage space was required and Reservoir No. 2 was built to hold 600,000 gallons of water.

For a number of years after this, the company moved along slowly just as other pioneering companies did, overcoming one obstacle after the other, buying important land when it would be come available and extending pipe lines to reach a growing community.

Some important people in the formative years of the company were Nicholas Baker, J. Stuart Annan, Edgar L. Annan, John Thomas Gelwicks, Dr. Charles D. Eichelberger, Annan A. Horner, Sterling Galt and G. Meade Patterson. In the year 1909, Isaac S. Annan died, the man truly responsible for bringing water to Emmitsburg many years before other communities had a public water supply.

The year 1923 saw new Company organization in the persons of F. Harry Gross, Thomas C. Hays, E. F. Ohler, Albert Patter son and Charles McMathias. These men brought new ideas with them; first the purchase of mountain land on the water shed: and the removal of buildings so that water could be kept pure; reforestation with 60,000 pine trees being planted; line extensions were made in all directions; chlorination became a continuous purification process; two new reservoirs were built, one with a capacity of 2,000,000 gallons, another 25,000,000 gallon capacity and a new office building which has been in service since 1950.

The total reserve capacity of the reservoirs today is approximately 30,000,000 gallons; the watershed occupies nearly 800 acres which is necessary in order to control the purity of the water; all cleared land has been restored to its natural protective cover by the planting of trees.

Following the death of Thomas C. Hays in 1934, Samuel C. Hays, his son, was elected to head the company. He was ideally suited for the position, being a graduate engineer and having had the opportunity since childhood to be come familiar with the operation of the company. Rainbow Lake, with its 25 million gallon capacity, was built under his supervision. Serving with him on the Board of Directors during recent years have been Guy A. Baker, Sr. John D. White and Mrs. Mayme E. Hays, all of Emmitsburg, and Mrs. Margaret H. Warner, of Blue Ridge Summit.

Line extensions, under present management, have taken company water about 3,000 feet beyond the Town limits on the Gettysburg road, about 3,000 feet along the Frederick road, about 1,500 feet along the Waynesboro road and about 1,500 feet along the Baltimore road.

A recent examination and testing by State officials disclosed that the system had a "Static pressure" of 90 pounds and a "C factor" of 90, both of which indicate a better than average ability of the system to carry water.

In ringing down the curtain on the company's long history, President Hays had this to say: "Naturally I am sorry to see the Emmitsburg Water Company go out of business after 80 years of service, and I am equally sorry to give up my personal association with this company of which I am very proud. But I sincerely believe that there are advantages to municipal operation which are very compelling. Of course there must be proper management, but of this I have no worry, for Emmitsburg has never lacked for public spirited citizens possessing both integrity and ability."

"There are several things which I think deserve to be mentioned, as a fitting memorial to the far sighted men of the past. First I would mention the fact that during the entire eighty years of operation, there was never a disease or epidemic attributable to the water supply. I would also mention that during the past 15 years, when almost every neighboring community, at one time or another, was either without water or subject to extreme restriction the Emmitsburg Water Company imposed no restriction whatever."

Interested in the town's public utilities?
Then we're sure you'll enjoy the history of Lamp Lighting in Emmitsburg of old.

Have any old newspaper clippings that deal with Business, People or Events in Emmitsburg's History?  If so, send a photocopy of them to us and well gladly scan them in and put them up on the web for everyone to enjoy.

For more information, please contact us at history@emmitsburg.net

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