Sandy Spring, Ms, Nov 14th 1873
Dear Cousin Robert,
The next day after I recd thy kind letter of the 3rd inst; my dear Sister, Mary J. Lippincott, came on a visit, and was very pleasantly with us till day before yesterday; and, as thou said in thy letter there was no occasion for an early reply, I deferred writing till after her visit was completed. She was in good health and spirits, and her company and our visiting about a little among our relatives and other Friends, did my dear Margaret good, and the benefit continues. But I fear it will not build her up sufficiently to enable us to accept the kind and unexpected invitation we recd yesterday, to attend the Gorsen Wedding on the 23rd Instant, great as the gratificication would be, to be present on the very interesting occasion.
The Boring for water in the Market Square in Alexa, was not commenced till after I went there to live, 10th Nov, 1822, and I think not till after we moved to ALloyd=s Corner,@ which was in the summer of 1826. But I cannot fix the time certainly.
About the time that project was given up, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal was commenced. John Quincy Adams, while Prest, moved the first spade full of dirt in that great work, after some difficulty which obliged him to take off his coat, from encountering what was stated to (Page 2) be a AHickory root,@ about 1827. The Corporation of Alexa subscribed a quarter of a million dollars to that enterprise, on condition that the necessary arrangement and structure should be made for connecting it with a Branch Canal to Alexa. One great benefit looked forward to from this Alexa Canal, by some of the Citizens, and especially our valued Friend Hugh Smith, was, its being a mmeans of supplying the Town with water. That idea was adhered to, even after the Canal was in operation; and seeing all manner of filth that was continually being thrown into the Canal and Basin, the idea of drinking that water, rendered some fastidious stomachs, qualmish.
Another plan proposed was, to erect a mound for a Reservoir, & force up the River water, which did not give much better promise of pure water, than that before the Canal.
A third proposition was, to collect the streams from all the Springs in the valley N.W. of the Town, into one channel, and thus supply the Town with water. Doctor Powell and myself, and perhaps some one else, spent some time on horseback reconnoitering the country in regard to this plan, and came to the conclusion, that any supply to be thus obtained, would be wholly inadequate to the demands of the City.
My own attention had for some time turned to getting ACameron Run@ to the top of AYuter=s Hill,@ and letting it pass thence by its natural flow, through our kitchens, bath-rooms etc etc to the River, and give us a supply of good water, as well as furnish a means of extinguishing fires, of which the city (Page 3) stood in great need. When on a visit to my Sister at Morristown Nw Jersey, while this subject was occupying my thoughts, I met there with James L. Hulme, of Mount Holly, and in conversation; I ascertained that his Mill had recently been brought into requisition, as a means of supplying the town of Mount Holly with water, and I accepted the invitation he kindly gave me to visit him, and examine the works. These were very simple and efficient. The crank that moved the Pump-piston, was attached to an iron pin in the water wheel of the Mill, and a supply of water for the town was forced up to the Reservoir, with very little, and sometimes no, dimunition of the previous working power of the Mill.
This idea was once transferred to the Cameron Mill, and, on returning to Alexa, and mentioning the subject to some of my Friends, thee, Edward L. Hough, and Thomas Wm Smith among the number, they encouraged me; and I told them, if they would get up a public meeting of those in favor of having a supply of water for the Town, I would make a speech upon the subject, and in favour of using the Cameron Stream. This was done. The large company that collected the Lyceum Building, gave evidence of the interest the citizens felt in having a better supply of good water.
In my remarks, I spoke of the feasibilty of having Athe clear and pure water of the Pebbly Brooke (Cameron Stream) conduited through all our houses on its way to the Potomac,@ and, referring to the beautiful motto, taken from one of his speeches in the Paris Tribune, on one span of the arch over Washington Street erected in honour of Gen: LaFayette when he visited Alexa in 10th Nov 1824. (Page 4) AFor a Nation to be free, it is sufficient that she wills it,@ I added, AFor Alexa to have this great luxury, it is sufficient that she wills it.@
I cannot remember whether a subscription was opened at this meeting, or at one held soon thereafter. The shares were 20 dols. each. The Paper was first handed to Phineas Janney, Wm Forde, Hugh Smith, Anthony Charles Cazenove, Henry Dangerfield, and others of the rich men, the largest subscription of whom, was ten shares. * I at once saw, that with such a commencement by our married men, the work would never be accomplished. On the paper being handed to me, I subsribed forty shares. The effect was Electric. I, a poor man, going so far beyond the wealthy ones, gave eclat to the subject. Phineas Janney doubled his subscription at once, and recommended others Ato do likewise,@ which many did. The shares were afterwards raised to 25 dollars each.
I have always believed that the life infused into the undertaking when my subscription was announced in the meeting, and more known among the citizens, was one great element of our success. It gave evidence of an earnestness of purpose, and of confidence in the practicability of the measure, by the person who had made it most of a study, and was supposed to be among those who were best able to judge, and thus inspired others with confidence. I was appointed on the committee to obtain subscriptions, and no one I asked, failed to subscribe, at least one share. Even thy King Street neighbor A. L., by whose subscription I gained aChina cup, took a share So much for the knowledge of human nature I even then possessed, and of the Springs by which men are to be moved towards a new but desirable and beneficial object.
*If those have access to the original subscription paper, see if my memory is correct on this point.
(Page 5) The subscriptions got on finely, and meeting of the Stockolders was soon called to elect Officers. I wanted Geo: D Forde for Prest and so stated. But he and others named me, and much to my surprise, I was unanimously elected with the exception of my own vote. I accepted the Office upon two conditions. First, that I was to have no salary. Second, that I was to have the privilege of selecting a competent Engineer who had constructed similar works to the satisfaction of the Companies by whom he was employed. Both these conditions were acceded to.
My wife=s uncle, John Elgar, mentioned to me Frederick Erdman, as a competent Engineer, having been connected with the Phila Water Works for many years, under the distinguished Engineer Frederich Graff, and, besides, had constructed the works at Fredericktown, Md-. I immediately wrote to the Presidents of both these companies, making inquiries in regard to his success, and they both gave emphatic testimony to his competency, and stated, that if they had similar works to build, they would have F. Erdman for Engineer; if he was to be had at almost any price. In answer to the inquiry, what was the annual cost for repair of the Pump made under his direction, the Prest. of the Harrisburg Company replied, that he could not tell the Annual cost, for in the numebr of years (some 6 or 8) it had been running, they had not paid the first cent for repairs.
F. Erdman was of course selected by the Board of Directors of the Comapny, he proposing to superintend the whole work to Completion; for the sum of 1500 dollars, which was satisfactory to the Board, and, as thou knowest, we had (Page 6) cause many times to congratulate ourselves for having been favoured to obtain his valuable services.
As already intimated in this letter, I had always looked to ALuter=s Hill@ as the site of the Reservoir from which the water was to be distributed through the City, and the Board had agreed upon the spot in a conspicuous situation from King Street; and the first day Erdman came after his appointment, the Board accompanied him there to show him what an eligible site we had. Thou will remember his looking round silently, for some time, when at length he said in substance: AGentlemen, this place will not suit you at all for the Reservoir; it is more than twice higher than is needed: you will be able to raise less than half the quantity of water to this elevation; than to a proper one; it would put more than a double strain on your service pipes, and cause a continual perplexity and expense from their breaking,@ and I do not know how many more convincing practical objections he would have brought, had I not interrupted him implorringly asking him if he would please point out to us the right place. After a little pause, and an eye-survey of the surface between there and the Cameron Mill from which we had told him we were to get the water, he pointed to the site of the present Reservoir, and said, Athat is the knoll for your purpose,@ and he proceeded towards it, with the Board following, one of whom felt as humble as this knoll appeared beside the Stately Luter=s Hill.
But, were we not all pleased with our Engineer, and highly gratified that we had this result of practical experinec in time! This is only one of (Page 7) many instances in which we found the value of his experience in constructing different parts of the work!
In Henny=s Scrap-book is the following in a clip from the newspaper, giving an account of the ceremony breaking the ground for the Reservoir. There is no date to it, which I regret.
AHaving taken quarters in Londer=s City Hotel where the illustrious Washington frequently sojourned, I proceeded at once to learn the passing events of the day.
AIn the afternoon, the Prest and Dircetors of the Alexa Water Company, now in the presence of a number of their fellow citizens, performed the important and interesting ceremony of breaking firm ground toward that noble work. This took place on the Lot recently purchased of Peter Treplar, in the rear of Luter=s Hill. The venerable Benjm Hallowell, spade in hand, and with a degree of vigor and enthusiasm which would have reflected credit on a more youthful operator, took the lead, in which he was speedily and spiritually followed by our excellent fellow Townsmen, Phineas Janney, Hugh Smith, and others. Mr. Hallowell made a very neat and approriate address, and at the conclusion, the whole company walked to a house in the neighborhood, where they partook of an agreeable entertainment in shape of ice-cream, lemonade etc. May each and all who were there present, long live to enjoy in their dwellings, the pure streams of water from Cameron Run.@
With subsequent proceedings, thou are as well acquainted as I, and therefore I need proceed no further with any narrative, unless it may be to relate (Page 8) a little incident connected with bringing the AWater Main@ from the Reservoir; across the AStone Bridge.@ Erdman proposed to cut a little distance into the crown of the arch of the Bridge, so as to embed a portion of the Pipe, which he said would not injure the Bridge in the least, but we thought it only respectful and right to commit the Prest. of the Turnpike Company that claimed ownership of the Bridge. He and his Engineer refused permission, his Engineer s aying it would ruin the Bridge. Erdman told us there was no other safe way to get across. What was to be done in such emergency?
I think it was thou who told me that sometime previous, when that Bridge was carried away by a freshet, the Turnpike Co. represented to the Corporation of Alexa that the road terminated at the West Bank of that stream, and asked the Corporation to rebuild the Bridge, which it did, in whole, or in part.
On learning this, I immediately obtained an interview with Lawrence B. Taylor, who was mayor, and Reuben Johnston who was Auditor of the Corporation of Alexa, & explained to them the state of business, and they said they would sustain the Board in any consequence they and their Engineer thought it might be best to pursue.
We then made arrangements with Wm McLean, the energetic and faithful Contractor for laying the Pipes, to carry the Pipe across the Bridge between two drys, and he put the work under way accordingly, by having his men to dig trenches on each side of the Bridge, closer & closer to it.
In the Afternoon, McLean saw the Prest of the Turnpike Co., coming, and he jumped into an idle cart, and lay there out of sight some (Page 9) two hours, the Prest remaining on the ground near sunset. On his asking the men what their plan was to crop the Bridge, they told him they did not know: they were just working according to orders.
On the Prest of the Turnpike Co. going out there early the next morning, he found the Pipe lain across the Bridge, and all covered up nicely some distance toward town, without the least inquiry to the Bridge, nor has there been any since. It may be added, that neither McLean nor the Prest. of the Water Co. was there, nor met the Prest. of the Turnpike for several days thereafter. When we did meet, he was very pleasant, and never mentioned the subject at any time afterwards.
Very sincere yrs
Robert W. Miller