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Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

The Hanover Water Works Company:
One Hundred Years of Service[*]


The greatest pleasure of this essay is the opportunity to pay tribute to those splendid persons who have been responsible for today's enviable position of the Hanover Water Works Company. To the rare good fortune of Hanover, three men in particular contributed their wisdom and efforts to the early development and guidance of Hanover's public water supply. These men were Robert Fletcher, Charles H. Pettee, and Allen Hazen.

Robert Fletcher was the first director of the Thayer School of Civil Engineering, serving in that capacity from 1871 to 1918. A renowned engineer and teacher, Fletcher served for many years as president of the State Board of Health and held a number of Hanover town offices. His amazing service to the Hanover Water Works Company includes the position of director from 1893 to 1936 and the office of president from 1899 to 1936. The esteem in which he was held by Dartmouth College is witnessed by the unprecedented award of three honorary degrees, A.M., Ph.D, and Sc.D. Fletcher was also awarded an honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

Charles H. Pettee was graduated from Dartmouth, Phi Beta Kappa, in 1874, and from the Thayer School in 1876; he had been one of Fletcher's students. In 1880, he joined the faculty of the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, then located on East Wheelock Street in Hanover.[1] He served as dean of the faculty from 1888 to 1937.

Allen Hazen was born in 1869 at the family homestead on Christian Street in Norwich, Vermont. His extraordinary talents were early recognized by his family, who determined that he should have a college education. Although the writer is not positive, it is believed that Allen attended the Hanover schools. It is a matter of record that his younger brother, Richard, did graduate from Hanover High School before attending Dartmouth and the Thayer School. Denied admission to Dartmouth because of his extreme youth, Hazen enrolled in the College of Agriculture, where he was a student of Pettee's. He was graduated with a bachelor's degree in chemistry at the age of fifteen. He next attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a special student in chemistry. Following his studies at MIT, he was persuaded to join a group of young scientists recruited by the state of Massachusetts to be chief chemist at a new research effort at the Lawrence Experimental Station. From the beginning, Hazen's rise was meteoric in the fields of water treatment, waste disposal, and general public health. Among his discoveries during those years were the rational design of sand filters, the method of classifying materials in terms of grading and hydraulic properties, and simple procedures for measuring chemical and physical qualities of water. Hazen's professional career was launched in the late 1890s; he was soon recognized as the world's foremost authority in the field of water works, encompassing such matters as sedimentation, rapid and slow filtration, the chemistry of water analysis and treatment, design of dams and spillways, and the rational design of water rates. Among Hazen's clients were Lawrence and Springfield, Massachusetts; Albany, New York; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Brisbane, Australia; Providence, Rhode Island; Ottawa and Toronto, Canada; New York City; and Philadelphia. In 1909, Hazen was appointed by President Taft to a select engineering committee to inspect the progress on the Panama Canal. In 1917, Dartmouth recognized Hazen's brilliant career and public service by awarding him the honorary degree of Sc.D. Hazen was only forty-eight years old at the time. He also became a close and lifelong friend of Fletcher's.

A common problem provided the background for the intersection of these men's lives beyond their academic associations. In the nineteenth century, as in earlier years, the town of Hanover and Dartmouth College were plagued by fires, the effects of which were exacerbated by the absence of a public water supply. The dearth of Federal or Victorian buildings in Hanover bears witness to the chronic fire problem. In 1892, the precinct of Hanover engaged the services of Professor Pettee to design a suitable water supply. Professor Pettee suggested the present system: an impounding reservoir on Camp Brook and a suitable distribution system. However, when the precinct sought authorization from the state of New Hampshire to issue bonds, the state limited the amount to be borrowed to $20,000, which was far below the estimated $60,000 needed. At that time, Dartmouth College became deeply concerned, and appointed a blue-ribbon committee to review Pettee's plans. These plans were approved, a group of corporators formed, and application made to the state for a charter. On 19 April 1893 the charter was issued:

In the year of our Lord one thousand and eight hundred and ninety-three

An Act to incorporate the Hanover Water Works Company.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court convened:

Section 1. That Benjamin A. Kimball, Newton S. Huntington, William Jewett Tucker, Edward P. Storrs, Carleton P. Frost, George Hitchcock, Frank W. Davidson, Charles P. Chase, and Frank S. Streeter, their associates, successors and assigns, are made a body politic and corporate by the name of the Hanover Water Works Company, to be located in Hanover in this state, for the purpose of bringing water into the village of Hanover to be used for domestic, fire, and other purposes, and are hereby vested with all the powers and made subject to all their liabilities incident to corporations of a similar nature.[2]

Two weeks later, on 4 May 1893, a meeting of the corporators was held at 10 A.M. at the Dartmouth National Bank. At this meeting, the Act was approved, a clerk was sworn in, the bylaws adopted, seven corporators elected directors, and the meeting dissolved. At 11 A.M. on the same day, also at the bank, the first meeting of the directors of the Hanover Water Works Company was held. On motion, William Jewett Tucker, the president of Dartmouth College, was elected president of the board of directors and of the corporation, and was duly sworn by Frank S. Streeter, a justice of the peace and quorum throughout New Hampshire.[3]

By 1 January 1894, the funds raised by the sale of stock to the precinct and College had been largely spent on the dam and part of the distribution system, and additional funds were now required to finish the project. To do this, it was decided to issue thirty-year bonds secured by a mortgage on the partially-completed system. Bonds worth $25,000 were issued and delivered to Newton A. Frost, Charles P. Chase, and John K. Lord. Over the years, large capital expenditures have been financed by the issuance of more stock to the original stockholders and by long-term borrowing. At the present time, the town of Hanover holds 732 shares of stock, and Dartmouth College holds 818 shares.

In 1903 the College and the company became greatly alarmed at the report of a typhoid epidemic in Ithaca, New York, affecting 1350 persons out of a population of about 3000. In the United States, this was a period of growing awareness but still rudimentary knowledge of sanitary principles, and while some things were known about waterborne disease, the methods for treating water were almost entirely limited to filtration, and that technique itself was still being developed. It was true that Dr. Snow[4] stopped a cholera epidemic in London by simply removing the handle from the Broad Street pump, but such a simple expedient was hardly applicable to a large public water supply, and disinfection had yet to be developed. In his consternation, Robert Fletcher turned to his old friend Allen Hazen for advice. Hazen, then involved in the design and construction of the largest filter plant in the world (in Washington, D.C.), promptly recommended that the entire watershed be purchased and that all human activity there be ended. This bold proposal for an existing public water supply was unprecedented. However, this advice was promptly taken, and by 1912 the permanent cleanliness of the watershed had been secured. Hazen always preached that in the case of water supplies, innocence is better than repentence. In 1973, Hanover's Board of Health adopted a special ordinance ending all unauthorized human presence within the watershed.[5]

Hazen's advice has been an article of faith that has resonated for ninety years with the Hanover Water Works Company and is the fundamental justification for the waiver from the universally-mandated compliance with the federal filtration rule.[6] The resulting saving to the customers of the company has been estimated to be at least five million dollars.

From the beginning, the operation of the company has always been administered by the stockholders as a serious public trust rather than as a for-profit investment. On its rolls may be found the names of the town's and College's best, who gave many years of faithful service as directors or officers of the company. Representing the town, by vote of the precinct, we find such names as Edward P. Storrs, Perley Bugbee, Frank P. Davison, Edgar Hunter, Nat Burleigh, Adna D. Storrs, David C. Rennie, Edward M. Cavaney, James Campion, and Kenneth A. LeClair. The importance that the trustees of Dartmouth College have accorded their responsibility for the management of the company is shown by their representation on the board: Presidents William Jewett Tucker, Ernest F. Nichols, and Ernest Martin Hopkins; Robert Fletcher; Fred Parker; Halsey Edgerton; Max Norton; John F. Meck; Richard W. Olmsted; Lewis J. Bressett; and Paul D. Paganucci. For many years, the officers and directors apparently served without compensation. Their long terms of service simply reflect a devotion to the best interests of the community.

It is clear from the copious records of the company that the relationship between the stockholders and directors has been most harmonious over the years. There is no evidence that the company has been troubled in its operation by the common plagues of politics, cronyism, or selfishness. The purity of the dedication of the historic management of the company to the best interests of Hanover has been well stated by Kipling in his poem 'The Sons of Martha':

Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness
  		to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their
		 	common need.

[*] This paper is adapted from remarks prepared for the observance of the centennial of the founding of the Hanover Water Works Company.
[1] In 1893, the same year of the founding of the company, the New Hampshire College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts relocated to Durham, New Hampshire, where in 1923 it was renamed the University of New Hampshire. Pettee Hall, on the Durham campus, was named in the dean's honor.
[2] The charter had been published in New Hampshire. Laws, Statutes, etc.Laws of the State of New Hampshire (1893), chapter 290. Frank Davison's name was misspelled as Davidson.
[3] Financial reports, correspondence, and other documents are available in Hanover Water Works Company, Records 1892-1949 in Dartmouth College Library, Special Collections, Manuscript DH-26. Many other sources concerning the company are also available in Special Collections.
[4] Dr. John Snow was a nineteenth-century British epidemiologist, anesthetist, and statistician. The story of the Broad Street pump is told in Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 18 vols. (New York: Scribner, 1970-1990), 12:503.
[5] Hanover, NH. Hanover Code of Ordinances and Regulations, chapter 16, section 1.
[6] For an example of federal filtration rules, see 40 CFR 141.71 and subsequent sections.