New Castle Water Department - History

The following was written for the City in 2005.
History of
New Castle Water Works

By Mike Bertram

(some information was originally published in Spring 1992 Vol. 20 - Number 1 Henry County Historicalog by the Henry County Historical Society, Author Mike Bertram, Editor Richard Ratcliff)

After nearly a decade of proposals and discussions, New Castle's City Council held an election on September 4, 1988 to establish their first water works.  The vote was 345 to 31 in favor of a system of water works.  At this time, the Town Board employed J.D. Cook of Toledo, Ohio to engineer the system.  In December of 1888, bids were taken for the construction of a water plant.  The Holly Manufacturing Company of Lockport, New York, was awarded the contract for the pumps, engines, boilers, hydrants, and valves.  John Maxwell of Washington, Missouri was awarded the contract to lay nearly three miles of mains and put into place thirty-five fire plugs aroung the business district of town.  Mr. N.T. Clawson, a local contractor, was awarded the contract to build a brick building twenty-two by fifty feet to house two pumps capable of pumping three quarters of a million gallons of water a day, two sixty horse power engines, a boiler room which would contain two large boilers having a capacity of one hundred and fifty horsepower, and a 90,000 gallon reservoir which was filled by one deep water well.  The total cost of the water works was approximately $20,000. 

George T. Melle came to New Castle on September 4, 1867, on the noon train and decided to stay.  He took great interest in establishment of the water works and became the first superintendent in 1889.  On August 2, 1889, the Town Board appointed E.M. Carr as chief engineer.  Mr. Carr was so dedicated to his job that he had a house built next to the water works.  He felt this way he would be available in case of emergencies, sush as boosting the water pressure in case of a fire by running both pumps at the pumping station.

On April 1, 1891, the water works for the first time sounded their new bigger fire whistle.  Men, women, and children rushed out of their houses not knowing what it was.  The whistle had been named "Wildcat" by the engineers at the water works because of the screeching sound it made.  Many people thought a wild animal was approaching the town when they heard it for the first time.  The whistle was sounded only in case of fires.

The first pumps and boilers for the newly established water works were purchased  from the Holly Manufacturing Company of Lockport, New York.  On August 1, 1900, a McGowan Compound Duplex pump capable of pumping 2,000,000 gallons every twenty-four hours was purchased from McGowan Co. of Cincinnati to replace the worn out Holly pump.  An addition to the water plant was built to house the pump.  In 1904, a new 2,500,000 gallon per day steam pump was purchased from the McGowan Steam Pump Company of Cincinnati for $4,900, replacing the worn out original equipment.  The pump continued in operation until 1932 when new motor-driven centrifugal pumps were purchased.

An outbreak of typhoid fever was reported in New Castle in September of 1905.  An investigation traced the disease directly to polluted water from private wells around New Castle.  The Town Board recommended the use of City water for it was absolutely pure and free of typhoid bacteria according to an analysis at Indianapolis.  The Henry County Health Board said to prevent the spread of this disease, people of New Castle should use city water or boil the water from their own wells. 

In March of 1924, the City Council agreed to buy a four million gallon capacity pump for $26,000 from Allis Chalmers Company of Milwaukee.  This was an Allis Chalmers Crank and flywheel type pump directly  connected to an Allis Chalmers Corliss engine.  Once again an addition had to be built to house the new pump.

By 1932, the high cost of coal and the deterioration of the old steam engine equipment made the City Council think it was time to overhaul the water and light plant.  On April 15, 1932, the City Council awarded contracts for three new electric Cook Deep Well pumps which were hooked up to the three best producing wells at that time.  These pumps were built by the A.D. Cook Pump Factory at Lawrenceburg, Indiana.  Three new motor driven centrifugal pumps and two De La Vergne Diesel engines with generators. 

When my father was hired as a water plant operator in 1962, I would spend most of my afternoons at the plant with him.  I was amazed by these diesel engines that stood as tall as a house and how a water plant was operated.  I have spent nearly three years researching this plant and locating information and pictures.  I now have expanded my research to include other water plants in Indiana, looking for early pictures and their histories.

New Castle's Water Plant now consists of thirteen deep underground wells, four distribution pumps averaging 3,500,000 gallons a day, three elevated tanks, one of one million and two of half a million gallons.  Also, a filtration plant was built in 1964.  They no longer generate electricity from this plant.  They sold all electric generating equipment to Public Service of Indiana in 1969.