Thanks to those before us, the early history of Des Moines Water Works was chronicled in several books of typewritten pages up until 1971, which was the centennial year of the founding of the company. The priceless books of yellowed pages provide a glimpse into significant occurrences in years past. Sources of information for those history books included scrapbooks of newspaper clippings, official records of the Board of Water Works Trustees, and the memories of various individuals.
The following entries may not pertain to the most momentous events, but they were notable. And as brief as some of the notations are, they tell the whole story.
September 1922: “An article titled “Des Moines Municipal Pumping Station” appeared in the magazine National Engineer. The article, illustrated by large pictures of the new steam turbine-driven centrifugal pumping unit, boiler feed pumps, and coal crane and pits, was written by A.T. Luce, engineer and superintendent of the Des Moines Municipal Water Plant.”
November 16, 1922: “The General Manager was instructed to furnish the Board with an itemized statement of the cost of operation and maintenance for the various automobiles used in connection with the Water Plant. This report shows that the Water Plant owned 22 trucks and roadsters, purchase dates varying from 1913 to 1922, a Dodge Coupe purchased in 1922, and a Peerless, purchase date not indicated.”
May 15, 1924: “To discontinue paying wages in cash and to pay by check.”
July 17, 1924: “Board to discontinue farming operations on water supply grounds.”
December 5, 1929: “News story in Des Moines Tribune quoting Mr. Denman (DMWW General Manager) as saying that too many people were still getting water by waving the pump handle up and down instead of connecting to the city water mains.”
March 5, 1931: “Directional sign for aviators to be painted on top of new water tower.” (Hazen tower)
February 8, 1939: “The General Manager was authorized to purchase three horses to be used on the water supply grounds.”
December 31, 1956: “Year 1956 was Iowa’s driest on record.”
July 8, 1959: “Water Board sells the locomotive.” (In 1956, a steam engine was purchased by DMWW to serve as a backup to the boiler. According to “old timers” in Water Production, the locomotive’s boiler was never fired.)
August 25, 1960: “Water Works laboratory testing 10,000 elms on Water Works property for Dutch elm disease.”
August 14, 1963: “Four boys turn on 47 fire hydrants in the night.”
July 13, 1965: “Water Board to be represented at ground breaking ceremonies for Saylorville Dam on July 17.”
January 24, 1966: “Fleur Drive to be widened.”
February 17, 1970: “Snowmobiling not approved for Water Works Park or Maffitt Reservoir.”
We hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into Des Moines Water Works’ history. Do you have any early memories of Des Moines Water Works?
Photo of steam locomotive #1678 taken by Richard Ikenberry.