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Do not hitch your horse to a fire hydrant in Bluffton

One of several rules governing water usage in the 1890s

Imagine being required to turn off your water line each time the fire department answered a fire alarm. Don’t even think about hitching your horse to a fire hydrant.

Those were the rules when Bluffton’s municipal water plant opened in the late 1890s.


And, this may come as a surprise. The reason the village of Bluffton created a municipal water plant was for fire protection. It had very little to do with providing individuals with running water in their houses.


In a case you wonder, here are additional rules governing water usage in the village when the water plant first opened:


• Patrons had to immediately discontinue using water for any purpose, when the fire alarm sounded.


• It was prohibited to hitch horses to fire hydrants.


• Lawn, garden or yard sprinkling was restricted to the hours of 5:30 and 9 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m.


• Sprinkling a walk or washing a buggy or carriage required payment in advance.


• No hose could be used without a nozzle, and nozzles could not be greater than one-four inch “orifice.”


Bluffton's water plant

• A fine of from $1 to $20 resulted when a water customer habitually permitted neighbors, not hooked up to the water system, to use water from a customer’s pipe.


• Contractors, masons and plasterers could not use water at any residence until they first obtained a permit from the village clerk.


• The monthly water rates for a one-family dwelling was $5, with a $2 additional charge for lawn and garden sprinkling.


If you had a bathtub you paid $2 more and residential “water closets” cost another $2.


The first Bluffton house to receive water from the municipal water works was the residence at 152 N. Jackson St., at that time owned by M.M. “Dode” Murray.


The water plant construction started in early 1896 and by the middle of September the building was completed and water mains laid in all the principal streets in the village. The plant existed on Harmon Road, now the site of Steinmetz soccer field.


Three miles of mains were laid during the summer of 1896, while workmen completed the water plant.


Tested at a pressure of 155 pounds these lines failed to show the slightest indication of a leak and the engineering firm was quite proud of its job, according to articles in The Bluffton News.


Six wells were used to serve the plant and a line was run to nearby quarries to furnish water in case of a fire.


Testing water pressure in 1898. The test occurred during the opening of the Bluffton water plant. It demonstrated that the pressure enabled water to shoot higher than Main Street buildings, a plus for the fire department. This photo is taken looking north at the Main-Cherry intersection. This test took several minutes as you can see the water running in the gutter on the dirt street. Sidney Hauenstein took this photo. In the place of today’s Citizens National Bank stands the Russell Hotel, and the front of that hotel is on this page.


Bluffton's municipal water plant on Harmon Road.

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