1846: Edmund French to John Bloomfield Jervis

Croton Aqueduct Map

This letter was written by Edmund French who apparently served for several years as an on-site construction manager for the forty-one mile Croton Aqueduct that provided fresh water to New York City that was designed by America’s leading consulting engineer of the antebellum era, John Bloomfield Jervis, to whom he addressed this letter. Jervis was a pioneer in the development of canals and railroads for the expanding United States. He designed and supervised the construction of five of America’s earliest railroads, was chief engineer of three major canal projects, and he designed the first locomotive to run in America.

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Addressed to John B. Jervis, Chief Engineer: New York Water Works, Albany, New York

Sing Sing [New York]
24th April 1846

My dear Sir,

We have finished the work in the Aqueduct & now have the water at the full height. The line was generally very well. We plastered the wall at Lounsbury on Sec. 5 and on side hill on Sec. 3, & cut out & pointed checks on 6 & 7. Watson plastered the walls at Acker’s brook, & McGregory’s & part of Redelles, & cut out & pointed on Sec. 16 north of tunnel & at Kemey’s Woods. Berwich plastered the unfinished places on Sections 31 and Mr. Beckman’s Meadow & on Sec. 32 north of Waste Will on Sect. 38 near the Butchey & finished over the concrete on Sec. 41. Culby out & pointing a few small check on 10.32.39, & 41. Bremmer finished at Dobb’s Ferry & on side hill below Archey.

We now have a few men engaged in trimming up the banks to give the vegetation a good chance, but in a few places we require a few horse carts for a short time, particularly on 16 & 19.

The water is for the time of year quite low in the Croton [River], but 3 inches on the dam. If the dry weather continues, we should repair the piece of prolechon wall which fell down during the freshet, but about 15 feet in length. I think it would be advisable to do what work is to be done at the foot of the dam, as soon as the state of the water will allow us, rather than put it off until the summer where, if the season should be like the last, the Reservoir might get lower than would be well.

There appears to be nothing to be done at the dam except to repair he wall, the stone for which will cleve away the wreck above the culvert of the secondary dam.

The railroad bill seems to drag slowly & we suppose every effort will be made to defeat it. But all here rest their hopes that you will succeed in getting it passed.

What has been done in Boston since the people accepted the New Law? And what are the general features of that law? With much respect, Very truly yours, — E. French

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