By Gary Herrity
Special to the Herald
The Gas Light and Coke Co. was founded in 1869 for $60,000. The names of Young, Weston, Howe, Toll, Lamb, and Bailey were prominent among the Board of Directors. Col. Noyes’ home on 9th Avenue So. and 5th St. was the first to have gas lights. Later, that mansion became the convent for the BVM nuns teaching at St.Mary’s.
Another invention was first seen in Clinton at the Barnum and Bailey Show in 1886, when an exhibit of “a new curio,” the incandescent light bulb, was shown in a glass cage! A Mr. S.M. Highlands was superintendent of the waterworks and the electric company at the same time.
In 1891, E.C. Walsh of the State Electric Company arranged for the change from horse/mule drawn trolleys to electric, and new track was soon laid to coincide with the Iowa Interurban Electric Railroad.
By 1895, the production of electric current was quite common; and, in 1912, the Clinton Gas and Electric Co. took over for the The Gas Light and Coke Co. A number of years later, in 1943, Interstate Power Company gained the franchise. They had been operating the company since 1925, and their first job was to run a 69,000-volt transmission line to Dubuque -- their other Iowa franchise.
1889 brought paving to Clinton, when City Engineer B.B. Hart contracted with Rockford Construction Co. to pave 5th Avenue from 1st to 6th Street with paving bricks, and 2nd Street from 1st Avenue to 10th Avenue So. Prior to that, the roads had been covered with crushed rock, and some were macadamized (early roads, compacted, bound with concrete or asphalt). Bricks were the paving choice
from 1889 to 1920, when concrete and then asphalt began to be used.
The cost for the 2nd St. project was $24,363.53, complete with sandstone curbs
and London Mills brick on a macadam foundation. Fifth Avenue, from First to Third, was done for $17,775.04 and, in 1891, Second Street was completed from 1st Avenue "to the city limits" (near the Courthouse) for $54, 472.92. Later, it might be noted, the Purington Company made bricks in Peoria that were used extensively in Clinton, though they were no relation to an early Camanche settler, Amanda Purinton (with no "g"), as stated in an earlier article.
Water was so important, as it will be in our future, that a few more words about Clinton’s water supply might be in order. First off, only one and one-half percent of the world’s water is potable, that is, can be drunk, as much of the world’s
supply is in the oceans and icebergs. As Len Vogel, a Water Works employee who toured schools with this information points out, the earth’s water supply can never be added to nor subtracted from; it is just in different forms -- such as rain, evaporation, humidity, oceans, lakes, and, yes, underground rivers. Therefore, our artesian wells are very valuable. It is said, that even if some seismic event happened, such as a fault-shift or an earthquake, and somehow shut off the supply for our aquifers, we would still have 20 years of pure, wonderful drinking water.
In 1874, the wise people of Clinton knew and sensed this, in creating a “free-flowing water works" with enough pressure to last for years, and then pumps easily did the rest, as the pressure subsided. Experience would reveal two underground rivers flowing deep beneath our city. Like our “crossing city” above ground, they cross below us. One is the Jordan Aquifer from the foothills of the Rockies, and the other is the Deffenbach Aquifer from Lake Superior. When the great Alaskan earthquake occurred 20 years ago, the level of the water below Clinton raised 35 feet!
As Mr. Vogel tells it, “the pressure from below is so great that several local fires were well-provided with water during the blaze." When Paaske’s (Lyons Masonic Temple) burned in 1976, Len got a call from the fire department to divert as much water there as possible. Through skillful manipulation of the pumps, enough water was easily provided! Today, four of the nine original free-flowing wells are in operation at depths of 1800 to 2900 feet. There are also two at the DuPont location which were turned over to the city. Now, ADM has contracted with the City of Clinton to drill one or two of its own. They need water for their process and someday many others may return to the Midwest for its great source of water.
The American Waterworks, our provider, has nearly 200 local works around this country, and they are required to meet stringent local, state, and federal regulations in providing pure, filtered water with just a touch of chlorine and fluoride. You won’t find better water anywhere! If you have extra-sensitive taste or smell and think that you can detect the chlorine, simply pour it into a jug and leave it in the refrigerator overnight and it will dissipate. This fine artesian well water is part of our history, since it takes years for it to filter through the strata of rock formations.