“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Morgantown in Monongalia County, West Virginia — The American South (Appalachia)

Who Wants Clean Water?

Interpreting History

Who Wants Clean Water? Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bradley Owen, May 13, 2021
1. Who Wants Clean Water? Marker
We all need water, but Morgantown area residents did not always have access to clean water. As you walk along the reservoir loop trail, you will learn about how this land played a very important role in providing clean water for Morgantown.

Water Delivery at Just 10 Cents a Barrel!
The Borough of Morgantown first discussed providing water to its residents in 1859, long before there was a reservoir here. Sometime after May 1865, John Edwards, an African-American, started a water-hauling business. Water from the Monongahela River cost 10 cents a barrel, while water from Deckers Creek cost 15 cents a barrel. Edwards provided water until 1889, outlasting several attempts to establish water companies.

A Call for "Comfort and Health in Every Home"
In 1885, the newly established Morgantown Improvement Company (MIC) proposed establishing a public water works system that would supply clean water via pipes to residents. There was a great deal of public support surrounding the effort. The Morgantown Weekly Post and New Dominion reported:

There would be "No danger of drinking
Who Wants Clean Water? Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Bradley Owen, May 13, 2021
2. Who Wants Clean Water? Marker
Reservoir Loop Trail, looking east.
Click or scan to see
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nasty woolly water worms in Water Works water!"

"Our people will hereafter take pure water from the bowels of the earth, in preference to impure drainage from the bowels of humanity — so to speak."

"A town that has been drinking and washing in the hardest kind of water for fifty or one hundred years is entitled to a change." … The ladies were "a little fastidious about their houses, about their cooking, about their complexions-soft water [was] essential to all these things." (The water works water would be soft.)

A water works would increase property values "quite as much as a railroad," while bringing "comfort and health to every home."

Despite the enthusiastic support of residents, the 1885 effort to develop a water works failed. Of course, this is not the end of the story....

Children sitting on John Edwards's water wagon.
Photo courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Collection WVU Libraries.

John Edwards supplied water to Morgantown residents for about 24 years.
Photo courtesy of West Virginia and Regional History Collection, WVU Libraries.

For more information, please see the pamphlet "Bringing Clean Water to Morgantown" available on our website at

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2014 by West Virginia Botanic Garden and West Virginia Humanities Council.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: African AmericansCharity & Public WorkNatural Resources. A significant historical year for this entry is 1859.
Location. 39° 37.725′ N, 79° 52.005′ W. Marker is in Morgantown, West Virginia, in Monongalia County. Marker can be reached from Tyrone Road (County Road 75) 0.1 miles south of Quartz Drive. Located on the Reservoir Loop Trail at the West Virginia Botanic Garden. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1061 Tyrone Road, Morgantown WV 26508, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. A Small Dam and a Big "Bowl" Meet the Need for Clean Water (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Strong Men and Horses Build the Basin (about 500 feet away); Clean Water Comes To Morgantown (about 600 feet away); The Tibbs Run Reservoir: Then a Water Source, Now a Local Treasure (about 800 feet away); Remnants of the Past: The Dam and Outlet Tower (approx. 0.2 miles away); "Clean Mountain Water" Not So Clean (approx. 0.2 miles away); Ralph Lemley: Resourceful Caretaker (approx. Ό mile away); Veterans Memorial (approx. 1.8 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Morgantown.
More about this marker. The Reservoir Loop is a 0.72 mile walking trail.
Credits. This page was last revised on May 27, 2021. It was originally submitted on May 22, 2021, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. This page has been viewed 64 times since then and 17 times this year. Last updated on May 27, 2021, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on May 22, 2021, by Bradley Owen of Morgantown, West Virginia. • Devry Becker Jones was the editor who published this page.

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Jun. 26, 2022