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White pine log - Menomonie

The city of Menomonie used to use white pine logs as pipes in in its first water system installed in the 1800s, Bruce Gardow writes.

I just got done doing our dishes. They are divided into two categories; cooking utensils and tableware.

I love our dishwasher but it was recommended by the manufacturer of the cookware that they be washed by hand.

These two approaches to washing dishes are completely opposite. But one thing they do have in common is water on demand.

Push an “on” button or turn a knob and you have water, all the water you want and it’s been that way in Menomonie since 1885.

In 1885, Menomonie was a community on the verge of rapid growth. Some of the people responsible for this growth were quite wealthy and demanded a high quality of municipal service such as a water system.

However, the city council was smart because they realized that not every person in Menomonie was wealthy, so the water system project had to be installed as economically as possible.

One of the more expensive portions of the water system was the cost of pipe for the distribution of water.

Lead pipe was available but had a big price tag attached to it.

However, boatloads of white pine logs were readily available at a very reasonable price.

Other communities had used hollowed-out logs for their water systems with great success.

The choice was easy to make: it was logs.

The photo that accompanies this article is of a portion of the original Menomonie water system of 1885.

The metal rings circling the log are used to hold the log together as it expands over time due to water flowing through log.

The next 25 years of activity serve as a snapshot in time of what takes place with the water utility all the way up to the present.

Let’s take a look at the first 25 years of existence of the utility.

The system started life as a franchise from Moffet, Hodgkins & Clarke, an engineering firm from Syracuse, New York. This organization built and owned the water plant building and system.

Two pumps were used, and were capable of supplying 2,000,000 gallons of water per day, which included water for 133 fire hydrants.

In 1915 the city of Menomonie took over the water works system as the city and its water system continued rapid growth.

In 1918 the question of drilling artesian wells to improve and increase water supply came to the forefront. There are two of these wells and they were dug to a depth of 280 feet, thus creating further expansion of the water system.

Today, as the city grows so does the water works system, just as it did in those first 25 years of service.

Not only is the system expanding with new equipment, but the existing system, which began in 1885, is continually being improved and updated. It’s clear to see that this pattern will continue into the future.

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Bruce Gardow is a volunteer at the Dunn County Historical Museum who shares his extensive knowledge as he explores some of the many treasures that exist in the archives of the Dunn County Historical Society’s Rassbach Heritage Museum, located at 1820 Wakanda St. in Menomonie’s Wakanda Park.

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Dunn County News editor

Barbara Lyon is the editor of The Dunn County News in Menomonie, WI.

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