Log Jam: Crew Discovers Civil War-Era Water Pipes

Work crew discovers a piece of history in Bangor, Maine, while installing a water main.
Log Jam: Crew Discovers Civil War-Era Water Pipes
Markings on a segment of wooden water pipe in Bangor, Maine, indicate the log was registered on Dec. 22, 1862, and suggest the pipeline is about 150 years old. (photo credit: Bangor Water District)

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A work crew in Bangor, Maine, recently excavated two pieces of an old water pipeline made out of red pine and believed to be about 150 years old.

Installed as early as the Civil War — predating the construction of the city’s first public water system — the pipeline was discovered when a crew from Eastwood Contractors was working to install a new water main, according to an article in the Bangor Daily News.

Patrick Smith, an inspector with Bangor Water District who was present during excavation, says he initially was unconvinced it was a wooden pipe since workers often find old logs when digging beneath city streets. But the crew then found a 2-inch iron coupling which had been used to connect the two segments.

“I knew right then that it had to be an old wooden water main,” Smith told the newspaper.

The pieces of wooden pipe that were buried 7 feet below Union Street are between 6 and 8 feet long and measure 12 inches in diameter. Portions of the pipe are still covered in bark and each has a 3-inch bore running through the middle.

Kathy Moriarty, general manager of the water district, believes the pipe likely was installed sometime between 1862 and 1875 based on the history of public water service in Bangor and some of the markings cut into one of the segments.

Bangor’s first public water system was installed in 1875 and featured only cast iron pipes. Before that, any water system would have been privately owned. The markings on the wooden pipes perhaps reveal the owner of the logs and more accurately pinpoint the date when the waterline was put into service.

Cut with an ax, the markings were used to identify a log’s owner before it was floated down the river in a log drive. These marks were filed with the registry of deeds.

Moriarty, after visiting the Penobscot County Registry of Deeds, found a mark that appears to be the same as the one on the wooden pipes recovered from Union Street on July 21. It is dated Dec. 22, 1862, and appears to identify the owner as Nathaniel Murry. If accurate, the marking could indicate the tree was felled within a year of that date, during the Civil War.

Water district officials have secured the pipe segments, according to the report. Moriarty said they have not yet determined what to do with the two segments but would like to display them somehow.

“We want to keep it and somehow preserve it,” she said.

Source: Bangor Daily News


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