The year was 1887. The Massachusetts Legislature had passed an act “to supply the Town of Andover with water.” All that stood in the way of a town system was ... the Town of Andover itself.
Boston engineering firm Crafts and Forbes had been retained by the Water Committee, a group appointed at Town Meeting the previous March, and it had just released a study examining different available water sources and suggesting methods of water supply.
Discussions on the need for securing a reliable water system had reached a fever pitch, with the reasons most often cited being rapid town growth and the necessity for water to provide fire protection.
The next step was a special Town Meeting on Dec. 12, 1887, at which time voters were asked to accept the decision of the Legislature enabling the town to supply itself with water if it chose. Deciding on the specific method and money appropriations would come later. Prior to the Town Meeting, The Townsman printed a complete copy of the act.
That December, Town Meeting voted to accept the act by a vote of 291-118 — with the measure winning just 18 votes more than the two-thirds majority necessary for passage. Letters to the editor on the subject followed immediately.
One writer – “Citizen” – advised the town to “look before you leap.” The engineers’ report was criticized as giving “a wholly one-sided and rose-colored view, particularly in the financial aspect.”
The destruction of picnic grounds around Haggetts Pond (the No. 1 contender for the water source) was argued, not to mention the building of rights of way through farms and gardens. An increase in taxes was also a concern. Many farmers felt they already had excellent wells and reservoirs and didn’t see the necessity for paying for something that was working just fine.
Another “Citizen” countered the letter, saying a town water system would benefit the community as a whole and enhance real estate property values. A Townsman editorial opined “the town would make very slow progress in any line whose citizens should go against every project that in their opinion they themselves did not need.”