Archive for Thursday, January 12, 2012

100 years ago: Coal, wood, river water supply cold-besieged Lawrence

January 12, 2012


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Jan. 12, 1912:

  • "After the warm spell things began to brighten up and there were those who had hopes that the cold weather was over with its accompanying snows, north winds and gas failures. But not so, for it was for but one day and then the northern blasts returned, the thermometers dropped, likewise the gas pressure. This morning the official weather taker on the hill showed a temperature of 5 degrees below the zero mark. A strong blast from the north added to the cold to make things disagreeable.... A small amount of wood and coal arrives at the yards every day but by night it is pretty well cleaned up. Wood is being brought in from the country and thus far the supply has been sufficient. Wood is selling for $7 and $7.50 a cord now."
  • "Yesterday morning the pumps at the Water Station began to pump river water into the basins at the pumping plant and today the water was turned into the city mains. Now Lawrence has adopted the slogan, 'Boil the water.' The citizens have been advised that the river water is unfit for use unless boiled, but it was the only recourse open to the Water Company, their wells have gone dry and there is no other place for them to get water except from the river. The scarcity of water at the plant is due to two things. The cold weather that freezes up the streams that supply the ground water for the wells and the increased consumption by the city. People leave their faucets turned on all of the time in order to keep the pipes from freezing up and in this manner a large amount of water is being consumed. The two fires Saturday also used up a large amount of water."


Lawrence Morgan 6 years ago

This is absolutely fascinating. How has the water situation changed in Lawrence over the years?

FlintlockRifle 6 years ago

Love the wording in this story,how offen do you see ""disagreeable""and"" weather taker"" used in todays LJW writing happenings----keep them coming staff

littlexav 6 years ago

I also like how many facts there are in these articles (even if they're quirky facts) . . . whatever happened to that practice, eh?

Sarah St. John 6 years ago

Thank you Flint! And you can call me by my real name; I don't mind. ;-)

Most of us have lived through some pretty cold winters such as the one they are describing, haven't we? Although I was really feeling that north wind this morning, I have been enjoying this winter so far. Much more "agreeable" than 100 years ago. :-) Plus, no worries at this time about the natural gas being turned down to a flicker as it was in 1912.

By the way, I don't know what a cord of wood sells for nowadays, but if I pull out the handy-dandy inflation calculator, I see that the folks 100 years ago were having to pay at least between $150 and $170 for a cord during this cold snap. No wonder the poorer folks were suffering.

Kansasplains, I imagine the well-water that the city was (usually) using in 1912 dried up before mid-century and the river was the sole source until the Corps built the lakes. But I'd have to defer to a more knowledgeable source on that.

Thanks again for reading and for commenting! I really appreciate the feedback!

imastinker 6 years ago

That's almost exactly what a cord of wood sells for now.

Remember that there were no chainsaws a hundred years ago.

Wells were likely spring fed dug wells that were not deep enough to keep from drying in seasonal droughts.

Tony Kisner 6 years ago

Although not in every article Sarah re-prints, the number of fires 100 years ago is striking. It was not easy back then and in the next year, 1912 the flu is going to hit.

PS: my cable is a little spotty at times and the pizza delivery guy is often tardy.

Sarah St. John 6 years ago

Actually 1918 -- we have a few years left before that flu hits. And remember that its first U.S. appearance was right here in Kansas. See for its March appearance. Some also say it was reported as early as January 1918 in Haskell County.

Things to watch for in the world of 1912: Interesting developments in China; early rumblings in the Balkan states (warming up for WWI); Titanic sinking in April; Scott's and Amundsen's separate South Pole explorations (Scott's of course ending tragically); the first cherry trees in our nation's capital; the Piltdown Man hoax; the discovery of vitamins in food; the theory of continental drift. And what's got to be my husband's very favorite: the invention of the Scoville Unit to measure the hotness of peppers.

pace 6 years ago

I am eager to find out what measures were taken to correct the issues of a gas supplier who couldn't deliver as promised. I assume this was the one of reasons we regulate utilities.

pace 6 years ago

By the way, I appreciate the presentation of this column, good work Sarah.

SpicePirate 6 years ago

Scoville U's 100th, huh...WOO HOO!

Sarah St. John 6 years ago

You could celebrate by eating a Bhut Jolokia.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.