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[p. 50]

At this time (1843) Boston numbered about 100,000 inhabitants, and was dependent for water upon cisterns and wells. The supply in the wells had been steadily diminishing for years, and what remained was necessarily subject to contamination from numberless sources. ‘One specimen which I analyzed,’ said Dr. Jackson, ‘which gave three per cent. of animal and vegetable putrescent matter, was publicly sold as a mineral water; it was believed that water having such a remarkable fetid odor and nauseous taste could be no other than that of a sulphur spring; but its medicinal powers vanished with the discovery that the spring arose from a neighboring drain.’

Here was a golden opportunity. Eddy proposed to abandon the canal as a means of transportation, and convert it into an aqueduct for supplying the city of Boston with wholesome water. The sections between the Merrimac and Concord at one extremity and Charlestown mill-pond and Woburn at the other were to be wholly discontinued. Flowing along the open channel of the canal from the Concord river to Horn-pond locks in Woburn, from thence it was to be conducted in iron pipes to a reservoir upon Mt. Benedict in Charlestown, a hill eighty feet above the sea level.

The good quality of the Concord-river water was vouched for by the ‘analysis of four able and practical chemists, Dr. Charles T. Jackson, of Boston; Prof. John W. Webster, of Cambridge University; S. L. Dana, of Lowell, and A. A. Hayes, Esq., of the chemical works at Roxbury.’ The various legal questions involved were submitted to the Hon. Jeremiah Mason, who gave an opinion, dated Dec. 21, 1842, favorable to the project. The form for an act of incorporation was drawn up, and a pamphlet was published in 1843 by Caleb Eddy, entitled an ‘Historical Sketch of the Middlesex Canal, with Remarks for the Consideration of the Proprietors,’ setting forth the new scheme in glowing colors.

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