Municipal Services in '90s

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Municipal Services in '90s


In looking at the history of local government and public services, the mid-1890's were interesting years. Richmond, at that time, was governed by a mayor and six councilmen. As mayor, T.T. Covington received a salary of $450 a year, and each councilman received $3 for each regular or special meeting. The street committee of the Council supervised the maintenance and repair of streets and sidewalks, including such things as operating a water wagon in the summer to sprinkle the dusty, un-paved streets in the business district.

J.D. Freeny, who had been chief of police since 1879, received $75 a month salary. He was assisted by two policemen at the fabulous salary of $50 a month each. One of the policemen was described in a newspaper article as wearing a gray helmet, dark blue coat with silver buttons, gray-lavender pants and a light blue necktie. He also wore russet shoes and carried a yellow walking stick.

The fire department consisted of a chief, Charles Jacobs, and fifteen volunteer firemen. The equipment included a hose carriage and seventy-seven fire hydrants provided by the Richmond Water & Gas Co. at $50 per year each. For several years the volunteers were paid $2 for each fire alarm they answered, but it was said that there were so many false alarms in 1894 that the City Council passed an ordinance that stated that the firemen would get paid only if they actually threw water on a fire.

It was reported that the number of false alarms decreased, greatly that year.

The waterworks of the Richmond Water and Gas Co. was built in 1891. Lake Reba, the 43-acre lake on Otter Creek some two and one-half miles from town on the Irvine Road was used until the Kentucky River station was built near College Hill in the mid-1960's. The original water "stand pipe" back in the 1890's was a 136,000 gallon cylindrical-shaped tank thirty-six feet tall on a brick tower seventy-five feet high. It was located at the west end of High Street where the present modern water tower now stands.

The gas works, operated by the same company, provided the city with 142 gas streetlights at $22 a year each. Home owners paid $2.50 per thousand cubic feet for gas for illumination, and $1.25 per thousand if for cooking and heat. There was no electric power service until about 1900.

Some other services in Richmond in the 1890's included three newspapers, a university, several private and public schools, an ice plant, a steam laundry, a planning mill, a marble works, two flour mills, several livery stables, two railroads, mule-drawn streetcars, and overland passenger and freight service to other towns. A small magneto telephone system was also installed in Richmond in 1894.


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “Municipal Services in '90s,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed July 13, 2024,