1894-to-1910: Innovative From the Start

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Freese and Nichols

As we celebrate Freese and Nichols’ 125th anniversary, this series will chronicle company achievements decade by decade. To start, we look at 1894-to-1910.

Freese and Nichols’ first decades were guided by our company’s founder, John Hawley, a scientist with a bachelor’s degree in science and engineering from the University of Minnesota. John Hawley went to Texas in 1891 as an employee of Chicago-based McArthur Brothers. The company was hired to design and construct the City of Fort Worth‘s first water treatment facility, the Holly Water Treatment Plant (named for the two-story, steam-driven Holly Company pumps).

When John Hawley arrived, Texas had no cities with a population greater than 40,000, no water supply reservoirs and no water treatment plants​. Public health was an emerging focus for engineers, and sanitary engineering was a new speciality. John Hawley became a leader in this new branch of engineering.

John Hawley, Consultant

After Hawley launched his own company in 1894, the City of Fort Worth, Texas, accepted a report by the consulting engineer. It was the City’s first comprehensive study of its water resources. It is striking that among our founder’s first efforts as a consulting engineer is a report about the municipal water supply. Depending on records shared by neighboring jurisdictions (because the City had not yet begun collecting data) and Hawley’s own “observation of a few phenomena,” Hawley’s 6,000-word Report on the Water Supply of Fort Worth was the City’s first comprehensive study of its water supply.

The Fort Worth report set a precedent for consulting in Fort Worth and for the firm led by John Hawley. ​

The report made six recommendations, including construction of a large reservoir or, in its stead, a series of small storage dams. Three of these smaller dams were designed by Hawley, exemplifying the adage that studies lead to follow-on work. Hawley’s study concludes with a goal for the water supply: “ample in quantity, pure in quality and economical of obtainment.”

John Hawley was also an innovator in the very real challenges of financing water supply improvements. As City engineer for the City of Fort Worth (concurrent with his firm’s private practice), John Hawley implemented one of the recommendations in his 1894 report: installation of water meters for all water consumers.

More Freese and Nichols history may be found in A Century in the Works, on which this article is based, and Continuing the Journey.

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