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When the lights and water went out
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Many of the citizens of Effingham County were without power for 10 to 24 hours when the tornado came through on March 15. This is some history about the problems that the citizens of Springfield had back in the early 1900s.

On March 8, 1912, there was a town meeting in Springfield to organize an effort to have an electric power plant purchased and installed to provide some electric current for the town. By April 5, 1912, the newspaper stated that lumber for the construction of the local electric light plant had been cut.  

In July 1912, the city of Springfield had an artesian well drilled.  The new water pump and the new electric generator were operated at two separate places.  From the newspaper dated May 30, 1913, the owner and operator of the water pump, Mr. E. F. Mingledorff, had an article stating he was getting constant complaints from water consumers informing him that they could not get water late in the evening for domestic purposes. He said the consumers had to be more conservative; they were using too much water watering their flower yards (gardens).   

By June 27, 1913, the newspaper stated that the owner of the electric plant, Mr. A. B. Cummings, would have the plant in operation by the first of July. In another article a considerable amount of the citizens of the town were complaining about the inefficiency of the water plant. The mains were entirely too small, there was practically no tank whatsoever, and the entire pressure must be had from the hydraulic ram (pump).  

On Aug. 8, 1913, the electric light plant in Springfield was completed. Basically this electric light plant was a generator and a series of batteries, which were charged by the generator.   

By March 26, 1915, Mingledorff was the owner of both the light and water plants.  The gasoline engines used to run the water pump and also electric plant were giving him problems. He told The Springfield Herald that he was considering replacing his gasoline motor with steam equipment and he also was planning to move the light plant from its location to the present location of the pumping station, and planned to operate the two together.   

At the end of May 1915, the light plant was put out of commission for almost a week by an accident. The engine that drove the generator snapped a bolt in the piston arm box, and before it could be stopped, it had completely torn the engine up. The broken parts had to be ordered from the factory — hence the delay and the consequent darkness in Springfield’s streets.

By June 4, 1915, the local light plant was again in operation. Mingledorff said that he might have to replace the gasoline engine with a stream engine.  He said the present engine was powerful enough, and was an excellent machine in every way, but the fact that it was a gasoline machine meant trouble from time to time. With the installation of a steam power plant the customers would be assured the very best of service all the time.

By Oct. 22, 1915, Mingledorff had erected a new building for his lighting plant on the old stable lot near the Springfield Trading and Supply Company. He also planned to install a mill to grind corn using the engine that operated the power plant.

By Nov. 12, 1915, Springfield had been in darkness for several days. He was moving the light plant to its new location. On Nov. 19, 1915, the electric lights were tried out for the first time since the plant was moved to the new location.

The newspaper dated June 13, 1918, reported that Springfield was without lights and city water for several days beginning the week before. Something went wrong with the dynamo in the light plant, which put the light plant out of business, and also as the current was used to pump the water into the large tank, the pump was also out of commission; consequently the town had no water.  

The July 11, 1919, newspaper reported that Springfield had again been without water several days that week, the cause being a break in some of the pumping machinery.  The people of Springfield were now determined that they should have a better water and light system and they are also determined that the plant should be owned by the city. 

The newspaper dated July 25, 1919, reported, “No lights yet and nothing accomplished.”  The citizens were getting impatient and they demanded that something be done.  “We must have lights and a better water system.”

On Aug. 1, 1919, the water system had been out of commission for two or three days again.
Oct. 31, 1919, the power plant was having trouble again.  A new dynamo (generator) was ordered for the old light plant and the town was out of power again.   The newspaper reported the town of Springfield had been without city water for a week on account of a break down of the pump. Mingledorff had ordered new parts from the factory.

On Nov. 7, 1919, the town water system was still broken.  The parts had been ordered over two weeks and had not arrived.

The paper reports on Nov. 14, 1919, that the light plant was down and the owner was waiting on a new dynamo to get the plant back to producing electric current. The broken part for the water pump was also expected.  The town was without electric current as well as water. By Nov. 28, 1919, Mingledorff had found the parts for the pump. They had been shipped to Springfield, S.C., instead of Springfield, Ga. On Dec. 19, 1919, the dynamo finally arrived, but it took until Jan. 2, 1920, before the newspaper reported the lights were on again.

On April 9, 1920, the town of Springfield was again without water. The old pump had given away. Mingledorff had bought a new pump in 1919, but it was not shipped from the factory until the Feb. 18 1920. It had not arrived because it got tied up in a strike in New York.

By April 16, 1920, Mingledorff had located his new pump on the Ocean Steamship pier in New York, awaiting shipment. He had it forwarded by rail. By April 30, 1920, the new pump still had not arrived in Springfield and was on the road somewhere between New York and Springfield. It seems during this period Mingledorff would get the old pump working for a few hours on some days.  He reports to the The Springfield Herald, on May 7, 1920, that the old pump is so far gone that it cannot be repaired successfully any more.

On June 4, 1920, the new pump finally arrived and the town had water again.

On July 2, 1920, an accident at the electric light plant put the dynamo out of business.  A gasoline engine was loaned by the Morgan Motor Company and the water supply was again put back in service. Mingledorff reported that the town people were entirely too wasteful with water. He stated that the storage tank was totally emptied in a few hours the first of the week and it contained over 18,000 gallons of water. Mingledorff stated he could keep the tank filled if the people would not allow their hydrants to run all the time.

By the end of November in 1920, Mingledorff was out of the light and water business and by the spring of 1921, the city of Springfield was sending out the light and water bills. 

So next time when the power goes off for several hours, look back to the problems our people had back in the early 1900s and you will see that we don’t have it so bad after all.     

This article was written by Norman Turner of Historic Effingham Society.