Family Tree Tuesday – Silas Wright Titus
Silas Wright Titus, known as “The Water Wizard”, was an engineer who discovered and patented deep water pumping technology. He also discovered early water supplies for New York City and other towns and cities in the United States in the late nineteenth century.
Silas Wright Titus was born on January 18, 1849 in Syracuse, New York to Colonel Silas Titus and Eliza McCarthy. Titus was named for a friend of his father’s, Silas Wright, a U.S. Senator, Governor of New York, and a member of Andrew Jackson’s cabinet. When he was 20 years old he worked with the engineering force in the construction of the New Orleans, Mobile and Texas Railroad. He helped to develop and construct 125 groundwater wells in the vicinity of San Angelo, Texas. He subsequently invented a method for locating and procuring groundwater by means of drilling and pumping. He was granted seven patents on lifting water by air.
In the early 1900s the New York City water supply began to experience severe water shortages. Even with the best machinery the city engineers that operated the wells near the town of Jameco were unable to produce enough water. The city was about to abandon the wells when Titus offered to run the plant. He was allowed to run the plant under a contract with machinery he invented and patented, the wells were producing 8,000,000 US gallons per day. According to Titus, the engineers were jealous and they persuaded the Water Commissioner to “dispense with his services” and under the City’s operation of the wells, production dropped to 1.5 million US gallons per day. The city was about to abandon the wells again when Titus made another proposal to operate the wells with his own machinery and furnish 1.5 million US gallons per day free of charge. He requested payment of $40 for each 1 million US gallons a day over the first 1.5 million US gallons. The city engineers laughed at him but allowed him to operate the well at Jameco again. In a short time the wells were producing 8 million US gallons per day and later reached 11.0 million US gallons per day.
His father Colonel Silas Titus was a military officer who fought in the American Civil War in the Union Army. In 1835, Titus took a stage coach to New York City travelling through Buffalo and Albany. He saw the first railroad in New York running from Schenectady to Albany and he was impressed by the new technology that he organized a town meeting upon his return to Detroit that approved the building of a railroad from Detroit to Ypsilanti, Michigan. He became one of the commissioners of the Detroit and Shiawasse Railroad Company which was responsible for the first continuous 30 mile stretch of railroad in the United States. Although Titus was a Seventh-day Adventist his marriage to Eliza McCarthy was performed by Catholic Bishop John DuBois, it became the first catholic marriage record in Onondaga County, New York.
Silas Wright Titus’ maternal grandfather Thomas McCarthy was nominated as the first Mayor of Syracuse, New York in January 1848 and was a veteran of the War of 1812. Although he was nominated as the first Mayor of Syracuse, he never served his term as he died days before knowing he was nominated. McCarthy was born in Cork, County Cork, Ireland, he was bound as an apprentice draper in Dublin at the age of 14. He was an influential citizen in early Onondaga County, New York and helped to found the first Catholic church in the county as well as the Bank of Salina.
Did you know Silas Wright Titus never failed to produce a successful water plant? Titus worked on locating and installing water plants in dry towns all throughout the U.S. and Canada. He would install the plants at his own risk and sell them to the towns only after they were fully developed and guaranteed.