Stuart, Iowa 50250.
It’s Centennial Celebration
Municipal Light Plant
On August 7, 8, and 9, 1970 the Town of Stuart, Iowa celebrated
its centennial year. About 1850 a small group of Quaker immigrants
from Indiana and Ohio settled on a wooded ridge about 40 miles west
of Des Moines, Iowa. Others came. They built a meeting house and
named the site Summit Grove.
As the Rock Island Railroad extended its lines westward Captain
Charles Stuart and A. L. McPherson bought land around Summit Grove
in 1868 and laid it out in town lots. The plat was recorded in the
Adair and Guthrie county seats in 1870. The town was given the name
of Stuart. Stuart became a division point on the railroad and grew
rapidly until the railroad shops were removed in 1897.
In 1889 a group of citizens petitioned the city council to have
a municipal light plant built. An election which carried by about
seven to one for the plant was held on July 26, 1890. On October
11, 1890 the Hawkeye Electric Mfg. Co. of Davenport, Iowa was given
the contract to build the plant and distribution system at a cost
The contract called for two 60 horsepower horizontal return
tubular steam boilers, one 105 horsepower steam engine, two
‘Thones NEW Style Improved’ 110 volt direct current dynamos
with a capacity of 500 sixteen candlepower lamps each. The
switchboard was to consist of two ammeters, two voltmeters, a
ground detector, one hand field regulator, plus the necessary
switches, lightning arresters, fuses etc. The company was also to
furnish sixty-five 32 candle power street lights and seven hundred
16 candle power lamps for commercial use. The plant was put into
operation early in 1891, said to be the second municipal light
plant in the state.
As the load increased, new equipment had to be added from time
to time. In 1896 a Harris Corliss engine was purchased for $425.00,
a Fort Wayne 900 ampere, 110 volt direct current dynamo for $727.00
and the leather drive belt for $271.32. Carbon arc street lights
replaced the older carbon filament lamps around the business
district. Later two 18 ft. by 72 in. horizontal return tubular
steam boilers replaced the older boilers. An Ideal direct connected
steam engine with 300 ampere generator was purchased and a little
later a Ball engine with 500 ampere generator. Except for boiler
trouble caused by Stuart’s extremely hard water, the plant
Originally the light plant was strictly a ‘light plant’,
operating only in the evenings. A little while before dusk, smoke
could be seen rising from the stack, indicating that the operator
had checked his water level and started the fire under the boiler.
While the fire was getting under way he had time to fill the
engine’s cylinder lubricator and oil cups and see that
everything was ready to go.
As the steam pressure rose the fireman cleared the steam lines
of condensate and started the engine, turning it over slowly to
warm it up. When the steam pressure approached the 125 psi
operating pressure, a matter of an hour or two from light-off time,
he brought the engine up to speed, went to the switchboard,
adjusted the voltage, closed the main switch and again checked the
voltage. The plant was in operation. A quick trip back to the
boiler was necessary to start the boiler feed pump if it had not
already been started and adjust its speed to maintain proper water
level. He probably added more coal.
Firing the boiler was something of an art, to know just when to
add more coal and to place it where it was needed to keep the fire
bed even and not too thick. Otherwise the fire could become a mass
of clinkers, too thick with no draft possible or too thin or uneven
with white hot stuck and warped grates. A good fireman could spread
the coal evenly over the grates where he wanted it, by passing the
coal over the edge of his tilted shovel.