Issue 1-25-15 Website - page 11

Prentice’s Gas andElectric Company
Last week’s article, the topic
wasnatural gas.LeRoywascon-
nected to thenatural gaswells in
Pavilion in1907, but LeRoyhad
“manufactured gas” before that.
able in Philadelphia as early as
factured gas to residences, street
lights, and businesses in 1816.
Thisgaswasextracted fromcoal
andwas known as coal gas.
Many small communities had
gascompanies. Iamstillnot sure
exactly when LeRoy was first
supplied with gas, but I’m still
looking. ( I’mhamperedwith the
lack of a bulb for the microfilm
reader. Elizabeth Bolton, who
works in the Gallery, has been
reading through the pages of the
LeRoy Gazette
gathering infor-
mation. It’s slow going!)
Discoveries in the process
of manufacturing gas, resulted
in a process that manufactured
gas fromwater. Known as “wa-
ter gas”, it produced heat as it
burned, but it didnot burnwitha
flame that produced enough illu-
mination. Then in 1877, T.S.C.
Lowediscovered the“carbureted
water gas process” which made
gas from water but it could be
“enriched” or carbureted with
light oils, which when burned,
produced a bright light.
We have two gas chandeliers
electrified. In the back parlor is
a gas chandelier that came from
Ingham University. A little re-
search into the Ingham records
might prove when Ingham used
gas. Another gas chandelier
hangs in the front parlor, from a
house onChurchStreet.Most of
thefireplaces inLeRoyHouseare
alsoplumbed for gas.
In theMay9, 1894 issueof the
,on the frontpage,
was an explanationof the carbu-
reted gas process at Prentice’s
Mill,northof townalong theOat-
kaCreek: “gasmakingby theold
systemwas continuous - - night
andday, with constant attention.
(This implies that there was a
coal gas plant in LeRoy) Now,
enough for awhole day ismade
in25minutes,and theplant is idle
for nearly 24 hours, thus greatly
lessening the cost all around.
A blast of steamwas forced up
through the coke, and water gas
plain and simple was the result.
flame and with no illuminating
power. Then a small quantity of
petroleumwas admitted through
another pipe, and this added the
illuminating property of the gas.
The gas is then passed through a
scrubberwhichseparated the im-
purities. The gaswas then piped
into a cylinder tank filled with
water that prevents the escapeof
the gas.” This tank held the gas
until itwas needed.
Thearticlecontinues: “Techni-
cally speaking, the new process
consists of the destructive distil-
lationofwater, accomplishedby
passing steam through incandes-
cent fuel, thereby separating the
hydrogen from oxygen. The gas
is afterwards carbureted up to
the desired candlepower by the
introduction of oil or other like
hydrocarbons. The apparatus is
the invention of James Gray, a
well known engineer fromPitts-
burgh. . .”
At the same time, Prentice
was producing gas, he was also
producing electricity. Just a few
monthsbefore theannouncement
of his new gas facility, he an-
nouncedhisnewelectric facility.
Prentice had purchased the site
of the old Jones papermill (now
the site of the sewage treatment
plant)andwasretrofitting themill
for the production and transmis-
sion of electricity. He widened
the old millrace and installed
McCormick 21 inch cylinder
gate turbines. It is clearly stated
that “It will be of the alternating
variety.” (see note below)
Prentice installed a coal fired
150 horse power boiler and 150
horse power engine to supple-
ment thewater supplywhennec-
essary. Prentice’s electric station
was in service by June 13, 1894.
Ashort articlementions that “the
light furnished is of great bril-
liance - - it is now in use inMr.
Prentice’s residence (on Church
St.) his mill and office, the salt
works refinery andN.B. Keeney
and Son’s warehouse. The arc
light inTaft’s storewill be inuse
this evening.
“The followingweek another
articlementioned that electricity
would be furnished all night ...
‘thus providing against the use
of the dangerous kerosene lamp
or any other light where flame is
produced or where matches are
For many years, people could
choose electricity or gas. Peri-
odically, the Village would use
electric street lights and then it
would go back to gas. A won-
derful storywas told byAndrew
Weinman, who as a boy, had the
jobof lighting and extinguishing
the gas lamps in theVillage. He
was paid $20 amonth.
In 1886, the Village voted to
replace thegas lightswithelectric
lights. “I for one wasn’t sorry
about thechangebecause lighting
and extinguishing the gas lights
was a strenuous job. We had to
start lighting just before dark
and extinguished them between
12 and1 am.We had theVillage
divided into four routes.My route
started at the Village Hall on
Bank Street, upMyrtle Street to
andWestMainandMainStreet to
Mill Street. I often wonder how
many lads in these days would
want tomake twosuch tripsevery
night, winter and summer for $5
a week. Many times we had to
wade through snow more than
knee deep . . .”
*The notice about Prentice’s
electric facility which provided
“alternating”current isextremely
interesting, since it was only a
fewyearsbefore, that equipment
oped. Thomas Edison believed
that direct current was the only
solution for transmittingelectric-
ity. The problemwas, that direct
current could not be transmitted
any further than twomiles at the
most. Nicola Tesla knew that
alternating current was the only
way to transmit electricity.
LeRoy Gazette
a long article about Tesla’swork
inApril 1893“LightMinusHeat
– theDiscoveriesNikolaTesla is
Giving theWorld.” Nicola’spat-
entswouldbe bought byGeorge
Westinghouse andwould be im-
plemented in themassive power
plants atNiagaraFalls in 1895.
GasHouse, StationNo. 2 (1905) - Property ofLeRoyHydraulic
(1905) Interior view of theElectricLight PlantNo. 1.
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