Documentary History of American Water-works

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Pacific States
California Auburn

Auburn, California

Auburn was incorporated in 1888.

The first water works was built in 1857 by Messrs. Woodin and Smith, taking water from the Bear River Canal Company.  The system was sold to William M. Crutcher in 1864 and yielded a net income of about $2,000 annually.  Woodin was probably Stephen Burns Woodin.

The Auburn water system was acquired by Pacific Gas and Electric, which decided to get out of the water business in 1967.

The Placer County Water Agency was formed in 1957 and bought the PG&E water systems in August, 1967.

Water is provided by the Placer County Water Agency.


1857 "Price of Water," Sacramento Daily Union, January 25, 1857, Page 2.
The Auburn and Bear River Water Company, which is running opposition to the Gold Hill Water Company, has reduced the rate of water per sluice-head to six dollars a week.  The miners say that opposition is the life of the trade.

1857 "Auburn Water Works," Sacramento Daily Union, June 24, 1857, Page 2.
A proposition has been submitted by Messrs. Woodin and Smith to the authorities of Auburn, to furnish that place with an abundant supply of water.  They propose that the citizens shall lay down a line of five inch iron pipe, from the reservoir to the Court House, and of four inch pipe from thence to the Plaza.  In consideration of this, they agree to keep their reservoir of 1000 barrels constantly filled, ready to be used at an alarm of fire. The entire cost of the works is estimated at only $3,000.

1857 Sacramento Daily Union, September 28, 1857, Page 1.
Town Water Works.  Auburn Water Works, by Woodin & Smith.

1858 "Earthen Water Pipe," California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences 10(2):165 (August 13, 1868)
This kind of pipe is now becoming known, and quite extensively used, to convey water under ground. So far as heard from, it has given perfect satisfaction, and been found to answer the purpose admirably. The cost of the pipe makes it the cheapest and best pipe used; and being made by machinery of the most perfect construction, it will make handsome joints and finished work. About one mile of this pipe has been used in Suisun City. It is also used extensively in Sacramento. About 1500 feet was purchased for Auburn. The Stockton Asylum use it extensively to convey water. Maj. Hensley, of San Jose, has engaged 4000 feet for water piping, and Judge Bliss, of Marysvillc, about 1500 feet. These are some instances of its use; and from the testimony received from various sources, the public can rest assured it is worthy their attention. We learn that the company who manufacture this pipe, and whose advertisement appears in our columns, will have samples, of various sizes, as well as their new fluted brick, on exhibition at the State Fair, and also at the Mechanics' Fair. A. K. Grim. Esq., of Sacramento, is the agent of the company, and will furnish every information requisite.

1863 Marysville Daily Appeal, December 12, 1863, Page 2.
Joel P. Williams, the proprietor and builder of the Gold Hill Water Works, died at Sacramento on the 5th inst.

1878 Obituaries from Placer County, California Genealogy Trails History Group
WOODIN, STEPHEN B.  Placer Weekly Argus, Auburn, Saturday, 5-4-1878
Death of S. B. Woodin—Stephen B. Woodin, whose death at Auburn, NY, on the 30th of April we recorded in another column, was one of the early California pioneers—a generation of men now rapidly passing away and for the most part, noted for their adventurous, brave-hearted, and hospitable natures. Mr. Woodin came to Auburn, California, in 1849 when, we believe, he engaged in mining for a brief period, shortly after which he became interested in the grocery business with Dr. Hubbard and the late J. H. Culver of Newcastle. He was afterwards associated with E. G. Smith in the ownership and management of the water-works of this town. He was also interested in the foundry business, to an extent, about the same time. He was one of the Supervisors of this county from 1857 to 1859 and subsequently Justice of the Peace. These positions he filled creditably. For some years previous to the date of his leaving here, which was about two years ago, he had been clerk with Mr. George Willment at Auburn Station. During this time Mr. Woodin was leader of the Auburn Brass Band, the organization of which dissolved about the time of his departure. The cause of Mr. Woodin’s death was cancer, from which he suffered greatly; but to the last he bore up like a man, knowing full well that there was no earthly salvation for him. He took great comfort in hearing from his California friends, and it was his wish to be here, if possible, when his time should come to cross the dark river. Deceased was an esteemed member of the Auburn Lodge of Odd Fellows, with the officers of which he maintained a frequent and cordial correspondence. The announcement of his death will cause a pang in the bosom of many an old-time friend in this country, for Steve was like the late Joe Maguire, universally liked. [Submitted for Genealogy Trails by Kathie Marynik]

1878 The Marysville Appeal Directory of Northern California for 1878
Page 265:  Auburn.  Crutcher, Wm. C., proprietor City Water Works.

1882 History of Placer County, California: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches Of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, by Myron Angel
Pages 134-135:  William M. Crutcher.
Page 369:  Water Supply.  Auburn is very well supplied with water, both for domestic and other purposes.  By a not very heavy outlay pipe could be laid from the ditch of the Bear River Canal Company, and fire plugs so located under sufficient pressure as to render nearly all the business portion of the town completely safe from danger of destruction by fire, and it is a wonder that this has not been done long ere this.  Water of good quality is obtained from wells of not very great depth, and an occasional wind-mill is used in pumping for various purposes.  Water-works were established, and pipes laid through the town, in 1857, by Messrs. Woodin & Smith.
In 1864 the water-works system was purchased by Wm. M. Crutcher, and has yielded a net income of about $2,000 annually. The water is delivered into three reservoirs, so situated as to command the greater portion of the town. From the reservoirs the water is conveyed in iron pipes to the various places of consumption—dwellings, hotels, stables, shops, etc—under a pressure of sixty or seventy feet.

1888 "Record of New Water-Works Construction," Engineering News 19:211 (March 17, 1888)
Auburn, Cal.— The works were commenced Oct. 10, 1887, and approved by the Board of Supervisors, March 1, 1888; they were designed by F. Birdsall of Sacramento, and Wm. Ambrose, of Auburn, was Constructing Engineer. The buildings were erected by J. Davis, of Auburn; the pipe, specials, valves and hydrants were supplied by W. W. Montague & Co., of San Francisco. There is a reservoir with a capacity of 2,000,000 galls., at a height of 350 ft. above the town. The trenching and pipe laying was done by white men working by the day. $2 per day for laborer. The works are owned by the Auburn Water-Works Co. F. W. BIRDSALL is Superintendent. The present population is 2,600.

1888 "Auburn," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Auburn," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Auburn," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1894 "The South Yuba Water Company," Mining and Scientific Press, 68:85-86 (February 10, 1894)
In Auburn and Newcastle the waterworks are owned by the company outright; in Lincoln there is only a half-interest; In Nevada City and Grass Valley local corporations own and run the system, purchasing of the South Yuba Company.

1896 William McDowell Crutcher  Crutcher was the son-in-law of John B. Currier, who built the Iowa Hill Water Works.

1897 Edwin G. Smith

1897 "Auburn," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1924 History of Placer and Nevada Counties California : with biographical sketches of the leading men and women of the counties who have been identified with their growth and development from the early days to the present, by William B. Lardner and Michael John Brock
Page 647:  HON. ERNEST STRATTON BIRDSALL.— A son of one of the early pioneers of Placer County, Hon. Ernest Stratton Birdsall was born at Sacramento, Cal., January 27, 1876, the fourth child of Fred and Esther (Stratton) Birdsall, the former a native of New York, and the latter of New Hampshire. The father came to California in 1851, dividing his time after his arrival, between Sacramento and Placer County. He built and owned the narrow-gauge railway between Woodbridge and Calaveras County; ran a store at Paradise in the Forest Hill Divide, Placer County; and operated a reduction mill for silver at Dayton, Nev.  Fred Birdsall's name will ever be connected with the history of irrigation in Placer County. The old Bear River Ditch was originally built for the purpose of furnishing water for hydraulic mining.  Mr. Birdsall took it over, enlarged it, and brought it down near to Loomis, for agricultural purposes, developing it into an
irrigation system. This was the first large irrigation project in Placer County.  He later constructed the Auburn water-supply system, building the reservoir on the hill which is still used for Auburn City's water supply.
This enterprising pioneer also set out an olive orchard on the hillside northeast of Auburn, which is now within the city limits, seventy acres of the property in the Aeolia Heights section. Five children were born to Fred and Esther Birdsall. The first born was Dr. Fred W. Birdsall, who was a partner with his father in constructing the Auburn City water works, and who became a successful practicing physician at Sacramento; he died unmarried at the age of twenty-nine years. The others, in order of birth, were Mrs. C. E. Darling, of Berkeley; Albert, who died at three years of age; Ernest Stratton, of this review; and Mrs. F. W. Kiesel, of Sacramento.

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce