Documentary History of American Water-works

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Pacific States
California Dutch Flat

Dutch Flat, California

Dutch Flat was founded in 1851.

The Dutch Flat Water Works were built around 1859, probably by Nathan W. Blanchard and James T. Mathewson.  In 1865 Isaac Tibbetts Coffin bought Blanchard's share and operated the system until his death in 1903, when it was inherited by his daughters, Vivene and Gladys..  They sold it to Arthur W. Nichols in 1911, he died in 1966 and left the system to the community, which formed the non-profit Dutch Flat Mutual Water Company in 1969.

Water is provided by the non-profit Dutch Flat Mutual Water Company.

1860 "Water Works," Marysville Daily Appeal, August 19, 1860, Page 2.
One after one the principal mining towns are taking advantage of natural facilities to protect themselves against fire.  A total conflagration was prevented at Grass Valley last week by its newly completed water works.  Now Dutch Flat has been protecting itself by reservoirs, pipes and hose.  The reservoir is located about 1400 feet from the first plug, on an elevation of about a hundred and fifty feet above the street.

1861 Directory of the County of Placer for the Year 1861: Containing a History of the County, and of the Different Towns in the County, with the Names of Inhabitants and Every Thing Appertaining to a Complete Directory Includes entries for N.W. Blanchard and James T. Mathewson.

1866 "Matters about Dutch Flat," Sacramento Daily Union, October 9, 1866, Page 3.
The proprietors of the Dutch Flat Water Works have, or had, at the upper end of town, a furnace, set of troughs and other apparatus for preparing tar for use in rendering their pipes, etc., water-right.  On Wednesday last, owing to some leakage in the trough connecting with the furnace, the tar pot caught fire, which communicated to the troughs and furnace, destroying the whole concern and the stock of tar on hand.

1876 Daily Alta California, November 15, 1875, Page 2.
Wanted.  We find the following notice in the Dutch Flat Forum, and print it without change:
Wanted - A piously-inclined, mariageable female housekeeper, aged between sixteen and sixty years, of temperate habits, tidy in person and possessing a love for children. {He means business). To such a woman (female) a good home is offered, easy work and liberal wages paid, with a prospect for promotion.  No pinned-back beauties or matrons from Brooklyn need apply. I. T. Coffin.
The italics are our own. In the same issue of the Forum.  Mr. Coffin advertises that "Anna Coffin, the woman heretofore known as my wife," had left his bed and board, "and all that sort of thing." We are informed that Mr. Coffin is a telegraph operator, photographer and the "proprietor" of the water works at Dutch Flat, being tolerably "well fixed." However, a Chinaman would be too good for a man who thus advertises.

1878 The Marysville Appeal Directory of Northern California for 1878
Page 276:  Dutch Flat. Coffin I.T., city water works

1882 Dutch Flat, Engineering News, 9:263  (July 29, 1882)

1882 Dutch Flat from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

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

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

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

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

1903 Isaac Tibbets Coffin

1915 Notables of the West, 2:38-41 Press Reference Library 
Page 39:  Nathan Weston Blanchard

1921 Annual Report of the Board of Railroad Commissioners of the State of California
Page 431:  Dutch Flat Water Works, A.W. Nichols, Owner.

1954 Application of Arthur W. Nicholls, Owner of the Dutch Flat Water Works, for authority to increase rates for water service rendered to its customers in Dutch Flag, Placer County, California.  Application No. 35852, Public Utilities Commission of the State of California.
Water purchased from the Pacific Gas and Electric Company is the sole source of water supply to applicant's water system.

1964 In the matter of the Application of Arthur W. Nicholls, doing business as the Dutch Flat Water Works, under Section 454 of the Public Utilities Code for authority to increase rates for water service.  Application No. 47044, filed October 1, 1964.  Public Utilities Commission of the State of California.

1966 Arthur Wallace Nicholls 

1996 The Dutch Flat diary of Isaac Tibbetts Coffin, 1870-1903 : with his 1863 Texas Hill diary, and many original photographs. A few of the many references to the Dutch Flat water works are listed below.
Page 2:  I came back to California, via Nicaragua, in the spring of 1865, still sick and taking medicine, with $100 left, and in May bought of N.W. Blanchard a interest in the Dutch Flag water-works for $1500, and borrowed most of the money at big interest of Bro. Mason, and took charge of the whole works, J.T. Mathison being partner.
Page 50:  July 24, 1870.  Done considerable work on the water works during the past week, and much more needed.
Page 59:  April 2, 1871.  The water works committee have levied an assessment of 4 per cent on the Main St. property as directed for new water pipes; mine being $33.75 of the $2500 to be raised.
Page 60:  June 25, 1871.  The new town water pipe will be finished and ready for use this week.
Page 62:  July 2, 1871.  Very hot weather all last week, and I was working out in it most of the time on the new water pipes, making new connections for all houses above the theater., and I am 'most used up today.
Page 64:  August 10, 1871.  I was most of the past week working on the water-works, on account of a bad joint in the new main pipe near the big reservoir.
Page 70:  March 17, 1872.  Yesterday and today (sunday) I worked on the lower street, putting new pipe, for water, where it had been destroyed by the Blue Gravel co.  I also worked one day last week at china town, where the teams had broke my pipe logs.
Page 72:  April 14, 1872. I worked one day for Hillhouse, laying new sidewalk, worked two days repairing bridge between our house and Bradley's, and two days on the catholic church street, digging trench for 500 feet o water pipe logs, that J. Pittman hauled and J. Doremus is boring for me, which will give me several new customers for the coming season.
Page 74:  July 7, 1872.  I extended the main water pipe to S.M. Halsey's Blacksmith shop, the biggest pressure and squirt in town.
Page 82:  May 4, 1873.  Was working all the week on the water-works, and also had hired men.  Put down some new 1 iron pipe on Sacramento st.
Page 83:  July 23, 1873. Friday put in water pipe for Hi Wah, or China Doc, as he is called.
Page 84:  August 17, 1873.  Yesterday I cleaned out China town water tank, and today had to fix bad leak in Main lead pipe.
Pages 87-88:  November 9, 1873:  Tuesday evening the China part of town got on fire and burned.  My loss at china town about $100 worth of water pipes and customers worth $16 per month also $12 uncollected water rent.
Page 90:  March 1, 1874.  Last week I put pipes for water into the houses of H.K. West, Mrs. Rablin, and Mr. M.V. Andrews, and giving privilege to Sam Higgins, to get water at Andrews.
Page 93:  May 24, 1874.  Worked on the water-works, putting in 200 feet logs on lower street, &c.
May 31, 1874.  Last week worked two days putting log water pipe to Mallow's lot, 390 feet from main pipe at the Union Church.
Page 94:  August 1, 1874.  I put water  pipes into 5 china houses at china town; 4 at $2.00 and 1 at $2.00 per month.
Page 114:  September 9, 1877.  China Town burned today.  I lost $100 worth of water pipes, and $25 per month income from water works "sich is life."
Page 142:  May 21, 1882.  I have been making about $200 worth of improvements on the water works, and more is necessary.
Page 146:  February 1, 1883.  Many water pipes have bursted.
Page 158:  May 15, 1885.  I have put in 2 more water lugs and extend the main pipe 400 feet, on Stockton St.
June 14, 1885.  Finished laying 320 feet of 3 in ch water pipe on Sacramento st. with 3 more fire hydrents, and one for W.F. Michells brewery, and the fire co. turned out and tested it, and the hose.
Page 176:  August 28, 1887.  Had bad time with water works for over a month on account of the Alta Mine running down muddy water, and pipe broke so this main part of town had no water for 4 days.  I worked all the time and watched the town 2 nights, which about used me up.
Page 192:  April 28, 1889.  I received from the East, the Water Motor and set it to running our sewing machine, and wife is much pleased with it.
Page 195:  August 25, 1889.  Doremus finished boring water logs for me, and will help me lay them this week.  Shut off M. Bakers water last week, cause non payment and false promises.
Page 206: August 24, 1890.  Weather as usual; but no house is big enough for two women.
Page 268:  November 28, 1897.  Had some hard man dirty work on the town water works.
Page 272:  April 24, 1898.  I sent a large order for new water pipes, to W.T. Garrett & co., S.F., principly to extend Main fire pipe up Sac. st. 230 feet &c.
Page 282.  May 21, 1899.  I got my 500 fet of new 7-inch steel water pipe from Shaw, Ingram, Batcher & Co. of Sacramento.

2017 "A Short History of Water Use in the Dutch Flat Area, by Debby McClathy, Community, published by the Dutch Flat Community Center, 28(4):8-9 (Winter, 2017)
The original Dutch Flat Water Company was formed to run the larger operation of bringing water to the mines. As Dutch Flat grew into a town, at least three wells were dug to meet domestic water needs. But soon another company was required to facilitate this need, getting water to homes and businesses.  This writer cannot find written evidence to tell if this company was an offshoot of the original water company, or formed independently.  The first names associated with what became known as the Dutch Flat Water Works were owners N.W. Blanchard and Mr. Mathewson.
In 1865, Isaac Coffin, a local photographer and landlord, bought the Water Works for $1200 borrowed from his Masonic brothers. This included a reservoir, several springs in town, and old and dilapidated pipes and equipment. Isaac got to work to repair everything and then bought the other half in 1871. Isaac's diary is full of the trials and tribulations thirty-five years of ownership brought upon him. But also he hints at enjoying the recognition and acceptance plus a little financial reward.
Upon Isaac's death the Works was inherited by his daughters, Viven and Gladys.  In 1911, they sold the Water Works to Arthur Nicholls, owner of the Polar Star Mine and the grandson of William Nicholls, an early pioneer and banker. Arthur started water treatment in the 1950's using tubing and a  chlorine water tank tied to a tree. Whenever there was a leak in the main line he would plug it with wooden stakes wrapped in burlap.
In 1966, Arthur willed the Water Works to its approximately one hundred customers.  I lived across the street from him all my childhood and teens and remember him as a sweet, soft-spoken man who loved to tend his roses. Others have less positive memories.  It is said he gave the company to the town, not because he was a generous man, just one tired of all the complaints.
The water company incorporated in 1969 and began certifying water purity in 1971. The system was remodeled in 1994 with financial help from the Evans family.  In 2003 the large tank on Main Street was built with a loan from the State. 
If you would like to see a remnant of past water glories, walk down the small road going off the lower bend of Main Street.  Within a few minutes you will see a large partially collapsed tunnel dug into the rock on your right. Originally this tunnel brought water from Nevada County to our Flying Fish and Jehosaphat Mines, as well as to wash away the heavier gravels in the Gold Run Blue Lead.
The Dutch Flat Water Works is now the Dutch Flat Mutual Water Company and it is a small gem, mostly run by volunteers, continuously in peril from government regulators. Somehow, with fifty years going, the Water Company soldiers on, a great example of what a little town with backbone can accomplish.

Nathan W. Blanchard collection, circa 1800s-1900s, Online Archive of California

2018 Morris A. Pierce