Documentary History of American Water-works

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Pacific States
California Menlo Park

Menlo Park, California

Menlo Park was incorporated as a town in 1874 and as a city in 1927.

The first water system was built by the Corte Madera Water Company, which was incorporated on October 28, 1863 by William E. Barron and others.  This company built a gravity system, but legal disputes between the stockholders led to bankruptcy and formation of the Menlo Park Water Company in 1872, which operated the system until 1890. 

The Bear Gulch Water Company was incorporated in 1889 by James L. Flood, George R. Wells, Charles N. Felton, Cornelius O'Connor and R.H. Follis.  This company acquired the Menlo Park Water Company and operated the system until it was sold in July 1936 to the California Water Service Company.  Flood's sister, Cora Jane Flood, had acquired all of the company's stock except that held by Felton, and she gifted it to the University of California to be used as an endowment for commercial education.  The university was a passive until until 1913, which it became more actively engaged, investing substantial sums to improve the system and expand service.  When the system was sold in 1936 for $1.05 million, the university realized a net profit of $158,000 above their investment.

The City of Menlo Park formed a municipal water system sometime after xxx which provides about one-third of the water used by city residents.

Water is provided by the City of Menlo Park, California Water Service, the O’Connor Tract Cooperative Water Company, and the Palo Alto Park Mutual Water Company.  Most of the water used it purchased from the San Francisco Regional Water System.  Also see the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which has a nice map of the various systems.

1864 Sacramento Daily Union, January 1, 1864, Page 2.
Incorporated Companies. October 1863, Corte Madera Water Company

1868 Daily Alta California, February 27, 1868, Page 3.
Auction Sales.  Maurice Dore & Co. One Hundred and Seventeen Acres at Menlo Park.  The Mains of the Corte Madera Water Company extend along the County Road from Fair Oaks to Menlo Park, supplying water for domestic purposes and irrigation in abundance.

1871 "Corte Madera Water Company Suit," Daily Alta California, October 11, 1871, Page 2
The District Court was engaged on Friday and Saturday of last week In trying the suit of S.M. Mezes and R.G. Sneath vs.  William E. Barron, F.D. Atherton and Thomas H. Selby.  The parties are all Trustees of the Corte Madera Water Company and the suit is brought by the minority to compel the majority to carry out the original plan of the lucorporators, which was to bring the water to Redwood City, and also to compel them to render an account of the affairs of the concern.  Nearly all of Menlo Park and half of Redwood City have been subpoened as witnesses in the case, and also several experts and water sharps from San Francisco. It is one of the most interesting, and bids fair to be one of the most hotly contested cases ever tried in this county. The parties are all heavy men financially, and don't care a darn for the expense, and seem to be determined to light it out by geometrical rule and with mathematical precision if it takes all Winter to do it.

1873 Daily Alta California, May 28, 1873, Page 3.
Auction Sale.  Village Lots at Fair Oaks, Near Menlo Park.  The mains of the Menlo Park Water Company extend along the County Road from Fair Oaks to Menlo Park, and along Fair Oaks Lane to the Middlefrled Road, supplying water for domestic purposes and irrigation in boundless abundance.

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

1889 Daily Alta California, October 10, 1889, Page 2.
The Bear Gulch Water Company has incorporated to operate in water rights, construct ditches, canals, etc., with $500,000 capital stock, divided into 5000 shares, all of which have been subscribed.  Directors:  James L. Flood, George R. Wells, Charles N. Felton, Cornelius O'Connor and R.H. Follis.

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

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

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

1898 "Formal Transfer of Miss Flood's Gift," San Francisco Chronicle, Oct 21, 1898, Page 4.
The generous gift consists of 4000 shares of the capital stock of the Bear Gulch Water Company.

1899 "May not Lay New Pipe Line," The San Francisco Call, December 6, 1899, Page 16.
Injunction against Bear Gulch Company.

1900 "Five Suits for Water," The Evening News (San Jose, California) September 26, 1900, Page 2.
Two Universities Involved in Contest.

1908 "Ex-Senator Felton Plays Detective's Role," The San Francisco Call, September 4, 1908, Page 4.
Hotelman is caught irrigating garden and has water cut off.

1914  A report on the properties of the Bear Gulch Water Company, Menlo Park, San Mateo County, California, by Herbert B Foster

1915 J.W. Leggett and certain other residents of Menlo Park and Vicinity vs. Bear Gulch Water Company, November 23, 1915.  California Railroad Commission Decisions.
Page 524:  The first company of record was the Corte Madera Water Company, incorporated October 28, 1863.  The property was sold to Milton S. Latham under bankruptcy proceedings in 1872, at which time there were seventeen customers.  Later in the same year the property was transferred by Latham to the Menlo Park Water Company and operated by them until 1890, at which time it was sold to the present corporation.  At the present time no parts of the original plant are in use, nor are there any records to show the cost of this original work, which has been abandoned, or of the present structures now in use that were constructed prior to 1906.  The Bear Gulch Water Company was incorporated in October, 1889.  The University of California holds four-fifths of the capital stock, but prior to 1913 took little or no part in the management of the property.  Since the recent death of Senator C.N. Felton, who was then president, and controlled the remaining one-fifth of the stock, the university has assumed direct and active charge of affairs. 

1916 Bear Gulch Water Company, October 10, 1916, the Regents approved the proposal that $25,000 be invested by the Regents in five per cent bonds of the Bear Gulch Water Company, to provide funds for improvement of the company's plant, in order to increase the amount of water available for sale and thus to increase the revenues of the company (four-fifths of the stock of which is owned by the Regents through Miss Cora Jane Flood's gift of endowment for the College of Commerce).

1926 James Leary Flood

1927 Development and improvement of the water system of the Bear Gulch Water Company, San Mateo County, California, by  Albert J. Stocks, Thesis (B.S.)--University of California, Berkeley, 1927.

1928 Cora Jane “Jennie” Flood

1930 Report to Board of Directors of Bear Gulch Water Company, Menlo Park, California on repairs and alterations to Bear Gulch Reservoir, and plans and methods for increasing the height of the existing dam / by Charles Derleth, Jr., George A. Elliott, Walter L. Huber

1934 "Menlo Park Seeks Cut in Water Rate," Oakland Tribune, October 26, 1934, Page 27.
The community at present is supplied by water from the Bear Gulch Water Company, which would continue to serve the territory, but with Hetch Hetchy water.

1934 The Organization and Operation of the Bear Gulch Water Company, A. F. Poulter, California Water Service Company.

1936 "Purchase of Water System Considered," Oakland Tribune, April 12, 1936, Page 31.

1936 The Los Angeles Times, May 6, 1936, Page 17.
California Water Service Company. The commission also authorized the purchase by the company of Bear Gulch water Company for $1,050,000

1936 "University Tells How it make Bear Gulch an Asset," The Times (San Mateo, California) November 2, 1936, Page 1.

1937 "Board Faces Water War," The Times (San Mateo, California) June 3, 1937, Page 2.

1941 Bear Gulch Water Co. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 116 F.2d 975, January 13, 1941, Circuit Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

1952 "New Menlo Park Water Board Has Nothing to Do," The Times (San Mateo, California), July 29, 1952, Page 12.

2012 "From Floral Paradise to Commercial Nursery and Back:  The Saga of the Barron/Latham/Hopkins Estate, 1864-1942," by Julie Cain, Eden: Journal of California Garden and Landscape Society 15(1):14-19 (Winter 2012)
Page 14:  William E. Barron formed the Corte Madera Water Company, in partnership with other nearby landowners in 1864.  He then ran seven-inch pipes from the reservoir (a result of damming Bear Gulch Creek in the nearby foothills) to his estate, enabling him to irrigate an enormous expense of lawn through the dry summer and fall months.

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce