Documentary History of American Water-works

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Pacific States
California Sacramento

Sacramento, California

Sacramento was incorporated in 1850.

The first water works was built in 1851 by William P. Henry to use a horse pump to deliver water to his bath house. 

The city built a Holly water system that began service in July 1873.

Water is provided by the City of Sacramento.

1851 "Horse Power," Sacramento Daily Union, April 10, 1851, Page 2.
Mr. Henry is preparing to pump water for the use of his bath house by means of a horse power.  We advise Mr. Henry to move it from its present location right away, and it detains a great many gentlemen from their business.  They are compelled to stop and satisfy their curiosity making a thorough examination of it.  Some of them got into the horse's place, and by their process in working the machine, show that they are "horses."

1851 Incorporation of Sutter Mining Company, June 11, 1851 by R. Gelston, J. Meredith, Jos. Coe and others, with a view of mining by turning the American River at Sutter's Dam and carrying the water to a point near the town of Brighton, also for irrigating the ands, &c., &c., and for introducing water into Sacramento City.  Capital stock $250,000, in 2,500 shares of $100 each. Cited in San Francisco Price Current and Shopping List, January 23, 1855, Page 2.

1851 "Common Council Proceedings," Sacramento Daily Union, July 21, 1851, Page 2.
A petition numerously signed, requesting them to allow Wm. Stout to erect water works on the Levee, between J and N streets, or that the city construct the same.  Referred to Committee on Streets and Public Places.

1851 "Common Council Proceedings," Sacramento Daily Union, October 20, 1851, Page 2.
A petition, accompanied with an ordinance, was received from Wm P. Henry, asking leave to occupy 20 square feet of the Levee contiguous to J street, for the erection of water works, and to lay pipes through the streets to supply the city with water -- the proprietors to pay into the City Treasury ten per cent. of the nett profits of the concern -- and asking the continuance of the same fourteen years.  Referred to the committee on Fire and Water.
The ordinance for the government of the water works proposed to be erected by D. G. Kells, was then taken up, amended and passed.

1852 An act to authorize the Mayor and Common Council of the city of Sacramento to contract for supplying the city with Water.  May 3, 1852.

1852 "Common Council Proceedings," Sacramento Daily Union, May 25, 1852, Page 2.
Petition from Beam & Henry for lease of lot for water works.
Petition from Stow & Carpenter, offering to put up water works for the city.

1852 "Cary's Rotary Fire Engine Pump," Sacramento Daily Union, July 9, 1852, Page 2.
City Baths and Water Works on Front street foot of I street.  William P. Henry & Co.

1852 "Common Council Proceedings," Sacramento Daily Union, July 14, 1852, Page 3.
Petitions from G.A. Johnson, W.P. Henry & Co., and Wm. Allison, asking for privilege to lay water pipe through certain streets of the city.  Referred to Committee on Fire and Water.

1852 "Common Council Proceedings," Sacramento Daily Union, July 21, 1852, Page 3.
Petition from C.A. Johnson to lay water pipes through the street to the Levee.
Remonstrance from W.P. Henry & Co. against allowing pipes being laid without permission from the Council.

1852 Incorporation of Sacramento Water Company, August 9, 1852 by D.O. Mills, F.W. Page, H.E. Robinson, R. Chenery, and others, for the purpose of introducing water into Sacramento City and its vicinity, from the American or the Sacramento River. - Capital $200,000; original number of shares 400, of 500 each.  Duration 20 years, as far as operations in the city are concerned, and 50 years in the county.  Cited in San Francisco Price Current and Shopping List, January 23, 1855, Page 2.

1852 "Sacramento Water Works," Sacramento Daily Union, October 26, 1852, Page 3.
Proposition of G. Gordon, Esq., to erect water-works in this city.

1853 "Mayor's Proclamation and Water Works Proposals," Sacramento Daily Union, January 4, 1853, Page 3.

1853 "The Election," Sacramento Daily Union, January 14, 1853, Page 2.
Public system voted down by three votes, taxation for water works passed.

1853 "The Election," Sacramento Daily Union, January 15, 1853, Page 2.
Revised total shows that the public system passed by seven votes.

1853 "Sacramento City Water Works," Sacramento Daily Union, March 4, 1853, Page 2.
Letter from George Gordon explaining his water works proposal.

1853 "Water Works - Gordon's Plan," Sacramento Daily Union, May 25, 1853, Page 2.

1853 "Water Pipes," Sacramento Daily Union, August 24, 1853, Page 2.
The propellor McKim arrived at this port Monday night, containing a large portion of the pipe purchased by the city from George Gordon, for the contemplated water works.

1853 "Communicated," Sacramento Daily Union, September 16, 1853, Page 2.
List of pipe received from propellor McKim, schooner, J.K. Mansfield, schooner Curlew, and schooner Joseph Hewett.

1853 "Specification for Supplying Sacramento With with Water from the Sacramento River," Sacramento Daily Union, October 1, 1853, Page 2.
Prepared by John Kirk.

1853 "The Secret Contract Consummated," Sacramento Daily Union, October 11, 1853, Page 2.
Contract awarded to John Kirk.

1854 "Notice to Watermen," Sacramento Daily Union, April 12, 1854, Page 3.
Wm. P. Henry, Superintendent Public Water Works.

1854 "Sacramento Water Works" Sacramento Daily Union, April 14, 1854, Page 2.  Description of the water works system.

1857 "Water Pipe," Sacramento Daily Union, February 20, 1857, Page 2.
The manufacture of two thousand feet of six inch cast iron pipe, ordered on the 3d inst. by the city for the purpose of extending the water main in the upper portion of the city, has been commenced at the Eureka Foundry.

1857 The City of Sacramento v. Kirk et al., 7 Cal. 419, April Term, 1857, Supreme Court of California.

1857 "Common Council Proceedings," Sacramento Daily Union, December 19, 1857, Page 3.
Resolved, That the Superintendent of the Water Works and a special committee are hereby authorized to order of Worthington, of New York, through B. F. Hastings, the Agent of the City of Sacramento, one of Worthington's largest sized pumps, such as was constructed for the city of Savannah.

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.

1859 "Water Works - New Pump," Sacramento Daily Union, January 13, 1859, Page 3.
We understand that the clipper ship Adelaide, which arrived on Tuesday, brings the new Worthington pump ordered for the water works of this city.

1859 Sacramento City Directory: Being a Complete General and Business Directory of the Entire City

1860 An act to authorize the American River Water and Mining company to extend their Works in or near the City of Sacramento, for the purpose of Supplying the Inhabitants thereof with pure Fresh Water for Drinking and other Domestic Uses.  April 6, 1860.

1870 "Board of Trustees," Sacramento Daily Union, June 7, 1870, Page 3.
Cost of raising the water tanks.  The Superintendent of the Water Works presented a report from A. A. Bennett, architect, together with plans for the raising of the tanks at the Water Works, and recommended that the same be adopted. l The estimated cost was $10,000.  Report received.
Ordered that the sum of $10,000 be set aside as it accumulates in the Water Works Fund for the purpose of raising the tank.

1871 "Holly Water Works," Sacramento Daily Union, February 21, 1871, Page 3.
Final report of the Superintendent of Water Works.

1871 "The Holly Water Works," Sacramento Daily Union, March 9, 1871, Page 2.

1871 "Favor the Holly Plan," Sacramento Daily Union, December 23, 1871, Page 5.
The Holly system was then decided by the Board to be the best attainable.  T.T. Flagler, President of the Holly Water Works Company, will arrive in the city about the middle of next month.

1872 "Holly," Sacramento Daily Union, February 22, 1872, Page 3.
President Flagler, of the Holly Water-Works Manufacturing Company, of Lockport, New York, arrived in this city yesterday, en route from the East to Portland, Oregon.  He was remain here a few days to rest after his long trip -- he having been one of the "snowed-in" passengers -- and during his stay all information concerning the establishment of Holly works in this city can be obtained.

1872 A First Person Account by Walter Scott Fitz of his Remarkable 36-Day Transcontinental Rail Journey from Boston to San Francisco including a Three Week, Snowbound Passage Between Cheyenne & Bitter Creek in Wyoming via the UPRR.  Jan. 14 to Feb. 19, 1872.  This was basically the same journey taken by T. T. Flagler at the same time.

1872 An act to provide for the liquidation of certain bonds of the City of Sacramento.  February 24, 1872.  Bonds issued to John Kirk.

1872 An act to provide the City of Sacramento with a Better Supply of Water.  March 30, 1872.

1872 "The Holly Water Meeting," Sacramento Daily Union, April 5, 1872, Page 3.  Meeting with President T. T. Flagler of the Holly Manufacturing Company.

1872 "The 'Poison Pipe' Question," Sacramento Daily Union, April 5, 1872, Page 3.

1872 "Proposition for Water Supply," Sacramento Daily Union, June 17, 1872, Page 2.
Propositions from Adams, Fish, and Holly.

1872 "Board of Trustees," Sacramento Daily Union, June 21, 1872, Page 2.
A special meeting of the Board of Trustees was held yesterday morning, all the members present. The only business transacted was the directing of the clerk to forward circulars to the various cities in which the Holly Water Works are in use, asking replies to a number of questions as to the efficiency of the system, the cost of running it, its liability to get out of repair, etc. The circulars are to be sent to Peoria, Illinois; Cumberland, Md.; Ogdensburg, N.Y.; Lafayette, Ind.; Connersville, Ind.; Norwalk. Ohio; Kalamazoo, Mich.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Evansville, Ind.; Dayton, Ohio; Minneapolis, Minn.; Auburn, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; and Denver, Colorado.

1872 "City Water Works Election Notice," Sacramento Daily Union, July 8, 1872, Page 4.
Election Saturday, July 20th, 1872.  Plans, Specifications and bid of the Holly Manufacturing Company.  Plans, Specifications and Bid of Horace Adams of the I-Street Foundry.

1872 "Sacramento Water Supply" Sacramento Daily Union, July 11, 1872, Page
Letter describing Kalamazoo's bad experience with their Holly system.

1872 "The Water Works Election," Sacramento Daily Union, July 22, 1872, Page 3.
Total for debt: yes - 1,334; total for no - 487.
Total for Adams' plan, 819; total for Holly plan, 829.
173 voted yes for the debt but did not select between the two plans.
There was much surprise expressed at the results of the election, many of the friends of the Holly plan having scarcely expected to be successful, while Adams' partisans had been very sanguine.

1872 "The Holly Contract," Sacramento Daily Union, September 11, 1872, Page 3.

1872 The People ex rel. Christopher Green v. John McClintock, 45 Cal. 11, October Term, 1872, Supreme Court of the State of California.
An Act authorizing a municipal corporation to enter into a contract with a party to supply the city with water and machinery, and connecting pipes for supplying the water, does not authorize the municipal authorities to purchase a site upon which to erect the water works.

1873 "Test of the Holly Works," Sacramento Daily Union, July 7, 1873, Page 8.

1873 Sacramento Daily Union, November 26, 1873, Page 3.
Two of the Holly gang pumps were receiving repairs yesterday, and the old works were brought into requisition to assist the others in supplying the city.

1874 An Act supplementary to an Act approved March thirtieth, eighteen hundred and seventy-two, entitled an Act to provide the City of Sacramento with a Better Supply of Water.  February 4th, 1874

1874 "The Holly Fire Test," Sacramento Daily Union, July 21, 1874, Page 3.

1877 "The Holly Water Works, The Recent Failure," Sacramento Daily Union, June 26, 1877, Page 3.  | Page 4 |

1877 "The Holly Concern," Sacramento Daily Union, June 29, 1877, Page 3.

1877 "What Has Been Proven," Sacramento Daily Union, June 30, 1877, Page 4.
The water works controversy has brought to light many things, among which may be noted.

1878  John Kirk, Born 12 Oct 1814 in Pennsylvania, Died 12 Mar 1878, Placerville, California.

1878 "The Holly System of Water Supply and Fire Protection for Cities and Villages," Scientific American Supplement, 6(140supp):2219-2234 (September 7, 1878)

1880 "The Reason Why," Sacramento Daily Union, May 24, 1880, Page 3.
Water repeatedly shut off at night.  Holly machinery in need of repairs. The Stevens pump cannot be run at night, because it is so powerful that, after a few revolutioins, when the water demand is small, it will smash things generally.

1881 Statutes of the State of California Relating to the City of Sacramento, with the Ordinances Now in Force: Including Provisions of the Constitution and Codes Relative to Municipal Corporations, and an Appendix Containing a List of the Officers of the City Government from 1849 to 1881, Inclusive
Page 342: 1878 Water Rates

1882 Sacramento, Engineering News, 9:373  (October 28, 1882)

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

1887 George E. Bank, Appellant, v. James N. Porter, Treasurer of the City of Sacramento, Respondent, 74 Cal. 224, December 1, 1887, Supreme Court of the State of California.

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

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

1890 An Illustrated History of Sacramento County, California: Containing a History of Sacramento County from the Earliest Period of Its Occupancy to the Present Time, Together with Glimpses of Its Prospective Future, by Winfield J. Davis
Pages 164-166:  Water Works.

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

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

1899 "Water Works Department," Sacramento Daily Union, January 4, 1899, Page 8.
The Allis pump is in a very good condition; the Holly pump has been in use twenty-seven years and is out of date; the cost of running this pump far exceeds that of the Allis, and it should only be used as a reserve pump; its shaft should be raised and a few minor repairs made.  The old Stevens pump is virtually of no value and can only be used as an auxiliary for a short time.

1901 Report of the Citizens' Water Investigation Committee of the City of Sacramento, L. Tozer, Chairman.

1910 Memoirs of Lucas County and the City of Toledo: From the Earliest Historical Times Down to the Present, Including a Genealogical and Biographical Record of Representative Families, Volume 2, by Harvey Scribner
Page 189:  John Berdan.  It is worthy of note that he superintended the construction of the Sacramento waterworks.

1913 History of Sacramento County, California: With Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County who Have Been Identified with Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present, by William Ladd Willis
Pages 402-404:  Water Works

1915 A report upon an investigation of pumping conditions and results of tests of performance of the Alberger-Curtis steam-turbine centrifugal pumping unit in the City Water Works Pumping Station, Sacramento, California, by Frank C Miller; Charles Gilman Hyde; George H Wilhelm | library record |

1916 A Report Upon Possible Sources of Water Supply for the City of Sacramento, California, April 15, 1916, by Charles Gilman Hyde, George H. Wilhelm, Frank C. Miller

1923 History of Sacramento County, California, by G. Walter Reed
Pages 235-236:  Water-Works

1927 "Electrolytic Chlorination at Sacramento, Calif., Filtration Plant," by Henry N. Jenks and Charles Lundelius, Journal of the American Water Works Association 17(5):514-537 (May, 1927)

1939 "The Romance of the Railroads Entering Sacramento," by D. L. Joslyn, The Railway and Locomotive Historical Society Bulletin 48:6-40 (March, 1939)
Page 30:  Early in 1878, Mr. [George} Stoddard designed a pump for the Sacramento Water works and this was built at the shops. It was a double acting piston pump, steam cylinder 36" dia. and water cylinders 24" dia. The air chambÍr was 36" dia. by 29 feet high. The cost was $30,000.00 complete installed. This pump was in active service day in and day out from 1878 until 1918, and was removed and broken up during 1926.

1962 "Sacramento," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker

2014 Toledo's Woodlawn Cemetery, by Rebecca Deck Visser and Renee Ciminillo Jayne
Page 37:  Son of the first mayor of Toledo, John Berdan II (1832-1902) worked at several jobs as a young man.  He was in charge of the construction of a section of the Wabash and Erie Canal.  After that, he drove an ox team from Indiana to California, where he tried his hand at mining.  While there, Berdan became superintendent of the Sacramento City Water Works.  He returned to Toledo in 1855.

© 2017 Morris A. Pierce