Documentary History of American Water-works

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Pacific States
Nevada Elko

Elko, Nevada

Elko was founded in 1868 and incorporated in 1917..

The Elko Water Company was incorporated on April 16, 1869 and completed a survey of the route for their proposed water ditch from the Humboldt river, but did not build anything.

Another Elko Water Company was organized in February 1873 and secured passage of a bill in the the legislature that granted them the right to "take and convey water not exceeding twenty thousand inches, to the
Town of Elko, from any point on the Humboldt River" and to install pipes in the Town of Elko.  The company surveyed the route and began work on the canal later that year. The capital stock was 21,000 shares of $10 each, the incorporators were O. B. Allen, H. A. Carville, John W. Kerr, O. R. Johnson, A. J. Cope, John S. Mayhugh, and M. P. Haynes, and the first trustees  F. B. Allen, H. A. Carville and  John W. Kerr.

Local blacksmith Ed. Phillips owned the system by April 1876 when he proposed to conduct water to those desiring it through underground pipes.  In August of that year Elko dentist M. W. Parsons bought half of the company, and a month later the two men sold the system to S. E. Benson and John Synnott.  Three weeks after that Benson bought Synnott's share.  Benson operated the system but the service was often unsatisfactory.  In May 1880 he reported that the system was "now in perfect repair," but that was the last time his name was mentioned in the local newspaper.  James Davis bought the system sometime during the next year, and managed it until July 1883, when he sold it to local Chinese immigrant Hop Sing, who apparently owned the system along with fellow immigrant Hi Loy.

Service was still sporadic and by 1888 townspeople were agitating for a new company and a new system.  The two Chinese men stepped up to the challenge and rebuilt the system with a new supply main from Kittredge Canyon built under the superintendence of long-time resident and local merchant Wellington Treat Smith.  In 1898 Hi Loy returned to China, and may have sold his share to Smith.  In 1903 Hope Sing sold his share to Smith, making the local man the full owner. 

Smith and others, including future U.S. Senator Charles B. Henderson, organized the Elko Water and Light Corporation, which operated the water works and an electric light system until 1917, when Smith once again became the sole owner of the water works. 

In August, 1920, Smith offered to sell the water works to the city for $150,000.  City voters approved the purchase, and after a short stop in the Nevada Supreme Court the sale was completed in 1922..

Water is supplied by the City of Elko.

1870 "Water Works," Elko Independent, August 10, 1876, Page 3.
Messrs. Gillet, McGovern and Starling have completed a survey for the ditch to bring the waters of the Humboldt into Elko.

1873 Certificate of Incorporation, Elko Water Co., Filed Feb. 26th, 1873.  Incorporators: O. B. Allen, H. A. Carville, John W. Kerr, O. R. Johnson, A. J. Cope, John S. Mayhugh, M. P. Haynes; Trustees:  F. B. Allen, H. A. Carville, John W. Kerr; Capital 21,000 shares of $10 each.

1873 An Act to supply the Town of Elko, in Elko County, Nevada, with water for extinguishment of fire and other purpose, and to define the boundaries of said town.  March 5, 1873.

1873 Elko Water Company incorporated on March 8, 1873. 

1873 "Nevada State News," Nevada State Journal, August 9, 1873, Page 2.
The Elko Water Works Company are about to commence the canal, having completed the survey and located the reservoirs.

1873 "Letter from Elko," Sacramento Weekly Union, November 1, 1873, Page 10.
The Elko Water Company's canal will pass through the University grounds (twenty acres) so as to make irrigating an easy matter, for nearly every foot of land is calculated for experimental agricultural purposes.

1875 "Constable's Sale," Elko Weekly Independent, July 10, 1875, Page 3.
Elko Water & Flouring Mill Company, including their water ditch.

1876 "The Water Ditch," Elko Weekly Independent, April 19, 1876, Page 3.
Ed. Phillips is having the big ditch put in prime order and proposes to conduct it water to those desiring to use it, by means of underground piping.

1876 "Water Ditch," Elko Weekly Independent, August 20, 1876, Page 3.
Dr. M. W. Parsons, the dentist, has purchased one-half of E. Phillips water ditch which supplies Elko with water from the Humboldt, and will hereafter be associated in the business.  Doc has made a good investment.

1876 "Sale," Elko Weekly Independent, September 10, 1876, Page 4.
Messrs. Phillips and Parsons have sold the Elko water ditch to S. E. Benson and John Synnott.

1876 "Change," Elko Weekly Independent, October 1, 1876, Page 3.
S. E. Benson has purchased the half interest of the Elko water ditch from his partner, John Synnoth.  He has now tried the experiment of utilizing the ditch, and is well pleased with the result; so much so that he will settle dow and devote his time and attention to it.

1877 "Water," Elko Weekly Independent, July 22, 1877, Page 3.
To my Patrons.  Letter from S. E. Benson.

1878 "War for Want of Water," Elko Weekly Independent, July 21, 1878, Page 3.
Failure of the ditch proprietor to supply the town.

1879 "Repairing the Ditch," Elko Weekly Independent, April 6, 1879, Page 3.
S. E. Benso, proprietor of the ditch for conveying water to town from the river, has a force of men employed in getting it ready for summer use.

1879 "An Outrageous Imposition," Elko Weekly Independent, July 20, 1879, Page 3.
We are informed that Benson's water works will not be in operation any more this year. Notwithstanding that there has been no soft water conveyed to town, during the past week, through tho pipes, he will no doubt come around for his little bill next Monday with a smile both childlike and bland. In this little matter of collections he never fails to call around regularly, and were he half as particular in bringing an ample supply of water to our residents, he would receive the thanks in place of the heartfelt imprecations of tho community.

1880 Elko Weekly Independent, May 9, 1880, Page 3.
S. E. Benson informs us that the water ditch is now in perfect repair; the pipes leading from the reservoir all in order and requests to notify consumers that the collection of water rates will date from next Monday.

1881 The Silver State (Unionville, Nevada), May 2, 1881, Page 1.
Some  malicious person or persons have been injuring James Davis and annoying the public by breaking and otherwise disarranging the water gates at the tank and reservoir from which the town of Elko is supplied with water. The ditch and appurtenances have recently been purchased by Mr. Davis, and he has been making every effort in his power to keep a full head of water in the pipes.

1882 Elko Weekly Independent, April 16, 1882, Page 3.
The admission of water to the pipes which, during the Summer supply the town, has disclosed a number of leakages in the same, which Mr. Davis, the owner of the mains, is having repaired as rapidly as possible.

1883 Elko Weekly Independent, July 1, 1883, Page 4.
From Wednesday's Daily:  The supply ditch has furnished no water for several days past and vegetation about town is beginning to droop for want of its accustomed moisture.  Mr. Davis, owner of the ditch, says it yields him no revenue, and he will spend no more money in keeping it in repair.  It is reported to-day that the property is about to change hands, and if so, that a violent effort will be made to keep up the supply of water and to make the ditch pay.

1883 Elko Weekly Independent, July 1, 1883, Page 3.
From Thursday's Daily:  We learn this evening that James Davis has sold his water ditch, which supplies this town, to Hop Sing.

1883 "State Notes," Eureka Daily Sentinel, July 1, 1883, Page 4.
Hop Sing, a Chinaman, has bought the Elko water ditch which supplies the town.

1883 Elko Weekly Independent, July 22, 1883, Page 2.
The supply ditch from the river is now fully repairs, and again furnishing unit to the thirsty towu. It is positively stated by the new proprietor that the ditch and pipes will be kept iu order and that henceforth there will be no failure to furnish the regular supply.

1884 Nevada State Journal, June 26, 1884, Page 3.
Jesse Atwell, an old time Renoite, is now in charge of the Elko water works.

1885 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Elko, Elko County, Nevada, January 1885

1885 "Notice to Water Consumers," Elko Daily Independent, October 28, 1885, Page 3.
All persons knowing themselves to be in arrears to the Elko Water Company are hereby notified that all indebtedness
to the above Company must be paid on or before Monday, Nov. 2, 1885, as further time cannot be granted.  The books are open at the China store of Hi Loy & Co., where payment can be made.  Elko Water Company, Elko, October 26, 1885.

1888 "The New Water Company," Elko Daily Independent, September 6, 1888, Page 3.
We learn that steps have been taken by prominent citizens of Elko for the formation of a Water Company, the object being to supply Elko with pure water during the whole of the year.

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

1889 "Protection of Property," Elko Daily Independent, October 21, 1889, Page 3.
We call attention to the proposition of the Elko Water Company, elsewhere in this issue.

1889 "The Elko Water Company," Elko Daily Independent, October 21, 1889, Page 4.
The new Water Company will soon commence laying mains through the town, and they desire to know the pleasure of the property owners on the following proposition:
The Company propose to build a reservoir at the crossing of the ditch by the road that leads to Kittridge canyon; to lay a 7-inch pipe from that point to Lloyd Butler's stable; to lay street mains on Commercial and Railroad streets of 4-inch pipe, and on Idaho and Court streets of 3-inoh pipe; to put in twenty, or more, hydrants at such points along the pipe line as may be selected by a Committee; to furnish water Summer and Winter from the ditch, or when that la impracticable from breakage or accident of any kind, from a pumping engine.  Total fall from the reservoir to the foot of the flag pole, as ascertained by survey, 37 feet.
For this service the Company asks that the town pay the sum of $500 annually, and a Committee of five, consisting of F. P. Muller, J. Henderson, V. C. Bartlett, James Clark and A. W. Hesson, has been appointed to  ascertain the sentiment of the people on this proposition. The Company is desirous to ascertain the feeling of  the taxpayers as soon as possible, for unless this proposition is accepted the public hydrants, for the protection of property in case of fire, will not be put in.

1889 "The Elko Water Company," Elko Daily Independent, November 18, 1889, Page 4.
Report of Committee on Proposition of Elko Water Company.

1890 "Notice to Water Consumers," Elko Daily Independent, July 21, 1890, Page 3.
Office of Elko Water Co., W. T. Smith, for the Water Company.

1890 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Elko, Elko County, Nevada, October 1890

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

1891 "Seed Potatoes," Elko Daily Independent, March 24, 1891, Page 3.
The Elko Water Company has for sale a fine lot of Early Rose Seed Potatoes.  Apply at Hi Loy's store.

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

1897 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Elko, Elko County, Nevada, August 1897

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

1898  On October 28, 1898, the Hexingtang (Hop Sing Tong), a secret society often using the term “company” on legal documents, sold a one-half interest in the Elko Water Company and Elko Water Works (the water ditch from Osino to the town of Elko and the pipeline from Kittridge to the pipes in Elko) for $1,000.  Elko County Recorder’s Office, Deeds, Book 25: 359–60. (see 2011 reference below)

1903 Elko Weekly Independent, January 9, 1903, Page 3.
Hop Sing has disposed of his interests in the water works, his interest being purchased by W. T. Smith, who has full control of the plant.

1904 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Elko, Elko County, Nevada, May 1904

1907 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Elko, Elko County, Nevada, August 1907

1911 Map of the land and ditches belonging to the Elko Water Company - W. T. Smith - President

1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Elko, Elko County, Nevada, November, 1912

1913 Report of the Nevada Secretary of State
Page 64: Business incorporations. Elko Water Company April 16, 1869
Elko Water Company March 8, 1873
Elko Water and Flouring Mill Co. April 12, 1873
Page 82: Elko Water and Light Corporation June 5, 1905:

1913 Report of the Railroad and Public Service Commissions of Nevada
Page 352:  Elko Water and Light Corporation
Directors - Chas B. Henderson, Ethel S. Henderson, John Henderson, W. T. Smith, all of Elko, Nevada.
Officers - President, W. T. Smith; Vice-President and Secretary, Chas. B. Henderson; Treasurer, John Henderson.

1915 Henderson chronicles. A roster of descendants of Alexander Henderson of Fordell, county Fife, Scotland, three of whose sons emigrated to the American colonies, prior to 1740, and settled near Alexandria, Va, by John N. McCue
Page 54:  Susan Catharine Walden, b 22, Jan. 1846; m (1st) 22, Jan. 1878, at Huntsville, Mo., Silas Edward Benson; m (2nd) 25, April 1889,. Jas. Brain, merchant, Elko, Nevada [Benson and Walden actually married in Elko on that date.]

1917 Elko Daily Independent, December 3, 1917, Page 4.
Ning, a well known and well respected Chinaman who has been here upwards of forty years, departed today for his old home in China, where he will probably spend the remainder of his life. Hi Loy, who left here for China about eighteen years ago, has just returned. When he left here he was worth a hundred thousand dollars, but be says that he lost nearly all of ut through unsettled conditions caused by the war in China, where he had several stores and a bank. A number of years ago Hi Loy owned the Elko water works. He still owns a number of buildings here, the Silver Brick among others, and a large number of lota.

1918 Reports of the Railroad and Public Service Commissions of Nevada 1917-1918
Pages 199-212:  Town of Elko v. W T. Smith, Owner of the Elko Water Works, October 10, 1917
Since this proceeding was instituted, it has been shown to the Commission that Mr. W. T. Smith had succeeded to all the interests of the Elko Water and Light Corporation. Page 280:  Elko Water Works.  Sole ownership, W. T. Smith, San Francisco, Cal.

1920 Opinions and Orders of the Nevada Public Service Commission
Pages 213-216: Water rates of Elko Water Works. April 29, 1920

1922 Ed. Carville, Appellant, v. J. A. McBride, Mayor of the City of Elko, et al., 22 Pac. 802, 45 Nev. 305, January, 1922, Supreme Court of Nevada
On August 20, 1920, W. T. Smith, the owner of the Elko water-works, offered to sell the same to the city of Elko for the sum of $150,000. On September 30, 1920, a petition, signed by the necessary number of property owners, was filed with the board of supervisors of the city, praying that the board negotiate for the purchase of said water system. Thereafter the mayor and board of supervisors took action leading to the acquisition of said water-works, and for the issuance and sale of the bonds of said city in the sum of $180,000, the proceeds of which were to be used in the payment of the water-works and in improving the same.
At a regular meeting of the board of supervisors, held on November 3, a petition was filed by 20 per cent of the qualified electors of the city of Elko as shown by the last preceding registration list, and representing more than 10 per cent of the taxable property in the city, as shown by the last preceding tax list or assessment roll, asking for a special election upon the question as to whether or not the proposed ordinance should become a law. The clerk of the board certified to the sufficiency of the petition and the signatures thereto attached. Upon information and belief the city board accepted the petition, and resolved to call an election on the propostion for the 4th of January, 1921. This date was later changed by resolution of the board to the 11th day of January, 1921, on which date the election was held. At such election a majority of 25 votes was cast in favor of the issuance and sale of the bonds. Thereafter the board of supervisors declared the ordinance an emergency ordinance, and passed the same.
Prior to the election, the county clerk, acting as the registry officer for the city election, registered for the election only those electors within the city of Elko who were qualified taxpayers, and whose names appeared upon the tax roll for the year 1920 or 1921. No person was permitted to register or vote at the election except qualified electors who were taxpayers within the city, and whose names appeared upon the tax rolls thereof for the year 1920 or 1921.
This action was commenced in the Fourth judicial district court, in and for the county of Elko, by plaintiff, on behalf of himself and all other persons similarly situated, to obtain an injunction restraining the defendants from proceeding to acquire a certain public utility known as the Elko Water-Works, and from issuing bonds for the purpose of purchasing said water-works for the city of Elko and enlarging and maintaining the same.

2002 China Ditch and  Elko's Water History
Includes an image of an undated circa 1976 article "City Water System History Outlined."
"It is interesting to note that the first water system for Elko was owned and operated by a Chinese named Hi Loy who with his foreman, Le Hi, constructed a wooden flume from Kittridge Canyon to a small reservoir above the China Ranch (presently the Elko City Park).  Additional water was supplied later in a nine-mile ditch from Osino to Elko, taking water from the Humboldt River."

2008 Elko County, by Claudia Wines
Page 66:  Wellington Treat (W. T.) Smith.  He was owner, at one time, of the Elko Water Works.

2011 In Pursuit of Gold : Chinese American Miners and Merchants in the American West, by Sue Fawn Chung
Pages 89-90: Like other western regions, water was a major concern and the Chinese worked on several irrigation projects. One of their notable projects provided water for the town of Elko. According to local historian Howard Hickson, the Chinese originally dug the “China Ditch” to water their fields at China Ranch (presently the Elko City Park), which was owned and operated by the merchant, Hi Loy (b. 1840) and his foreman Le Hi.33 There was a wooden flume from Kittridge Canyon to a small reservoir; later, a nine-mile ditch from Osino to Elko was added to incorporate water from the Humboldt River.  On October 28, 1898, the Hexingtang (Hop Sing Tong), a secret society often using the term “company” on legal documents, sold a one-half interest in the Elko Water Company and Elko Water Works (the water ditch from Osino to the town of Elko and the pipeline from Kittridge to the pipes in Elko) for $1,000.  One might assume that Hi Loy (a company name but given to an individual in American documents) was an officer in the Hexingtang, which funded the initial and costly project. Numerous examples of similar irrigation projects were found in other parts of Nevada.

2019 The Chinese and the Iron Road: Building the Transcontinental Railroad, edited by Gordon H. Chang and Shelley Fisher Fishkin
Page 323-324:Hop Sing (b. 1844, also known as Bow Shee, or “Fat Stuff,” because of his rotund figure) was one of the two youngest merchants. The 1870 census listed him as having $300 in assets.42 Like Ah Lung (b. 1847), he was probably sent by his family or clan to open the store, and they provided him with the merchandise through a network system that connected Hong Kong to San Francisco or Sacramento and then on to frontier towns. He sold groceries, drugs, and general merchandise. Recognizing the importance of water in a desert community, especially for the “Chinese vegetable gardens,” Hop Sing, under his store name of Hi Loy, invested in the construction of the first irrigation ditch, originally called the Elko Water Works. This system supplied water to Elko for several decades. The wooden flume originated in Kittridge Canyon, eight miles to the east, and ended in a small reservoir above China Ranch, where the Chinese farmed. Eventually the Osino Ditch, popularly known as the “China Ditch,” added another mile by connecting to the Humboldt River. Le Hi served as the foreman of the Elko Water Works. This irrigation system resembled those in Guangdong. In the late twentieth century, the Hi Loy Water Tower was still visible from the western entrance to Elko.

© 2020 Morris A. Pierce