Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Pacific States
California Fresno

Fresno, California

Fresno was incorporated as a city in 1885.

The first water works were built in 1876 by George McCollugh and Lyman Andrews, pumping water into an elevated tank with a steam engine.

Fresno Water Company was organized in May 1877 with a capital stock of $20,000, divided into 2,000 shares, of the par value of $10 each.  Several sources indicates that this company was organized as a non-profit, quasi-public entity, but this appears unlikely as it had capital stock and stockholders.

The Fresno Water Company was purchased by Balch, Kerckhoff & Wishon in 1904, and reorganized as the Fresno City Water Co.  This company was then bought by the California Water Service Company in 1926.

The city bought the system for $2.5 million and took possession on January 31, 1931.

Water is provided by the City of Fresno, which has a history page.

1877 "Fresno Water Works," The Fresno Republican, March 31, 1877, Page 3.
It is proposed by leading citizens of Fresno to purchase the steam water works of McCullough and Andrews and incorporate as a Joint Stock company.

1877 "Incorporations," The Sacramento Bee, April 17, 1877, Page 3.
The Fresno Water Company organized to buy and erect water works, lay pipes and sell water in the town of Fresno; principal place of business, Fresno; capital stock $20,000; Directors Lewis Leach, George MeCollough, Otto Froelicb, H.D. Silverman, A. Kutner, Simon Camy, and J.W. Ferguson

1882 History of Fresno County. California 
Page 122:  Water-Works of Fresno City.

1885 Fresno, Engineering News, 13:93  (February 7, 1885)

1887 The San Francisco Examiner, August 2, 1887, Page 2.
The Fresno Water Company has increased the capital stock from $20,000 to $200,000.

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

1890 "Fresno Water Company's Plant," Marysville Evening Democrat, April 3 1890, Page 1.
The entire plant of the Fresno Water Company was sold yesterday to the Municipal Investment Company of Chicago for half a million dollars.

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

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

1892 A Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare and Kern, California
Page 90:  George McCollough started an insurance office and began to invest in town lots. He was subsequently elected justice of the peace, and later, in company with Lyman Andrews, established the Fresno Water Works.
Page 93:  Water Works
It was previously stated that Messrs. McCollough and Andrews were the founders of Fresno's first water system. These gentlemen in 1876 put down a well to the depth of 100 feet, casing it with seven-inch pipe, excluding all surface water; they obtained an abundance of excellent water. A powerful steam-pump was put in, a tank of 23,000 gallons capacity erected at a height equaling that of the highest building in town and a system of pipes laid to accommodate all with water. In May, 1877, a corporation was organized under the name of Fresno Water Company. Messrs. McCollough and Andrews transferred their property to said company, retaining large interests therein. In 1878 another tank was erected, capacity 12,000 gallons, and in 1881 another well was bored, and another and more powerful pump was applied to the work. The water supply has kept pace with the demand, and the present condition of the city water supply we here give, from one of the local papers:
"Fresno city is furnished with water for domestic purposes by a Chicago corporation, superintended by J. K. Allen, under the local management of J. J. Seymour. The water is of the purest and best quality, furnished by eight wells, one of which is 600 feet deep, another 400, and the balance ranging from 300 to 250 feet deep. No surface water is permitted to find its way into the wells. The company has just finished setting in place a new Gaskell pump, with a capacity of 6,000,000 gallons per day. With this power, and source of supply, they are able to furnish a population of 50,000 people. Their mains extend to all points throughout the city proper, and in many instances beyond the corporate limits. Many of the residents of the Woodward, Belmont, Homestead and Griffith additions receive their supply from the city water works, and the laterals will be extended to the residences of many parties in any of the additions who make application.  The city contracts with the water company to flush the main sewers once a day and the laterals twice each week, at a cost of $4,500 per year, and the city fire company receives its supply from the city water works, which has proved to be abundant for all ordinary purposes. "The reservoirs have a holding capacity of 120,000 gallons, and the continuous action of the pumps throwing fresh water into them, coupled with the constant drain by waste valves, keeps the supply always fresh and pure when the demand is not large during the winter season. It is largely to this pure supply of good water that Fresno is indebted for its good health."

1897 Imperial Fresno: Resources, Industries and Scenery, Illustrated and Described
Pages 56, 58:  Fresno Water Company.

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

1978 Water and the Rise of Public Ownership on the Fresno Plain, 1850 to 1978, by Todd A. Shallat

1979 Fresno's water rivalry : competition for a scarce resource, 1887-1970, by Todd A. Shallat

Old Fresno Water Tower, built in 1894, Wikipedia

2021 Morris A. Pierce