gmhTODAY 14 gmhToday May June 2017 - Page 62

Historically Speaking Gilroy Gets its First Public Water System Written By Elizabeth Barrett B y 1870, with increased pros- perity from its new status as a railroad terminus, Gilroy’s growth had blossomed from a mere 250 inhabitants to a spurt of 2,000 residents. The town needed a reliable water supply. But prior to the establish- ment of a reservoir plus a piped water system, the seasonal water supply had been hit-or-miss. Inside the city limits, wells were located at Third, Fourth and Sixth Streets. Additionally, cisterns, to be used in case the city wells ran out during the dry season, were placed along Monterey Street at Fourth and Sixth Streets. These were also vital in case of fire. Many homes had a private well, while others could purchase from a local water delivery wagon. In 1871, the privately-owned Gilroy Water Company filed articles of incor- poration. The plan was intended to provide citizens with a steady supply of Uvas Creek water. The added water power, it was hoped, would also help drive factory machinery and irrigate the surrounding farms. 62 An exultant editorial, in the local newspaper on March 4, 1871, praised the new supply, noting that, “Gilroy will present a different appearance this coming summer… instead of parched gardens and withered shrubbery, the eye will be greeted with green patches of garden vegetables and the smell pleased with the fragrance of the rose and the geranium.” From fall through most of the summer, water from the Uvas was expected to flow into a main pipe and straight to town. Then, during the dry period before the rains returned, the reservoir could be tapped, if necessary. A dam with a 90-foot breadth was installed across Uvas Creek by May, 1871. Situated nine miles northwest of town, the dam measured 7.5 feet high and 8 feet wide at the base. From there, 1200 yards of wood flume were installed to conduct water via 17-inch pipes to the 9-million gallon reservoir, situated next to the Ousley (now Hoey) Ranch, located west of town next to what would in later years become the Municipal GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN MAY/JUNE 2017 Golf Course. From there, water was transported into Gilroy in 13-inch pipes. The new pipes supplied water for farms and ranches along the way, and were connected to the newly established Mason’s and Odd Fellow’s Cemetery (now Gavilan Hills Memorial Park.) At the time, Gilroy’s city limits were bounded north to south by First and Tenth Streets, and west to east by Hanna and Maple Streets. In town, smaller pipes connected with the main line and supplied water to private homes and businesses along the major streets. It wasn’t long before the new water system proved advantageous. An 1875 promotional brochure crowed, “The city has vastly improved in appearance since the introduction of this water, the inhabitants having planted trees, shrubs, flowers, having ample means for irrigating them.” By then, ample water was available for sprinkling the graded dirt streets to keep down the summer dust. In December 1871, a pounding storm hit Santa Clara County. The