Captain George Vancouver Julia Butler Hansen Carlos Bulosan Ernestine Anderson Kurt Cobain Bill Gates & Paul Allen Home
Search Encyclopedia
Facebook
Advanced Search
Featured Eassy Sponsor of the Week Book Store Donate Now
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
6835 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donate Subscribe

Shortcuts

Libraries
Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search

Features

Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Everett
Olympia
Seattle
Spokane
Tacoma
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Timeline Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Charles Wright organizes Tacoma Light and Water Co. in June 1884.

HistoryLink.org Essay 5023 : Printer-Friendly Format

In June 1884, Charles B. Wright (1822-1898), president of the Northern Pacific Railroad, organizes the Tacoma Light and Water Co. to provide drinking water and electric lights. The City Council grants the company a franchise to use city streets and alleys for utilities. Retiring NP Superintendent General John Sprague becomes company president and Isaac Smith is named engineer.

Residents of Old Tacoma drew their drinking water from springs or wells they dug themselves. The first commercial deliveries of drinking water in Tacoma came in 1873 from Tom Quan and his mule Long-Ear Nellie. Quan filled barrels of fresh water at a spring near the Commercial Dock and hauled them up the hill to Pacific Avenue where he sold them. In 1877, W. J. “Old Billy” Fife excavated pits on the west side of 9th Street at Broadway, which he connected to a stream. Then he connected the crude cisterns to a system of pipes (hollowed-out logs) to 9th Street and Pacific Avenue. There he sold drinking water by the bucket. Later he connected businesses and residences to the tiny system.  

In 1883, John E. Burns and Philip Metzler built another system. They connected several streams via a tunnel and flume to a 100,000-gallon reservoir. The reservoir fed a system of mains that ran along Pacific Avenue.  

Charles Wright had been instrumental in developing Tacoma and endowing churches and schools. He asked for, and was granted, a franchise by the City Council to build and operate a water supply system. Isaac Smith built wooden flumes from Spanaway Lake and Clover Creek, which filled a reservoir at Hood Street. Other water came from Tacoma Eastern Gulch and Galliher Gulch. In January 1885, the company delivered water to its first customer, Puget Sound Transfer Co., 13th and Pacific. Burns and Metzler’s business succumbed to the competition.

In 1885, the flow from Galliher Creek was used to power a dynamo and electricity was available for consumers.  

In 1893, Wright sold the water and electrical utility systems to the City for $1.75 million.

Sources:
Murray Morgan, Puget's Sound: A Narrative of Early Tacoma and the Southern Sound (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1979), pp. 313-317.


Travel through time (chronological order):
< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >



Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License


Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You




Bird's-eye map of Tacoma, 1878
Courtesy UW Special Collections (Neg. UW13691)


 
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org