By Mick Woodcock

The May 23, 1884, issue of the Weekly Arizona Miner stated in a short article that the Prescott
City Council would be holding a meeting to discuss the question of waterworks and other
matters. With that, the city launched into a project to provide water to be piped into the city
instead of relying on the city’s water ditches, which had to be cleaned periodically and involved
shutting off the water for two or three days. The city decided to open bids for constructing a

The winning bidder turned out to be an organization owned by an eastern-based company
represented by Colonel Inman. This company shipped construction materials and sent a work
crew which arrived in Prescott in time to begin work on August 1, 1884. The idea was to put a
dam across Miller Creek to impound the water, construct a pumping station to move the water
and lay a pipeline into town to deliver it.

Work proceeded quickly despite an October storm that damaged the dam itself. Seventy men
were employed on the reservoir. At the same time, other parts of the project moved on at a steady
pace, with waterworks Superintendent Allen indicating a November 1 start up-date, barring any
unforeseen difficulties. By April 1885, numerous Prescott citizens were hooking up to the water

An article in the April 3, 1885, Weekly Arizona Miner, made note of a demand made upon the
city treasurer by the New York Loan and Trust Company, which had loaned the city $65,000 for
the water project and were now asking for their semi-annual interest payment. The city made the
interest payment, but it was later revealed that they had not sold any of the bonds to pay for the


Summer rains kept the reservoir full. The August 7, 1885, Weekly Arizona Miner noted, “The
recent rains have filled the waterworks dam with water enough to guarantee a plentiful supply
for all fire and domestic purposes, besides ensuring a steady increase in the frog and tadpole
crop.” The dam was not large enough to hold all of Miller Creek’s runoff however, as a January
1886 storm tore up the Chinese gardens down-stream and opened a new channel.
Tadpoles and frogs were not the only wild inhabitants of the reservoir. Ducks were reported as
being shot there by two different men in April 1886. This was after a prank was played on local
hunters, when Isaac Heim, engineer of the city waterworks, placed two decoy ducks on the pond
and then circulated the rumor that there were live ducks to be shot.

Hunting was not the only recreation opportunity created by the reservoir. Local businessman
Martin Maier was reported to be opening a saloon, bowling alley and shooting gallery near the
dam. He also had boats in the water for people to rent. In early 1887, the city engineer had a bath
house constructed near the dam. The pond had become quite a recreation spot.

While recreational development was going on, the reservoir itself was developing problems. The
Arizona Weekly Journal Miner reported in its May 12, 1886, edition, “The recent floods in Miller
creek have caused an accumulation of black loam against the wall of the filter chamber, clogging
it almost completely.” By June it was reported that, although water was flowing over the dam,
the accumulation of sediment in front of the dam had created a shortage of water. In part two of
this article next week we will find out what major changes the City of Prescott was willing to
make to solve their water woes.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of
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