A Brief History of the Forest Grove Water System
Information furnished by Cicero Smith (c.1975)

The City of Forest Grove, which was incorporated in the early 1870s, did not have a water system until the year 1895. The first water system in the City was a private system owned and operated by E.W. Haines whom Bill McCready has previously refereed to in connection with Forest Grove's early transportation system. The water for this system was pumped from Gales Creek near the present Light Department building up to a water tower which was located near the present News-Times building. The water at this time was used mainly for fire protection and irrigation inasmuch as most people had wells from which to obtain domestic water. The first water superintendent under the employ of Mr. Haines was was E.B. Sappington whose main duty was that of maintenance.

From 1905 until 1911, P.W. Watkins served as water superintendent and it was during this period that the City developed it's present source of supply on Clear Creek. It was in 1908 that steps were taken to acquire an ample supply of pure water because of the increasing population and contamination of wells by septic tanks. The City acquired three or four acres of land in the Clear Creek Canyon, obtained water rights on Clear Creek and engaged the services of engineers A.L. Richardson, A.A. Kirkwood and H.B. Glaiser, the recently retired secretary of the Oregon State Highway Commission. The contractor for this job was the Western Water Pipe Co. The work consisted of the construction of 40,500 feet of ten inch wood pipe from Clear Creek to the reservoir and a wood pipe distribution system in Forest Grove. The total cost of this project was approximately $60,000. To duplicate this same work today would probably cost around $500,000.

The contractor set up a construction camp in the Clear Creek canyon where the crew lived in tents with their families and a mill was erected at what is now Parson's Farm for the purpose of manufacturing the wood pipe. This manufacturing process consisted simply of boring a ten inch hole lengthwise through a fir log ten feet in length, wrapping wire around the bored log, tarring and rolling in sawdust. The miss was under the supervision of Pete Elliot. The construction foreman was Red Stokesberry, a big red-faced, two fisted individual who had a crew coming, a crew going and a crew working. Red's favorite phrase was, "when you work for me I want to see nothing but rear ends and elbows." The pipe was jointed by driving the ten foot sections together by means of a fifty pound oak ram which was swung by four men in much the same fashion as a battering ram.

Construction of a concrete reservoir was under way on Buxton Hill at the same time the pipeline was being built. Ed Dixon was construction foreman and Buzz Jennings was his lead man. the concrete for this project was mixed in much the same manner as some masons mix mortar today, that is with a hoe and mixing board. Four men were hired to mix concrete and each man was expected to turn out five cubic yards of concrete per day. If a man couldn't produce he was quickly replaced with someone who could. Excavation of earth from the reservoir area was done with slip scrapers, supplied by horses. Some of the crew working the pipeline adn reservoir were J.N. Munkres, Bill Long, Ross Munkres and Ed Ahlgren. During construction Charlie Jackson was drayman along with Frank Ramsey and Mr. Sexton.

The overflow from the reservoir was taken care of by an open ditch through what is now the Joe Loomis place, the Crabtree place and on to Dairy Creek. This created quite a problem so in 1912it was changed to run south through the Ebert place and on to Gales Creek. This later construction was steel pipe which had been salvaged from the original water distribution system in Forest Grove and then in 1933 this steel line was replaced with concrete pipe under one of the relief acts.

In 1927 the water supply line from the watershed to the reservoir was changed from the ten inch bored log pipe to twelve inch wood stave pipe at a cost of approximately $60,000. This word was engineered by Robert W. Jones of McMinnville.

In 1933 the water line from the reservoir to the City was replaced with a twelve inch wood stave pipe and now this twelve inch line is being replaced with twenty inch cast iron pipeline.

The water commissioner from 1920 to 1946 was J.N. Munkres. The position of water commissioner was held by a three quarter (ancestry)... (American) Indian named Rainwater from the year 1916-1920.

When J. Munkres first became water commissioner the service crew consisted of the water commissioner and one other man. They were equipped with two wheel push cart which contained the necessary equipment. These men also doubled as street and sewer department. Their first job in the fall of the year was to bring out wooden mats which were used for crosswalks at the main intersections in town. In their off hours they shot ducks in a lake where Portland Canning Co. is now located.

Cicero Smith became water superintendent in 1946 and is currently in this position.

The period of 1946 to the present time showed many improvements and additions being made to the Forest Grove water system. In 1946 a pump station was constructed on the water supply line at Watts School for the purpose of increasing the flow of water to the reservoir. In 1949 another pump was installed at Watts Pump Station and water was pumped from Gales Creek to supplement the supply. In 1946 the Howard Halvorson Construction Co. completed construction of a five million gallon reservoir at a cost of about $150,000. In 1948 this same company completed construction of a water filtration plant at a cost of approximately $90,000. The reservoir and filter plant were both engineered by Cornell, Howland, Hayes & Merryfield. In 1956 the Salem Sand and Gravel Construction Co. installed a sixteen inch steel pipeline from Watts Pump Station to the reservoir for the purpose of augmenting the water supply. This line cost the City about $90,000.

The City of Forest Grove now has a water system with assets of over $1,000,000. We now own over four thousand acres of timbered land in our Clear Creek watershed and we have many miles of supply and distribution pipeline.

The future holds many interesting things in store for the Forest Grove water system. Someday we will see construction of a large dam behind which winter rainfall will be stored for summertime use. We may even see the day when the Tualatin Valley will be one big metropolitan water district. Whatever happens, we can be sure that it will cost a great deal of money and require much planning to expand our water system; however, we cannot progress without water.