Old Landmark Being Hid As Cement Tube Replaces Aqueduct
By David R. Gill | The Evening Telegram
Revivification has come to the half slumbering memory and the pioneer Is reminiscent.
He is awakened by the fact that strong but progressive hands have just begun the obliteration of a landmark (not to say watermark) which holds mighty significance for the old time settler in Salt Lake.
The last remaining stretch of open aqueduct in North Temple street is being removed to give place to a modern cement tube extending from Main to Third West street, completing the burial of the overflow from City creek.
At first glance upon this destruction the pioneer’s eyes moisten and the veteran is silent in contemplation. Then the grizzled old face slowly brightens into a smile and the pioneer heart is made glad.
For into the old timer’s mind comes recollection of stern battle with the spring floods that repeatedly ravaged much property and threatened many homes.
These came often, but the most noteworthy was that of the spring of 1862—the year of the “big water.”
While viewing the work of destruction and reconstruction near Third West and North Temple streets this morning, one of the veteran settlers gave himself up to description of the terrible havoc wrought in that memorable spring.
Throughout the winter of 1861-2 there had been an unusually heavy snowfall. Men who had been into the hills said that the snow was twenty-five feet deep on the level on Big mountain. All the Wasatch range was so covered that many of the smaller gulches and canyons were filled almost level, giving the mountains a comparatively smooth appearance.
Thoroughfare Is Deluged.
When the rays of the sun grew stronger as the spring advanced the waters in City creek were swelled to almost bound bursting volume. One especially hot day came toward the end of May, and the rising waters of the stream wagged with knowing misgiving. Early the next evening the general alarm went out and men and boys swarmed to the creek. The west branch had broken its bounds and had rushed northward into North Temple street. That thoroughfare was torn and deluged beyond recognition, except for the houses that stood bedraggled in the midst of the flood. The waters roared out of City creek, carrying into the street hundreds of thousands of tons of all manner of canyon debris.
The sliding, grinding gravel grated and scraped accompaniment to the thunderous crashed of the rolling and bumping boulders; the swirling onrush of water lashed the conglomerate mass into a foaming and dissonant chorus of nature’s forces destructively rampant.
Down North Temple street the mad rush held sway for a week or more—it seemed much longer to the volunteer men and boys who as madly fought day and night to curb the wild invasion of homes neighbor to the stream gone insane. When the workers had the banks temporarily secure a new cry for help would come from some point along the street sides and the little army waded and splashed its hurried way to the fresh fight.
And so the contest was maintained until the sun’s hot rays had finally sent down most of the melted snows of the Wasatch and the waters seemed to tire of the fight.
Street Deeply Gashed.
But what a mighty swath the rebellious old stream had cut!
In places North Temple street had been gashed to a depth of twelve to fourteen feet, and the channel thus mad by removal of the soft earth and small gravel was plied thick with boulders of all shapes, some of them weighing near a ton, hurled down out of City creek canyon.
But even this flood brought its compensations, for with these very boulders was later constructed the present aqueduct, now being removed to make place of the modern cement tube which is to render North Temple street an attractive boulevard.
Besides, down in the block on the south side of North Temple, between Fifth West and Sixth West streets, the waters had deposited the finer gravel carried west in their springtime madness. Also the rich silt was spread over much of the bottom lands, a valuable gardening acquisition. For years the gravel mine proved a boon to the city in its street improvement work. In prosecuting street grading on the west side this deposit saved thousands of long and laborious hauls from the gravel beds at the foot of the mountains.
On the Brighter Side.
The north half of the block bounded by North Temple and South Temple streets and Fifth West and Sixth West streets was owned by Jesse W. Fox, Daniel Daniels, Benjamin Rolfe and John Jeremy. The city purchased the property from these owners and thereby rendered the gravel deposit available for its own use.
There is an interesting incident to note in this connection. Wagons in the old days were not constructed as they are now. The bane of the summertime life of the farmer and teamster was the drying up of hubs, spokes and felloes by heat, and the consequent loosening of tires and ominous creaking of spokes in their sockets. From miles around came teams and wagons to be driven through the water of the gravel sump to “set the tires” by swelling into security the felloe, the spoke and the hub.
In 1868, when Presiding Bishop Edward Hunter had charge of the public works, John Isaac was given the contract to construct a rock lined aqueduct down North Temple street from State to Third West street. Associated with him was William Lewis, father of Walter J. Lewis, now and for several years manager of the Deseret News Book store. These, with an adequate force of men, put in the open aqueduct now being torn out, using the boulders rolled down out of the mountains into the street by the flood of 1862 for constructing the bottom and lining walls.
While part of the street was thus cared for, the west side still suffered every spring form overflow of the creek. George Tall, a pioneer and member of the Nauvoo legion, who is yet living at Sixth West and North Temple streets, for years kept up a determined and finally successful fight to preserve his property, which was directly west of the gravel sump. He bauled birch brush form the canyon, and with it and dirt and gravel he built a dike around his lot, thus keeping out the flood and enabling himself and family to maintain their home.
Wooden Flume Built
In November of 1891 was held a city election, which resulted in the seating (to put it in language of that day) of “twelve Gentiles, two Mormons and one Democrat.” R. N. Baskin was elected mayor. The “two Mormons and one Democrat” came from the Third municipal ward. E. E. Rich, then and now residing on North Temple street between Sixth West and Seventh West streets, was the Democratic member of the council—the first ever elected in the territory under national party lines. The “two Mormons” were Eli A. Folland and Oscar Hardy.
Mr. Rich at once set to work to relieve his constituents of the damage to property recurring every spring from the high waters. After a considerable struggle he and his friends succeeded, in 1892, in bringing about construction of a wooden flume down North Temple street from the west end of the stone aqueduct to the Jordan river.
Another improvement made by that council was in laying a covered aqueduct for City creek on North Temple street form the east side of State to the west side of Main. Also the headgate and gatehouse now standing at the latter point were installed. North Temple is narrow between State and Main, and with the open creek running down its center it was rendered almost useless for traffic. This short bit of covered conduit was therefore hailed with welcome. It was built of hard brick and is still giving good service. Its intake is just east of where once stood the picturesque old grist mill owned by the late Francis Armstrong, at one time mayor of Salt Lake.
First Cement Tube.
Power for this mill was supplied by a ponderous, old-fashioned overshot waterwheel, the water coming from City creek canyon and being returned to the North Temple street aqueduct after its work had been done. Later the mill property was acquired by the city as a supply storage depot and workshop for the waterworks department. Still later the property was bought by the board of education, and on it now stand the Lafayette school.
The Baskin administration, under urging by Councilman Rich, also widened all the bridges across the old North Temple aqueduct to the full width of the streets. Prior to this the street bridges were only wide enough to permit passage of one team at a time, while the footbridges were little, teetery plank affairs, with side railings of questionable security, which would accommodate person only in single file. If two approached a footbridge from opposite directions at one time, one of them was obliged to wait until the other got across before attempting passage.
In 1905 an American party mayor and city council were elected, and during this administration the old wooden flume on the west side was removed and an eight-foot cement tube was constructed on North Temple from Fourth West to the Jordan river. The wooden flume, aside from the objectionable feature of being open, had largely filled with gravel and silt washed down into it during its years of use. In times of high water it was repeatedly overflowed and cellars were filled and lawns and flower and track gardens were ruined. At nearly all times of the year the lots along North Temple west of Fifth West were in a miserable state of soggy unattractiveness, and cellars were impossible. Since construction of the cement tube the lawns and flower gardens are made beautiful and deep and commodious cellars are the rule.
Finishing Good Work.
Now the city commission is proceeding to finish the good work. With the present improvement completed every liability to damage form flood or death from drowning will have been removed and North Temple street will become the beautiful thoroughfare it deserves to be. Mullins & Palm have the contract and the work is to be completed this summer.
Prior to construction of the North Temple aqueduct there were tow branches of City creek. The west branch ran through the temple block, emerging about thirty feet north of the present west gate to the tabernacle grounds. Indeed, if one be sufficiently interest to look there, one may see an old stone arch in rock foundation of the temple block wall at the point indicated. It has been filled in with brick, some of which have deteriorated and fallen away.
From there the west branch ran crookedly westward through the tier of blocks between North and South Temple streets, passing behind the north side of the Cannon house on First West and South Temple, swerving to the northward until it crossed Second West just north of the present fire station No. S, and turning into North Temple at Third West, about where the east foot of the viaduct now is.
On First West street, spanning the creek, was a stone bridge, with a ford on each side of it. The bridge was for use in high water time, while the fords were for low water and “setting tires.”
From Third West the stream generally followed North Temple to the Jordan river.
The south branch of City creek came down through the old tithing yard, between present Hotel Utah and the office of the first presidency of the Mormon church. It there crossed South Temple and ran south behind the home of “Squire” Wells (Daniel H. Wells, who was once mayor of Salt Lake, and who was father of Heber M. Wells, at present city park commissioner.) The Wells home was set well back in the corner later occupied by the Templeton hotel, now the Templeton block, and containing the quarters of the Zion’s Savings & Trust company.
From this point the south branch ran through the block immediately behind where is now the office of THE EVENING TELEGRAM, crossed Second South about where the Wilson hotel is, swerved east almost to the present Auerbach and Keith-O’Brien stores, turned west through what is now Postoffice place and down past the south side of Pioneer park, that part of it not used up in irrigation losing itself in the old marshes south and west of the D. & R. G. yards and finally oozing and dripping to obscurity in the Jordan river.
City creek has its death record, and especially as to the canyon and the west branch—the south branch was the smaller—before and since the construction of the open aqueduct. Just after completion of the covered conduit on North Temple, between State and Main, some little chaps were playing “hide and seek” near the State street intake. One of them sought hiding in the mouth of the tunnel. Hid body was later recovered some distance below Main street. Later two young sons of Engineer Pierson of the Deseret News were playing near the creek, when one of them feel in. The other jumped in to save him. Both were drowned. James H. Hall, an aged man who had lived on the west side for many years, fell into the creek when it was high while on his way home at night, and he was added to the list of victims. But the roster is all too long and painful to enumerate.