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A Breif History of The Yuba Powerhouse


Photo of Powerhouse BuildersEugene J. de Sabla, Jr, a descendent of French nobility educated in the United States, and John Martin, who grew up in Brooklyn, and Alfonso Tregidgo, who had experience working in quicksilver and copper mines, teamed up to construct the Nevada Rome Powerhouse. It was in operation for 15 years, until 1910.

The Nevada Powerhouse had launched a whole new industry - the hydroelectric-power industry and it's success created a greater demand.

Martin, de Sabla and Colgate continued on. Their next project was the Yuba Powerhouse along the ten year old Browns Valley Irrigation District Ditch near Dry Creek in Yuba County at a place called Wild Hog Glory.

A judge had declared part of the Wright Irrigation Act unconstitutional, thus preventing BVID from levying taxes to maintain its ditches. The Yuba Power Company, formed for this project, agreed to take over the maintenance of BVID's 30 mile ditch and flume to and including the Dry Creek inverted siphon.

What the Local Press had to Say in 1898

At 5:30 yesterday afternoon, W. Frank Pierce, President of the Blue Lakes Water Company gave the word that put into motion the machinery of the New Yuba Power Company, which is to bring both cheap power and a happy release from past extortionate illuminating charges to the people of Marysville and adjacent towns.

23 miles of a delightful drive, if the day be fair, brings one to the Powerhouse of this company.

Nearby to the Powerhouse is the residence of the electricians and employees in charge of the plant.

The structure which will house these gentlemen in a comfortable residence of two stories, fitted up with all the appliances that go to make life pleasurable, and it is needless to state that their lives will be passed amid pleasant surroundings.

(Excerpted from the Marysville Daily Appeal, March 22, 1898.)


Plant worker remembers 1898 lighting of Marysville

(Story excerpted from PG&E's Pacific Service Magazine, 1900.)

When the first workers arrived to begin work at the Little Yuba Powerhouse, they found conditions difficult, to say the least. The job involved hard work under spartan conditions. The story is told by A. J. Stephens.

I think it was in February, 1898, that Mr. John Martin employed Herman Noack, Joseph Mooney, and myself as operators for the Yuba Power Plant, and we left San Francisco for the plant at once.

Upon arriving in Marysville, we found that we could not leave for the plant, which was 22 miles from Marysville, until the next morning. So, early the next morning the team drove up front of the hotel and we were bundled in, bag and baggage, and started on our way up and down and around the hills until we arrived at about 2 p.m. at what was to be the power plant, and we were given the rest of the afternoon to look around and get our things in shape. And it did not take us long to find out that our new home was in a hole, with mountains on all sides, and the only way we could see out was up.

After finishing the packing act up the mountain side with our friends the donkeys, we were set to work at the powerhouse, helping to set up switch boards and any other work which goes with the building of a plant, including the setting up of the generators, which was the final hard work. For, when the first generator was set up, we were started in as operators, working 16 hours and eight hours rest until the plant was finished.

The first night that Marysville was lighted up with electricity from the power plant, they had a big celebration and the company's office was lighted up in different electric designs in the ceiling as well as a large electric sign, just in front of the office.

Stephens also talks about one of the few real treats the workers received -- fresh salmon for dinner:

The way we received fresh salmon from the head of the dam was by some of the ditch tenders nailing fish to a 1 x 12 x 12 inch board and then turning the board upside down in the water, starting it on its way, and notifying the different ditch tenders to lift it over their trash rack as soon as it arrived. This gave it a new start down the ditch on the way to the powerhouse, taking about ten to 12 hours to reach the spillway at the powerhouse. Two or three salmon were sent to us at a time. "Needless to say a big fish dinner was the next in order".

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