Old Missoula

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Sec A Page 6 Missoulian Centennial Rattlesnake Creek Is Important

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Rattlesnake Creek Is Important

The fresh, clear waters of the Rattlesnake drainage figured prominently from the first in the history of Missoula. Early residents of the city took their water from the mill ditch which ran from the west bank of the Rattlesnake Creek, about where the Northern Pacific Railway now crosses it, to the old gristmill along the Clark Fork River bank immediately east of the north end of the present Higgins Avenue bridge.

In the 1860’s and early 1870’s a donkey and cart with a barrel distributed water from the ditch to the various homes and business establishments. A grown Indian and an Indian boy named One-Eyed Riley were the distributors much of this period, according to early residents.

Waterworks Started

In 1871 or 1872 Worden & Co. began construction of a waterworks. Water was diverted from the Rattlesnake Creek about three miles north of the city. It was carried first in an open ditch, then in a covered flume about one foot square to a small covered reservoir on what is now called Waterworks Hill. This reservoir was on the ridge about half way from the bottom of the hill to the present reservoir site.

From the reservoir to town the system consisted of hollow pine logs 12 feet long and of 12-inch diameter. A hole was bored through each log with an auger operated by power furnished by a treadmill driven by two horses. The logs were connected by short iron pipes driven into the auger holes.

This wood and iron pipeline was buried in the ground and fed about a dozen faucets protected from the elements by gabled boxes. This system was in operation, with improvements from time to time, until the coming of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1883 when pipe became available for a better system.

In warm weather the early day arrangement was fairly satisfactory, but in extreme cold weather it was necessary to go to the mill ditch for water.

The mill ditch had its tragic side also, four or five drownings occurring in it. The first of these was reportedly that of an 8-year-old boy, George Gregory, in 1871.

Last Updated on Sunday, 20 November 2016 21:16