California Genealogy and History Archives
San Bernardino County and Riverside County
WILLIAM REECE — On the history of constructive development in the Redlands district one of the best authorities from personal observation and experience is Mr. William Reece of Crafton.
Mr. Reece was born in England, March 10, 1861. Two years later his parents, Ralph and Mary Reece, came to America and settled in Connecticut, where he grew up as a boy and acquired his schooling. His first regular employment was in a brick yard. The duties of an old time brick yard involved perhaps as strenuous labor as any occupation known to man. Mr. Reece had his full share of this kind of labor, and in that and other mechanical trades and industry he put in his years until he was about twenty-seven, when he started for California. In 1888 he left the train at San Bernardino and took the stage to Redlands. He camped near the Redlands Reservoir, and at once secured a pick and shovel job with the firm of Butler & Brown, then building the reservoir. At the end of one week he left the job and on Sunday walked to East Highland, where he began a long period of service with W. H. Glass, who was then superintending the construction of North Fork ditch. Mr. Reece did the paving work on the bottom of this ditch for one week, and then laid up the sides, and continued as a mason workman for a year. He was then made foreman by Mr. Glass, who for years was one of the leading contractors in ditch construction in the valley. Either as a contractor or as superintendent Mr. Glass constructed the Redlands Reservoir and all the main foothill ditches and waterways. Mr. Reece was employed as a foreman on construction in much of this work.
In July, 1893, the Bear Valley Company went into bankruptcy, with T. P. Morrison as the first receiver, who was succeeded in a short time by Grimes & Graves, who succeeded in disposing of enough of the property and the company supplies to meet the large arrearages in debt to the laborers. At this time Mr. Glass was superintendent for the Bear Valley Company. He gave Mr. Reece instructions to clean up everything, take down derricks in the valley, and secure all the powder and caps and return them to storage in Redlands, since it was feared that some of these explosives would be used to blow up the dam by some laborer who had not been paid. Mr. Reece was acquainted with Ames and Johnson, respectively paymaster and bookkeeper of the concern, whose offices were in the Hubbard Block. Mr. Johnson apprised Mr. Reece as to the expected arrival of a consignment of money to pay off some of the laborers, and on going down to the office he found a long line waiting, and coming into the office ahead of them, he was handed his own pay by Mr. Johnson. At that time there was not sufficient funds to meet all the labor obligations.
Prior to this experience Mr. Reece did work for Mr. Glass at Moreno. The contract called for the construction of all the pipes and flumes on the seven hundred acres then being developed by Redlands people. Following this he was connected with the Lake View project, which also went into bankruptcy, though again he was fortunate in securing his own wages. Mr. Reece was then employed in building storm drainage ditches for the City of Redlands, following which he worked for J. S. Edwards on Plunge Creek in the project for bringing water to the high land owned by Mr. Edwards in East Highland.
During 1893 Mr. Reece spent three months in helping construct the water ditch for the Crafton Water Company from Mill Creek Zanja to Crafton Reservoir. He built the Redlands Reservoir and the Crafton ditch from Santa Ana River to the reservoir, rocking it up both bottom and sides.
Mr. Reece in the spring of 1895 was appointed and began his service at Zanjero for the Crafton Water Company. He has been in that position continuously for twenty-seven years without missing a single day on account of illness or any cause, and it is a record of service of which he may be justly proud.
Mr. Reece enlisted during the Spanish-American war in Company G of the Seventh California Volunteers, and after four months in training was discharged at the Presidio at San Francisco.
He married Miss Sophia Casteel, a native daughter of California, who was born in San Bernardino ^County in 1874. Her mother came to California with an ox train at the time the Van Leuven families moved from Salt Lake to old San Bernardino. Mr. and Mrs. Reece are the parents of four children. Ethel, born in 1892, 1st the wife of Chauncey McKee and the mother of two children. Mary, born in 1893, was married to Winfield Richter and has one child. ; the two youngest children are John, born in 1906, and Helen, born in 1908. In 1911 Mr. Reece bought ten acres on Crafton Avenue, where he has his present home. This is adjoining Redlands at Mentone. Seven acres of the tract had been set to Navel oranges. Three acres were still covered with rocks, which he had removed and the land improved, and it is now a grove of Valencias. Here Mr. Reece built his new and modem home. His first place of residence was in Redlands. At that time his duties frequently called him to the mountains, and on one occasion he took his family with him. As a precaution against fire he removed two five gallon cans, one of kerosene and one of gasoline, to a shed in the rear of his home. Redlands City had recently installed a fire alarm system, and there was a standing reward of five dollars offered to the first person who should turn in an alarm for a real fire. Some boys coveting this reward made a real fire by securing the cans from the shed and pouring the contents about the house of Mr. Reece and then setting fire to the premises. The house was a total loss. The boys were convicted and sentenced to the Whittier Reform School.
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011