by Thompson & West, 1879, with illustrations

Chapter XL - Levees - transcribed by Craig Hahn, Nov. 2003

The First Levees in Marysville in 1862—The Great Levee in 1868—Subsequent Repairs—Flood of 1875—The New Levee of 1876—Creation of a District—Expense of Construction—Issuance of Bonds—Names of Commissioners—Bear River Levee District No. 1—Extent—Characters of the Work—Names of the Commissioner

      The several floods that occurred in the winter of 1861-2 thoroughly convinced the citizens of Marysville that they would in the future be compelled to rely upon levees to protect the city from inundation, and preserve their property from destruction. A subscription was accordingly raised amount the citizens for that purpose. This amounted to $4,000 to which the City Council added $1,000. With this sum a levee, from three to eight feet high, was constructed, extending from the foot of D street along the river to F street, which at that time supposed sufficient for the city’s protection. The high water of the season of 1866-7, however demonstrated the fact that that this brief extent of embankment was entirely inadequate to effect the desired end. An Act was therefore passed by the Legislature early in 1868 authorizing the city to procure money for the construction of a complete line of levees surrounding on all sides. The line was immediately surveyed, the contracts let out, and the whole completed prior to the first of December. The line of this embankment commenced at the foot of E street, and followed the present line to the corner of K and Ninth streets. From this point it ran west to M street, north to Eleventh street, west to N street on the bank of Feather river, north to Sixteenth street, northeast to the northeast corner of the Catholic Cemetery, including this, north to the southwest corner of the City Cemetery, east to Covillaud street, south to the Brown’s Valley grade, down the grade to Yuba street, down Yuba street to Fourth street, on Fourth street to Yuba alley, down the alley to First street, on First street to B street, south to Front street, and along the river bank to the place of beginning. The total length was about the same as that of the present line, nearly seven miles, and cost $18,279.97.

      The following year it was found necessary to raise and improve the levee, and also to extend it as to include City Cemetery, which had been left out in the wet by the work of the previous year. For this purpose $6,000were appropriated by the City Council, and work commenced. The new line was 800 feet longer than the old one, and the change of line made the construction of one mile of new levee necessary. The old line was raised from two and one-half to three feet, as far as the southwest corner of the City Cemetery. From this point the new levee ran to the northwest corner of the cemetery, on the cemetery line to the city limits at the north end of A street, east to Covillaud street, and south to the old levee. This work cost $8,833.06, being an excess over the appropriation, for which the Council provided. In 1870, the levee was extended from the north end of Covillaud street due east to the Brown’s Valley grade; the new line being over 4,000 feet long, and costing $1,947.74. In addition to this, the Browns Valley grade was repaired at an expense of $1,353.25.

      Surrounded thus by an embankment raised above high water mark the citizens rested in fancied security. High water mark, however, is an indefinite line, and not always relied upon, as was discovered January 20, 1875, when the water came pouring over the levee north of the city, and introduced the people to the most disastrous flood known in their history. It was then resolved to construct the levee anew. In 1876, an Act was passed by the legislature, authorizing the city to borrow money for this purpose, and bids for contracts were called for. There were several high bids entered, one of them $115,000, and not including the cost of the right of way. The contract was finally let for $68,000 for the work, and the other expenses amounted to $30,000, making a total expense of $98,000. The old levee, so far as set, was raised three feet above high water mark, the Browns Valley grade raised three feet, and the following new line constructed:--Commencing at the corner of K and Ninth streets, it abandoned the old bank, and ran up K street to Sixteenth street, east to E street, north to Eighteenth street, northeast to the city limits at the north end of Yuba street., where it connected with the old levee. The embankment and drain across the slough, between the city and the cemeteries, cost $21,000, and is a fine, though expensive, piece of work. This is the present line of the levee, and it will be observed the cemeteries enclosed by the former line are again left to the savages of the water and sand. It is to be hoped, for the credit of the city, that this defect will soon be remedied.

      The Legislature, in 1876 passed an Act creating a levee district here, and placed it under the control of three Commissioners, who were elected in March of the same year. Prior to this, the work had been done under the supervision of a committee from the City council. Since the Commissioners have had charge of the work they have expended $13,000 in repairing and strengthening the levee, and in cutting away the brush from a channel extending from above the railroad bridge to Feather river, to give the water a freer passage in seasons of over flow. The Commissioners expect this year to make improvements to the extent of $4,000 on the bank from the river to the Oroville crossing. The cost of the levee proper, without adding interest on borrowed money:--

Expended in 1862

$    5,000 00

           “         1868

    18,279 97

           “         1869

      8,833 06

           “         1870

      3,300 99

           “         1876

    98,000 00

           “since 1876

    13,000 00




$146,414 02

      A tax was of two per cent. was levied in 1876, with which $36,000 of the levee indebtedness of the city was paid. The balance was bonded April 1, 1876, there being issued $58,000 in eight per cent. bonds. The present Commissioners are J. F. Flathmann, C. E. Sexey and Justus Greely.

      The grade and levee along the south bank of the Yuba river was built by the miners who claimed to have expended $53,000 for that purpose. The levee extends from the railroad bank up the stream, and is used for one and one-half miles as a road and this portion is in good condition; the balance is of but little account, being too low and having been allowed to fall into decay. The citizens that lived along the line of this levee agreed to raise $8,000 to assist in its construction, but have never done so.

      The long grade to the Yuba river bridge, together with the bridge, was constructed at an expense of $50,000.

      The Brown’s Valley Grade, extending from the city along the north side of the Yuba towards Brown’s Valley, has been built and maintained by the county for the double purpose of a road and levee. The cost of this work has been very great, the amount of which can not be accurately ascertained. It is frequently broken by the water, and requires large outlays to keep it in good condition.


      This district embraces the territory included between the river from Johnson’s Crossing to a point five miles below, and the line that runs through the middle of sections 25, 20, 17, 12, and 9 of Johnson’s Grant, exclusive of the town of Wheatland.

      As the river channel near Wheatland is now about one-half mile further south than formerly, this district embraces a small portion of Placer and Sutter counties. There are within the district 2,141 acres of land and fifteen land owners. The present length of the levee is 29,405 feet, a small portion of which has been built since the organization of the district, the major portion having been built at different times by private parties for their own protection. The levee as now constructed not only protects the land embraced in the district, but also as much again outside, and it would seem as  if its boundaries should be extended so as to make the burden of maintaining the levee lighter. The levee is built chiefly of the sediment that has been deposited in the river, and as this is of a sandy nature, and not well calculated to stand the action of the water, brush has been placed in front of it, so that the current does not wash against it. In times of high water the levees requires much watching and repairing to keep it in proper condition. The district was incorporated in March, 1878, and is managed by three Commissioners, elected by the people of the district every two years. The Commissioners are D. P. Durst, Geo. W. Hall, and James Sowell.


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