Horatio Gates Livermore (1807 - d.)

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Nicknames: ""father of Russian Hill""
Birthplace: Livermore, Maine
Death: Died in California
Occupation: "entrepreneur"?
Managed by: Amy L Espinoza
Last Updated:

About Horatio Gates Livermore

Lived in Boston and worked in mercantile business until 1850.

Then he made the journey overland to California, settling in Georgetown, El Dorado Co.. Horatio Gates Livermore, came to California from Maine during the Gold Rush in 1850.

In 1854, he was elected State senator.

In 1856 became interested in natural advantages of Folsom and the value of the property and franchises of the Natoma Water Company. Eventually he and his associates by successive purchases, acquired a controlling interest in the company and he became its President and manager. Realizing the importance of the water power which the American River affords at this place, he projected plans for its utilization, which have made there a manufacturing power equal to that of Lowell.

In order to utilize the granite quarries which the locality possesses, he originated the idea of a branch State prison to be located there and used convict labor for stone quarrying and cutting.

He was among the earliest to recognize the value of the "foot hill" lands for vineyard and orchard purposes. He purchased for the Natoma Company, a large portion of the Leidesdorf grant (about 10,000 acres of land adjoining the town of Folsom). To demonstrate their capability, he installed orchards and vineyards on about five hundred acres. For the conversion of the products he also erected by far the largest fruitdrying and raisin-making establishment in the state. He also establisheda large winery in Folsom. -------------------- Lived in Boston and worked in mercantile business until 1850.

Then he made the journey overland to California, settling in Georgetown, El Dorado Co..

In 1854, he was elected State senator.

In 1856 became interested in natural advantages of Folsom and the value of the property and franchises of the Natoma Water Company. Eventually he and his associates by successive purchases, acquired a controlling interest in the company and he became its President and manager. Realizing the importance of the water power which the American River affords at this place, he projected plans for its utilization, which have made there a manufacturing power equal to that of Lowell.

In order to utilize the granite quarries which the locality possesses, he originated the idea of a branch State prison to be located there and used convict labor for stone quarrying and cutting.

He was among the earliest to recognize the value of the "foot hill" lands for vineyard and orchard purposes. He purchased for the Natoma Company, a large portion of the Leidesdorf grant (about 10,000 acres of land adjoining the town of Folsom). To demonstrate their capability, he installed orchards and vineyards on about five hundred acres. For the conversion of the products he also erected by far the largest fruitdrying and raisin-making establishment in the state. He also establisheda large winery in Folsom.

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Horatio Gates Livermore's Timeline

1807
March 16, 1807
Livermore, Maine
1832
October 26, 1832
Age 25
Boston, Massachusetts
1834
April 2, 1834
Age 27
Boston, Massachusetts
1835
October 7, 1835
Age 28
Boston, Massachusetts
1837
April 7, 1837
Age 30
Boston, Massachusetts
1854
1854
- 1856
Age 46
California
1856
1856
Age 48
California
1860
1860
- 1892
Age 52
Folsom, California
1867
1867
- 1892
Age 59
California

Powerhouse History
Gold mining had created the town of Folsom, and indirectly lead to the construction of the Folsom Powerhouse. The man who first sought to harness the American River for generating power for industrial purposes came to California in 1850 following the lure of gold. By the early 1860s, Horatio Gates Livermore had gained control of the Natoma Water and Mining Company, a firm that had built a network of dams, ditches, and reservoirs that supplied water to the numerous gold mines in the American River area. Looking beyond the immediate service to these mines, Livermore hoped to apply waterpower to operating a sawmill and other industries in and around Folsom. In the mid 1860s, he started construction on a dam to provide a holding pond for the logs cut in the higher foothills, and sent down the river. This task was more formidable than he had anticipated, since labor costs would be so expensive for quarrying the stone and building the dam and system of canals and ditches. The Natoma Company (Livermore) start built. By the late 1880s, a settlement was finally reached, and state officials agreed to provide prisoners for the dam construction.

Much had changed, however, while the delays held up the project. Livermore had died, and his vision of providing waterpower for infant industries in Folsom had to be revised. His two sons (Horatio P. and Charles E.) pressed ahead with the dam construction and the sawmill project. However, instead of building a system providing water for an industrial network driven by water wheels, the Livermores had embraced a new technology in their plans - hydroelectric power, that is, electrical generators powered by water turbines. Emerging from its experimental stages, the electrical power industry was trying to gain a foothold in manufacturing and transportation. A few electrical power plants had been successful on a limited basis in Germany and New York in the late 1880s and early 1890s; however, nothing had been attempted that was on the scale of the Livermore's endeavoring. They sought to construct a canal 9,500 feet long providing water power to four of the largest electrical generators that had been built up the stone dam across the American River, and the bulkhead and headgates for the canal, and the canal itself were finished in 1893. Folsom State Prison was the first to benefit from the dam when it put its own hydroelectric powerhouse into operation, also in 1893. Within two years, the Natoma Company's main powerhouse complex was completed, and was ready to transmit power to Sacramento. It consisted of four 750-kilowatt electrical generators (also called "dynamos"), each more than eight feet high, weighing more than 57,000 pounds. They were manufactured by the General Electric Company, and to quote a contemporary account: "these are without doubt the largest three-phase dynamos yet constructed..." (Journal of Electricity, vol. 1, No. 3, Sept. 1895). Driving these generators were four McCormick dual turbines with a capacity of 1260 horsepower for each pair, which in turn were driven by water surging through four eight-foot- diameter penstocks. The generators have been altered a little over the years, and the governors for the turbines were replaced early in this century. However, the basic equipment is still in place, and was in operation until the hydroelectric plant shut down in 1952.

The Livermore brothers, in partnership with Albert Gallatin (president of the Huntington, Hopkins Hardware Company) formed the Folsom Water Power Company, controlling the dam and the canal, which supplied water to the Sacramento Electric Power and Light Company, also owned by the Livermores and Gallatin. The latter firm operated the power plant at Folsom, the substation in Sacramento, and the streetcar lines in that city. On July 13, 1895, with only two generators in actual operation, electricity was successfully transmitted over uninsulated copper wires the full 22 miles to Sacramento. Newspapers in Sacramento and San Francisco covered this event in detail on their front pages the next day. Sacramento celebrated this technological breakthrough with a "Grand Electric Carnival" on September 9, 1895, stringing electric lights along its downtown streets, and decorating the State Capitol with thousands of bulbs. The whole affair caught the attention of the entire state, and even the nation.
While hopes were high for the future of electric power, the Sacramento Electric Power and Light Company had its problems with this new technology. One of the generators ran out of control in 1901, shattering the armature, and the sand, silt, and small gravel that washed into the penstocks from the forebay wore down and damaged the turbine blades on a regular basis.

Despite these setbacks, the Livermores and Gallatin remained confident that electrical power had a solid future. Demand for more electricity continued to grow in the Sacramento Area. Responding to this, they built another, smaller powerhouse in 1897, just below the main powerhouse at the mouth of the tailrace, to take advantage of the 25-foot difference in elevation. This power plant had only one 750-kilowatt generator, powered by a unique continuous rope drive from the turbine.

The success of hydroelectric power development and the expanding popularity of electricity for lighting and for industry and public transportation soon outstripped the capacity of the Folsom Plant. Within a few years after the second powerhouse was built at the Folsom complex, businessmen, investors, and engineers were constructing hydroelectric plants (with more powerful generators) that harnessed water from the Feather River down to the Tuolumne River for rapidly expanding distribution networks providing current to homes and factories in the San Francisco Bay Area.

By the early 1900s, the Folsom Powerhouse was on the brink of becoming an obsolete plant. The unpredictability of the American River water flows continued to plague the Folsom Powerhouse to the point that power transmission to Sacramento began to be interrupted on an intermittent basis. The Livermores were forced to buy electricity from the new Colgate hydroelectric plant on the Yuba River, which was owned by the San Francisco-based California Gas and Electric Company. By 1902-1903, that company had acquired the Folsom Powerhouse, along with several other power plants in the foothills. In 1906, this firm was reorganized to form the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and from that time on, the Folsom Powerhouse remained in the control of P.G.&E.

1880
1880
Age 72
California

FSP is California's second-oldest prison, long known for its harsh conditions in the decades following the California Gold Rush. Construction of the facility began in 1878 on the site of the Stony Bar mining camp along the American River. The prison officially opened in 1880. Inmates spent most of their time in the dark behind solid boiler plate doors in stone cells measuring 4 feet by 8 feet (1.2 by 2.4 m) with 6 inch (150 mm) eye slots. Air holes were drilled into the cell doors in the 1940s, and the cell doors are still in use today.

FSP was the first prison in the world to have electric power, which was provided by the first hydroelectric powerhouse in California. The quarry at FSP provided granite for the foundation of the state capitol and much of the gravel used in the early construction of California's roads.