About Anthony Chabot
Adapted from Life of Anthony Chabot by the Children of the Sixth Grade, Anthony Chabot School, Fall 1930
Anthony Chabot was born on a farm in Quebec, Canada, in the year 1814. Anthony was one of sixteen children. Although his father owned a large farm he did not raise any more than enough to give his family the bare necessities of life. At the age of fourteen Anthony ran away from home to make his living. He went to Southern Canada and worked as an engineer. He remained there for a number of years. Then he heard of the discovery of gold and came to California.
When Mr. Chabot arrived at Nevada City, the heart of the gold mining district, he was told that all of the best claims had been taken, but it did not worry him as he was thinking out a plan. He thought of trying to move dirt by means of water to get to the gold that was in the dirt. He used “ground sluicing” instead of the methods used by other miners. Ground sluicing was a method which had been used hundreds of years before by the Romans. Although Mr. Chabot had gone to school only about four years during his life he had read and understood Roman history. His method proved a success from the first, and it soon became necessary for him to employ many men. Mr. Chabot then commenced hydraulic mining. He made as much as one thousand dollars a day using this method. Mr. Chabot, as the first man to extract gold by means of moving the earth by water pressure, is called “the father of hydraulic mining.” He built two saw mills in Sierra County. The lumber was used in building dams, flumes, and sluices for his mines.
After leaving the mines Mr. Chabot went to San Francisco and started the first public water system in that city. The success that Mr. Chabot met in this project led him to go further in supplying other cities with water, including Portland, Maine and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was about this time, too, when he thought of a method of transporting oil by pipeline.
In 1866, when Mr. Chabot returned to California, he saw that Oakland was badly in need of running water as at that time the city was supplied by wells. He found a creek which he thought would be just what they needed. This was Temescal Creek. Temescal Creek was dammed, a lake was formed, and by 1869 the city was supplied from Lake Temescal.
The name of Anthony Chabot was always among the first on the list whenever money was needed for charitable purposes. He gave most of the money for the building of a cottage to provide accommodation for veterans in Yountville. He gave Oakland an observatory located in Lafayette Park. He wanted it to be called “Oakland Observatory” but the public would not listen, so it was always referred to as “Chabot Observatory.” His last gift to charity was the largest ever given to any charitable organization of Oakland: a Sheltering Home for women out of work, and for children whose mothers are employed during the day. Mr. Chabot also helped many people directly, including many who worked for him.
Anthony Chabot died on January 6, 1888. Even those whom he had not helped directly grieved that the city had lost a great benefactor. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Oakland. A tall marble shaft simply inscribed, “A. Chabot” rises above his grave in Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.