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William Jackson Dingee

From the Oakland Wiki:

William Jackson Dingee (July 22, 1854 - September 5, 1941) established the Oakland Water Company to supply his extensive real estate holdings in the hills above Oakland. His real estate and water dealings gained him significant wealth before his fortunes collapsed and he exiled himself to anonymity in Sacramento.

Dingee was born in Pennsylvania in 1854. He came to Oakland in 1877 and worked first as a bookkeeper. In 1878 he lived at 979 Cypress (now Mandela Parkway). He did well in real estate; by 1888 he was living at the Fernwood estate (which formerly belonged to Colonel Jack Coffee Hays). Dingee married Virginia Rose ("Rosie") Dodge (Dingee) (? - March 22, 1914). Their Fernwood estate burned to the ground while the they were in New York.

Dingee's fortunes collapsed about 1908. One source says he was swindled by a business partner.

William J. Dingee formed the Piedmont Spring and Water Company in 1891 and reincorporated it as the Oakland Water Company in 1893, directly competing with the Contra Costa Water Company. For the next decade, the two firms engaged in the notorious and ruinous water war. Each of the two companies hired experts to analyze the other company's water and declare it unsuitable for human consumption. Oakland Water Company leveled accusations that drillers next to its Alvarado Wells were aiming to ruin its wells by pumping millions of gallons of fresh water into the San Francisco Bay.

The offices of both the Oakland Water Company and the Contra Costa Water Company were located in the Leimert Block of Downtown Oakland, until the Contra Costa Water Company moved into into the Blake and Moffit Block at the northeast corner of 8th Street and Broadway in 1895. The Oakland Water Company expanded into the former Leimert Block offices of the Contra Costa Water Company.

Dingee exclaimed, “The Contra Costa Water Company has hired newspapers to libel me…They have lied about the quality of our water…(and have) pumped lime into our lines….” 

Dingee accused the Contra Costa Water Company of causing severe water shortages by sabotaging his ability to serve customers through cutting and blowing up the Oakland Water lines.

When William Dingee gained control of the Contra Costa Water Company in 1899, the operations of both concerns moved into the adjacent building, the address of which is currently 801-7 Broadway.

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Real estate agency of William J. Dingee;

Francis (Frank) A. Losh behind desk (1892/1900) 


Daily Review - Nov. 04, 1962

A debonair scoundrel; an episode in the moral history of San Francisco by Thomas, Lately, Publication date 1962:

One friend who had ingratiated himself with the Union Labor mayor was a millionaire promoter who moved in the highest society, William J. Dingee. (The name was pronounced "dingy.")

WASP (July-Dec. 1911) (Collection californiastatelibrary):

It is hardly necessary to say that William J. Dingee was not a professional reformer, or any other kind. To his friends who were associated profitably with him he was "a captain of industry," but the rate payers of Oakland city, to whom Mr. Dingee supplied water, had an entirely different appellation for him. His purpose in life was to make money, honestly if he could, hut at all hazards to increase his bank account and be rated amongst the billionaires. A practical mail with a turn of mind like Dingee can always be relied upon to form a correct estimate of a boodling county official. If the practical man would not call-"on private business" with the boodling county official, the latter could be relied upon to make a visit sooner or later, just as Mr. Dalton did with Spring Valley.

Past and present of Alameda County, California by Baker, Joseph Eugene, 1847-1914, Publication date 1914:

The establishment of the Oakland Water Company was made a notable event in the history of this community. When the people were clamoring for better water, when it seemed out of the question for them to secure any improvement, and when the old company refused to purify the supply or reduce the price, the Oakland Water Company was organized by William J. Dingee, largely through accident. When his intentions became known he was at first hailed by many as a public benefactor. He not only planned to secure the supply from the Piedmont foothills, but the immense outflow of the artesian wells at Alvarado. Promptly many people rallied to his support. So great was the rush of patronage that his company soon threatened to outstrip its rival both in support and public esteem and prestige. The board of trade, the Merchants' Exchange, the board of supervisors and the town and city trustees and councils promptly favored the new company. Soon the gigantic pumps and big pipes brought all the water needed— fresh and pure from the subterranean reservoirs at Alvarado. At once the old rates were cut and recut until in a short time it was declared that the new company saved Oakland alone annually $250,000.

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Alameda County Illustrated Souvenir Book 1898 by Oakland Tribune, Publication date 1898:

Probably the most modern and best equipped water plant on the Pacific Coast is that of the Oakland Water Company. Not yet in its fifth year of existence, it has that which is most essential to all water companies, to-wit.: patrons. Its growth has been remarkable and it is still going ahead in public favor. Its principal promoter is William J. Dingee, who drifted into the business from pure force of circumstances. His original intention was only to supply the Piedmont Highlands from the I water tunnels on his immense place in the Hays Canyon. Pipes were laid to the Piedmont Junction, when people south of this point demanded the right to connect. Pretty soon Mr. Dingee found that he had more customers on hand than his tunnels could supply, and his mains had reached the heart of Oakland. Enlisting the services of Wm. F. Boardman, the well-known engineer, and the capital of Alvinza Hayward and Andrew W. Rose, the San Francisco millionaires, as well as a further large piece of his private fortune, Mr. Dingee engaged in the water business on a much larger scale than he ever contemplated.

It was Mr. Dingee who made it feasible to bring this water to the City of Oakland, although hundreds of others had contemplated it. Not only is this source of supply as lasting as time, but it is of a most remarkable clear¬ ness and purity. It comes out of the ground miles away from any habitation or vegetation, and if taken from the surface would be pure enough, but assurance has been doubled by a novel method. The old wells have been reconstructed, and the new ones dug — first, of a diameter of twenty-four inches for fifty feet; then an eighteen-inch pipe is sunk with the twenty-four inch pipe; then between the pipes and down fifty feet there is packed concrete. The eighteen-inch well is then continued to the underground river or lake below. This absolutely precludes seepage of any kind. The water from the wells (about fifty in number) is not pumped, but permitted to flow of its own force into a large receiving reservoir, adjacent to the pumping station, from which it is forced by steam power into a thirty-inch main, and on to Oakland, never again seeing the light of day until the consumer draws it from the hydrant in his Oakland home. The pumps are monsters of power, and are in duplicate, so that in the event of an accident the service will not be crippled or in any way impaired. About the wells and pumping station order and cleanliness prevail everywhere, and visitors are always delighted upon viewing the place. It is a safe assertion to make that no home in California is more free from dust and dirt than the Alvarado end of the Oakland Water Company. The station is connected by telephone with the main office in Oakland, and the organization of the works is thorough and runs with the regularity of a perfect clock.

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