Perkins’ Perseverance: Part of SCV’s Water History
The Santa Clarita Valley is extremely rich in history, dating as far back as 450 A.D. when the Tataviam Indians first arrived. Several years and many monumental events have taken place since then, and combined; have ultimately provided the wonderful existence of our valley.
As the first local water purveyor here in the Santa Clarita Valley, NCWD naturally plays an important role in our history. Upon the acceptance of the General Manager position for the “Newhall Water System” in 1919 by Arthur B. “Perk” Perkins, records indicate that Mr. Perkins actually purchased the rookie water company shortly following his arrival from Mr. Henry Clay Needham in 1920 with approximately 125 services. Prior to Perk’s move out west, he and his brothers formed a very lucrative marble company and owned a hotel in the Nevada desert. A.B. Perkins fell in love and married the daughter of the most respected mining assayer in the region. Marble competition from another state eventually lead to the demise of their company, and ultimately the entire town. Prior to “Perk’s” acquisition of the Newhall Water System, Mr. H. Clay Needham and Mr. M.W. Atwood shared “partnership” of the then mostly agricultural water system. According to documents, the Newhall Water System was actually established in 1913, although according to Mr. Perkins, “no intelligible records existed at the time of acquisition.”
Mr. Needham’s involvement in the Newhall Water System continued for many years following the change in ownership clear up until his death in 1936. Mr. Needham was also the only primary source of financial support, being the only documented contributor in 1920, when he invested/loaned $20,000 at 8% interest payable over 5 years. It wasn’t until the end of 1924 that Mr. Perkins received additional financial support when he enlisted his mother and father-in-law, Mr. & Mrs. J.D. O’Brien of Nevada, to purchase half of his vested interest. Included in this partnership was their daughter and Perk’s lovely wife, Marguerite. It was obvious that Mr. Needham’s continued support went hand-in-hand with Mr. & Mrs. Perkins involvement in the community. In fact, in 1923, when the Newhall Chamber of Commerce was created, Mr. Perkins was nominated, along with Mr. Albert C. Swall, for President of the newly created organization. He was also nominated for Treasurer-Secretary, but Mr. Perkins withdrew both of his nominations. Marguerite was equally as involved, as Mr. Swall appointed her along with 4 other community members to serve on a committee to identify and outline a six-month “system of action” for the organization. Obviously pleased with the positive influence that Mr. & Mrs. Perkins had on local community members, he continued to financially support the Newhall Water System.
The year 1930 was important for Mr. & Mrs. Perkins and the Newhall Water System! On June 1, 1930, the small company became an official “corporation” when Mr. & Mrs. Perkins and Mr. & Mrs. O’Brien sold their entire interest to the newly created “Newhall Water Company,” complete with 17 stockholders, a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Attorney and an assigned General Superintendent — all with around 300 services.
The first group of stockholders was a colorful one. It was clear that Perk continued to be supported by the most influential people in this valley with the help of William S. Hart, Charles E. Mack, Mr. & Mrs. Albert Swall, The Frew’s and many others. In 1931 Perk’s hard work was beginning to pay off with a hefty salary increase to approximately $150 per month! Finally, after nearly 30 years, Perk stepped down as General Manager in 1948 when Mr. H.W. Dreher assumed the position, but continued his position as a Principal Officer.
By the early 1950s it became apparent that the creation of a community water district was necessary to continue to support the growing population. After a formal voting process, A.B. Perkins signed the documents in September 1953 finalizing the sale of the Newhall Water Company to Newhall County Water District for $130,000.
It is obvious that Mr. A.B. Perkins not only documented the Santa Clarita Valley’s history by acting as the first-known historian in our valley, but also actually created much of the history … having tremendous impact on our future by devoting most of his life to “Newhall Water”! All of us at NCWD are honored that an incredibly bright man relentlessly contributed to the ever-changing needs of our community … and we’re proud to be associated with the name A.B. Perkins.
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