From the time when the pioneers first arrived, water, or the lack of it, was a major problem for the valley. The first water system was started by Reuben Hart, who came to the United States from Derbyshire, England, first settling in New Jersey with his brother, Thomas.

The two brothers came to California in 1866. After working in San Jose for a time, the two moved to Castroville. In 1872 they moved their business again, this time to Guadalupe where they established a blacksmith and machine shop.

In 1875 Reuben left Tom in Guadalupe and moved to Central City (Santa Maria’s previous name) to engage in lumber, blacksmithing and carriage making. During that time, he drilled one of the first wells in this area and operated the town’s first water works. As a sideline, he also bought windmills and tanks and sold them to surrounding ranchers for them to use as water systems of their own.

Shirley Contreras lives in Orcutt and writes for the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society. She can be contacted at 623-8193 or at shirleycontreras2@yahoo.com. Her book, “The Good Years,” a selection of stories she’s written for the Santa Maria Times since 1991, is on sale at the Santa Maria Valley Historical Society, 616 S. Broadway.

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