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Vincents owned water system before city took over
Joe Vincent
Joe Vincent was involved in Ceres' early water system before it was taken over by the city. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

In its early days Ceres was so small and contained to the downtown core that a relatively small water tank and a system of wooden pipes served the city's domestic water needs. And given today's regulatory structure of water in California, it's hard to believe that the water system was privately owned.

The Vincent family owned that small system until Ceres grew larger and there was a need for the 1934 water tower two blocks away, still standing on Sixth Street.

Joseph "Joe" Vincent came to Ceres from Sonora in 1904, bringing his wife Mary Prairo Vincent and son Anthony Vincent. Joe's father, Antone Vincent, came from Portugal to mine for gold in the Tuttletown area of Tuolumne County. When he was 14 he was working as a freighter and then learned the blacksmith trade in Sonora. They resided in the small home still standing on the west side of Fourth Street next to Steps Dance Studio. Joe purchased land which is today occupied by the Valero service station. (For many years it had been the place where Mert's Market and the Union gas station stood). He started a blacksmith and operated a farm implement business at the location with a Mr. Lucio. It was named Vincent & Wells Agricultural Implements.

On Vincent's property on Fourth Street stood a windmill and tank which supplied about 20 people in Ceres with water. A 1919 storm pushed the windmill over, leaving the residents unable to draw water. Vincent was under the impression that he no longer was responsible for operating the water works but the state Railroad Commission - it was in its infancy - ordered Vincent to continue supplying local water. By the 1920s, his system was supplying water to a Ceres of 100 persons.

The State Railroad Commission later became the Publix Utilities Commission (PUC).

Vincent dispensed with the windmill and purchased a pump and built a new storage tank which extended above Fourth Street. At that point, Vincent's Ceres Water Work became a public utility.

By the 1940s Vincent's 50,000 gallon tank was adequate to serve 1,400 residents with water. The system also supplied water to fire hydrants scattered all over small Ceres. By 1941, Ceres was served by a total of three wells.

Ceres grew to the point that even the 1934 water tower was inadequate to supply pressure to Ceres homes. It was replaced by multiple wells, modern pumps and larger mains.

When Joe Vincent died in 1944, son Anthony Vincent and his wife Jean Vincent took over but sold the system to the city of Ceres after protracted negotiations.