von Schmidt, Alexis W.
Autograph Letter Signed, San Francisco, February 5, 1860 to his brother Julius H. von Schmidt, Esq., Washington, D. C.

quarto, 4 pages, old folds, else in very good, clean and legible condition.

Alexis von Schmidt was a Prussian born civil engineer who had arrived in San Francisco in 1849, he did not participate in the gold rush. Trained as a civil engineer at American universities, Von Schmidt became a United States surveyor, mapping public lands and Spanish land grants throughout the state. Von Schmidt helped incorporate the Bensley Water Company. The company successfully built San Francisco's first water supply system in the late 1850's, but angry that the corporation did not pay him for the rights to use a water meter that he invented, he retaliated by joining the rival Spring Valley Water Company in 1860. Five years later, he had his revenge when Spring Valley bought out the Bensley company and established a profitable monopoly as the principal water purveyor to San Francisco. Von Schmidt played a considerable role in California's water projects throughout the 1860's and 1870's and was involved in several major efforts both in California and Nevada.

Von Schmidt writes his brother of family and business news and discusses starting a rival water company after leaving the Bensley firm:

"My Dear Brother,

I have had so much sickness here at Home that I have not had time to write to you for sometime.

Fanny was taken sick just a month ago this day - and was as "crazy" as a loony. She is a little better now, but I cannot leave Home to attend to any business. I had two Doctors but they could not do her any good. I hope she will get better soon as all my business is being neglected.

I hope you are "married" by this time. Also hope you will return as soon as possible if you find you cannot sell "Patent Rights." As I have too much on hand myself. James Bootes is at the Ranch doing the best he can. I have not been up for a month. I have resigned as Engineer of the Water Works, "Chabot" and I could not get along together at all. So the other Trustees forced him to Resign also. I have started an opposition Water Company under Ensignes bill. I intend to get up a company and bring the waters of "San Mato" Creek in, if we can get the water. I do not yet know how it will turn out. At any rate, they will have trouble with it. I think that I will sell out all my stock in the old Company. As things do not go to suit me. I have engaged my wheat about 70 tons at Nevada at 3 cents per lb. but have not had time to send it up. I have put in 300 acres in wheat. I bought the Woodruff field also, so that I have now 720 Acres all Bottom. I sold the Buckingham field to Frazer for $ 600 - cash which goes to Robinson. The Rail Road will come through my place. Col. Wilson goes on this steamer. Call on him if you can. He is a driving man. Governor Latham our new U. S. Senator also leave on this Steamer to take his seat in the Senate go and see him. He is a particular friend of mine & will do what he can for me. Sutton of our office will leave for Washington on the 20th of this month. You will see him if you don't leave before he gets to Washington. I hope my deficiency bill will have passed before he arrives. I hope you call on our members often. It is the only way you can do anything spur them up when ever you can. I hope the House will have elected a speaker by this time. It is a great shame to go on in this way.

Friend Sie's and Eyse Motte got married on Friday last, and went off on their tour to Santa Barbary, will be gone three or four weeks. The wedding was at her mothers as Fanny was too sick to have it here in my house. Bell Smith was the Brides maide. I think it is a very good match.

I have been so much worried and pushed that I have not been able to send you any money yet. But I shall on the 20th without fail. I have money coming in by that time, and the Department at Washington made some new Arrangement lately that will delay money that was due here last mail. Some $ 1900 should have come through, but now I have to wait for two or three months more. I don't know when the Department at Washington will learn to make new arrangements ahead of time, so as not to upset all our arrangements and throw us in the hands of an unfeeling set of money lenders.

I hope you have been to Boston with the Meeter before this. Swan has recd letters stating that the Water Board were experimenting with meeters, and you should be there.

Your course will be that, in case you see that you cannot sell, come back as soon as you can. Bring me a Bull if possible. Also bring Minna. I have the House all fixed so that you will bring your wife Home at once.

Benchely & Co have "failed" they say here that the partner in new York used their money for other purposes than their business.

Fanny sends her Love to Elizabeth also to the Sisters I join in also. The children are all well. Let me know when you think of leaving for this place so that I can be on the look out for you."