The McElroy Ditch was constructed by James McElroy prior to 1872 and took water from Angels Creek 1½ miles below Murphys, conveying it to the McElroy Mine on Bald Hill near Altaville. Depicted on early 1870s maps, it provided water to McElroy’s Bald Hill Gravel Mine and its shafts (Beauvais 1872; General Land Office 1871), and to the McElroy Reservoir in the saddle north of the Calaveras Central Mine. Incorporated in 1872, assessed in 1875, and patented in 1876, it was sold to the Union Company on February 3, 1879 for $5 (Deed Book 4:483). After its purchase by the Union Company, the McElroy Ditch became known as the Union Ditch and was used as an ancillary ditch. It was improved in the 1890s after its acquisition by the Utica Gold Mining Company and superseded the earlier alignment of the Union Ditch. It was depicted as active in the late 1920s (Utica Mining Company 1929), but was reportedly abandoned in the late 1940s or early 1950s after it was acquired by PG&E (Marvin 2009:38, 47-48). A segment, however, provided water to the Banchero Ranch via the “Nat Banchero Ditch” through the late 1960s (Nat Banchero, personal communication 2000; Tad Folendorf, personal communication 2015).
Upon reaching a reservoir in the saddle between Johnson (Pipe) Reservoir and Bald Hill, the McElroy ditch continued southwesterly around the south side of Bald Hill, through the “Chinaman’s Tunnel” on the Banchero property, then northerly around Bald Hill to the Matteson and McElroy mines and, later, the Calaveras Central Mine at approximately 1,600 feet amsl. After it was acquired by the Utica Company, the ditch was continued northerly to Lane’s Reservoir. Viewed as the upper ditch on the hillside on the Banchero property, the ditch measures about 4 feet wide at the bottom, 3 to 5 feet deep, and 8 feet berm to berm, sloughed in. The section around the west and north sides of Bald Hill was recently obliterated by the construction of the Angels Bypass.
A sidehill reservoir, lined with concrete on the downhill (south) side took water from the McElroy Ditch through a metal pipe to store it on the hillside above the Banchero Ranch. Water exited the reservoir through another pipe and cascaded down the hillside to irrigate the pastures below. A series of rock check dams in a drainage spread the water easterly and westerly along its route, from where it was eventually channeled through the ranch via a stone-lined watercourse. It was apparently abandoned in the late 1960s, when water was supplied from the City of Angels.
By Judith Marvin
2009 Angels Hydroelectric Project (FERC Project No. 2699), National Register of Historic Places Evaluations. Upper and Lower Angels Canal, Angels Forebay and Angels Diversion Dam; McElroy Union Ditch; Jupiter Ditch; Gold Cliff Ditch, Torrey/Utica Ditch, and Mining Ditch Segment. Prepared for Vern Pyle, General Manager, Utica Power Authority, Angels Camp, California.