Chapter 1

By I.H. Parkman

Planning the Canal

The following history of the Buckeye Canal is written from a long personal knowledge and from talking with old timers that were here from the beginning and from old records that have lately come in my possession and are not on file with the historical paper of the Buckeye and West Gila Valley Old Settlers Union:

On a spring day in 1885 three men hooked a team of horses to a wagon and loading in beds, cooking utensils and a supply of food left Phoenix and headed west. These men were Malin M. Jackson, Joshua L. Spain and Henry Mitchell. Following the old Yuma freight road to the Agua Fria River 18 miles until they reached the Gila River. They looked over the land adjacent to that stream seeking some place that would be easy to develop an irrigation system. Returning to Phoenix a little later, they made a second trip down and investigated some land on the south side of the Gila. But not being satisfied with the outlook there, they returned to the north side to a point near and just west of where the Agua Fria flows into the Gila River and there made location of a dam site and canal heading. Not having brought pencil or paper with them and fearful that some one might beat them to the location they proceeded to post a notice anyway, by taking an ax and hewing a smooth flat place on a willow tree and with charcoal wrote their location notice that would serve for the time being. Hurrying back to Phoenix, they prepared a notice and building themselves a triangle, returned to the place and posted a legal notice May 28, 1885.

Taking their triangle, they proceeded to run a level over the first three miles to see if they could get the water out on the land. Henry Mitchell operated the machine, the other men helping.

For the benefit of those who do not know, a triangle is made out of one by four lumber in the form of a letter A with the cross bars near the bottom. The two legs are generally 16 to 20 feet apart at the bottom. From the apex of the A, a cord with a weight called a plumb bob attached was suspended. By placing the feet of a triangle on stakes driven down in a pond of water so the top of the stakes were at the exact water level, the string and plumb bob would hand at the exact center on the cross bar of the triangle. This was marked on the cross bar and now by raising one leg an inch at a time the plumb bob swing was marked on the cross bar at each rise. Then the operation was reversed and the other side marked, thus giving the operator a complete scale to determine the rise or fall of the land at each set. As the machine had to be set each 20 feet and the proper calculations made at each set, it will readily be seen what a slow tedious operation it was to tune the three miles. But they satisfied themselves that their project was feasible, and returned to Phoenix and filed their notice of location in the recorder’s office June 30, 1885.

The notice of location stated that – “the head of said ditch commencing in an old slough immediately under the high bank on the north side of the Gila River and then westward about one fourth of a mile and then turns northward, leaving the river band and running north-westerly passing Taboo Point on the Gila Rive.”

The purpose of the canal of ditch was said to be “for agricultural, milling or mechanical enterprises.” Twelve thousand inches of water was located and claimed by the locators and a right of way over the public domain forty feet wide to the Hassayampa creek on which to build their canal.

It was named the “Buckeye Canal” by Mr. Jackson in honor of his native state, Ohio, “the Buckeye State.”

In September, 1885, M. E. Clanton and others organized the Buckeye Canal Company and had the new company articles of organization recorded with the territorial’s secretary, on September 25th, 1885. The new company paid the original locators $300 for their interest. The work of building the canal was taken up and Mr. T. N. Clanton was awarded the contract of the first five miles.

An engineer by the name of Berry was employed to make the survey. E. H. (Pompey) Spain acted as head linesman on the survey.

On July 24th, 1886 the Buckeye Canal Company filed notice of location of 38,000 inches more water to be added to the 12,000 originally claimed by the first locators, making a total of 50,000 inches. This location was recorded at Phoenix, the county seat October 8th, 1886.

The original canal survey extended from the dam at the Agua Fria River to the Lower End of Arlington near the present Gillespie Dam and was completed to the Hassayampa in the latter part of 1886. The water was to be carried across the Hassayampa River by means of a sand dam built across the river four or five feet high. The water ran in above the dam until the dam was full and then it ran out on the other side. This means of carrying water across the river was maintained for many years although the dam was washed out every time a little flush of water came down the Hassayampa.

On October 28th, 1888, the Buckeye Canal Company entered into a contract with William (Buckey) O’Neil to sell and transfer to him all their rights and title to the 50,000 inches of water that they had filed an appropriation with the exception of 6,000 inches that they had already appropriated and was represented by 75 shares of stock which had been previously issued.

These 75 shares of stock to have first and prior rights in the canal up to the amount of 6,000 inches.

On October 13th, 1888 William O’Neil had formed a company to be known as the Buckeye Irrigation Company, and on the 31st day of October, he transferred his lately acquired title to the Buckeye Canal Company to the newly formed company.

They took up the work of extending the canal from the Hassayampa to the lower end of the present Arlington Valley.

On this same date, October 13th, the company entered into a contract with O’Neil to construct a good substantial dam at the head of the canal across the Gila River sufficient to divert at least 6,000 inches of water therefrom into the canal at all times for the benefit of the 75 share holders in the old Buckeye Canal Company, and to deliver them free the 6,000 inches of water for a period of 21 years and thereafter at a price not to exceed $1.00 per inch per year. The said company further agreed to keep the water in the canal at least 20 days out of every month except in the years of 1889 and 1890 when they might turn all the water out to enlarge and extend the canal. Their contract was signed and recorded on October 26th, 1888.

On the 10th day of December 1888, the Buckey Irrigation Company executed a mortgage to the Union Trust Company of New York and on the 31st day of January, 1889 a supplement mortgage was added calling for the issuance of $301,000 in bonds to be issued by the Irrigation Company to the Trust Company presumably to be used in extending and enlarging the canal and building a substantial dam.

On March 1, the Buckeye Canal Company made an official transfer for all canal property to the Buckeye Irrigation Company as they had fulfilled all the requirements they had entered into in a former contract with the Irrigation Company.

On June 28th, 1888 the law firm of Baker and Campbell of Phoenix rendered the following opinion as to the title of the Buckeye Canal Company to 50,000 inches of water in the Gila River.

Phoenix, June 28th, 1888
Mr. William O’Neil
Prescott, Arizona Territory

Dear Sir:

Upon examination we find Malin Jackson and J. L. Spain on the 28th day of May 1885 legally appropriated 12,000 inches of water of the Gila River and thereafter on the 30th day of September 1885 duly transferred all their rights in said location to the Buckeye Canal Company.

Upon the 28th day of July, 1886, the Buckeye Canal Company legally appropriated 38,000 inches of water made by valid and legal location. No one can successfully by litigation prevent the Buckeye Canal Company from using 50,000 inches of water appropriated when it has constructed a canal capable of carrying it all.


Baker and Campbell

The following opinion was prepared and presented by E. T. Edwards, an attorney of Phoenix.

Phoenix, March 8, 1889

This is to certify that I have this day examined the foregoing abstract of title and the opinion of Messrs. Baker and Campbell attached thereto and I concur in their opinion. And I further testify that in my opinion the foregoing mortgage to the Union Trust Company of New York by the Buckeye Irrigation Company is a first lien on the property of the Buckeye Canal Company and 50,000 inches of water, etc., subject to the prior rights of the old Buckeye stockholders to 6,000 inches of water as stated in said abstract.

Very respectfully,
E. T. Edwards Attorney at Law

On Jan. 9, 1889 Major Edward H. Wilton reported to William O’Neil, secretary of the Buckeye Irrigation Company, “that in “pursuance of instruction of December 22nd, 1888, he had made a survey of the Buckeye Canal with a view of enlarging it to a capacity of 50,000 inches to irrigate 100,000 acres of land. He reported that a canal to carry 50,000 inches of water would have to be 50 feet on the bottom; six feet deep and a grade of 1.58 feet per mile (about 22 inches) with a bank slope of 1 to 1. That the capacity of the present head gate was about 9,000 inches with a dam raise of the water in the river of 2.3 feet.” He goes on to make recommendations about a dam on top the present one and in regards to a new dam a quarter of a mile up stream and as to width the availability of rock, etc. and winds up saying: “the location of the head of the canal is the best in the valleys of the Salt and Gila Rivers as it catches all the water from the Salt and Verde and Gila Rivers, and also of the Agua Fria and Cave Creek; in fact, it catches the drainage of northern and northeastern Arizona, northwestern and western New Mexico and northeastern Sonora (Mexico). A vast territory larger than all the New England States.”

He submitted an estimate of enlarging the canal to the Hassayampa, a distance of 23.84 miles, building the dam, enlarging head gates, etc. at $107, 040.

The Major goes on and says, “I claim that the land under the Buckeye Canal is far ahead of the Salt River Valley. West of the Hassayampa water is near the surface and at Mullins Well only 4 feet from the surface. In section 17, 21, 26 or 27, Township 1 North, Range 5 West, I have a fall for water power of 40 ft.

“I look at this place as far ahead of the section around Phoenix, as a fruit country, the soil is better, the altitude as good or better, no winters, and scarcely any frost, during the last two winters. This country would have been settled up long ago but for the Gila River washing out all the canals in 1883 and 1884 on account of their bad location and bad construction.”

After saying all these nice things about the country, he went on to say that a canl 48 miles long could be constructer for $225, 907 and it would cover 29,120 acres east of the Hassayampa and west 34,580 acres west of surveyed land and 48,000 acres of unsurveyed land making a total of 111, 700 acres.

In December 1888 and January 1889, William Barnes, president of Buckeye Irrigation Company and Charles N. Fowler, president of the Equitable Mortgage Company of Kansas City entered into a verbal discussion in regards to providing the necessary money to finance the enlargement of the canal and a new and more substantial dam. The matter was brought before the Board of Directors of the mortgage company in Kansas City and a very lengthy letter was dispatched to Mr. Barnes on January 23rd, 1889. Some of the highlights of the letter follow. (It seems that irrigation bonds were something new at the time and the Irrigation Company deal with the Union Trust company of New York had been called off, hence this new attempt to get money to finance the canal enlargement.) Extracts from the letter follow: “Honorable William Barnes: We have certainly considered the Buckeye ditch matter and while we appreciate the intrinsic merit of the Bonds, we feel as though we should also recognize the fact that Bonds of their character are quite unusual and that it may be difficult to find purchasers for them. We, of course, must look upon them from the standpoint of sellers and compare them with other securities of equal or not very different merit, but about which the public is quite well informed.” They go on to say, “6 per cent bonds are now being purchased from fruit lands at from 80 to 90.”

They then proposed to advance $30,000 upon its note each month at 6% interest until sufficient had been advanced to complete the work up to $240,000 when at such time the Irrigation Company should turn over to them the whole issue of $300,000 in bonds and $120,000 in stock as collateral for the loan.

They also reserved the right to investigate at any time, during the progress of the work, to determine if all the money advanced was going into the construction and necessary repairs.
Mr. Barnes in his answer to the Mortgage Company’s letter stated, “That he had hoped for better terms but the credit of your company would be of advantage to us in addition to the loan of money. The speedy commencement of the work is also an urgent necessity with us. I, therefore, as president of the Buckeye Irrigation Company accept your proposal, subject to the approval of our board of directors.”

Shortly after this exchange of letters, Mr. Barnes whose headquarters were in New York and Mr. H. P. Churchill of Kansas City, as a representative of the Mortgage Company made a trip to Arizona and Mr. Churchill made an elaborate report to his company on his findings in regard to the canal and country on March 3rd, 1889.

Some extracts from his report follow: “Arizona courts recognize the first appropriation in a river of all the water appropriated up to extent of his appropriation: an inch of water in Arizona is considered enough to irrigate two acres of land-after land has been irrigated a few years an inch will irrigate three to four acres; to the ability of the Buckeye Irrigation Company, to continuously and perpetually supply the amount of water its appropriation entitles it to. I enclose a map showing its watershed of about 30,000 square miles. The annual rain fall around Salt River Valley is 7.5 inches while in the vicinity of Prescott it is 15.18 inches.

The extent of the area drained-and the known annual rainfall-assures beyond doubt of a permanent supply of water far in excess of the appropriation.

The strategic location of the Buckeye Dam at a point just below the junction of the Salt and Gila rivers and the Agua Fria enables the Buckeye Company to command the water of the entire watershed.

“As the Salt and Gila Rivers are the largest rivers in Arizona and as the Buckeye is the only canal that commands their united volume, it is in my opinion and must remain the most valuable canal property in Arizona.”

“I was amused at the wonderful products of the valley, alfalfa produces 5 to 6 crops a year, everything nearly, which the temperature zones and tropics produce are produced here-and it is confidently predicted that at no distant day this valley will take a higher rank in its fruit products than California.”

Mr. Churchill then goes into a lengthy array of figures of what the yearly income from the proposed canal system would be from the sale of water and water rights. He winds up his report by recommending the loan as a good investment.

After some more correspondence between Mr. Barnes and the Mortgage Company offices, a contract was drawn up by the Mortgage Company with about the same proposal that was made at first, only the sum to be advanced each month to be $24,000 instead of the $30,000 and remain in the Mortgage Company’s possession, and draw 3% interest until expended and the Irrigation Company was to set aside in a sinking fund one half of all monies received from the sale of water and stock to pay off the mortgage bonds when they became due.

On April 9th, 1889, A. W. Chamberlin, general solicitor for Equitable Mortgage Company reported to Charles N. Fowler, president of the Mortgage Company that the Irrigation Company’s affairs were all in good shape and carried out legally in every respect. But he had unearthed another problem that might be detrimental to the loan.

The United States Congress passed an Act on October 2nd, 1888 to become effective June 30th, 1889 where: “All lands which hereafter may be designated or selected by United States surveys for sites for reservoir, ditches or canal for irrigation purposes and all lands made susceptible of irrigation by such reservoirs or ditches of canals are from this time henceforth reserved from sale as the property of the United States, and shall not be subject after the passage of the act, to entry settlement or occupation until further provided by law. Provided that the President may at any time in his discretion by proclamation open any portion or all the lands reserved by this provision to settlement under the homestead laws.” Mr. Chamberlin further writes that as this would without question apply to the Buckeye District, the homesteads or entry men could not gain title to their land, or file on m ore so he states with these facts sharing one in the face it would be hardly wise to invest directly or indirectly in the Buckeye Canal.”

However, the significant congressional intervention concerning land laws and evolving federal irrigation policy delayed the loan package. The events in Washington D.C. resonated in the Buckeye Valley and caused A.W. Chamberlin, the general solicitor for Equitable Mortgage, to take a second look at loaning the money to the private group. In fact agitation throughout the arid West, what some historians have labeled “a perfect storm of indignation and protest,” induced Congress to take up the subject of irrigation legislation during the last year of the first Grover Cleveland administration. In fact westerners were so vocal that Congress responded by taking up irrigation as a national work and have the government construct the reservoirs, ditches, and canals at its own expense, and, at the same time dispose of the lands under these sites to settlers. The work of selecting the sites was assigned by the Act of October 2, 1888, also known as the Segregated Reservoir Sites Act of 1888, to the Geological Survey under the direction of the Secretary of Interior.[43] In essence, the 1888 Act reserved all the land that “may” be designated as conducive for irrigation development and had the practical effect of reserving all of the public lands in the West from public settlement. Certainly, this had a chilling effect on private lenders, like Equitable.

Fortunately for private investors Congress quickly realized they went too far and it took corrective action during the administration of President Benjamin Harrison. A series of acts, beginning with the Act of August 30, 1890, which had the effect of repealing the Act of October 2, 1888, and Section 17 of the Act of March 3, 1891, promulgated the new, more rational policy that harmonized with the settlement history in Buckeye and other arid portions of the Far West. The 1891 law provided for the reservation of reservoir sites by the government “shall contain only so much land as is actually necessary for the construction and maintenance of reservoirs, excluding so far as practicable land occupied by actual settlers at the date of location of said reservoirs.” Indeed settlers poured into the western U.S. in the 1890s, these more business sector-oriented federal statutes played a significant role in the Buckeye Irrigation Company, canal construction, and the development of private lands under the project.[44]

As federal lawmakers continued their efforts to forge a workable formula for putting water to beneficial use in the arid western territories and states, Buckeye leaders and the Equitable Mortgage Company continued their financial efforts, though the recent federal actions tended to alter the previously heady atmosphere. Nevertheless the parties intended to “supply sufficient money to put in a dam and improve and enlarge the already going canal and that by the time the law [Act of 1888] would be clarified or repealed by Congress and that they could go ahead and finish the work.”[45] More financial negotiations, two surveys, and lobbying of territorial officials, including gaining the support of Governor Lewis Wolfley resulted in a more carefully configured plan for expansion that would bring over 123,000 acres of land under cultivation.

Mr. Churchill, who had done most of the dickering about the loan with Mr. Barnes, Left the United States for a short time just at the time Mr. Chamberlin made his report and upon his return again took up the matter with Mr. Barnes as he did not agree with Mr. Chamberlin’s interpretation of the law. The result was that he suggested to Mr. Barnes that the Mortgage Company supply sufficient money to put in the dam and improve and enlarge the already going canal and that by the time the law would be clarified or repealed by Congress and that they could then go ahead and finish the work. Several nationally known law firms were consulted; among them Hobbs and Gifford of New York, they said, “They did not think the Act of Congress has the effect to prevent the location of water rights and the building of reservoirs, ditches and dams for the purpose of irrigation by private enterprises.”

In September and October, 1889, Donald W. Campbell, consulting engineer and George W. Hobbs as lawyer for the Equitable Mortgage Company, made a visit to Arizona and the Buckeye country and spent considerable time looking over the situation and lay of the country. On November 2nd, 1889 Mr. Campbell made a lengthy and comprehensive report to the company finding. “The cost of construction is a low rate per acre-and the enterprise is a remarkably good one.”

A table of estimated receipts and expenditures was attached, showing that there was more land covered by the canal than could be cared for by the water appropriated. He listed 132,960 acres as the total of all lands under the canal.

His estimate of constructing 41 miles of main canal and 20 miles of laterals was $232,660.

Item Cost

He estimated the first year’s income at $257,500, mostly from the sale of not less than 20,000 acres of water rights at $12.50 per acre or $250,000, and from the sale of 10,000 acre-feet of water at $0.75 or $7,500. From these totals he deducted an estimated expense of $76,500 leaving a total of $180,800 to be placed in a sinking fund to pay off the bonds for constructing the project when they became due. He figured the total project could be paid off in five years. In February, 1890 a verbal agreement was entered into between the representative of the Mortgage Company and William Barnes and William O’Neil for the Buckeye Irrigation Company in which the Mortgage Company would organize a new company with a capital stock of $1,000,000 and that they would turn over to Barnes and O’Neil $400,000 of this stock and retain the other $600,000. And the Mortgage Company agreed to furnish the new company a sum not exceeding $600,000 for the construction and completion of the canal system as outlined by Engineer Donald W. Campbell and buy the new bonds at 80% par value at 7% interest.

On May 9th, 1890, Mr. Campbell made another report to the Mortgage Company and said that his assistant had completed another survey to the 61st mile.

From the record as far as we are able to learn the new survey took the canal in a big circle crossing the Hassayampa River, taking most of want we now know as the Centennial Wash District and coming out on the top of the hill at Gillespie Dam where the records show it was 138 feet above the river bed and about 48 feet above a dam proposed by Governor Wolfley at this place. There it was to cross the river in a seven foot siphon 3600 feet long and cover 53,000 acres on the east and south side of the river. Mr. Campbell’s estimate for this construction was $415,716 and it would bring 123,000 acres under irrigation.

On February 1st, 1890 Walnut Grove Dam on the Hassayampa broke and released a torrent of water stored behind it, which came rushing down the otherwise dry creek bed of the Hassayampa. It reached the Buckeye Canal at 9:30 A.M. on the morning of February 22nd. As the channel of the creek was at that time quite small, of much more than a big splash, that water spread out over the flats on each side of the channel so where Highway 80 now crosses, it was at least a mile wide running better than waist deep through the house on the old Evans homestead. After the flood was gone the former little channel had cut out to a creek of considerable width, something near its present size. So maintaining the sand dam across the creek bed, to carry canal water from the east side to the west side, and on down into the Arlington country, developed into quite an undertaking as it washed out every time a rain of any size at all feel in the hills or on the desert above there. According to an old timer who lived here before the flood, two men and teams could put the dam across the channel in a day. In 1895 I.H. Parkman helped to put it back after a washout and it took sixteen men and teams from sunup to dark to do the job, so it was at least 8 times as big as it was before the flood.

A veritable craze in water resource development in Arizona Territory took hold in the 1880s and 1890s and investors from throughout the world speculated on the profits that could be derived from this new land and water business. The possibility of building a reservoir on the Hassayampa River at Walnut Grove west of Crown King in Yavapai County for mining purposes was raised in the early 1880s and this notion affected Buckeye in profound ways. English capitalists and New York investors considered building at Walnut Grove to store water and convey it by canal to the Weaver Mining District. In late June 1886, the recently established Walnut Grove Water Storage Company had completed the purchase of four ranches at a cost of $45,000, including the Abner Wade ranch where the Walnut Grove Dam was to rise. This was an impressive project and doubtlessly, Buckey O’Neill, the Prescott-based investor in the Buckeye enterprise, observed these developments with great interest. This privately-held company, he surmised, provided a blueprint for putting water to beneficial use and he could apply these financial and engineering strategies in the Buckeye Valley. The cost of the reservoir and 60 miles of pipeline were placed at no less than $500,000 and the company was said to have paid up capital of $1 million in addition to the money already expended. According the Hoof and Horn, a weekly newspaper in Prescott, “It is the first time in the history of Arizona, or for that matter the entire southwest, that the oft discussed proposition of storing the surplus of winter water for use during the dry season will be practically and scientifically tested by a company with sufficient capital to guarantee it’s not being hampered in its operations by lack of funds. If success crowns this effort the importance of Arizona as a permanent stock growing country is increased a hundred fold.”[46] Indeed, the precedent for privately- owned water resource development companies had been established with the Walnut Grove project and territorial residents, from Prescott to Buckeye to Tucson caught the fever of dam, canal, and water storage development.

In fact, the major player in the Walnut Grove Water Storage Company was a New Yorker, Henry Spingler Van Beuren, an immensely wealthy property owner who derived an annual income of nearly $1 million from property rentals. His plan was to construct a dam on the Hassayampa just below the Wagoner Store and Post Office, twenty miles downstream from Prescott. The Walnut Grove Project was to serve two purposes. Not only would it provide needed water for placer mining but also it could be used to irrigate 500 acres of farmland below the dam. The company hired well-known mining expert, Professor William P. Blake who, after careful study, called for an 80 foot-high dam with a storage capacity of 1,306,800 cubic feet of water. The water company, however, decided to raise the dam’s height to 110 feet. By January 1887 construction was well underway and the so-called “big dam” was completed in October 1887.[47]

The Walnut Grove Dam project grew even larger. In November 1889, construction of a lower Walnut Grove Dam, 17 miles downstream from the big dam, was in progress. This lower dam was intended to be 57-feet high and 200-feet long on top. It was to measure 60-feet wide at the base and taper to 10 feet at the top. Furthermore, work was planned for a central dam between the first two and this third structure would provide electrical power to the developing mining districts in the area.

On the evening of February 21, 1890, the Salt River began a sudden rise and by midnight, according to observers, it was 15 feet deep. Thereafter it rose more slowly, reaching a peak of 17 feet by noon the following day and washing out 200 feet of rail road bridge connecting Phoenix and Tempe. Heavy rain, described as a “steady sheet,” also fell on over the watershed of the Hassayampa. By 8:00 p.m., on February 21, the Walnut Grove Dam’s 750-acre reservoir was full and water began running over the top. The following day, at 2:00 a.m., water was running 13 to 15 feet over the dam and the structure gave way. The water from the reservoir formed a huge wall as it raced through the canyon. It swept away the lower dam and caught entire families sleeping in the construction camp, known as Gulch Camp, twenty-two miles below. An estimated 45 to 70 persons lost their lives.[48]

Two hours after the dam broke, a wall of water forty feet high, crashed through Wickenburg. Twelve miles downstream, the waters erased the little town of Seymour. Not far past Seymour, the flood lost its great height, but none of its force. By the time it reached the area of Buckeye and the Gila River, it was said to be over two miles wide. Complete surprise was matched by complete destruction. The final death tally would never be known. Following the dam break, Van Beuren was sued by 14 Maricopa County residents for damages in the amount of $93,000. An $8000 claim was filed by Henry Wickenburg. The lawsuit, however, was dismissed on grounds it should have been filed in Yavapai County. For unknown reasons the lawsuit was never refiled. In October, 1891, Farmers Loan and Trust Company of New York, the major creditor to the Walnut Grove Project, foreclosed on the $100,000 mortgage.[49] Private enterprise found the inhospitable and unrelenting Arizona environment a risky investment.

The flood reached the Buckeye Canal at 9:30 a.m. on February 22, 1890, and literally years of work were washed away. As one resident put it, “the canal was in a sorry mess.” According to one account, “as the channel of the creek was at that time quite small, of much more than a big splash, the water spread out over the flats on each side of the channel…,it was at least a mile wide running better than waist deep….” And, with this disastrous flood, discussions between Equitable Mortgage and the Buckeye Irrigation Company ground to a halt.[50] The company and the settlers faced daunting challenges.

Life in the Buckeye Valley grew even more difficult in 1891 as another flood rushed through the area. After a winter of unprecedented snow and rainfall on the Salt River watershed a warm rain, on February 18 and 19, covered the snow pack and melted the accumulation in the Arizona high country. What transpired was, what the then-14 year-old Carl Hayden, Arizona’s future longtime U.S. Senator, remembered as, “the biggest flood of the Salt River that had ever been known.” It erased years of human toil in the Salt River Valley and nearby areas and impacted Buckeye in profound ways. Although the flood crest did not reach Maricopa County and its agricultural communities until February 20, the rail road bridge washed out on February 18, leaving Phoenix without a railroad connection to the outside world for three months. According to one account, “white people and Indians” scrambled to high ground around Mesa, and flood refugees looked back into the lower valleys to see scores of washed out bridges and weir dams that previously had laced together the various farming communities. Frantic letters from relatives and friends outside the territory took months to reach their destination. In Buckeye, the flood rushed into what was known as the Toothaker Slough and washed out the dam head gates of the canal. After the 1891 flood receded, the canal was washed out or filled with drift and sand for the first five or six miles.[51]

Then came the big flood of 1891 which is talked about, not only by Buckeye Old Timers, but by Phoenicians as well, who told of it getting up to Jefferson Street at the vicinity of the intersection of Fifth Street. Buckeye old timers say it was up almost to the present Buckeye town.

After a winter of unprecedented snowfall in the Salt River watershed, there came a warm rain on the snow about February 18th and 19th, and by the 21st the flood had developed, reaching up into Phoenix as we have above stated. A few hours later it was flooding the Buckeye Valley, coming from the river in what was known as Toothaker Slough, where the Ralph Cooper ranch is now, it broke the South Extension canal and followed the Alkali Swail down, clear across the valley, getting almost into Buckeye, flooding all the country around where the Buckeye disposal plant now stands and for a time what is now Liberty and the ranches south and west from there were on an island, as there was running river on both sides of them.

The dam and gates at the head of the canal were washed out and all the low flat country on the north side of the canal was under water, for several miles down.

After the flood was gone the Buckeye Canal was in a sorry mess. The canal was washed out or filled up with drift or sand for the first five or six miles.

With this condition staring the new settlers in the face and no chance of getting water in time for crops that year, many of the farmers moved out. Some settlers returned to their homesteads later but some never did. It was at this junction that T. N. (better known as Newt) Clanton came into the picture. While the Buckeye Irrigation Company had talked big things that would cost a half million or so dollars, when the emergency arrived they were not prepared to do anything about it. It was then Mr. Clanton got busy and circulated around among the remaining farmers with a petition setting forth how much they would contribute, by work or money to put the canal back in shape, and repair the dam and headgates, so they could again get water on their lands. It was slow work for the few farmers left in the valley and it was months before the canal and dam were again in shape and water flowing in the ditch.

On January 16th, 1893, a Mr. S. A. Davidson filed a notice on the south side of the Gila River just south across the river from the Buckeye Canal and headworks. The canal to begin in a point of rocks jutting out into the river bed and to be 66 feet wide. He filed notice on 50,000 inches of water or so much thereof as was necessary to irrigate all lands covered by a canal extending 85 miles down the river on the south side and covering land that was planned to be covered by the Buckeye Canal by water carried across the river at a flume at what is now Gillespie Dam.

The location notice was witnessed by F. P. Trott, a well known engineer (Arizona), C. J. Dyer and Jose Urielnay. As far as we have been able to determine, nothing was ever done about constructing the proposed canal.

The 1891 flood seemed to have put a crimp in the Equitable Company’s plan to organize a million dollar canal company and build 65 mile canal to irrigate a total of 133,000 acres of land, for we find that on March 11th, 1893, William O’Neil and William Barnes bought two sections of land in the lower end of the Buckeye Valley for $6,4000 that had come into the Mortgage Company’s possession. The sale was made by Sheriff J.K. Murphy at the order of the judge of the District Court of the third Judicial District of the Territory of Arizona, to partly satisfy a judgment for $179,981.67. The judgment was obtained by Barnes and O’Neil against the Equitable Mortgage Company in said court on February 11th, 1893.

The next two or three years things settled down and the water flowed uninterrupted except for the dam washing out now and then and the canal breaking from rains on the desert north of the canal and the White Tank mountains. In the summer of 1896, it started to rain in July and rained every few days for the next two months, breaking the canal faster than the company could fix it. Pioneer George Day told us of a break in the canal (near what is knows now as the Day corner, 2 miles west of Buckeye), from one rain that was over 100 feet wide. A day or so later before the hole was fixed another rain came and broke another hole 75 feet wide, 150 feet west of the first hold and it is still open. And yet, some people say, “It Never Rains in Arizona.”

The farmers were depended upon by the canal company to fix all breaks for which labor, they were issued time checks payable in water only. That is, they could be used only in paying for water. Wagers were $1.50 per day for men, he to board himself, and $1.00 for team as all work was done by team and scraper.

Time checks were issued by the company for labor at $1.50 per day were sold for as low as fifty to seventy-five cents on the dollar by some people who had no land, and so, no need for water, and by others who had accumulated more than they wanted for the year and needed the cash for living expenses. On account of so much rain the desert was green as a wheat field, with the cattle up to their bellies in desert grasses and weeds.

The farmers were most dependent on the cattlemen for the sale of their crops and so, for their living. With all their free feed on the desert if was almost out of the question for the farmers to dispose of crops to the cattlemen, and when they did, at such a low figure that it was ridiculous.

One such instance was the sale of 60 acres of sorghum 2 miles west of Buckeye to Oscar Roberts for $100. In ordinary years it would have brought from $800 to $1,000. This will give some idea of why the farmers needed the money so badly.

As canal services had not been of the best for some years past, a bunch of farmers got together and appointed three of their members, M. E. Clanton, J.F. Wilcox and M.M. Jackson to negotiate a lease with the Buckeye Canal Company (who was again operating the canal) for a term of two years. The agreement was signed on February 10th, 1897 by T. N. Clanton, President and J.L. Alexander, Secretary for the Canal Company, and the three above named gentlemen, for the farmers. The agreement set forth that the Canal Company was to furnish the farmers $2,000 with which they were to build a flume across the Hassayampa that would carry 1,000 inches of water and build five other flumes under the canal where the large washed from the mountains crossed the canal. They also agreed to furnish all materials, nails, lumber, etc. to fix and maintain the headgates at the head of the canal and to furnish the provision to board the men and the hay and grain to feed the horses while working on the dam and headgates during the year 1897. The agreement was to run until January, 1899 when the farmers were to turn the canal back to the company without any debts incurred during the time of the lease and with all new improvements paid for.

On October 5th, 1899, the O’Neil interest in the Buckeye Canal system was sold to W. Moultrie of Fresno, California by William O’Neil’s widow. William (Buckey) O’Neil had been killed in the Spanish American War at San Juan Hill, Cuba, July 1st, 1898. And so the bulk of his property, among which was canal property, had gone to his widow Pauline. J.H. Braley of Los Angeles had negotiated the deal and it was closed for the sum of $6,400. On June 5th, 1900 J. H. Braley, again acting for W. Moultrie sold to J. Ernest Walker and J. Curtiss Wasson the Buckeye Canal and 3,000 acres of land under it, for the sum of $30,000.

The day before, June 4th, 1900, they, with W.W. Messinger had signed Articles of Incorporation for a new canal company to be known as the Buckeye Canal and Land Company with main office in Phoenix and on August 10th, they filed their incorporation papers with C.H. Akers, Secretary of State.

On September 27h, 1900 they were issued a sheriff’s deed against the Buckeye Canal Company on a judgment obtained by W. Moultrie on February 24th, 1900 for the sum of $11,292.23 and assigned by him, to the new company and so passed into oblivion the old Buckeye Canal Company.

During 1901, an effort was made by the farmers under the People’s ditch of the South Extension to take over and operate their ditch. Originally the canal company had built the South Extension to where it intersected the Salt and Gila Base line and the farmers from there on had built and maintained their own ditch. But having no company or system of operation, things were not very satisfactory-the upper ranchers getting most or all the water and those on the lower end little or none. This resulted in several of the farmers building expensive ditches known as “burrow” ditches from the main canal. They were in places built across the alkali flat that lay between the canal and the land they desired to irrigate and were eight and ten feet high, on top of a dirt dike that was forever breaking from dry weather cracks or gopher holes. But even this was more preferable than trying to get water through the South Extension.

The Buckeye Canal and Land Company did not make much of a hit with the Buckeye farmers so in 1902 they began trying to sell out their interest and contacted a Denver man, James R. Thorpe who sent an engineer, J.C. Ulrich to look over and appraise the property. So on January 15th, 1902 he made a report back to Mr. Thorpe on what he had found and his recommendations that existed at that time.

The canal is diverted from the North Bank of the Gila River at a point about 20 miles Southwest of the city of Phoenix (and is designed to water the land lying between the Canal and the river), and between this point of diversion and the Hassayampa, a stream from the north entering the Gila at a point about 45 miles southwest of Phoenix.

The canal consists of a main line and one branch or lateral which is diverted toward the south at a point about 5 miles between the main headgate and the river and is designed to irrigate lands near the river, which are separated from the main tract by a depression. I did not examine this branch and will therefore confine my description to the main line.

Between the point of diversion (the dam) and the south branch above referred to, the bottom width of the channel varies between 12 and 16 feet and the depth of the water when running full is about 5 feet. Between the dam and the waste gate, a distance of about three miles, the channel consists of a cut or excavation from 6 to 12 feet deep. The waste gate is designed as an outlet through which surplus water may be returned to the river when there is more in the Canal than is required by the consumers below. From the south branch to the end of the canal proper, which is at the Hassayampa, a distance of about 20 miles from 12 feet to about 4 feet.

Most of the canal is reasonably well constructed and in fair condition with the exception of a distance of perhaps a mile where the channel is constructed on embankments above the general level of the ground. These banks or fills should be strengthened by giving them a greater width. The entire channel from beginning to end is encumbered with weeds and brush which seriously reduces its carrying capacity. This should be cleared off and kept clean in the interest of effective service.

The only important structures on the ditch aside from the headgate and dam are the waste gate already referred to, and the small flume across the Hassayampa near the lower end of the works. Both of these are new structures and should serve for many years without much expense for repairs. They appeared to be well designed and executed. The waste gate cost $650 and the flume $1,300.

The headgate is old and in very bad condition. Its replacement by a new structure is now under consideration and should be executed with no more delay than is necessary, because the existing structure is too weak to withstand the strain that may be brought against it at any time by high water when the Gila is in flood. There should also be a waste gate located at or near the headgate for the purpose of discharging surplus water during moderate rises in the river and to assist in the disposition of sand which may otherwise enter and clog the channel of the waterway.

The dam, which is about 1800 feet long, consists essentially of a ridge of loose rock piled across the channel of the river diagonally from the headgate to the opposite side. It is at present in fair condition, having been recently improved by the expenditure of $5000 or $6000. It can, however, be made stronger and safer by the deposition of an additional quantity of rock so placed as to increase its width without adding to its height. I would recommend that this work be done, and the expenditure required would amount to $4,000 or $5,000. The rock for this purpose is obtained from the granite hill on the south side of the river and about a half mile up stream from the dam site. Heretofore, it has been hauled in wagons and dumped by hand upon the dam. This is rather an expensive method, laborious at all times, and impossible during periods of floods. This work could be done more economically and with greater expedition if a suspended cable were created from the quarry to and across the damsite. The stone could be conveyed from the quarry to the damsite in metal receptacles suspended from this cable and dumped upon the dam at any desired point. Under this plan the work could be executed during periods of high water when under the old regime it would be impossible to proceed with it.

A plant of this character would approximate to an insurance of the efficiency of the dam. I would recommend that this arrangement be investigated and if determined to be practicable that it be adopted. The most vulnerable feature of the enterprise, because of the treacherous character of the Gila River, is the dam; it must be made reasonably safe or the enterprise will be of doubtful value.

The Details

Lands Under the System

As nearly as I could determine form the maps of the company and the statement of the people living in that vicinity, there are about 16,000 acres of land between the headgate and the Hassayampa that can be watered by this canal. Of this area probably about 12,000 acres are good tillable land for which water will be actually required. This area when all cultivated will result in a demand of about 6,000 inches of water, which practically determines the scope of the enterprise.

This area, in the main smooth desert land, not quite so phenomenally regular in surfaces as that in the vicinity of Phoenix, but nevertheless essentially level. It can, with but little expense, be put into such condition as to insure the very best results from irrigation. Most of it is a rich sandy load, unsurpassed in fertility and capable of producing alfalfa in quantities not exceeded anywhere else in the region. All other crops common to the Salt River Valley can be produced, but alfalfa appears to be the most profitable and is therefore the favorite crop.

This is a comparatively new region and therefore the improvements are as yet neither so extensive nor so elaborate as in the older settlements, but there is an evident air or thrifty and energy which proves that the settlers have full confidence in the ultimate outcome of the enterprise. Probably one-third of the tillable area is as yet unimproved, but is practically all in the hands of private owners and likely to be developed at an early date, and will then add to the revenues of the canal through its demand for water.

Water under this system is delivered under what is known as the inch measurement upon the basis on one-half of an inch to an acre of land (In Arizona, 40 inches is equivalent to 1 cfs). From an examination of the books of the company, I have concluded that about 3,500 inches were actually applied to land during the year 1901, and there appeared reason to justify the conclusion that 4,000 inches would be called during the year 1902. The delivery for last year indicated an area of about 7,000 acres under cultivation, and it is expected that not less than 8,000 acres will be farmed this year. The price which the company receives for this water is $3.00 per inch; consequently the gross income for last year was about $10,500 and it is expected, with reason, that it will reach $12,000 this year.

Some of the water consumers own shares of stock in the company and others have “water rights”; both are entitled to the use of the water; a share of stock conveying a right to the use of the same volume that is guaranteed by the water right. The volume so conveyed is in both cases 20 inches, which is the amount generally used on 40 acres of land. The shareholders and owners of the water right fare alike so far as the cost of the water is concerned, each paying at the rate of $3.00 per inch per annum for its carriage, the Company acting in the capacity of common carrier of water to shareowners and water right holders.

Persons holding neither water rights nor shares of stock are not entitled to the use of the water even though willing to pay the carriage charges. All the water rights and all the shares of stock (400 in number each) are now disposed of and in the hands of individuals.

The essential difference between a water right and a share of stock is this: a water right gives the owner the right to the use of water upon the payment to the company of $3 per inch per year for its carriage, but does not give him a right to vote upon questions concerning the operation of the canal; he had no voice in the management or operation in the plant, no ownership in the canal itself, not does he participate in the distribution of dividends if any are realized. The owner of a share of stock has no right by virtue of this share alone the use of water from the canal; but he has voice in the management in proportion to the amount of his stock. He also receives his pro-rata of the dividends if any are earned. The company, as such, no longer has any water rights for sale nor does it own any land, therefore its only source of dividends is in the excess of income from water carriage charges. Over the cost of maintenance; up to the present date no dividends have been realized. On the contrary, an indebtedness of $13,000 has been accumulated, which represents the excess of the cost of operation and maintenance over the gross income. Two factors have contributed to this result; first, prior to its reorganization, which took place about two years ago, its affairs had been conducted in a desultory manner, because of lack of funds, there being prior to that date only a few farmers operating under the system. Under this regime, the works were permitted to run down and the channel to fill with mud and brush. Having a weak and ineffective dam, the latter partially failed about a year ago with the cleaning out of the canal and general improvement of other parts of the plant resulted in the accumulation of the indebtedness referred to.

There appears to be good reason to justify the belief that the income from the operation of 1902 will be sufficient to defray the expenses of operation and maintenance, but no dividends may be expected before the end of the year 1903.

It has been universal experience of those personally conducting farming operations in the Salt River Valley that wherever the water supply is sufficient and continuous, success results from such operations when skillfully conducted; but the water supply from either the Salt or Gila Rivers is usually deficient throughout much of the year, much of that passing through the dry season, sinking in the deep sands of the river channel and thus becoming unavailable for irrigation.

This canal, however, has been fortunate in the selection for its headworks of a point where, because of the comparative proximity of bedrock to the surface, there is a constant flow of water even when the channel, a few miles above or below, is perfectly dry. As a result of this condition, this Canal has a continuous supply of water when all other ditches in this region are dry. I do not give this as a fact of my own personal knowledge, but I know from personal observation, that this canal was running full and wasting at least one-third of its capacity back into the river at the time of my visit, and that no other canal in this valley was enjoying similar conditions at this time. I therefore have every reason to believe that its supply of water is superior to that of any other enterprise in this region.

The area of land that can be watered is limited, but its quality is equal to that of the very best in the arid region. The proximity of the great Salt River Valley of which Phoenix is the center, which suffers annually for lack of water insures that the superior advantages of a sufficient and certain water supply will be known and appreciated and guarantees a rapid settlement and development by a class of settlers who are accustomed to the practice of irrigation as it is here conducted. This practically eliminates one of the most common elements of weakness involved in the average irrigation enterprises; that of being compelled to carry the enterprise many years without income pending the settlement of the country by immigrants from distant regions.

The isolation of its location, 35 miles from the nearest railroad, will be by some considered a decided disadvantage. This will be particularly true with reference to those settlers who are looking for locations upon small sites for permanent homes. It will therefore, be limited to its acquisition of settlers to those who intended to engage in alfalfa and cattle raising. For this purpose, it appears to be especially adapted, and there appears to be every reason to predict marked success for those embarking in these enterprises.

From the standpoint of the investor who undertakes the development of the enterprise for the dividends which may result from its operation, the limited scope of its operation may be considered a serious drawback. Even though the percentage of dividends which my estimates here indicate are fully realized, the aggregate value of the profits is too small to attract the majority of non-resident capitalists.

The element of uncertainty connected with the maintenance of a dam is so treacherous a stream as the Gila is another disadvantage, and while I believe that this dam can be accomplished with reasonable expense the possibility to do damage to this structure by floods is a liability which it may be well not to lose sight of (if you think seriously of becoming interested in the proposition.)

I am not an enthusiast in the subject of irrigation investments, and I make it a principle never to strongly advise anyone to embark in such enterprises. I would not however, by any means, feel justified in advising you not to take up this proposition, because I feel satisfied from the information I have gathered, that if its affairs are skillfully and honestly conducted it will return a good profit from the investment of the capital which I have herein referred to as the most of the enterprise. I will mention in this connection that this is a conclusion which I have been able to reach in connection with but few of the enterprises upon which I have reported during recent years.

In consideration the estimates of cost which I herein submit, it must be understood that they are not the result of actual measurements nor the consideration of actually completed plans, but they are simply based upon a comparison with the cost of similar works that I have personally designed and executed elsewhere. To have made up estimates based upon actual survey and designs would have required a month of time devoted to the work whereas I only put in two days (three days out from Phoenix) upon the examination of this plant. All that I can say from these figures is that I have endeavored in their compilation to be very liberal in my estimates of the expenditures required ad have attempted to be decidedly conservative in my deductions for revenue to be expected. I therefore feel justified in believing that under a skillful and efficient management dividends substantially as I have indicated, may be anticipated, and that they may be realized within the periods which I have designated. In the event, however, that you should purchase this property and it should develop that my figures may not be borne out by the facts, you would still have a certain redress that would protect you from loss in the operation of the plant. This redress will be found in your contracts with water consumers which prescribe that you may increase the price from water delivery up to a limit of $5 if this course becomes necessary; by increasing the price from $3 to $4 per inch, it appears to me that you could safely count upon a profit even though your dam should be partly destroyed every year. – (Signed J.C. Ulrich)

In 1899 the people of the lower end of the canal in what is now known as Arlington, got together and organized a new canal company and named it the Arlington Canal, with its head south of the town of Buckeye in the Gila River. The canal was built by the farmers and homesteaders of that region during the winter of 1899 and spring and early summer of 1900. When it was completed it covered and irrigated all land west of the Hassayampa that was formerly irrigated by the Buckeye Canal Company, except what is now known as the Tovrea Ranch, but then as the Christian Ranch.

After Ulrich, consulting engineer, for the James R. Thorpe interests of Denver, made his report; Mr. Thorpe entered into and completed negotiations for the purchase of the canal which was consummated in March, 1902.

Steps were at once taken to move the office from Phoenix to Buckeye and were set up on a ranch one and one-half mile west of Buckeye with Herman Apgar as secretary. A new system of bookkeeping was set up, as the books under the old company were poorly kept.

The capital stock of 400 shares at a par value of $250 was recognized and so were entered on the new books.

During the year, 1902, G.H. Christian, owner of the land now known as the Tovrea Ranch entered into a contract with the Thorpe interests to construct an overhead flume across the Hassayampa to get better water supply to his ranch. This was done at a cost of $1,500. The flume was made out of 2×12 lumber and was 3 feet wide and 2 feet deep, and carried across the river on 9 piers made of 6×6 timbers.

In June of that year a tramway one and one quarter mile long was built at the dam to better get rock out, on the dam where needed. Heretofore it had been handled by wagon and team. During the summer and up to Dec. 15th, 1902 a crew of men of from 20 to 50 was kept on the job at all times. The result was a dam of from 40 to 60 feet wide, with an average width of 50 feet, instead of the old one of 10 to 1 feet wide.

During the summer of 1902, there were eleven floods of sufficient volume to flow over the new dam but none that caused any trouble. Five of them came from the Agua Fria and five from the Gila and one from the Salt River.

During this year the Wessex Company of Denver constructed a telephone line through the valley stringing 40 miles of line and installing 75 telephones.

In the latter part of this year a start was made to install measuring weirs in all service laterals and ditches. Heretofore the zanjero had carried a measuring stick with him and had to stop and set it in the ditch any time he desired to measure water.

Water rates were $3.00 per inch annum up to April 1st, 1903, but at that time they were raised to $4.00 to cover the increased costs of improvements and operations. They had gone $1,600 in the red during 1902.

The only thing of importance to happen during the year of 1903, outside of the raise in the price of water and incident thereto, was a bunch of angry farmers, incensed about said raise, organized the White tanks Canal Company. Their purpose was to parallel the Buckeye Canal on the north side from the dam to the Hassayampa to supply their own land with water and eventually put the Buckeye Canal out of business. The incorporators were John R. Norton, Nels Benson, T.N. Clanton, H.W> Davis and F.G. Millage.

In July of this year the largest flood since 1891 came down the river and washed out the northwest end of the dam but was rebuilt and water again running inside of three days.

On May 1st, 1903, the canal company purchased the telephone line from the Wessex Company for $1,200 and took over the operation of it. During 1904 the line was extended through Arlington country to Gila Bend, and from the Buckeye dam to Bill Moore’s, Coldwater on the Agua Fria. There were over 100 phones in use at this time.

On August 1st, 1904 came the largest flood down the river since the 1891 flood. The Gila, Salt and Agua Fria Rivers all came down together at near the same time and the three, combined made the big river. And it didn’t last just a few days but continued with fluctuations up and down until the middle of September. Superintendent James Day was on the job at all times with men and teams and when the river would drop a day or so, would plug up the biggest holes with big trees anchored to dead men by inch cables and so would get water back in the canal for a few days until a new freshet would come down and tear it out again, so it would have to be done all over again. When the floods were over I, it was found that the break in the dam was 660 feet long and from 2 to 20 feet deep. The dam was immediately rebuilt about 50 feet wide and water turned permanently into the canal on September 18th. Work on the dam was continued until December 1st when it was again declared to be in A-1 condition.

Three times during the floods the canal was entirely obliterated from the dam to the old headgates by sand and had to be removed by team and slip scraper. The canal company spent about $5,500 on the dam during the flood.

Later in the fall, five suits for damage against the Canal Company were brought by ranchers alleging neglect in repairing the dam, and between 40 and 50 more threatened, totaling $40,000 altogether.

On New Year’s Eve, 1904, it started to rain again and in a few days the Gila was in flood and remained in that condition until the middle of May, 1905. Again the dam was in danger but withstood the flood until January 10th, when it went out and water was out of the canal until June 14th. But owing to the extensive and frequent local rains the crops did not suffer too much.

During this rainy period the Hassayampa also got a rampage and washed out the new overhead flume, five of the nine bents having to be rebuilt.

On April 7th, 1905, the creditors of the Canal Company made petition to the court for the appointment of a receiver for the Canal Company; and the court appointed Mr. Frank P. Trott, a well known civil engineer of Phoenix, who also was court water commissioner for the Salt River Valley canal system.

During the height of the flood the Gila shifted its main channel to the north side of the river bed and cut away about 700 feet of the canal beginning at a point one half mile west of the canal headgates. This was rebuilt farther back from the river at a cost of $8,087. The damage suffered by the South Extension was repaired for $120. Repairs on the dam from this flood amounted to $4,000.

Buckeye was not the only canal company to suffer from this long drawn out flood. Salt River canals reported a damage of over $100,000. Railroad bridges were washed out time and again and many farmers along the rivers involved suffered losses from a few acres to as much as practically their entire farm, all the way from Safford to Yuma. It was this flood from the Gila joining with the Colorado flood that broke over into the Imperial Valley with such devastating results, and in which the best engineers of the nation and all the resources of the Southern Pacific railroad were called upon before it was stopped.

On June 6th, 1905 the first of the damage suits against the Canal Company was brought to trial in Justice Court, and a verdict rendered to the plaintiff. An appeal was made at once to the District Court. On November 27th, a test case of Clanton vs. Buckeye Canal Company was tried in the District Court, and a verdict was rendered for the defendant the Canal Company.

On September 20th, 1905 the District Court raised the rate of water from $4.00 to $4.50 per inch, as it was found by the receiver that with all the unforeseen damage done by the floods that the canal could not be operated for less. Already upset about paying $4.00 per inch, the increase was like rubbing a sore spot for the farmers, but they could do nothing about it because it was a court order. The following are a few of the larger items of expenses listed for the year 1905 up to November 1st: New canal-$15,194.72; canal repairs-$3,648.58; dam repairs-$5,411.81; canal breaks-$517.85; new headgate-$850.50; South Extension-$368.21; Hassayampa flume-$385.31. The new headgate was built mostly from railroad timbers from washed out bridges, salvaged during the big Spring flood. Engineers had estimated the gate would cost at least $5,000 but by using these timbers the cost was cut to $850.

During the year 1906, more floods came and along near the close of the year, one flood cut into the canal back of the headgate on the upper side and part ran down the canal and part back through the headgate into the river. The management of the Canal Company fearing a larger rise in the river and so much water would go down the canal that it would tear it to pieces below, proceeded to put a dirt dam across the canal about 200 yards below the headgates and so stopped all water from going into the canal.

A few of the wise, cool, level headed farmers began to realize something would have to be done shortly if they were going to survive as a community as the Wessex Water Company was not giving satisfactory service in operating the canal and that the building of the White Tank Canal was going to be a long drawn out affair even after the canal was built, the farmer’s troubles were only beginning, as each and every ditch from the canal would have to cross the canal and an easement across the right-of-way. With the Wessex Water Company going to court with the farmers’ every move, it could be seen it was going to be a long drawn out affair. So a few of the farmers decided the best thing to do was to try and secure an option to buy the Buckeye Canal from the Wessex Water Company. So in the fall and winter of 1906, Mr. Thorpe, president of the Water Company was contacted and he talked very favorably. The committee that had made the negotiations was composed of N. Benson, J.S. Day, G.C. Simons, Fred Walls, W.R. Beloat, C.M. Zander and C.H. Odell.


[43]See Act of October 2, 1888, and Amendatory Acts of March 2, 1889, August 30, 1890, and Section 17 of the Act of March 3, 1891, which takes a corrective approach to the seemingly restrictive elements in the 1888 law. Chamberlin wrote that the 1888 law would apply to the Buckeye District, the homesteads or entry men could not gain title to their land, or file on more so it would be unwise for his company to invest directly or indirectly in the Buckeye Valley. Return
[44]See Jack L. August, Jr., “Carl Hayden: Born A Politician,” Journal of Arizona History (26, 2) 117-144. Return
[45]Parkman, History of Buckeye Canal, 5. Return
[46]Hoof and Horn (Prescott) July 1, 1886; Arizona Gazette, April 20, 1886. Return
[47]When completed the Walnut Grove Dam was 135 feet thick at bedrock, tapering 10 feet at its 110-foot height. It was 175 feet across the stream and 400 feet-long on top. See Phoenix Daily Herald, July 9, August 4, and December 15, 1887. Return
[48]The winter of 1889-90 was unusually wet and the reservoir behind Walnut Dam filled to capacity. Storms and snow melt pushed the new dam to its limits. Swolen flood gates could not be opened, even with dynamite. Return
[49] See Earl Zarbin, Roosevelt Dam: A History to 1911 (Salt River Project: Phoenix, Arizona 1984) 25; Phoenix Daily Herald, February 24, March 4, March 5, 1890. Return
[50]Parkman, History of Buckeye Canal, 6-7. Return
[51]August, “Carl Hayden: Born A Poltician,” JAH, 129. Return

Active Members of

Buckeye Water Conservation and Drainage District