CHAPTER VII. PROGRESS OF SALT RIVER VALLEY.
AGRICULTURAL AREA INCREASING - FIRST HARVESTING MACHINERY BROUGHT IN BY "CRETE" BRYAN AND W. J. MULHOLLAND-MANY VARIETIES OF GRAIN, FRUIT AND VEGETABLES GROWN - ACREAGE CULTIVATED-PIMA AND MARICOPA INDIANS AFFORD PROTECTION TO FARMERS AGAINST APACHES-VALUE OF PRODUCTS-TAXABLE PROPERTY-COST OF CLEARING LAND-COST OF CULTIVATION-IRRIGATING CANALS IN 1872-ACREAGE UNDER IRRIGATION-SUMMARY OF IRRIGATING CONDITIONS IN SALT RIVER VALLEY.
The year 1870 was a very important one to the Phoenix Settlement. It marked the beginning of an era of prosperity to the farmers in that section. The agricultural area under cultivation throughout Yavapai County, was increasing all the time. The farming acreage of the Salt River Valley was expanding more rapidly than in any other locality. In this year the first harvesting machinery was brought into the valley, Crete Bryan, of Wickenburg, bringing in a header, and a well known rancher from Florence, W. J. Mulholland, driving over a threshing machine, and these two worked over a portion of the valley during that season. In the spring of the following year, the firm of Murphy & Dennis, and William and John Osborn, brought in threshers, while in 1873 Lum Gray and John P. Osborn, aided by Barnett & Block,
Various kinds of fruit trees and vines were planted during the season of 1870. These vines and trees were brought overland from Southern California, and it required a good deal of care to have the young plants reach their destination in good condition, but, once set in the ground, the extreme fertility of the soil insured their rapid growth. Early settlers, during the first years of farming, having but little or no capital, had to rely upon their own energy for their support, so little opportunity was given for experimentation in products. The preparation of the ground, and the sowing of seed and setting of cuttings or young trees, required the expenditures of but little money. By the middle of 1870 there was perhaps a hundred fruit trees of various kinds, including fig, quince, plum, peach, English walnut, apricot and orange, set out in the valley with no absolute knowledge at that time that they would become productive. In 1868 grape cuttings were first set out by Jack Swilling and the Starar Brothers, and did well from the start, and consequently, were extensively planted by the early residents. Of the cereals, barley was the favorite crop, and yielded heavily each season, while corn was planted extensively during the first years. The latter crop, however, was gradually supplanted by wheat, which always made a good crop. In 1870 only sixteen acres were planted to alfalfa in the Valley, being on the farms of Barnum, Duppa, Gray, and Swilling, and but two and a half acres
During the latter year only twenty farmers had planted crops of various kinds, mostly barley and corn, although the water supply at that time was sufficient to irrigate a far greater amount of land than was then under tillage. These pioneer tillers of the soil were, according to Barney, the following:
In the San Francisco Weekly Bulletin, of California, there appeared in 1870, a well written article by a prominent pioneer, entitled "Wanderings over Arizona," from which the following, relating to the early Salt River settlement, is taken:‘‘
"On Salt River is a settlement of about three hundred people engaged exclusively in agriculture. The whole neighborhood is entitled ‚Phoenix‚ and extends some miles along the river bottom, on the north side of the stream, and lies several miles above its junction with the Gila. The land is very rich, and was evidently cultivated years agone, for the channels of ditches are not wholly filled up, and may be traced for many miles though overgrown with shrubbery. Careful estimates give the amount of good land in this vicinity at 50,000 acres, only 1200 of which are under cultivation, and a comparatively small amount is claimed. Salt River is larger than the Gila above the junction, and is supplied from the White Mountains where the
"Willows and cottonwoods have been planted for fences and shade, and they have grown rapidly. Some already make a secure fence, while all give some shelter from the sun and beauty to the landscape. Barley has been an average crop and the ruling price on the farm is 4 cents gold, and will be no lower this year. Corn is still being planted; experience has proven that the late planting yields a better grain and larger crops. Sweet potatoes may be planted with nearly equal advantage from early in June to nearly September, and they are still being planted at this date."’’
Still greater progress was made in the development of the Salt River Valley during the year 1871. Many new ditches were taken out on both sides of the river, and a great deal of new ground was leveled and prepared for cultivation. During this year three thousand fruit trees of various kinds were brought from California and set out in the valley, and the area of cultivated land increased to some 4500 acres. The assessment-roll for this year showed taxable property to the value of $170,000, and all doubts as to the permanency of the settlement, and the value of the lands placed under cultivation, were dissipated. The area of cultivated land in and about Phoenix had increased in 1872 approximately to 8100 acres, seven thousand acres on the north side, and eleven hundred acres on the south side of the river. The land on the south side lay nearly opposite Phoenix, and was irrigated by the Prescott
"All of the barley and wheat crops look well and will average, I think, to the acre, about 25 bushels. Many farmers here will exclaim against this average, and pronounce it entirely too low, but I think, nevertheless, that it is about the true one. There are many acres of grain in this valley that will yield 2500 lbs. per acre, but taking all that is sown, early and late, plowed in, harrowed in, and brushed in, 1500 lbs. is about the true average. This will give as the yield of the valley about 5,000,000 pounds of barley, and a little over 4,000,000 lbs. of wheat. Of this total about 2,000,000 pounds of barley will be required at home during this coming season for feed and seed, and about 500,000 pounds of wheat will be needed for seed. The balance will be for market, and will all be disposed of before January 1st, 1873. Buyers are, at present, bidding three cents per pound, and much grain will be sold at that price by those who are compelled to sell, while those who are able to hold on to their grain will get 4 or 4½
The cost of clearing up a farm and putting it in condition for cultivation varied a great deal throughout the Salt River Valley. To clear "mesquite lands" cost from three to seven dollars an acre in 1872, while "sage brush lands" could be cleared and made ready for the plow at an expense of from one to two dollars per acre. The mesquite land produced the best looking grain, that is to say, it grew taller and looked greener, but whether the yield was greater or not, was never thoroughly demonstrated. It was the consensus of opinion that the "mesquite lands" would yield a larger crop than the "sage brush lands" but whether the excess production was sufficient to pay for the extra cost of clearing, was a disputed question. Either class of lands yielded crops of sufficient value if properly cultivated, to pay the farmer good wages and interest on the money expended. During the year 1872, harvesting machinery became more plentiful in the Salt River Valley, and prices for harvesting crops were, therefore, reduced. During the season of 1871 it had cost $4.00 per acre to have grain harvested with a header, and during this year it was reduced to $3.00 per acre. Usually the threshing was done upon a royalty basis; one-twelfth of the grain threshed going to the thresher, the farmer, in addition, furnishing the hands necessary to bring the grain to the machine.
Of these the Swilling Irrigating Canal was the first constructed, work on it having been, as already stated, commenced in 1867. In April, 1868, it had, according to Barney, a total length of about two and three-quarter miles and a width of some twenty feet. Its cost was equivalent to about ten thousand dollars. It was enlarged and improved every year after 1868. In 1871, a portion of new ditch, with its head nearly three-quarters of a mile up the river, was dug, intersecting the old channel at a point 3300 feet from the river in a straight line.
This last stretch of canal was twenty feet on the bottom, with an average depth of about ten feet, and cost $9,000. Both the old and new ditches were used, and were capable of supplying, in 1872, about eight thousand inches of water, and much more by raising the dams across the river at their heads. The Swilling Company originally claimed five thousand inches, which was later increased by an additional claim
The first two supplied the farms nearest to the river for something like two miles from its banks, while the last was intended to furnish water to farms out on the plain in the direction of Wickenburg. It was hoped in 1872 that crops would be raised as far away as five miles from the river, on the plains to the northwest. Farms had already been located in that section, and the owners were engaged in clearing and putting their ground in condition for the planting of corn and sorghum during the season of 1872.
The Extension Canal was the main stream of the Swilling Canal, which ran almost parallel to the Dutch Ditch and about a mile to the north of the latter. It is now known as the Salt River Valley Canal, and flows in a westerly direction passing in its course through the City of Phoenix where it is called the Town Ditch. This ditch flowed near the northern boundary of the original townsite, but as the growth of residential Phoenix has been northward, it was not many years before the canal was flowing through the most populated districts, often underneath dwelling houses, and across private yards. In the early seventies it furnished the residents of Phoenix with water for domestic purposes, "sending a rippling stream through every street, so that, instead of the usual gutter seen in eastern cities, there was a running rivulet between the sidewalks and the roadways."
Years after the stockholders of the old Swilling Company decided to divide their interests, and this branch became known as the Salt River Valley Canal. On the 16th day of September, 1875, articles of incorporation for the Salt River Valley Canal Company were filed in
The North Extension Ditch was the north lateral of the Swilling Canal, and carried its waters on a parallel and about a mile to the north of the Extension, or main canal. This branch canal was constructed in 1872 by stockholders of the Swilling Canal Company, who had become dissatisfied with the management of the company's affairs. On the 19th of February, 1872, the following was written from Phoenix.‘‘
"Some of our honest farmers, among them Dr. Alsap, William Osborn, Tom Barnum, Captain Hancock and others, are taking out what is called ‚The North Extension of the Swilling Canal.‚ It runs to the east of Swilling's Castle, and to the north of Barnum and Alsap, and covers a large scope of country heretofore without water. The extension is twenty feet wide, so, you will see, it will carry some water."’’
Shortly afterwards the relations between the shareholders of the old company became strained, and their difficulties were adjusted through the formation of two separate companies, the North Extension calling itself "The Maricopa Canal Company," and carrying its waters on a parallel one mile north of the Swilling Company, and, on the 14th of September,
The officers of the Swilling Company were, at first, elected for six months, and its first secretary was Darrell Duppa, whose career has been fully treated in a previous chapter. Duppa was followed by James B. McKinnie, who came into the valley in the early part of 1869, and following Major McKinnie as Secretary of the Company came John T. Alsap, one of the most popular residents of the valley, universally conceded to be a man of honesty and fairness, ever ready to lend his support to any worthy cause. On September 2nd, 1872, the Swilling Company elected the late Francis A. Shaw as "Ditch Overseer for the ensuing year," in place of Dan Twomey, later killed by Indians near Camp McDowell. The "Ditch Overseer" of the early period has now been supplanted by the Water Commissioners of the valley and a band of individuals known as "zanjeros" who attend to the distribution of irrigation water throughout the valley.
In time a large lateral was constructed as a north branch of the old North Extension, or Maricopa Canal, that took in higher land still further to the north. This lateral was known as the "Big Maricopa Canal" while from the
Next came the Wilson Ditch, which was the second large acequia to be built and constructed by the early settlers of the valley on the north side of the Salt River. It headed a little below the original Swilling head, and irrigated lands to the south of the Phoenix Settlement near the river. It was owned and used entirely by four farmers in 1872, for the delivery of water upon their several farms. These farmers were Gordon A. Wilson, Benjamin F. Patterson, Charles Davies and John Aversch, the latter known to his neighbors as ‚Go John‚ and noted for his generosity. The ditch was named for Gordon A. Wilson, who had taken up a ranch in the valley about the middle of 1868, and who was among its most prosperous and enterprising citizens. In 1872 this ditch carried about four thousand inches of water, and it cost up to that time about $2500.
The next ditch down the river was the Juan Chiavria, which covered some of the best mesquite lands in the valley, and carried about 2,000 inches of water. This ditch was named after Juan Chiavria, a noted chief of the Pima and Maricopa tribes, and a man of great influence among his people. The ditch, however, was most commonly known among the settlers as the Griffin Ditch, and headed at a point on the river about where the Centre Street bridge now spans this stream. It is said that this ditch was started in 1869 by a rancher known as Frenchy Sawyer, to whom reference has been heretofore made, who had a section of land
Further down the river came the Salt River Ditch, partly owned by persons living in Wickenburg, among them were A. H. Peeples, J. M. Bryan, more commonly known as "Crete" and George Bryan. It was, at the time of its construction, the largest ditch in the valley, being twenty-five feet wide on the bottom, and could supply, in the early part of 1872, about twelve inches of water. At that time this ditch was about three miles long and had cost about
"Captain Hancock, J. A. Chenowith, Mr. Cavaness, I. L. Dickinson and E. Irvine, made an excursion to the lower part of the valley, along the surveyed route of the Salt River Irrigating Canal. This country is very level, not having an eminence a foot high for miles around, except old adobe ruins or ditch borders, remains of the works of a people who cultivated this valley in ages gone by, and who have passed away, their history shrouded in oblivion, their noble braves, fair women, and noble deeds forgotten. The farthest point reached by the party was about ten miles from the present terminus of the ditch, and must have been at least twenty miles from the nearest foothills. Salt River Valley lay to the east; the Gila Valley, above the junction of Salt River, lay to the southeast; the Agua Fria Valley lay to the northeast, and the apparent uniting of these three valleys into one, lay to the west, following the course of the Gila to the Gulf. The soil is rich, yet, for the lack of water, the country, at present, looks very much like a desert, but no worse than the land around the lower part of Mesquite did last December,
"This Salt River Ditch is a grand affair, and the Company is greatly benefitting the public while making a private fortune. The ditch has a width of 25 feet on the bottom, with very slanting sides, and a sufficient depth to carry, at least, ten thousand inches of water, which will be divided into two hundred water rights, one water right being considered sufficient to irrigate one-quarter section.
"The Company, last year, at an expense of $22,000 made three miles of ditch, and now have six teams at work, intending to increase this number to twenty after harvest; they will have completed ten miles farther in a few months, which will give it a length of thirteen miles in all. The first six miles constitute the ditch proper, one right in which is valued at $350. The other seven miles constitute an ‚Extension'; parties wishing to use it, will have to purchase a right in it also. Then each person will have to convey his water to his own ranch in a private ditch or, perhaps, two or three will unite and carry their water together. As all this part of the valley inclines slightly to the southwest, the water can be made available on one side only. The land on the northeast side of the ditch will have to be irrigated by ditches taken out further up."’’
This canal was later referred to as the "Farmers" Ditch, and left the river at a point south of what is known as Hurley's Slaughter House, the main portion of the canal taking a northwesterly trend after leaving the river. It was completed in July, 1872, and during the second week of August, the stores, tools, etc., remaining at the breaking up of the camp, were sold at public auction and brought the sum of $1089.00.
The Monterey was one of the smaller ditches, and in 1872 carried about a thousand inches of water. It left the river but a very short distance downstream from the head of the Salt River Company's Canal, and flowed practically due west for its entire length, about four miles. It was dug deeper and extended half a mile further in 1872.
|Swilling Irrigating Canal||4,000||acres|
|Juan Chiavria Ditch||1,300||"|
|Salt River Ditch||600||"|
All of these were main ditches which were fed directly from the river, some of which had several extensions and side ditches, through which the water was distributed over the country. These extensions and side ditches were all in good repair in the latter part of 1872.