(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The story of the first decade in Imperial Valley, California [microform]"

This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 
to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 
to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 
are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other marginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 
publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we have taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 

We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attribution The Google "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 



at |http : //books . google . com/ 




Digitized by 



Google 



Digitized by 



Google 



Digitized by 



Google 



Digitized by 



Google 



THE HEW YQM 
PUBLIC UBRARY 

AStOR. LIMOX 
TILOEK rOiS MOATIOWI 



Digitized by 



Google 








^.■*: 












Digitized by 



Google 



THE STORY OF THE 
FIRST DECADE 

In Imperial Valley, California ^ ^ 



BY 
EDGAR F. HOWE and WILBUR JAY HALL 



IMPERIAL 

Edgar F. Howe & Sons 

1910 



Digitized by 



Google 




Copyright, 1910 

By 

Edgar F. Howe and JVilbur Jay Hall 



• • • • . •• 
..•..• : 



Digitized by 



Google 



STORY OF THE STORY 



For several years it had been my dream some day to write 
the romantic history of Imperial Valley, and when the time was 
drawing near for celebration of the tenth year of the beginning of 
reclamation, I said to myself: '*Now I will write 'The Story of 
the First Decade.' " 

But in the print shop man proposes and the necessity of 
current events disposes. The inability to find time for the work 
led me to call in as an *' associate" in the writing of the story Mr. 
Wilbur J. Hall and events have so shaped themselves against my 
purpose that the finished book is primarily the work of the 
"associate." In looking over these pages, now that the work is 
concluded, I feel that I can congratulate the public that fate de- 
creed that the important task of recording this history was res- 
cued from my hands and placed in those of an abler man. 

This is the time for the story to be told. The pioneer period 
is drawing to a close. The ten years of struggle has laid the 
foundation for an addition to Southern California such as it has 
never before received. 

Yet the structural labor is but begun. We can see today 
more clearly the possibility of building a new Egypt. We can 
see the possible unification of Imperial and Coachella Valleys in 
a continuous garden from the Mexican line to the mountains 
which cleave Southern California into two parts. 

The desert has been called the land that God forgot. It is 
not true. It is the land that man, in the building of Southern 
California, forgot, the land whose products are essential to the 
rounding out of a complete self-sustaining unity. 

It is Imperial Valley which is making a city of a million in- 
habitants of Los Angeles, and this story of the achievements of 
the pioneers of Imperial Valley will some day be recognized as 
the narrative of one of the most important stages in the construc- 
tion of an empire in the Southwest, the glory of which the keenest 
visioned of us all can now but dimly see. 

EDGAR F. HOWE. 



Digitized by 



Google 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



CHAPTER I 



VALLEY BEFORE SETTLEMENT 

PART ONE 

When Columbus, standing in the court of Ferdinand and 
Isabella of Spain, pleaded for money with which to outfit ships 
for a voyage of discovery and conquest, there dwelt in the south- 
western part of that country he was later instrumental in opening 
to the old world, a strange people of swarthy skins, in settlements 
even then very ancient. This people was divided into several 
tribes: some lived nomadic lives, carrying their tents from place 
to place, calling themselves Navajoes; some dwelt in burrows in 
the cliffs and raised corn or hunted and fished on the plains below 
— a tribe known as Walapais in one place, as Hopis in another; 
a third group peopled the rich flats on the bank of a great, muddy 
river that frequently overflowed, enriching and irrigating the 
land — these were the Yumas. 

For many generations these aborigines lived their simple, 
savage lives, watching the days come and go without interest 
or speculation. Occasionally, though seldom, indeed, one of 
their number came to wonder about the countries surrounding 
their own and wandered off to learn what he could. Some of 
these did not come back — a fe^ did, bringing tales of strange 
mountains full of ore, of plains where wild things roamed, or of 
deserts unpeopled, desolate and forbidding. But at some time 
very long ago some of these adventurous spirits returned to the 
Yumas from the west with report of a great inland lake, full of 
fish, surrounded by rich land, and thither a company of bold 
spirits went, with their few belongings, to live. Years later a 
few of these with many of their children returned, saying that the 
lake had turned too salt to use, that the fish were dying and that 
the country was baking under a cruel sun that drove the rain 
clouds away and made the land desolate. 

Generations passed, Columbus' mission was performed and 
the intrepid old Genoese died with a broken heart, white people 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



8 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

filled the eastern part of the country, and rumors reached the 
far-away southwest — the country of the Yumas and the Nava- 
joes — that a dominant race had come to crowd all Indians into 
the sea. Their first evidence of this was when the missionary 
fathers crowded across their country to the Pacific, and one of 
these expeditions ended in a massacre, the father and his follow- 
ers never having been heard of again. One day it was re- 
ported that the boats of the whites were coming up the Colorado 
— that muddy river on which the Yumas depended for both food 
and drink — and the frightened tribesmen laid plans for defense. 
But the invaders never reached the settlements, although they 
sailed away a few days later believing that they had discovered 
the mouth of the Colorado river and had sailed up its waters 
many miles. 

The leader of this expedition was Lieutenant H. Hardy, of 
the Royal Navy of Great Britain, who was exploring the western 
coasts in a search for some river up which he could sail, as was 
then thought, well into the great western part of the new con- 
tinent. This was about the year 1800. Lieutenant Hardy as- 
cended the Gulf of California and made his way with great diffi- 
culty past low islands and over shallows and sand bars into the 
mouth of a sluggish stream. Although puzzled at the narrow- 
ness of the river he pushed on to a small lake where he moored 
ship and went ashore to reconnoitre. From the top of a neighbor- 
ing butte that rose 300 feet into the air almost from the shores of 
the lake, he looked north on to a desert stretching as far as the 
eye could reach — bald and desolate under the straight rays of the 
sun. The river on which he hoped to sail spread out to the east 
over great marshes and he saw at once that it would be hopeless 
to go farther into this slough. Regretfully he turned back, re- 
porting to his superiors across the sea that the Colorado was non- 
navigable. 

Whether Lietutenant Hardy, who probably looked on the 
Colorado desert first of all Englishmen, was really in the Colorado 
or not is a debatable point. He was not in that stream which — 
up to a few months before this writing — was the Colorado, but on 
the other hand was in a stream running from Volcano lake to the 
Gulf of California and which, because he called it the Colorado 
in his reports and maps, has since been called Hardy's Colorado, 
or the Hardy. Geographers have thought for almost one hundred 
years that Hardy was mistaken, but it is not unlikely that he was 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 9 

not and that the reason he could not find another and larger 
stream was that the Colorado was then, as it is at the present 
writing, flowing west across the marshes into Rio Paradones, 
thence into Volcano lake and so to the sea by the Hardy. We are 
inclined to believe that the laugh, instead of being on Hardy, 
was on the later geographers, for Hardy climbed Cerro Prieto 
and from there would have been able to see the real Colorado had 
it then been flowing to the gulf in the channel it used for many 
years prior to the spring of 1910. 

This Colorado river Lieutenant Hardy desired to explore was 
worthy of his best efforts. It is one of the long rivers of the 
world, although robbed of some honors in this regard by the fact 
that its upper tributaries bear other names. An excellent brief 
description of the drainage basin of the Colorado is found in Water- 
Supply paper, Number 211, issued by the United States Geo- 
logical survey and because this is pointed and accurate it is given. 
The report was prepared in 1906 by R. L. Meeker and H. S. Reed 
and concerning the great stream says: **The Colorado River is 
formed in the southeastern part of Utah by the junction of Gtand 
and Green rivers. The Green is larger than the Grand and is 
the upward continuation of the Colorado. Including the Green, 
the entire length of the Colorado is about 2,000 miles. The 
region drained is about 800 miles long, varies in width from 300 
to 500 miles, and contains about 300,000 square miles. It com- 
prises the southwestern part of Wyoming, the western part of 
Colorado, the eastern half of Utah, practically all of Arizona and 
small portions of California, Nevada, New Mexico and Old Mexico. 
Most of this area is arid, the mean annual rainfall being about 8i 
inches. The streams receive their supply from the melting snows 
on the high mountains of Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. 

"There are two distinct portions of the basin of the Colo- 
rado. The lower third is but little above the level of the sea, 
though here and there ranges of mountains rise to elevations of 
2,000 to 6,000 feet. This part of the valley is bounded on the 
north by a line of cliffs which present a bold, often vertical, step 
of hundreds or thousands of feet to the table land above. The 
upper two-thirds of the basin stands from 4,000 to 8,000 feet above 
sea level, and is bordered on the east, west, and north by ranges 
of snow-clad mountains which attain altitudes varying from 8,000 
to 14,000 feet above sea level. Through this plateau the Colo- 
rado and its tributaries have cut narrow gorges or canyons through 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



10 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



which they flow at almost inaccessible depths. At points where 
lateral streams enter, the canyons are broken by narrow transverse 
valleys, diversified by bordering willows, clumps of box elder, and 
small groves of cottonwood. The whole upper basin of the Colo- 
rado is traversed by a labyrinth of these canyons, most of which 
are dry during the greater portion of the year, and carry water 
only during the melting of the snow and the brief period of the 
autumnal and spring rains 




Stations on the old Butterfield Stage Route across the Desert Remained 

"Green River heads on the west slope of the Wind river 
mountains in western Wyoming, its ultimate source being a num- 
ber of small lakes fed by the glaciers and immense snow deposits 
always to be found on Fremont and neighboring peaks. For 
perhaps 25 miles the river flows northwestward through the 
mountains. It then turns abruptly and runs in a general south- 
erly direction across western Wyoming into Utah. A few miles 
below the Wyoming-Utah boundary another sharp turn carries 
the river eastward along the Uinta Mountains, through which it 
breaks near the east end of the range. It then flows southward 
in Colorado for about 25 miles, turns back into Utah, and con- 
tinues to flow in a southwesterly and southerly direction until 
it unites with the Grand to form the Colorado. Its length, meas- 
ured roughly along the course, is approximately 425 miles.'' 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 11 

Rising on the western slopes of the Rocky mountains among 
the high peaks of the Front Range, the Grand river (with its 
tributaries) drains "an area comprising approximately 26, 180 
square miles .... On the east and southeast the basin is 
limited by the high ranges of the Continental Divide which sep- 
arate it from the basins of the Platte and Arkansas rivers; on the 
north by the White river and Book Cliffs plateaus; on the west 
by the canyon district of the Colorado.'^ 

It is necessary, for the purposes of our story, to consider 
also another tributarial basin — that of the Gila and Salt Rivers 
in the southwest. Of these the paper says: "Gila river rises in 
western and southwestern New Mexico, receiving its waters from 
mountains having an elevation of from 7,000 to 8,000 feet. At 
the point where it crosses into Arizona it has an elevation of 
6,000 feet. From this place it flows between mountain ranges, 
falling rapidly, until at Florence, 180 miles away, it is about 1,500 
feet above sea level. At a point about 16 miles above Florence 
the river emerges upon the plain through which it winds for about 
75 miles before receiving the waters of its principal tributary, the 
Salt. . . . Salt River, though considered a tributary of the 
Gila, is in fact, larger both in catchment area and in discharge. 
It receives the drainage from central Arizona, its principal tribu- 
tary, the Verde, flowing southeasterly and south from the moun- 
tains and table-lands south of Colorado river. The Verde valley 
is situated in Yavapai county, Arizona, on the head waters of the 
stream, and extends from a canyon above Camp Verde to a point 
about 10 miles below the fort. About a mile above the junction 
of the Verde and 30 miles above Phoenix the Salt enters upon the 
plains of the Gila Valley." 

Here then are the districts from which flow the waters that 
go to make up that powerful, sluggish, and erratic river. Here 
are described those regions from which the Colorado has annually 
carried off drainage waters, with their dissolved atoms of earth, 
for centuries. Here are named the canons that have been formed 
by the eating away of their substance by this eroding stream. 
When one considers that all the earth removed from such gorges 
as the canons of the Colorado, Green, Salt and Gila, instead of 
being swept away and lost, has a definite destination, then one 
begins to realize the enormous importance that the river must 
have played in the course of its ages of work, in the making of 
geography. Where did the silt carried away through the me- 



Digitized by 



Google 



12 STORY OP THE FIRST DECADE 

dium of these streams find a resting place? Where today is the 
mass of earth, rock, disintegrated granite, the vegetable matter, 
the salt, the mineral that has for ages been drawn into its tor- 
rential bosom at flood time by the voracious Colorado and swept 
downward toward the ocean? 

Organic matter in solution or in suspension is not deposited 
by water moving rapidly. In other words silt is not cast up by 
a stream the actions of which are, in the very nature of things, 
erosive. It remains only where there is a pause in the hurry of 
the waters and it may settle gradually to the bottom or float in 
infinitely small particles to some quiet bank where there is a 
scarcely perceptible flow. The silt swept down stream by the 
Colorado must have been carried until it reached a point where 
the river, spreading out in a shallow channel and flowing slowly 
and evenly, became a settling basin for its cargo. 

This point was not reached by the Colorado until its waters 
poured into the sea — into that arm of the Pacific known as the 
Gulf of California. And how the river here discharged its burden 
is an absorbing and marvelous story — the story of the formation 
of the Colorado desert, now reclaimed and known to all who read 
this account as the Imperial Valley, daughter of the Colorado 
river, since she give it birth and nourishes it today. 

Concerning the geology of this section of the Southwest very 
little data has been compiled. As early as 1853 Prof. William 
P. Blake, accompanying a military expedition sent out to report 
on the feasibility of railroad construction from the Mississippi 
river to the Pacific Ocean, passed through the upper end of the 
desert and, in an exhaustive and interesting resume of his find- 
ings,* threw some light on the geology of this part of arid America. 
A later investigator, Walter C. Mendenhall, an expert in the United 
States Geological Survey, devotes several pages of his report — 
"Ground Waters of the Indio Region'' (U. S. Geol. Survey 
Water-supply Paper No. 225 ) to a discussion of the formation of 
the Salton Sink. After a description of the surrounding moun- 
tains he turns to the desert with the following conclusions con- 
cerning the latter: 

**It may be said ... as a generalization, that it be- 
longs to a type which physiographers describe as constructional, 
that is, it represents an area which has been depressed as a result 
of crust al movement, as contrasted with valleys due to erosion. 

•Sen. Ex. Doc. No. 78. XXXIIId ConR., 2d Sew., Vol. V. Part II. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 13 

There are many proofs of this. The fact that its rock floor (bed- 
rock) is below tide, even in those parts north of the Gulf where 
the actual surface is well above sea-level, proves that a part, at 
least, of its position is due to actual subsidence of a block of the 
earth's crust, because erosive action cannot extend below the ulti- 
mate base-level, which is usually sea-level." 

The writer finds further proof in the discovery of a marked 
fault line in the mountains, showing conclusively, he thinks, that 
the valley below dropped away at one time. He says: "The 
Santa Rosa ridge itself is a particularly suggestive mountain mass. 
It has a steep, abrupt southwest face, with short drainage lines, 
and a relatively smooth and sloping northeast face, with long 
drainage lines. On its northeast face there are many large sur- 
faces, comparatively unscarred by modern arroyos, which at once 
suggests remnants of an old eroded surface. In short it has the 
typographic characteristics of a faulted block tilted toward the 
northeast and plunging into the desert toward the southeast 
. . . One of the most extensive faults in California runs south- 
eastward through the Coast ranges north of the San Gabriel 
mountains, through Cajon pass, south of the San Bernardino 
range and through San Gorgonio pass into the Colorado desert. 
Here it is no longer traceable; but since, if projected, it would 
follow closely the axis of the desert valley, through the Salton 
Sink and southeastward toward the Gulf it may well be, even here, 
one of the lines of weakness that has helped determine the position 
of the depression. As the entire basin is occupied by lake silts 
and alluvium of most recent origin it is evident that, unless move- 
ment had taken place along this fault at a very late date, there 
would be no surface indication of it. Phenomena like the ob- 
sidian buttes, (glass-like volcanic excrescences) 6 or 8 miles 
southwest of Imperial Junction and the group of solfataras (mud- 
volcanoes emitting sulphureous gases ) seen there until submerged 
by the waters of Salton sea, may well be associated with a pro- 
found fracture of this nature. The other group of solfataras, 35 
or 40 miles southeast of Calexico, near the base of the Cerro Prieto 
in Mexico, is distributed for two or three miles along a northeast- 
southwest line parallel to the structures in the mountain ranges 
to the west. All of this evidence, taken together, indicates 
strongly that the desert valley is associated with structures in 
which faults are prominent, and leads logically to the conclusion 



Digitized by 



Google 



14 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



that the desert is a constructional depression due to the marked 
and probably irregular subsidence of a number of faulted strips.'' 

Concerning the geological period during which these phe- 
nomena probably occurred Mr. Mendenhall says: *The conclus- 
ions are . . . that at least a part of this movement has taken 
place since the Tertiary rocks were deposited — fossils prove the 
presence of Miocene beds, and clearly later rocks are probably 
Pliocene — and as associated solfataric phenomena and the derived 
land forms are so well preserved, it is likely that much of the move- 
ment is late Pliocene or Pleistocene." 

This subsidence of the floor of the valley must have been fol- 
lowed at once by an inrush of the waters of the Gulf of California. 
Authorities agree that, at a period comparatively recent from the 
geologist's point of view, the placid waters of the Pacific covered 
this section, and, although its northwestern limits cannot be 
located definitely today, it is probable the tide-waters lapped the 
sands at the base, or very near the base, of San Jacinto mountain. 

It was into this water that the Colorado found its way in 
ages past. It must be remembered again that the rivers making 
up the Colorado and that stream itself flow rapidly until the waters 




The Christian Church in Imperial was the First Frame Building in Imperial Valley 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 15 

approach their point of discharge. It was impossible, therefore, 
for them to lose their heavy charge of silt on their way. This 
instead was poured into the ocean year after year, until, in the 
course of many centuries, it had spread out over a considerable 
area about the bed of the gulf at the point where the rivers de- 
bouched. 

The formation of a delta can be found described in any school 
geography: in brief it consists of a gradual growth of land built 
up from deposited river silts. Although the river goes on flowing 
steadily its deposits gradually circumscribe its course — in short, 
the stream forms for itself new banks. In the passing of centuries 
the Colorado and the Gila built deltas, built new channels, joined 
their waters and together went on with their work of bringing 
down to the sea the alluvium of their upper reaches until they had 
covered, under hundreds of feet of mud, the original floor of the 
gulf. When this time came the silt began to grow up more and 
more about the streams themselves, crowding them farther and 
farther on, growing ever higher and higher, until at length it com- 
pleted its destiny as a creator and — with a pronounced wall from 
Pilot Knob on the east to Cerro Prieto on the west — cut the Gulf 
of California in two. 

Though there thus became two distinct bodies of water, one 
the shortened Gulf of California and the other a great inland sea, 
the rivers were never through bringing down silt deposits. Com- 
pelled by its own efforts to flow southward now the Colorado 
went on building and in the course of more ages had extended the 
high ground at its mouth until it flowed in a channel at least 40 
feet above sea level at the very point where, in the beginning of 
its depositing, it had emptied directly into the sea at sea-level. 
It was now in what Walter C. Mendenhall, the government geolo- 
gist, has termed ''a condition of unstable equilibrium;" in other 
words it had reached a condition where a very slight change in 
its height — as for instance at time of flood — might cause it to 
over-run its banks and to cut a flood channel in the very ground 
it had built up itself. 

Mr. Mendenhall, who has written a careful digest of these 
phenomena in the work before referred to, says further: *'By 
such a process (over-flowing its self-constituted banks ) the Colo- 
rado must have discharged alternately into the gulf and into the 
depression now known as the Salton Sink, meanwhile building up 
the delta dam that separates them . . . During this process 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



16 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

it is highly probable that water filled the Salton depression and 
evaporated from it many times for it must have quickly disap- 
peared whenever the erratic river changed its course to the gulf, 
for the run-oflf from the mountains that surrounded the sink is 
too slight to maintain a permanent water body in this region of 
intense evaporation." 

There is every reason to believe, however, that during these 
eras of ebb and flow there were periods scores of years in length 
when the great lake whose surface was 40 feet above sea level and 
whose surface area Mr. Mendenhall computes at 2,100 square 
miles, lapped the rocks of the mountains surrounding. In fact 
it is possible to see today, on the north and west sides of the Valley, 
many feet above the old beach line, distinct water marks and the 
encrustations formed as the waves, heavily impregnated with 
alkaline matter, dashed against the rocks and left on them scales 
of indurated salts. This lake is first mentioned as a proven cer- 
tainty by Prof. Blake, whose explorations are referred to above, 
and, in his report to the National Geographic Society within the 
last decade, this pioneer in desert geology names the vanished 
body of water Lake Cahuilla, which name has been adopted for it. 

That Lake Cahuilla existed as an entity for many genera- 
tions is proven by the presence over the whole floor of the desert, 
of fresh water shells. Shell fish change their habitat by most 
gradual processes and it is easy to see, from the number and vary- 
ing size of those found over the desert, that they flourished here 
for a very long period of time, multiplying, aging and dying, to 
be replaced by younger generations. 

It is plain, then, that as nearly as we can discover, the 
Colorado Desert was at first no desert at all but a part of that 
structural mass now surrounding it in the form of mountains; 
that the presence of faults in this structure caused a distinct sub- 
sidence to occur — the floor of the present desert settling probably 
1,000 feet and being at once inundated by the waters of the Gulf 
of California; that this gulf received the silt-laden waters of the 
Colorado and Gila, with their numerous tributaries until such time 
as a delta was formed and a wall raised dividing the gulf in twain, 
and forming Lake Cahuilla, into which poured the fresh waters 
of the rivers for many centuries, until the surface of this lake was 
40 feet above sea level and extended over an area of more than 
2,100 square miles; that at last so great a barrier was raised be- 
tween tide water and the lake that only semi-occasionally did the 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 17 

Colorado overflow into Lake Cahuilla and then only for compara- 
tively short periods — so short, in fact, that evaporation gradually 
lowered the surface, foot by foot, until it was at sea level and 
then, foot by foot, until the brackish inland sea, washing its bed 
more or less thoroughly as it receded — rocked by the winds — 
shrunk away to nothingness, leaving only at its deepest point a 
great bed of salts, a myriad of fresh water shells, and a soil of 
rich alluvium and detritus from 250 to 1000 feet in depth. Years 
passed and man came with his ditches, his dredging and his in- 
sufficient experience with the great Mother of the desert — the 
Colorado river. She must have watched his puerile efforts with 
amusement for when she chose she swept over his little barriers 
and for two years gave him battle such as no engineers in the 
history of man have waged. She partially refilled Lake Cahuilla, 
this smaller body of water becoming known as "Salton Sea;^' 
but at last, beaten for the time at least, she turned again toward 
the gulf, venting her spleen by tearing the lower delta apart and 
changing her course westward to Volcano Lake and through 
the channels of Hardy^s Colorado. 



Digitized by 



Google 



18 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



CHAPTER I 



VALLEY BEFORE SETTLEMENT 

PART TWO 

The Colorado desert throughout historic times must have 
presented very little to man of interest or profit and yet it has 
been repeatedly visited, has been written of by many thoughtful 
and observant men, and has an history quite apart from that of 
any other section of the Southwest. It was crossed by military 
parties as early as 1846, was investigated by an eminent geologist 
and naturalist in 1853, was surveyed by government contractors 
first in 1855 and 1856, was spanned with a chain of overland stage 
stations in 1858, was studied with a view to reclamation in the 
same year, was visited by scientists in the seventies, was partially 
re-surveyed in 1880, was traversed by the railroad in 1886, was 
prospected and finally located on as a claim for working its salt 
beds in the same year, was surveyed with a view to reclaiming it 
in 1892 again, and was finally touched by the magic hand of the 
water king in 1902 — since when it has been more in the public 
prints than probably any irrigated area in the history of the 
world. 

One of the early records of a visit to this desert is found in 
the report of Topographical Engineer W. H. Emory, U. S. A., 
published by the government as a Senate document in 1847. 
In the spring of 1846 the government of the United States was 
urged by Americans in Southern California, which was then a 
part of the Mexican territory of Alta California, to send troops 
to San Diego and Los Angeles to protect them from the insults 
and the depredations of a semi-organized force of Mexican des- 
peradoes. The nearest post to the Coast was at Fort Leaven- 
worth, Kansas, and the route between the two points was one 
little traveled and beset with unknown dangei^s and many hard- 
ships. However, since complaints from the Southwest were be- 
coming more and more frequent, an order was issued in June, 
1846, detaching a column of cavalry troops, under Colonel Phillip 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 19 

Kearney, and directing them to proceed by the shortest route to 
San Diego, California. At the special request of the War depart- 
ment supplemental orders were issued sending officers of the en- 
gineering department with this expedition for observations of the 
country, although it was specifically stated that these observa- 
tions were to be made incidental to the regular duties of an officer 
of the line. Lieutenant W. H. Emory and two companions were 
chosen for this duty, which bore little for them save the extreme 
of hardship and labor. For not only did they have their duties 
as officers of the detachment, but they were expected to make a 
comprehensive report on the topography, natural history, and 
geography of the country through which they were to pass. They 
must have labored diligently for Emory^s report is full and cir- 
cumstantial, albeit written, as he says from time to time in the 
course of his story, under the most trying conditions, usually at 
night after a hard day's march, and always with data gathered 
at the expense of much extra trouble. 

After describing with much exactness the country traversed 
from Leavenworth, through the southwest to the Gila river and 
down that stream to the Colorado, and after telling of the sorry 
condition in which the troops found themselves after their four 
four months' march, the writer goes on: 

"Nov. 25, 1846. At the ford the Colorado is 1500 feet wide 
and flows at the rate of a mile and a half per hour, its greatest 
depth in the channel at the ford where we crossed being four feet. 
The banks are low — not more than four feet high and, judging 
from indication, sometimes, though not frequently, overflowed. 
Its general appearance at this point is not much unlike that of 
the Arkansas with its turbid waters . . . After crossing \^e 
ascended the river three-quarters of a mile where we encountered 
an immense sand drift and from that point until we halted the 
great highway lies along the foot of this drift which is continually, 
but slowly, encroaching down the Valley. . . . 

"Nov. 23. The dawn of day found every man on horseback 
and a bunch of grass from the Colorado tied behind him on the 
cantle of his saddle. After getting well under way the keen air 
at 26° Fahr. made it most comfortable to walk. We travelled 
four miles along the sand butte in the same direction as yester- 
day, about south 75 degrees west (magnetic). We mounted the 
butte and found after a short distance a firmer footing covered 
with fragments of lava rounded by water, and many agates. We 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



20 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



were now fairly on the desert. Our course now inclined a few 
degrees more to the north and at ten a. m. we found a large patch 
of grama (course grass) where we halted for an hour, and then 
pursued our way over the plains covered with fragments of lava, 
traversed at intervals by sand dunes, until four p. m. when, after 
traveling 24 miles, we reached the Alamo or cottonwood. At this 
point the captured Spaniards (guides carried by the party) in- 
formed us that we would find a running stream a few rods to the 
west, but this was not found. Neither was there any cottonwood 
at the Alamo, as its name would signify . . . the trees 
probably having been covered by the encroachments of the sand, 
which here terminates in a bluff forty feet high making the arc of 
a great circle convexing to the north." 











* • 


dMI 


Mtfy 


-^^^^B 


1 


r 


pi^w^ 


-^N. T^jfc^^SlfilHapiSl^gB^^^ 


^^^1 


f 


(MiifA'-i 


g'^^^a^i^atBii^ 


^H 


I. 


■'^^^ . 


^^^I^Sm 



Town Building Began with the Hotel, Land Office and Store in Imperial in 1901 

Descending this bluff the troops found evidences of an old 
water hole, probably used by Mexicans, and here a pit some 15 
or 20 feet in depth was dug to water. The writer records that 
every man in the column was given water first — then the horses 
and pack mules were served until all had enough. However, 
he says: **The animals still had an aching void to fill and all night 
were heard the munching of dry sticks and their piteous cries for 
more congenial food." 

'*Nov. 27 and 28. Today we started a few minutes after 
sunrise. Our course was a winding one to avoid the sand drifts. 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 21 

The Mexicans had informed us that the waters of the salt lake 
some thirty or forty miles distant were too salt to use but other 
information led us to think the intelligence was wrong. We ac- 
cordingly tried to reach it. About three p. m. we disengaged 
ourselves from the sand and went due (magnetic) west over an 
immense level of clay detritus, hard and smooth as a bowling 
green. [Does he refer to the spot whereon the city of Imperial 
now stands? — Ed.] The heavy sand had proved too much for 
many horses and some mules and all the efforts of their drivers 
could bring them no farther than the middle of this dreary desert. 
About eight o* clock, as we approached the lake the stench of dead 
animals confirmed the report of the Mexicans and put to flight 
all hopes of our being able to use the water. The basin of the 
lake, as well as I could judge at night, was about three-quarters of 
a mile long and half a mile wide. [Apparently Badger Lake, 
now dry. — Ed.] ... It was wholly unfit for man or brute 
and we studiously kept the latter from it thinking it would only 
aggravate their thirst. One or two of the men came in late and 
rushing to the lake, threw themselves down and took many swal- 
lows before discovering their mistake. The effect was not inju- 
rious except that it increased their thirst. ... A few mes- 
quite trees . . . bordered the lake and on these our mules 
munched till they had sufficiently refreshed themselves. When 
the call to saddle was sounded we groped silently our way in 
the dark. 

"The stoutest animals now began to stagger and when day 
dawned scarcely a man was seen mounted. With the sun rose 
a heavy fog from the southwest, no doubt from the gulf, and, 
sweeping toward us, enveloped us for two or three hours, wetting 
our blankets and giving relief to the animals. Before it had dis- 
persed we came to a patch of sun burned grass. When the fog 
had entirely dispersed we found ourselves entering a gap in the 
mountains, which had been before us for four days. The plain 
was crossed, but we had not yet found water. The first valley 
we reached was dry and it was not until twelve o'clock that we 
struck the Carriso (cane) creek, within half a mile of one of its 
sources. . . . Here we halted, having made fifty-four miles 
in the two days. 

'*The desert over which we had passed, ninety miles from 
water to water, is an immense triangular plain, bounded on one 
side by the Colorado, on the west by the Cordilleras of California, 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



22 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

the coast chain of mountains which now encircle us, . . . 
and on the northeast by a chain of mountains . . . running 
southeast and northwest. It is chiefly covered with floating sand, 
the surface of which, in various places, is white with diminutive 
spinelas and everywhere over the whole surface is found the large 
and soft mussel-shell/' 

Though it was only after the loss of a great many animals 
and several men, the party under Kearney reached San Diego 
early in the year 1847, and Lieut. Emory had the privilege of en- 
gaging with the Mexicans both at the seaport settlement and later 
at the battle of Los Angeles, when the American force planted the 
flag there to stay. His whole report is one of great interest and 
may be secured of the government bureau of publications until 
the limited supply there is exhausted. 

Another military expedition, sent out to investigate the 
feasibility of railroad routes to the Coast, crossed the desert in 
1853 under Lieut. R. S. Williamson and one of the party, Prof. 
William P. Blake, assigned to duty with the army men as nat- 
uralist, wrote a graphic description of the desert and a somewhat 
exhaustive study of its geology. As regards the latter reference 
is made to his findings in another place.* Walter C. Mendenhall, 
in his "Sketch of the Colorado Desert,'' says: "The party to which 
Prof. Blake was attached entered the desert from San Bernardino 
through San Gorgonio Pass. The first stop was made at Palm 
Springs and the second at Indian Well, in the northwestern end 
of the desert, now usually called the Coachella Valley. The ex- 
plorers visited the springs at Toro and Agua Dulce, which have 
since been included in the Indian reservations and were then 
centers about which Indian habitations were clustered. Below 
Fig Tree John's the expedition encountered difficulties in its at- 
tempt to reach the old stage road which followed Carriso Valley 
from the desert floor to the base of the Peninsula range. Along 
the west side of Salton Sea there is a wide area in which potable 
water was at that time very scarce and it was only after several 
of the animals of their pack train were nearly exhausted that the 
members of the expedition finally found water in the vicinity of 
Salt Creek, near what are now known as McCain's Springs. 

"Prof. Blake describes the physical aspects of the desert, the 
effects of wind erosion upon rocks near Palm Springs, the old 
water line along the western border and such other geological 
phenomena as were observed; and he mentions the springs which 



, Digitized by VjOOQ IC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 23 

he visited during his journey or about which he could obtain re- 
liable information. It is interesting to note that, in the course 
of his discussion, he predicted that artesian water would be found 
beneath the surface of the desert. Thirty-five years afterward 
this prediction was fulfilled.'' 

Mr. Mendenhall refers in the last sentence to the discovery of 
artesian water by the Southern Pacific engineers in 1888; at the 
time his report was prepared the artesian water of the Eastside 
in this Valley was scarcely dreamed of, save by a few. 

Very few of the corners established by the government sur- 
vey of 1855-6 have ever been found, but it remains a fact that 
field notes were turned in by the contractors having such work 
in hand at that time, purporting to cover a complete study of 
this desert. Both this survey and that of 1880 (Brunt's) are 
taken up in a later chapter. 

In 1858 two important events occurred in the history of this 
desert. For many years overland travelers to the coast, partic- 
ularly from the Middle West and the South, had passed through 
the desert, crossing the Colorado either by ford or on a ferry oper- 
ated there from about 1848 to the present day. There was a 
wagon road, such as it was, from the ford at the Yuma settlement, 
west to Sunset springs, where it forked — one branch running 
northwest along the present line of the railroad, and through San 
Gorgonio pass, and one branch running west by south over the 
Carriso creek route. The latter was more frequently traveled 
and in fact a stage was operated by this road for a short time in 
the gold hunting days of 1849. 

But in 1858 a mail contract was signed with the government 
by David Butterfield, who undertook to put overland mail 
through from St. Louis to San Francisco twice each month. 
This Butterfield stage line brought many of the sturdy pioneers 
of those days to the coast and many among them can tell you 
today of that long and weary ride. Regular trips consumed 22 
days, although occasionally Los Angeles or San Francisco would 
be aroused by the arrival of the mail from twenty to sixty hours 
ahead of time. When the Civil War was declared the stage was 
run once each week and important messages were carried through 
on one occasion in 16 days, which was for many years a record 
pointed to with pride by every person living along the route of 
the stage line. 

This old Butterfield route had three-stage stations on the 



Digitized by 



Google 



24 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



desert. One station was at Coyote Springs, another at Indian 
Wells and the third near the southern limit of the Eastside chain 
of sand hills. In the early days of the Imperial Valley settlers 
found an abandoned adobe near the present site of Silsbee, this 
being the Indian Wells station. The one on the Eastside makes 
imposing ruins. The stage followed the Carriso creek route and 
was an established and paying institution until the eighties, when 
the Southern Pacific line was completed and trains began to be 
operated. 

The other event that marked the year of 1858 was the dis- 
covery of the possibilities of this dseert for reclamation. Dr. 
Oliver M. Wozencraft, a cultured and learned Ohioan who had 
been educated in Kentucky, was the man who first seriously 
talked of bringing the waters of the Colorado River into the 
Salton sink for the purposes of agriculture through irrigation. 
Although laughed at by many as a dreamer Dr. Wozencraft went 
into the preliminary investigation of the project thoroughly and 
carried it to a point where it might have been consummated but 
for the breaking out, in 1860, of the Civil War. Because his 
project was so generally similar to the one finally carried to a suc- 
cessful end it may be of value to give more than passing attention 
to him and his work. 




Before the Canal was Built to Imperial Water was Hauled from a Sink in New River 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 25 

Oliver Meredith Wozencraft was born in Clermont City, Ohio, 
June 26, 1814. He graduated from St. Joseph's college at Bairds- 
town, Kentucky, receiving a degree of Doctor of Medicine. After 
practicing a few years in his home town Dr. Wozencraft joined 
the rush to California in 1849 and located in San Francisco, where, 
from 1850 to 1860, he was United States Indian agent. In his 
first year he was active in the organization of the state, being a 
delegate to the first constitutional convention of September and 
October, 1849. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the move- 
ment to secure a railroad from the east and was sent to Washing- 
ton to lobby for bills looking to the aid of such a project. 

Dr. Wozencraft's first excursion into the desert he describes 
in his personal diary in a most interesting way. He had con- 
ceived an interest in the unknown features of this country and in 
the early part of May, 1849, set out to see it. He took with him 
several men, riding mules and a pack train and planned a careful 
investigation. Describing the "Jornada'' he says: "We at last 
reached this — the most formidable of all deserts on this con- 
tinent. We found its basin filled with turbid water. Crossing 
in an improvised boat made of ox-hide, we encountered the desert. 
We started in the evening, taking a trail which soon led us into 
sand drifts, and as their walls are nearly perpendicular and ^s un- 
substantial as a sand bank, we were compelled to halt. I set 
about prospecting to find a way out. There was a sand hill not 
far off. I climbed to the top and found that the sand drifts 
could be avoided by going to the bottom lands near the river. 
On my return to the men, they having fallen asleep, I found that 
the drifting sand had almost covered them up. We were some 
three days — or more properly speaking — nights — crossing this 
desert^ The extreme heat in the daytime compelled us to seek 
shelter under our blankets. The heat was so intense that on the 
third day two of my men failed. It occurred to me, as there was 
nothing I could do there, to mount my gentle and patient mule, 
and at a distance of some eight miles I reached the border of the 
desert and water, with which I filled a bag and brought it back 
to them. . 

"It was then and there that I first conceived the idea of the 
reclamation of the desert." 

Ten years later a bill was presented to the California state 
legislature proposing to cede to Dr. Wozencraft all state rights 
to the land on this desert in consideration of his reclamation of 



Digitized by 



Google 



26 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

them from their waste condition, and when the promoter explained 
his ideas the bill was immediately taken up and passed April 15, 
1859. There remained, then, only the consent of the federal gov- 
ernment and this was contemplated in a bill presented in the fall 
of the same year. The report of the hearing on this bill before 
the proper committee of the House outlines the plan as follows: 

"This bill proposes, in consideration of the introduction of a 
wholesome supply of fresh water into the Colorado desert, to cede 
to Oliver M. Wozencraft and his associates the said desert tract 
as described in the bill. This tract embraces (according to Lieu- 
tenant Brigland ) about 1600 square miles in the basin of what 
is now and must remain, until an energetic and extensive system 
of reclamation is inaugurated and brought to successful com- 
pletion, a valueless and horrible desert. The labor of reclama^ 
tion must be commenced within two years and be completed 
within ten years. As fast as water shall be introduced, upon a 
report to that effect being made to the government by a duly 
appointed commission, patents shall issue for the parts reclaimed, 
and when all of the conditions are fulfilled, then, and not until 
then, shall the title rest in said grantee.*' 

The committee reported favorably, but the report was re- 
ceived late in the session, large matters of state were looming on 
the horizon, and the western course of empire was put aside tem- 
porarily for more pressing business. The crash that was presaged 
by events of 1859 came the following year at Fort Sumter and 
the Wozencraft scheme was completely lost sight of. At the 
close of the war Dr. Wozencraft renewed his activities, but al- 
ways his interests were crowded to one side in the great conflicts 
that rent the federal assemblages, and again and again he went to 
Washington to find himself lost in the maze of national complica- 
tions and disturbances. Just on the eve of the session of 1887, 
wherein a friendly representative had promised to bring the mat- 
ter up for another hearing Dr. Wozencraft, then in Washington in 
attendance on the interests of his beloved bill, was suddenly 
stricken ill and died before his relatives in San Bernardino, Cali- 
fornia, could reach him. 

Of his hopes, his investments and his losses Dr. Wozencraft's 
daughter, Mrs. Mary A. Steibrenner, of San Bernardino, wrote in 
the spring of 1910: '*It was his own idea, and no one's else. 
. . . You ask how much he spent? Shall I say it? My dear 
father lost a fortune on it ; he defrayed all the expenses of many 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 27 

trips with capitalists, law-makers and others, to the desert; he 
spent large sums for traveling to Washington and home again, 
and for heavy burdens of expense while at the capitol. His last 
sacrifice was a beautiful home in San Francisco. Everything 
went for the desert. Dear father was confident of success: he 
gave his very life to achieve its reclamation/' 

Dr. Wozencraft was ahead of his times, perhaps too far. 
For, had his project materialized, it is possible that colonization 
in those days when land was to be had anywhere in Southern 
California at a low figure, and when every person in the state was 
more or less distracted by the stampedes from one rich mining 
find to another, might have proven an impossible undertaking. 
That Wozencraft himself might have built up a colossal fortune 
from ranching here, as some writers have evidently believed, 
seems preposterous. It was two decades before the railroad was 
built, there was more produce raised in Southern California by 
desultory farming than was consumed, and no single individual 
could have coped with the Colorado river if its behaviour then was 
no better than it is today. However, Dr. Wozencraft showed 
what might be done and he has many claims to the proud title — 
"Father of the Imperial Valley.'' 

The construction of the railroad in the eighties was of monu- 
mental importance to the whole Southwest. One of the first 
overland travelers by this route was a man of whose connection 
with the Colorado desert nothing has before been printed, so far 
as we are able to find, but who conceived that reclamation of the 
desert was possible and who carried the scheme to several capi- 
talists before he abandoned it. This man was H. S. Worthington, 
son of Henry Worthington, a very rich dealer in leaf tobacco, who 
did business in Cincinnati, but whose home was in Covington, 
Kentucky. The younger Worthington was not an engineer, but 
a man of very wide reading and culture and one who had infinite 
faith in the future of the Southwest. Indeed he wrote several 
monographs on this subject, some of which were published, but 
none of which can be found. 

Worthington saw the possibilities presented in this region 
and while in San Francisco broached them to Henry E. Hunting- 
ton and his principal assistant, Mr. Epes Randolph. It is to Mr. 
Randolph that we are indebted for this bit of hitherto unpublished 
history and it is used, with many thanks to him, in this place. 
At that time Mr. Huntington had several enterprises in hand and 



Digitized by 



Google 



28 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

it was impossible for him to give any attention to the Worth- 
ington plan. The promoter carried the scheme to capitalists in 
the East but was unable to interest them and, other matters 
compelling his attention shortly, he dropped the plan. The 
death of his father made him independent and it is probable that 
only a sentimental interest in the country remains with him. 

With the coming of the New Liverpool Salt company in 1883 
the first part of the history of the Colorado desert is closed. This 
corporation filed on some land and leased some from the South- 
ern Pacific railroad, scraping the salt — that lay in great layers 
over many square miles of territory in the bottom of what is now 
the Salton sea — into piles with steam plows and then purifying it. 
The business was immensely profitable but was completely wiped 
out by the overflow of the Colorado river in 1905-06 and 07, and 
it is doubtful if it will ever be resumed. 

The conqueror of the desert is at hand. Look down, now, on 
that great expanse of burning waste for the last time. Nature 
shook the mountains from the base and a great area subsided to 
become the floor of a sea. Ages passed; a river had its way; a 
great lake lay for centuries sleeping in the sun; then the river 
left and the sun ate up the expanse of waters, leaving another 
waste — but this time only waiting the touch of mdti's hand to 
blossom into a garden of incomparable beauty And richness and 
to give homes to thousands and sustenance to millions. Look 
on this waste for the last time for we are hurrying on to the ulti- 
mate destiny of the Colorado Desert. 




The Townsite of Holtville was Barren Enough to Start With 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 29 



CHAPTER II 



HISTORY OF RECLAMATION 

We have taken time to study, in the preceding chapters, a 
little historical data ante-dating the real "Story of the First De- 
cade," but this was necessary to make our beginning intelligent. 

As the chapters following this are entirely concerned with 
the transformation of this waste of which we have read into a 
productive territory, it is necessary that we make one more di- 
gression before going on with our study and look for a short time 
into the history of that branch of human endeavor that is re- 
sponsible for the metamorphosis — reclamation. Briefly, then, let 
us glance at its history from the earliest days to the present time. 

It is impossible to trace, with any considerable accuracy, the 
early history of reclamation, but that such work was consum- 
mated on a large scale in ancient days is incontrovertible. Not 
only are we able to discover accounts of irrigation in very old 
documents, and to find today many traces definitely identified as 
those of large reclamation systems, but there are, in many parts 
of the old world, several of those ancient projects still being oper- 
ated; probably with little change from the days of their founders, 
even though the names or age of the latter be lost in the obscurity 
of the centuries. The same is true in the Salt River Valley, Ari- 
zona, where there is now in use part of an irrigation system 
built by a lost people of whom there is not even a tradition. It 
would be most interesting to follow the history of this important 
branch of agriculture with some- particularity, but this is impossi- 
ble. As briefly as possible, instead, a cursory glance at the field 
in early times will be taken in this chapter. 

The first account we find of irrigation is given by Herodotus, 
who, writing in the fifth century before Christ, described in 
some detail the colossal project of the kings of Egypt, Moeris and 
Amenemhet III, about 2000 B. C. on the Nile river. As is com- 
monly known, the Nile overflows annually. In this respect, as 
well as in the formation, by the river, of a great delta of rich al- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



30 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

luvial matter at its mouth, the Egyptian river is very like the 
Colorado. The ancient inhabitants of the Valley of the Lower 
Nile tilled the soil extensively, depending for their water on this 
annual overflow. But in time it is probable that, either because 
population increased or because the annual overflow did much 
damage, it was found necessary to control, in some measure, 
the floods of the giant stream. 

To this end one of these kings started work on a great im- 
pounding basin, at Birket-el-Keroon, near the head of the delta. 
Whether Moeris, who came first, began the actual work of con- 
struction or whether his plans were the ones followed by his suc- 
cessor, Amenemhet III, is uncertain, but the fact remains the 
basin is today known as Lake Moeris and continues to serve, to 
some extent, at least, the purpose for which it was originally in- 
tended. In brief, the object of the basin, which was connected 
with the Nile by means of two large parallel canals, controlled 
by adjustable gates, was to receive the surplus water of the river 
during flood seasons and to hold it there — the gates being dropped 
at ebb-tide — until such time as the tillers of the soil demanded 
more water than the lowering Nile afforded. The basin was at 
least 50 miles long by 8 wide, although probably not deep, as 
depth afforded no advantage. Authorities differ as to the date 
at which this great project was completed, although it seems 
probable, Herodotus says, that final work was not done until a 
later period, possibly about 1800 B. C. 

From this time forward it is certain every available acre of 
ground in the Delta was intensively cultivated. As early as the 
time of the classic historian more than 200,000 acres were planted 
to cotton, while millet, wheat, corn and vegetables flourished on 
half as much additional acreage. At the present time it is prob- 
able there are a million acres under cultivation in the northern 
part of Africa, all watered by means of controlled irrigation sys- 
tems. 

Prof. F. H. King, of the University of Wisconsin, in his book 
''Irrigation and Drainage/' says: "Sesostris.who reigned in Egypt 
in 1491 B. C, is said to have had a great number of canals cut for 
the purposes of trade and irrigation and to have designed the first 
canal to connect the Red Sea with the Mediterranean . . . 
The Assyrians appear to have been equally renowned with the 
Egyptians from very ancient times for their skill and ingenuity 
in developing extended irrigation systems which converted the 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 31 

naturally sterile valleys of the Euphrates and Tigris into the 
most fertile of fields. We are told that the country below Hit 
on the Euphrates and Samara on the Tigris was at one time in- 
tersected with numerous canals, one of the most ancient of which 
was the Nahr Malikah, connecting the Euphrates with the Tigris. 
The ancient city of Babylon seems to have been protected from 
the floods of June, July and August by high cemented brick em- 
bankments on both banks of the Euphrates, and — to supplement 
the protection of these and to store water for irrigation — a large 
reservoir was excavated, 42 miles in circumference and 35 feet 
deep, into which the whole river might be turned through an arti- 
ficial canal." 

On the Tigris, the writer says, there were two canals — the 
Nahrawan and the Dyiel, with several smaller ones. He con- 
tinues: ^' Along the banks of the former of these canals . . . 
are now found the ruins of numerous cities on both sides which are 
silent witnesses of the great importance it held and the great 
antiquity of the work. It started on the right bank of the river 
where it comes from the Hamrine hills and was led away at a dis- 
tance of six or seven miles. from the stream toward Samara where 
it joined a second canal. Another feeder was received ten miles 
farther on its course to Bagdad, a few miles beyond which its 
waters fell into the river Shirwan and were again taken out over 
a wier and led on through Kurzistan. It absorbed all the streams 
from the Sour and Buckharee mountains and finally discharged 
into the Kirkha river, but only after having attained a length ex- 
ceeding 400 miles with a width varying from 250 to 400 feet. 
This great canal, with its numerous branches on either side lead- 
ing waters to broad irrigated fields while it bore along its main 
waterway the commerce of those far distant days, stands out as a 
piece of bold engineering hardly equalled by anything of its kind 
in modem times." 

Late in the fourth century B. C. the Greek adventurer, Ag- 
athocles, returning to Sicily from an African campaign, wrote 
that "the African shore was covered with gardens and large 
plantations, everywhere abounding in canals by means of which 
they were plentifully watered," and at the same time both Greece 
and Rome, following the example of the older civilizations, were 
projecting and building irrigation systems. 

It is probable that — contemporaneously with the same 
work in Egypt — the Chinese were engaged in the construction of 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 




Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 33 

enormous irrigation systems. For almost 4,000 years the great 
Imperial Canal, connecting the Hoang-Ho with the Yang-tse- 
Kiang through the province of Kiangsu and Shan-Tung, a dis- 
tance of more than 450 miles, has been furnishing water for the 
irrigation of millions of rich acres, and throughout the Chinese 
Empire are found extensive areas under artificial ditches. There 
are no more scientific nor skillful users of irrigating water in the 
world than these Orientals, as many farmers and experts in the 
Occident have discovered in the past decade. 

Before leaving this phase of the history of irrigation it is 
interesting to note that the Bible refers indirectly to the artificial 
means of supplying moisture to arid lands. Deuteronomy XI: 
10-11, reads: ''For the land whither thou goest in to possess it, 
is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou 
sowedst thy seed and wateredst it ... as a garden of herbs. 
But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and 
valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven." 

Scientists have not yet agreed as to the exact date at which 
civilization of an early order first crept into the new hemisphere, 
but at whatever period that may have come it is certain irriga- 
tion was among the first projects undertaken. In Mexico, Cen- 
tral America and Peru, particularly the latter, early explorers, 
many of them ignorant of the art of irrigation, were surprised to 
find on this continent many extensive and successful systems. 
In our own country, especially along the Colorado, Rio Grande 
and Gila rivers, are to be found today traces of early irri- 
gation plans, successfully projected and carried out. 

In modern times the history of reclamation has gone forward 
very rapidly, and throughout the world the problems of irrigation 
engineering have engrossed the ablest technical minds and hun- 
dreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the construction 
of extensive operating systems outside our country. France, 
Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, 
Bavaria on the continent and England all have reclaimed useless 
land within comparatively recent times. Russia is carrying 
on great irrigation enterprises in Afghanistan, close to the very 
birth pla^e of the human race, while probably the most extensive 
and most costly engineering enterprises in the world are the mag- 
nificent irrigation projects of India. Many of the diflficult prob- 
lems of reclamation have been solved by the engineers of India, 
and tli0 Lfiguna Ditnf, so-calfed, above A'uma on the Colorado 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



34 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

river today, is nothing more nor less than an Indian weir built 
on the general lines of the Vir structure, at the head of the Nira 
canal in Hindustan, near Bhutan. This Vir weir is 2340 feet long, 
with a maximum height above the river, bottom of 40 feet and it 
is said that over the crest of the structure, at flood time, have 
poured no less than 160,000 cubic feet of water per second, in a 
sheet eight feet deep at the crest. 

Modern reclamation in America, of private or public nature 
in 1890, concerned itself with approximately 3,650,000 acres, 
divided into 54,136 farm units. After the formation by Congress 
of the Reclamation Service this area was, of course, largely in- 
creased, but of that we shall speak later. In the great majority 
of cases the irrigation referred to as existing in 1890 in this coun- 
try was carried on by means of small gravity systems, wells, or 
reservoirs fed either by wells or springs, and no area comparable 
with Imperial Valley was, at that time, under canal or ditch sys- 
tem. In Southern California alone many thousands of acres were 
being cultivated by small ranchers and watered from local springs 
or by means of wells. The total area under irrigation in the 
southern third of the state in that year was 217,000 acres which is 
now surpassed by Imperial Valley alone. 

At the beginning of the present century, then, reclamation 
of arid or of undrained lands by the use of artificial irrigation sys- 
tems was extensively practiced throughout the world. H. M. 
Wilson, in his *' Manual of Irrigation Engineering'* (Third Edition ), 
sums up the situation roughly thus: "The total area irrigated 
in India is about 25,000,000 acres, in Egypt about 6,000,000 and 
in Italy about 3,700,000 acres; in Spain there are about 500,000 
acres, in France 400,000 acres and in the United States 4,000,000 
acres of irrigated land. This means that crops are grown on 40,- 
000,000 acres which, but for irrigation, would be relatively barren 
or not profitably productive. In addition to these there are some 
millions more of acres cultivated by aid of irrigation in China, 
Japan, Australia, Algeria, South America and in many places in 
Europe." 

For many years the National Irrigation Congress had been 
advocating the governmental control of available irrigation pro- 
jects in our own country. Many recommendations had been 
made to Congress on this point, but nothing was done definitely 
until about 1900, when the agitation of the matter in the West 
took on national significance. The success of great projects un- 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 35 

dertaken by private capital, particularly that of the California 
Development Company in a field on which the eyes of the govern- 
ment engineers had long been fixed, was becoming very widely 
commented on and in 1901 bills were presented to Congress look- 
ing to the setting aside of certain funds for use in irrigation. 
President Roosevelt actively advocated the measures and finally 
an act was passed and approved June 17, 1902. 

The act is one of the simplest and most intelligible of any 
ever adopted by a national legislature in relation to a great en- 
terprise. It provides that certain moneys received from the sale 
of public lands in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, 
Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North 
Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, 
and Wyoming, beginning June 30, 1901, shall be placed at the dis- 
posal of the Secretary of the Interior for the building of irriga- 
tion systems in those states, the money invested to be returned to 
the fund by land holders whose property is irrigated by the sys- 
tems, in installments covering a period of not more than ten 
years with two years excess and this money to be turned back to 
the fund for further work, the theory being that early projects, 
paid for from the profit accruing from the sale of public lands, 
will make available a fund for continued extension of reclamation 
when the public lands will all be sold. . 

All of the detail of the organization was left for the Secretary 
of the Interior. The plan worked out by him and employed today 
is given herewith. First, when the engineers of the Reclamation 
Service discover an available project site, they recommend to the 
Secretary of the Interior that the public lands which would be 
irrigated by the water furnished by the proposed system be with- 
drawn from entry. When this is done surveys of the work are 
made and rough plans, with estimates of the probable cost en- 
tailed, are prepared and presented to the Secretary for approval. 
If he so elects he may then order the work to proceed, letting all 
contracts from his offices. When the work is completed, either 
in whole or in part, and water is available for irrigation, the lands 
under the newly finished project are thrown open to the public 
for entry. 

For the sake of facility in handling the minutiae of diversion 
it is required that land owners in the several sections be organized 
into Water Users' Associations which will ultimately own the 
systems. The officers and employes of these incorporated bod- 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



36 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



ies of ranchers attend to the details of measuring, diverting and 
handling the water and of securing to the government prompt 
payment of the installments due for the expense involved in build- 
ing the project. In order to facilitate the latter business it has 
been found best to divide the expense equally between the sev- 
eral acres benefited, the charge being equitably fixed at so much 
per acre over and above the original cost of the land. While in 
some cases these fixed charges for water rights are costly the pay- 
ments are made in easy installments, covering periods of from 
ten to twelve years, and thus far there has been shown no hesi- 
tancy on the part of the public in filing on lands under completed 
projects at any cost per acre for water rights. 

It would be out of place here to attempt to take up exhaust- 
ively the work of the Reclamation Service in the eight years of 
its existence, for the government work has at most prospective 
connection with this Valley. That it has been a great and val- 
uable work no one gainsays. Criticism of the work is sometimes 
heard in this Valley but it remains incontrovertible that, no mat- 
ter what the faults of the Service, the idea inspiring it and all its 
employes and agents is a great and worthy one — the transfor- 
mation of desert places into productive farm lands. 





• 




,^ "gSi«g^A 


..r 


"^'-iHlffi^^ 




t^-^--^t^ — ** ^^^^ 


r^ 




H 


t--:- -; 



A Ciinvas Hotel in Imp<'rial Gave all the Earliest Colonists Thoir First Shell-er 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 37 

There are now under way or completed almost thirty recla- 
mation projects in the government scheme. It has been found 
that, in order to expedite the completion of these vast enter- 
prises, more money can be used than comes in year by year from 
the sale of public lands or from other sources to the Reclamation 
fund in the United States Treasury department, and recently a 
plan has been broached to issue $30,000,000 in bonds to raise 
funds to augment those already available or likely to be. It is 
considered doubtful that these bonds will be approved by Con- 
gress, but if they are they will only hasten the work which would 
eventually be accomplished without them. 

In order to show concisely in these pages something of the 
work being undertaken by the Reclamation Service, a table has 
been prepared summarizing the report of the Director, Frederick 
Haynes Newell, for the year of 1909. This summary is as fol- 
lows: 



Digitized by 



Google 



38 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 






O 3f g 'i 



a» i^o ffl(»SoS.35.QCc6^e6c» S ^P 



S 



I 









or 

-a 

c 






ii 



a ^2 ^ --= 



E F' u :3- c 






; . IE 
:l 'hi 












j: a-s ScSi g'F S' 

> 5 5 O D 5?.^ c 






5K 



fl lJ>^^ C S V 









E 



hi 

Id 
B 



ill 



V 2 









i: 



fir ntM 



1 = 1 SgggxgSE 5£fx S'2 53 



8S :g3gS8Si 

too ^odso'sc^ 

gg iia'iiil"^ 



i i 



1-1 , us NH ej ijC «; jc «* i-^ 









■53S3-Sd 



^mgg-. 3S ;S g— ?Slg-8 g g^ 






^553a 



. -•coodo oa 



"II 
si 



BSSS^SBSSS ii^i S 

___' r 

iSSgS?S §WS~?S SS sg?«SS$gSS S38g ig 

Q Q C O ^ c c s £ r; a =; a s a 3 a a ;^ s es':^ a" Hc-J H e-j ^^j^' '^ 



niTl ^ rH.f 



51 i^ilill iiil gi 



g2 

6S 






oio cit-^wa 



■3£j^' iM'ift fcft'^" 



•5-5 5' So 5 



gIPJIiliil §§IS !i 



a. ^i^855>| 



"^ 5 a -• P 



i| il 









is; 

il! 






55- 






* « r "=■ ' ; ■ 



ill 



OH 










: ;i ; ; I 

:T3 :^3 



-'■5 



3 3 3b 



J : 

•"►UNI 



M^ 



Digitized by 



I 

i 






Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 39 



CHAPTER III 

ROCKWOOD'S ARRIVAL 

Into this desert country, which had grown to be a dread to 
overland travelers and in which only a bare half-score had found 
any virtue, there came at last an aggressive, ambitious young 
engineer, who saw the proximity of the great alluvial plain to the 
abundant waters of the Colorado, and who, in mental pictures, 
had a larger vision than it had been given any other man to see 
of the potentialities of the Colorado delta. In a way his coming 
was an accident: he had been sent to the country far to the south- 
east to investigate the possiblities of irrigation in the Sonora 
country in Mexico, but had visited the desert, called (for con- 
venience) the Salton sink, in order to compare it with the other. 
His accidental discovery was the Imperial Valley: the engineer 
was Charles Robinson Rock wood. 

Since from that day to this the history of the country has been 
more or less associated with and dependent on, the history of the 
man, it is necessary here that we stop to find out who and what 
he was. Born in 1860 in Michigan, educated at the University 
of Michigan, which institution he was forced to leave on account 
of eye trouble, Rockwood had turned, at the age of twenty to 
engineering in the West. The Denver and Rio Grande railroad 
employed him for two years, then he went to the Southern Pa- 
cific in California for seven years and then to the service of the 
United States in its geological survey in 1889. At the age of 
thirty he was made chief engineer of the Northern Pacific, Ya- 
kima and Kittitas Irrigation company, organized for the purpose 
of reclaiming the Yakima Valley in Oregon, and in this capacity 
he completed plans for extensive work there which would have 
been consummated but for the financial troubles of 1892. The 
Northern Pacific railroad withdrew its support of the enterprise 
at this time and Rockwood went at once to Denver, in answer 
to an urgent letter from John C. Beatty, a promoter. 



Digitized by 



Google 







£.1 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 41 

Beatty had reports of an immense area of arable and ir- 
rigable land in Sonora, Mexico, to which might be diverted the 
waters of the Colorado, and he desired that Rockw^ood, of whom 
he had heard among engineers in Denver, should expert the proj- 
ect for him. As an indication of Beatty's modern methods of 
promotion it may be said that he had organized his company and 
made an effort to dispose of some of his stock before he sent for 
Rockwood: it was apparent, then, what sort of a report was 
wanted. Rockwood went to Yuma, went down the Colorado on 
a flat-boat and thoroughly investigated the project as outlined 
to him by Beatty, finding it utterly impractical. At Yuma, 
however, he got an inkling of the territory lying to the west of 
that settlement, and quite on his own responsibility he went in 
to the Salton sink to spy out the land. 

His discoveries surprised and delighted him. To him, hav- 
ing had experience both with railroads and with irrigation pro- 
jection, the desert, abutting on the Colorado, and tapped by the 
main line of the Southern Pacific railroad, and drained by two 
natural channels that might be cheaply enlarged, the waste lost 
its terror and its hopelessness and took on an aspect entirely new. 
He returned to Yuma and made a cursory examination for pos- 
sible heading sites, then hurried back to Denver with his report. 

That the latter condemned the project he had already 
started to float daunted Beatty not a whit. With the cheerful 
insouciance characteristic of men who deal in paper values Beatty 
readily turned from the old love to the new and within a short 
time had changed his corporation to the Colorado River Irrigation 
company. Some stock was sold, enough to warrant Rockwood 
making a careful survey, and this, in the winter of 1892, he 
started. His beginning was made in the vicinity of Potholes, a 
point on the Colorado river so named because there were found 
in the headland there several bowl-shaped holes, occasionally 
filled with rain water. From this place he worked southwest past 
Pilot Knob into Mexican territory and thence west and north into 
the Salton sink. The work was continued by Mr. Rockwood 
and his associate. Engineer C. N. Perry, an old friend, until the 
spring of 1893 when, with field notes worth $5,000 and a feasible 
plan worth tens of thousands, they returned to Denver. 

Beatty and his associates were pleased with the plan out- 
lined, but the panic of 1893 crippled them and made it impossible 
to obtain money in Denver, so that Beatty went to New York to 



Digitized by 



Google 



42 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

attempt floating the scheme there. He was an able and aggres- 
sive promoter and a hard worker, so that, even in those troublous 
times, he met with some measure of success. With an organiza- 
tion effected by means of a corporation whose directors were all 
admitted only to obtain the use of their names in the enterprise, 
and with a capital stock that was largely on paper, the angel of 
the project succeeded in interesting a cousin, James Beatty, of 
Canada, to the extent of $50,000 in cash. It is not recorded that 
legitimate projection was made possible with this capital and in 
1894 James Beatty filed suit to enjoin his energetic relative from 
disposing of any more stock in the enterprise. 

Meantime Rockwood was cooling his heels in a weary wait 
for money with which to proceed. He studied his first rough 
survey carefully and made another visit to the desert. The ques- 
tion of rights in Mexico had arisen at the first. He had investi- 
gated, finding that a large acreage adjoining the land he proposed 
to reclaim was owned under a Mexican concession by General 
Guillermo Andrade, then Mexican consul at Los Angeles. Gen- 
eral Andrade had told Rockwood that a Scotch syndicate held an 
option to purchase these lands but intimated that the foreigners 
might either abandon their claims or enter into the Rockwood 
project. Rockwood now went back again to Los Angeles and 
there outlined the scheme to the Mexican official, but felt con- 
strained about doing anything actively until he should hear 
from Beatty. 

As the latter was accomplishing nothing and as no money 
was forthcoming, Rockwood at last resolved to tie up the nego- 
tiable papers he held and all the collateral, including the survey- 
ing instruments and field notes on the project, which he was suc- 
cessful in doing, both for himself and for his associate C. N. Perry. 
It was now the summer of 1894 and not a wheel had turned. 

It is difficult for contemporaneous history properly to classify. 
It is also difficult to write soundly of a man or an event with 
which the writer is in close touch, for one must reckon with the 
personal equation. Likely enough future historians will be 
better qualified to say what motives actuated Rockwood, how- 
much credit is due him, and to what extent he was stirred by 
selfish feelings. At this close range, however, it seems apparent 
that he was first and foremost a constructive engineer, and that 
his plan for reclamation subordinated to itself all other feelings. 
It is certain that he was ambitious. It is certain that he had a 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 43 

broad view of the financial possibilities of his scheme. It is 
probable that he looked forward to the day when he, sitting in 
his office at the head of a great irrigation project, should be able 
to direct the destinies of a people, happy and prosperous in fertile 
fields that had once been barren wastes. 

Even a cursory analysis of the technical mind, however, will 
bring to light another phase of this interesting study of the 
psychology of Rockwood's early efforts. From his first appren- 
ticeship the engineer is surfeited with the big things of construc- 
tion. His smallest problems concern rivers, or mountain chains, 
or sullen gorges and he learns to dispose of details with tables and 
slide rules. The habit of mind he acquires is succinctly ex- 
pressed in his phrase: "It's all in the day's work." 

Perhaps Engineer Rockwood laid hold on this gigantic pro- 
ject with the feeling that the gods of his machine had entrusted 
it to him, and before he realized it the scheme obsessed him. 
Perhaps his experiences in the next ten years were, to him, 
"all in the day's work." 

In order to look on the events that are to be retold in suc- 
ceeding chapters with a fuller understanding, it might be well at 
this time to pause for a moment again and review conditions in 
the Southwest in the early nineties. The territory was just be- 
ginning to get its stride. Los Angeles, its largest city, was an 
overgrown community of 60,000, with probably 40,000 more liv- 
ing in the immediate neighborhood. In the main the Southwes- 
was sparsely settled, although its future was big with possibili- 
ties already being grasped. Commercial activity was beginning 
and colonization throughout the entire area grew apace. At 
that time there was a great deal of cheap land to be had in South- 
ern California, although in much of this territory the development 
of water was an unanswered question. In the course of a perusal 
of this history if the reader is surprised at the lethargy displayed 
by settlers who might have secured cheap land in Imperial Val- 
ley without great effort when the project was launched, he must 
remember that there was other cheap land to be had and that in 
districts more favored, by repute, in transportation and social 
advantages, than the famed Colorado desert. Indeed it has 
frequently occurred to the writers that, had Rockwood and his 
associates succeeded at the outset in getting capital to finance 
their project in 1892 or 1894, it might have been several years 
later before settlement occurred in a measure large enough to 



Digitized by 



Google 




^ o 
o • 









Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 45 

justify the promotion. In other words an early start might have 
resulted in the expenditure of a large amount of money before re- 
turns began to come in and the project might have been doomed 
to the same fate that met many boom towns and enterprises in 
Southern California in those days. 

But the possibilities for the future were there and Rockwood 
was never deceived in that regard. Soil, water and cKmate, the 
combination sine qua non for agriculture, were in proximity in the 
Valley, a great railroad tapped it, another to run through the 
heart of it , the San Diego and Eastern line which had been built 
by San Diego newspapers many years before, might be revived, 
and the impending rush of settlers to the Southwest, which could 
be foreseen by any man of discernment , and was foreseen to the 
enriching of tens of thousands in and about Los Angeles at that 
time, was in the very air. 

The opportunity and the man had met. 



Digitized by 



Google 



46 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



CHAPTER IV 



ENTER CAPITAL 

Modern painting has two schools — the idealist and the realist: 
so has modern promotion. C. R. Rockwood, the trained en- 
gineer, had been too long an employe subordinating his am- 
bition and his creating force to the needs of his "job," to be able 
immediately after seeing the possibilities presented by the prox- 
imity of a rich alluvial waste to abundant water, to launch the 
project on his own inititative. To him it was a dream — opening 
an inland empire for the enrichment of others, but at the same 
time offering an opportunity for self-aggrandizement and profit. 
Concerning the latter features of the vision, however, Rockwood 
must have had very indistinct impressions. To him the possi- 
bility of reclamation loomed very large. 

As has been said, he was already in the employ of others long 
schooled in the "realism" of promotion. Casting in his lot with 
them for the furtherance of what he took to be a common end, he 
was loath to see what it is certain any thoroughly businesslike 
man would have seen — that his dream of construction was being 
repeatedly dashed against impregnable rocks of commercialism 
and selfishness. When the truth forced itself on him at last it 
was a rude awakening, as he himself says. 

In all fairness it must be remembered that capital has its own 
viewpoint. It is the prerogative of capital to demand visible 
results — actual returns — cash items on the right side of the 
ledgers of investment. This was especially true in the nineties 
when the enormous commercial growth of the country presaged 
the greatness of the present decade, and when there was room 
for capital in numerous branches offering safe and sure margins 
of profit. The organization of large business corporations and 
systems of business corporations afforded avenues of investment 
such as the world had never known before and such as it is doubt- 
ful it will ever know again. It may be that one of the serious 
mistakes of the constructive dreamer, Rockwood, was in going 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 47 

east for financial assistance at a time when the East was full of 
opportunity while the West was just beginning to awaken and its 
business men and capitalists just beginning to see the potentilai- 
ties of their own territory. The possibilities, had the Imperial 
Valley project been placed before Los Angeles or San Francisco 
capital in 1895, can only be surmised. . 

It must be immediately evident how large was the need of 
ample finances for this reclamation scheme. Throughout this 
history the almost pitiful dependence of the settlers on outside 
capital will be noted. In the beginning of the work there was not 
only the expense of surveys and construction, but there was a 
heavy probable burden for colonization. It must not be for- 
gotten that at that time the mere mention of the word '^desert" 
was enough to conjure up pictures of forbidding desolation and 
hopeless waste. The most stout-hearted quailed before the un- 
known, and Rockwood had been enough on this sun-beaten plain 
to know that it would require more than a little *' showing'* to 
remove traces of doubt from the mind of the general average of 
settlers. The latter, also, are always of the poorer class — men, 
usually, whose capital is the aggregation of small savings, earned 
by bitter self-denial, and who look long before they leap. From 
the first it is certain the engineer saw that his backing must be 
sufficient to safeguard the investments of the colonists, and that 
comparatively little might be expected in the way of returns for 
some time after settlement was begun. 

Those ideas grew in his mind as time passed and he began to 
see more and more that John C. Beatty was a promoter and not 
a constructor. The plan for reclamation, as far as the engineer- 
ing features went, sprang full-fledged and complete from the 
brain of Rockwood when he saw the country in 1892, but at that 
time he had only vague ideas as to just how the scheme might be 
worked out. He looked to the financial perspicacity of Beatty 
and it was only as his confidence in that leader waned that he 
began to think for himself of ways and means. 

It was in the fall of 1894 that, returning from Scotland 
(whither he had gone to interview and, if possible, interest, 
the holders of an option on the Andrade lands in Baja California 
through which it would be necessary to carry the canals of the 
project, but where he had been entirely unsuccessful ) Rockwood 
first discovered positive evidence of the calibre of the promotions 
of John C. Beatty. The latter was in Providence, surrounded by 



Digitized by 



Google 



48 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



the luxuries he had bought at the expense of purchasers of 
stock, and the engineer saw they had come to the parting of their 
ways. Accordingly he left Beatty to his own devices and went 
West. 

Samuel W. Ferguson, manager of the Kern County Land 
Company, and formerly a land agent for the Southern Pacific 
railroad, was the onl}^ man Rockwood had in mind at this time 
to take hold with him. Ferguson had experience in the work of 
promotion and of dealing in lands with producers and he pos- 
sessed many of the qualifications needed for an agressive cam- 




\'iew Near Original Headjcato 

paign of promotion; accordingly Mr. Rockwood presented his 
plans to him and the two became associated. The first act of 
the new coalition was to obtain $5,000 from Dr. W. T. Hefferman. 
a personal friend of Mr. Rockwood, with which to purchase an 
option on the lands of General Andrade. When this was done 
there remained, in order to assure the rights of way of the com- 
pany from the Colorado river to the international boundary line at 
the border of the desert, the business of securing the only avail- 
able site on the river for the location of head-works. This site 
was owned by Hall Hanlon, an eccentric character, who had 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 49 

stumbled on the key to the situation without knowing it, but 
who, when he had discovered his good fortune, was thoroughly 
alive to its possibilities for himself. Much to the chagrin of the 
promoters they found Hanlon obstinate in his demand for $20,000 
as the price for his property, and at length, all argument unavail- 
ing, they were compelled to acquiesce, and paid $2,000 on the 
purchase price. This money was also obtained from Dr. Heffer- 
man, to whom, in the account of the events of those days Mr. 
Rockwood pays a very high tribute.* 

There remained now the task of financing the project — a task 
which appeared, to these men of high courage, enthusiasm, and 
energy, only a question of a few months. Perhaps if Engineer 
Rockwood, in the fall of 1895, could have foreseen the obstacles 
that lay between him and the fulfillment of his dream, he might 
have abandoned it and turned again to those avenues continually 
opening to him, through which he might have sought and found 
financial success and professional honors. But he could not see: 
no one but himself can say positively today that he would have 
forsaken the project even had he known what the future held. 
His hand was now set to the plow, the furrow was started, and for 
him there was no turning back. 

S. W. Ferguson went to New York in June, 1895, but failed 
to accomplish anything and came back. It was at this time he 
mentioned the possibility of securing the services of Anthony H. 
Heber, of Chicago, agent there for the Kern county corporation 
of which Ferguson had formerly been manager, and on his recom- 
mendation Rockwood, while in Chicago in November attending 
to the printing by Rand-McNally of maps for the project, ap- 
proached Mr. Heber on the matter. The latter was interested but 
no definite arrangement was made until December when Rock- 
wood, then in New York and finding Ferguson's efforts of little 
avail, sent for the Chicago promoter. Mr. Heber left a good posi- 
tion to go. He told his wife, whom he left with four young 
children, that he would be gone six months at the outside: it was 
four years before he returned to stay. From the time of his ar- 
rival in New York City he became inseparably connected with the 
project; its purposes were his, its interests were his, its failures and 
its successes marked the ebb and flow of his affairs. C. R. Rock- 
wood had rare judgment in technical matters and unusual tenac- 
ity of purpose. A. H. Heber had enthusiasm, ambition, confi- 

* Calexico "Chronicle" Annual, May, 1909 — Rockwood's Story. 



Digitized by 



Google 



50 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

dence, and business ability. The two men who thus joineil forces 
fought shoulder to shoulder practically to the culmination of their 
plan; that they should have come at last to misunderstanding, 
mutual distrust and ultimate antagonism is most unfortunate. 
The cup of friendship they drank together, tasting the bitter lees 
of disappointment and failure, but when the cup was filled anew 
with the sweet wine of success it slipped from their grasp and was 
broken in pieces. 

Although without funds, Rockwood, Heber, and Ferguson 
organized for definite work under the laws of New Jersey, April 
26, 1896. The corporation they formed was called the California 
Development company, w^as capitalized for $1,250,000, and had 
as its president Mr. Heber. James C. Beatty, the man who had 
taken the first interest in the dreams of John C. Beatty, the pro- 
moter, was a stockholder in the new corporation by virtue of his 
former investments, as w\as Dr. W. T. Hefferman. At the time 
Engineer Rockwood was in Mexico attending to business connected 
with the governmental sanction of the project there and before he 
left received word that President Heber had interested the Menon- 
ite church of Kansas, whose leaders would come to the Valley to 
inve.stigate. Rockw^ood received the party and showed them the 
land but negotiations were not entered on. It was on this trip 
the promoters went to see H. W. Blaisdell, a mining man of Yuma 
whom Rockwood had met in 1892, and who now undertook to go 
to Boston in their behalf. He succeeded in interesting W. H. 
Forbes, formerly president of the Bell Telephone Company, who 
agreed to take the matter up provided the report made by an 
engineer of his own choosing should verify the claims of the pro- 
moters. Engineer Rockw^ood gladly agreed to meet any such 
man and in October, 1896, an expert was sent out. Rockwood 
was in Los Angeles at the time, negotiating under difficulties 
with General Andrade for a renewal of his option, which he suc- 
ceeded in getting only after a struggle. The two engineers met 
and the Forbes man, George Anderson, of Denver, was enthusi- 
astic over the scheme, but when the tw^o returned to Boston, 
much to the disappointment and chagrin of Rockwood, Forbes 
turned the project down. In his stor^- Mr. Rockwood 
says the capitalist gave ill health as his reason for declining to 
finance the project, ''but," he adds, *' ... I never re- 
ceived proof that the statement given by him was not entirely 
correct until his death, four months afterward, when I was told 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 51 

by one of his most intimate friends that the real reason why Forbes 
did not take up the enterprise was that at the time he sent Mr. 
Anderson to make his examination he also wrote a. letter to a 
close personal friend of his in San Diego regarding the possibilities 
of development in the Colorado desert, and received word in reply 
that the project was wild and utterly unfeasible; that the coun- 
try was so hot that no white man could possibly live in it; that 
the lands w^ere absolutely barren, consisting of nothing but sand 
and alkali; and that any man who w^as foolish enough to put a 
dollar into that enterprise would surely lose it. I attempted to 
find out the name of Mr. Forbes' San Diego correspondent. I 
have been trying all these years to find out the name of that man 
but so far have failed. I STILL HAVE HOPES TO MEET 
HIM." 

After this blow Blaisdell returned to Arizona, Heber remained 
in New York striving to interest lethargic capitalists, and Rock- 
wood tarried in Boston. Here he contracted typhoid fever and 
for two months in the summer of 1897 was confined to a hospital 
be<l. On his recovery he went to Europe for the second time, 
on this occasion equipped with letters to substantial business men 
and financiers. The dark cloud that seems, from the first, to 
have followed this man in his efforts, hovered about him on this 
journey. Arrived in Scotland he proceeded at once to an inland 
town to interview a man of importance and on leaving the train 
asked to be directed on his way. To his con^sternation he was 
told the man had been found dead that morning, drowned in a 
small lake near his mansion. Dazed by this tragedy Rockwood 
was illy prepared to receive, on his return to London, a telegram 
from an agent in Basle, Switzerland, saying that a financier there 
to whom the engineer had wired from Scotland for an appoint- 
ment had been dead two weeks. 

Almost discouraged, but determined to leave no stone un- 
turned, Rockwood secured an audience with Tyndall and Monk, 
responsible brokers in London, and set them to working on the 
project; then sailed for New York in December, 1S97. Arrived 
there he opened negotiations with Silas B. Dutcher, president of 
the Hamilton Trust Company, of Brooklyn, and both he and Mr. 
Heber bent all their energies to the task of interesting this man 
and securing his cooperation. For the first time in two years hope 
began to glimmer on the horizon of the California Development 
Company. Dutcher was satisfied and succeeded in interesting 



Digitized by 



Google 



52 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



his heaviest stockholders. After protracted conferences^ on the 
evening of February 14, 1898, Mr. Dutcher told the anxious pro- 
moters that the Hamilton people would finance the project. In 
his simple, but dramatic style Mr. Rockwood tells of the denoue- 
ment: 

"At this time,*' he writes, "our treasury' was empty, both Mr. 
Heber and myself had exhausted our private funds, and we were 
exceedingly economical in our table. But I was so rejoiced at the 
decision of Dutcher and, believing without doubt that our finan- 
cial troubles were over for the present, I went back to New York 
and invited Heber out to a square meal, on which, I think, I spent 
at least one dollar. 

"The next morning ... we were confronted by the 
glaring headlines THAT THE MAINE HAD BEEN SUNK THE 
NIGHT PREVIOUS IN HAVANA HARBOR!" 




Old Date Palm Trees at the HeadinK Gave Promif^e of what the 
Desert Would Do 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 53 

The depression of the promoters was shared with the whole 
financial world for a few months following the declaration of war 
between Spain and this country, and it was impossible to interest 
capital in the project. In fact it was difficult to raise money 
enough to keep the New York offices open, but this was done by 
means of one sacrifice and another. In this summer, also, Mr. 
Rockwood was called to Mexico. Legal steps were found neces- 
sary to retain the hold of the California Development Company 
on the lands in Mexico and, as the laws there require that all real 
property be vested in Mexican owners, the engineer was com- 
pelled to organize at this time La Sociedad de Terrenos y Irrigacion 
de la Baja California (Sociedad Anonima>, known in the Imperial 
Valley as the "Mexican Company." This corporation became 
owner of all the rights of the company in Mexico, including the 
option, now nearly expired again, on 100,000 acres belonging to 
General Andrade of Los Angeles. In order to retain control of 
this property by option Mr. Rockwood hurried from Mexico to 
Los Angeles and there, for ninety days, he struggled with the 
exasperated general. Andrade believed the American was doomed 
to ultimate defeat and it was only to get rid of him, as he said 
later, that the General finally signed the papers giving the Devel- 
opment Company an extension of time. 

Meantime, in London, Tyndall and Monk had been busy and 
they now wrote Rockwood to come to England and close a deal. 
Rockwood hurried across the seas for the third time, to be joined 
later by President Heber. After long and vexatious delays a 
satisfactory bond and trust deed was made out, under compli- 
cated English procedure, and the two Americans returned with 
every hope of having at last been successful. For some unknown 
reason, however, the London firm cabled in February, 1899, that 
the transaction could not be completed by their clients. Con- 
cerning this period Mr. Rockwood, in his history, says: 

*' We were now in the spring of 1899; our funds were exhausted 
and we hardly knew which way to turn. I was born in Michigan 
and had several wealthy and influential friends and acquaintances 
in Detroit and its neighborhood and Heber and I thought it best 
that I should visit Detroit and see what might be done there to- 
ward obtaining funds. But at this time we had no money with 
which to pay my traveling expenses until Mr. Heber solved the 
problem by raising $125 on his personal jewelry and gave me $100 
of it with which to make the trip. In the troubles that arose be- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



54 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

tween Mr. Heber and myself afterwards this act has never been 
forgotten and one of the greatest regrets of my life is that the 
ties of friendship with one capable of such self-sacrificing gener- 
osity should be strained and broken/' 

Mr. Rockwood did not know then, and probably does not now. 
the true history of the source from which this money came. As a 
matter of fact Mr. Heber's personal jewelry had been hypothe- 
cated at an earlier date for the good of the common cause and at 
this time, with ruin confronting them, he appealed to his wife. 
Mrs. Heber had already denied herself as a woman might who 
sends her husband to battle and then endures privation to furnish 
him the sinews of war; but neither her resources nor her faith 
w^ere exhausted at this trying time. Without hesitation she for- 
warded her own jewels to her husband bidding him use them as 
he saw fit if the future of the work might be secured, or even ad- 
vanced. With much reluctance Mr. Heber carried the orna- 
ments to a friend and received for them the insignificant sum of 
money on which the whole hopes of the heroic band hinged. 

In Detroit no substantial assistance was received and, as he 
was almost penniless himself, Mr. Rockwood accepted a com- 
mission from a Boston firm to go to Porto Rico to perform expert 
services there. Returning in the fall of 1S89 to New York he 
found S. W. Ferguson in the offices in New York, anxious to re- 
turn to the service of the California Development Company, w4th 
which he had severed connection in September, 1896. Rock- 
wood found President Heber tired out, discouraged and homesick, 
and accordingly Ferguson was employed as an agent only and Mr. 
Heber resigned and returned to his family in Chicago after four 
years of arduous work, culminating always in failure. Rock- 
wood, elected president, remained in New York but it is probable 
his work there for the next few weeks lacked enthusiasm. Not 
only had he encountered repeated set-backs of man's contriving 
but he had apparently been pursued from the first by a Nemesis 
of misfortune which would have defeated and turned back a 
weaker man. Sickness, storm, death, even w'ar, had taken their 
turn at dashing his hopes to the ground. With money gone, 
associates discouraged and all hopeful prospects blotted out, it 
is no wonder that, for him, the months of September, October 
and November, 1899, were black with despair and that he was in 
a fit mental condition to grasp at any straw^ when, in December, 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



55 



he received word from Fer«:uson, in Los Angeles, that their cap- 
italist had been found. 

Hastily, although with little hope of success, Rock wood 
put his maps, profiles, reports and plans into a satchel 
and boarded the first westbound overland. The man to whom 
he was going was George Chaffey. 




Hundreds of Miles of Canals were Constructed 



Digitized by 



Google 



56 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



CHAPTER V 



THE ERA OF THE BUILDERS 

We have come now to a new era in the affairs of Imperial 
Valley. In this chapter we have to deal with details regard- 
ing which there has been much controversy. This has led to 
exceptional care in ascertaining facts, and more than 500 docu- 
ments, including personal letters which passed between the 
principals in the California Development Company and con- 
tracts, agreements, etc., have been examined. Years had gone 
by in the search for some man with means to carry out the 
task of actual construction, and while that quest had been on 
there had been an accumulation of obligations against the proj- 
ect. Not only had the capital stock of the company to the ex- 
tent of a million dollars passed into private hands, but what 
was known as land scrip, entitling the holder to payment in 
water stock, had been issued to the extent of $350,000, while 
there were $15,000 of other claims against the company, making 
a total of liabilities of $1,365,000. 

There had been an option for the purchase of Hanlon's 
heading, and another for the purchase of 100,000 acres in Mex- 
ico through which the canal must pass, but both these options 
had expired, and as an offset to the great accumulation of lia- 
bilities, there was nothing but the filing on the river and the 
camp and surveying equipment, and even the filing must be re- 
newed; and with this state of affairs the attorney general of 
New Jersey had begun suit to cancel the charter of the com- 
pany for non-payment of its annual tax to the state, and it 
looked as though the Califoruia Development Company would 
cease to exist as a corporate entity. 

February 16, 1900, but a few weeks before the entrance 
of Mr. Chaffey into the company, Mr. Rockwood had written 
Mr. Heber: 

**I doubt if he (a Mr. Logan) will be sufficiently foot loose 
to take us up before the first of March. I will probably give 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 57 

him until that time as I will of necessity be here until then 
anyway, but unless he is ready by that time to get into harness 
I believe that I will be obliged to drop him, and probably seek 
some other means of earning a livelihood, as I can't hold on 
any longer without greater help than I have been able to ob- 
tain. The state of New Jersey has postponed their applica- 
tion for an injunction until the 20th of March. This they state 
is a temporary postponement while they are considering our ap- 
plication for a postponement until the first of July. I think 
without much doubt that they will give us until the first of July, 
and unless something turns up by that time we will probably 
have to allow the organization to go by the board. I am not 
sure that it would aflfect us so very disastrously, because I am 
advised by RopoUo that if the charter is rescinded that the 
Board of Directors will hold a meeting as trustees for the bene- 
fit of the stockholders and creditors of the Company. If that 
is the case why it would probably allow us to perfect a new or- 
ganization at some future time and pass the property on to it, 
providing that we can get the property, and that depends upon 
our ability to pay the cost of legalizing those contracts in Mex- 
ico. I have taken the matter up with Mr. Beatty to try to 
get him to advance the money, but do not anticipate any suc- 
cess from that source as I think he is fully determined not to 
put another dollar in the enterprise under any consideration.' 
Eight days later Mr. Rockwood wrote again to Mr. Heber: 
**I am very glad indeed to see that you are so hopeful and 
that your prospects are brighter than they have been during 
the past two or three years. I feel very much inclined to jump 
this whole business and go into something else, but will stick 
to it for a month yet and see if I can't bring something to a head 
through Logan, but it is a pretty heavy burden to carry, as you 
well know." 

This condition of aflfairs was surely not an alluring one, but 
the records of the company were in New Jersey, Mr. Chaffey 
was not familiar with the history of the company and was not 
made acquainted with its financial status. As a skilled and 
experienced irrigation engineer he examined critically into the 
venture, passing several days alone on the route of the proposed 
canal and discovering the possibility of greater economy than 
had appeared in previous plans by using a number of natural 
channels leading by easy grade from one to another. Before 



Digitized by 



Google 



58 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



that it had been estimated that a million dollars would be 
required to construct the system, and he was delighted to dis- 
cover that it could be built for a fraction of that amount be- 
cause of the assistance nature had provided. 

Mr. Chaffey was a man splendidly eciuipped for the task 
presented. Born in Brockville, Ontario, in 1848, he had been 
compelled to leave school by ill health at the age of fourteen, 
and had gone to work for an uncle who was a prominent con- 
tracting engineer. 

Later joining his father in the steamship business, young 
Chaflfey became captain of several vessels and secured a first 
class engineer's certificate. 

In 1878 Chaffey designed and constructed the lake steamer 
Geneva which so exceeded in speed vessels of like draught that 
he won wide recognition in ship building. 

In 1879 his parents having removed to Riverside, Cali- 
fornia, Mr. Chaffey came here to visit them and became so 
greatly interested in the country that he decided to remain. 

In 1881, with his brother, W. B. Chaffey, he bought the 
Garcia ranch and founded the colony of Etiwanda, developing 
his first irrigation supply in the mountains. 




C. R. Lockwood and C. N. Perry were in charge of company headquarters at Calexico 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 59 

In outlining the plans for this colony, in combination with 
L. M. Holt, Mr. Chaffey devised the mutual water compan}^ 
which has become a model for all Southern California. 

In 1882 he designed a small power plant in connection 
with the Etiwanda irrigation system to run a dynamo, and thus 
turned the current on the first electric lamp used in Southern 
California, and in the same year he installed in Los Angeles 
one of the very first electric systems n the world for street 
lighting. 

Still in the same year, Chaffey bought a portion of the 
Cucamonga rancho and founded the colony of Ontario, origi- 
nating and endowing Chaffey college. Here he developed an 
irrigation and electric power system that was later adopted 
by the United States government as a model to be exhibited 
in miniature at the St. Louis exposition. 

In 1885 a royal commission appointed by the government 
of Victoria, Australia, visited California, and the members be- 
came so. interested in Mr. Chaff ey's work that the visit led to 
his going to the island continent, where he built great desert 
reclamation works, founding the colonies of Mildura, in Vic- 
toria, and Renmark, in South Australia. 

As a result of the mechanical plans designed for pumping 
water for these great irrigation works, Mr. Chaffey was elected 
a member of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers of London. 

In this work in Australia Mr. Chaffey had again been as- 
sociated with his brother, and as late as the fall of 1907 the 
Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir John Madden, in a public address 
tendered to the Messrs. Chaffey '*on behalf of Victoria, sincere 
and heartfelt thanks for their magnificent conception and achieve- 
ment.^' 

His great work in Australia completed, George Chaffey 
had returned to the United States, and he had soon been in- 
duced to look into the Imperial irrigation project. He saw here 
what he believed to be the greatest opportunity ever presented 
for reclamation work. Familiar with the redemption of deso- 
late country the great waste of the Colorado desert rather 
charmed than repelled him. It was the physical problem that 
he weighed, without investigation of the financial condition of 
the company with which he was to become allied, though the 
contract into which he entered provided that water stock 
should be sold to the extent of 50,000 acres before he should 



Digitized by 



Google 



60 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

be required to begin construction of the canals. This was the 
contract, but Mr. Chaflfey at once plunged into the work of 
construction of canals, relying in large part on the revenue 
from the sa'e of water stock for funds with which to continue 
operations. 

How seriously he was to be hampered became apparent 
in the course of a few weeks. He soon discovered that it was 
necessary to make a new deal for possession of Hanlon's heading 
and to regain an option on the 100,000 acres of land in Mexico 
on which the expired option rested. These two points were 
eventually accomplished with much difficulty and expense, and 
the work of construction once more proceeded. Then there 
came into view the $350,000 of scrip outstanding, the very first 
sale of water stock under the new canal being paid for with this 
scrip, where Mr. Chaffey had counted on the receipt of cash, 
and from that time on this scrip was rising before him to annul 
his plans for raising funds by colonization along the canals 
as constructed. 

These statements are not set forth in criticism of any per- 
son who has had a part in the development of the Valley. They 
are recorded simply as facts which must be taken into consid- 
eration in judging the merits of those who have wrought out the 
destiny of the Valley. Those who came before Mr. Chaflfey 
had been obliged to play a desperate game. They had handed 
out the water scrip on a basis of ten cents on the dollar, and now 
he who was to build, and who had not been cognizant of con- 
ditions before he set his hand to the task, found himself con- 
fronted with the necessity for redeeming these pledges at their 
face value, and in meeting this necessity he was hampered at 
every turn and often grew despondent. People have often 
wondered why there was not greater profit for the promoters 
of the California Development Company, and the answer is 
mainly to be found in the necessity of taking care of obligations 
incurred in the days when the quest for a builder was on. 

The contract under which Mr. Chaflfey assumed control 
of the California Development Company nominally placed in 
his control absolute authority over the company for five years, 
giving him irrevocable power of attorney for the majority of 
the stock for that period, but in point of fact his hold on the 
company was not so great, for stock was not placed in escrow, 
and when transferred by the owner, the power of attorney did 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



61 



not necessarily follow it. It was April 3, 1900, that the contract 
with Mr. Chaflfey was entered into, and the rapidity with 
which the work was done brought water into Imperial Valley 
in twelve months. A telegram from Mr. Chaffey to his son 
and business associate, A. M. Chaflfey, carried at that time 
a message important, not only to the Chaffey's, but to the set- 
lers and friends of Imperial Valley. It read: 

''Ogilby, Cal., May 14, 1901. 
''A. M. Chaflfey, 244 Stowell Block, Los Angeles.— Water 
turned through gate at 11 a. m. Everything all right. 

[Sig.| George Chaflfey.'' 

The connection of George Chaflfey was brief, compared 
with his accomplishments during the period. It was but twenty- 
two months from the date of his contract when, in February, 




Cucopa IndianH joinod in celebration of the Fourth of July in Calexiro in 1901 



Digitized by 



Google 



62 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

1902, negotiations were consummated for his retirement, and yet, 
in that brief period, there had been actually constructed more 
than 400 miles of canals and laterals, or about one-half of the 
mileage in the Valley when this work is written in 1910. 

The year 1901 had begun with the world knowing nothing 
of Imperial Valley by name, though the Colorado desert was 
famous. But during that year and the next an almost incredible 
amount of publicity was given to the great irrigation develop- 
ment work in progress here, such publications as the New York 
Times, Tribune and Post, the Philadelphia Press and Scientific 
American, with many agricultural publications, giving pages of 
news space to the enterprise and making editorial comment. 

Thus the year 1902 drew to a close with Imperial Valley 
well known throughout the country, and 1901 and 1902 long 
will be remembered as the years of the builder — the years when 
out of vague ambitions Imperial Valley took form as one of the 
greatest factors in the industrial activity of the Golden State, 
and however great credit may be accorded to others for big 
achievements in other years, it is to George Chaff ey that credit 
must chiefly be given for that greatest period of all. 

In fact there are six persons who must ever stand out as 
central figures in the history of Imperial Valley: 

C. R. Rockwood, the man who clung to a fond hope for 
years while searching for the real builder. 

George Chaffey, the man who built. 

The late A. H. Heber, associated with Mr. Rockwood in 
the earlier days and with the company during its more pros- 
perous period but destined, as the successor of Mr. Chaffey, 
to bear the brunt of leadership in the trying days that followed 
when representatives of the government falsely denounced the 
soil, denied the right of the people to use the water of the Colo- 
rado and by various attacks destroyed the financial credit of 
the company and forced upon the Valley the neglect from which 
all its greater misfortunes have come. 

And, finally, the late Edward H. Harriman, president of 
the Southern Pacific Company; Col. Epes Randolph, his per- 
sonal representative, and H. T. Cory, general manager of the 
California Development Company during the Southern Pacific 
dominance, these being the men to whom chief credit must 
be given for shutting the Colorado river out of the Valley. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 63 

Sentimental praise must go to the man who clung on to 
his hope through forbidding years. 

A feeUng of pathos must be awakened by the heroic struggle 
of the man assailed and beaten by the very governmental 
forces that should have aided him in the work of redeeming the 
desert. 

Praise must be bestowed on the big railroad men who threw 
their personality into the conquest of the river. 

But in each case the personality is different from that of 
the man who after others had talked of the possibilit}^ of the 
project for fifty years actually bought a dredger and began dig- 
ging the canal, who rushed in men and teams and supplies 
against great obstacles, who gashed the desert plains with great 
life-giving arteries of the soil, who, in less than two years made 
main canals with sufficient capacity for all the previously irri- 
gated area of Southern California, who run hundreds of miles of 
minor ditches, who started the crops to growing, staked out the 
cities yet to be and mapped the empire that was to rise upon the 
desolate wastes of the old forbidding desert. 

Without being guilty of hero worship, we can mention the 
names of each of these men with praise. Mr. Rockwood was 
for a time engineer in charge of construction in water district 
No. 1 under Mr. Chaff ey, and there w^as a colonization agency 
formed, for Mr. Chaffey did not wish to have his mind diverted 
from the construction work. 

In March, 1900, the Imperial Land Company was organ- 
ized. In return for its services as a colonization agency, this 
corporation was to receive 25 per cent of the gross sales of water 
stock in the United States and of land in Mexico, was to have all 
the townsite rights and was invested with all rights to power 
light, telephone, railroad and other similiar franchises through- 
out the Valley. In the promotion of colonization through this 
and other companies, the conspicuous figures have been F. C. 
Paulin, H. C. Oakley, Dr. J. W. Oakley, and, later, W. F. Holt, 
George A. Parkyns, George P. Blair and others. 

The financial difficulties which beset the California Develop- 
ment Company during its entire career were not missing 
during the Chaffey regime. Mr. Chaffey had himself put a 
considerable sum into the enterprise, and w^hen the situation 
grew serious he had pledged the notes held by the company 
and all his personal possessions as additional security for fur- 



Digitized by 



Google 



64 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



ther funds with which to carry on the work. And herein lies 
an illustration of the policy pursued toward Imperial Valley by 
the Los Angeles bankers from the start. Not on'y would they 
not accept Valley securities, but they curtailed or cancelled per- 
sonal credits previously enjoyed by Messrs. Chaflfey. 

The prevailing impression that Mr. Chaffey had made a 
fortune out of proporton to his services to the company is not 
justified by the financial statement issued five months after his 
connection with the company had terminated. 

When Mr. Chaffey assumed the management of the com- 
pany, as has been seen, its liabilities amounted to $1,365,000, 
the assets consisting of an expired option on the heading, an 
expired option on the Mexican land, a water filing about to 
expire, and the camp and survey equipment. 

In striking contrast with this is the financial statement of 
the company of date of May 31, 1902, and shows bills receivable 
of $525,510; accounts receivable of $235,469.34 and other assets 
bringing the total to $2,333,469.35, while the Uabilities, includ- 
ing stock at $1,250,000, aggregated $1,990,993.19, giving a 
surplus of $342,687.16. 

The situation which Mr. Heber faced on succeeding Mr. 
Chaffey would have been an easy one had it not been that the 
opposition of the government to the reclamation of the desert 
by these financiers became militant, and the onslaughts ruined 
the credit which the company had at last begun to develop and 
at the same time checked colonization. 




C. J. Srhenok Opened the First Store in Holtville 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 65 



CHAPTER VI 



THE BEGINNING OF SETTLEMENT 

An aggressive campaign of publicity made by officers and 
agents of the Imperial Land Company in the first few months of 
its existence in 1900 resulted in a rather remarkable influx of 
prospective settlers before the hot weather of that year. Ex- 
cursions were run from Los Angeles and near by points to Flow- 
ing Well, and thence by stage into the Promised Land. Many 
came in from the railroad points in Arizona, and a large number 
drove across from San Diego and its environs to see this desert 
where daring men proposed to do the impossible. In April of 
that year Surveyor C. N. Perry had begun his work of surveying 
the district and of running lines for the canal system of Number 
One Water Company, and shortly after the California Develop- 
ment Company established a camp on the east shore of Blue Lake, 
where the town of Silsbee stands today, to which camp Mr. Perry 
and his men went for supplies. 

The stage of those early days was the property of George 
McCaulley, who had a station at Flowing Well, on the main line 
of the Southern Pacific railroad, a few miles east of the stop known 
as Old Beach — the Imperial Junction of later times. McCaulley 
was a quaint and interesting character, possessing little fear either 

\of man or Superman, and with positive ideas of his own such as 
are usually to be found in those typical westerners of the old 
school, now fast disappearing. They used to tell a story of 
George that is so eloquent of his characteristics that we give it 
without comment. McCaulley had several teams at Flowing Well 
which he hired out, with drivers, to such persons as did not want 
to go by stage, and on one occasion a very pious couple came 
down from Los Angeles and engaged one of these teams and a 
wagon to take them to Cameron Lake. No extra driver was on 
hand and at their solicitation McCaulley himself agreed to go 
with them. On the way back a terrible wind storm blew up, one 
of those storms that in the unirrigated days literally engulfed 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



66 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

everything in clouds of impenetrable dust and the driver lost his 
way. After wandering about in the sand dunes until the horses 
were well nigh exhausted and the three passengers choking with 
thirst and the sand in their throats and nostrils the elderly woman 
clutched McCaulley's arm and said: 

"Mr. Driver, if you'll stop I shall get out beside the carriage 
and pray for deliverance." 

The old-timer was not very well posted on the efficacy of 
prayer, but he drove the team into the lee of a particularly large 
sand hill and stopped obligingly. The elderly woman clambered 
down, dropped on her knees and offered up a long and earnest 
prayer for divine guidance from the labyrinth in which they 
found themselves, then rose solemnly and climbed in again. 
McCaulley sat a minute without moving and suddenly the wind 
began to die away, the clouds of dust passed and once more the 
passengers could see the heads of the horses. As the driver 
started the good woman leaned over and said: 

'*Sir, what do you think of that?'' 

McCaulley was at a loss for an answer and, taking advantage 
of the calm turned his team toward what he thought was the 
road, rounding the corner of the sand hill just in time to meet — 
full in the face — a wind renewed by ten times in strength and 
ferocity. The rig was almost upset, the elderly lady's bonnet 
was swept away and eyes, ears and mouths were filled with the 
dust that blew in thick sheets. George spat out a mouthful of 
desert sand, pulled his handkerchief closer around his neck and 
stopped the team. With a most lugubrious face he turned to 
the pious old lady and in all seriousness shouted to her with an 
oath above the roar of the storm: 

"Pardon me, madam, but what do YOU think of THAT?" 

P. J. Storms, of Silsbee, was one of the first permanent resi- 
dents to reach the Valley. Mr. Storms tells an interesting story 
of the first fall elections in 1900 and his letter to the editors is 
given here. He says: "I arrived here on the desert August 1, 
1900. The annual overflow from the Colorado had just sub- 
sided and there were thousands of heads of cattle and horses graz- 
ing on the thousands of acres of grass that had been brought up 
by the overflow. Among the men who had stock grazing in the 
Valley then were Andy Elliott, Tom McKane, Frank Webb, Nat 
Millard, Bruce Casebier, Bob McKane, Wash Lawrence, Arthur 
Ewens, Thomas Silsbee and Charles Hook .... In the 



Digitized by 



Google 




Digitized by 



Google 



68 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

fall of 1900 the only voting precinct was that of Blue Lake with 
ten voters on the rolls: A. J. Elliott, Arthur Ewens, Fred Hall, 
William Huitt, W. Wilkins, Thomas Silsbee, A. N. Jones, William 
Harris, Peter Larsen and myself. As this was a part of San 
Diego county at that time and we were so far from the county seat, 
40 miles by stage and thence almost 300 miles by rail , our elec- 
tion supplies, ballot box, and so forth, did not arrive for several 
days after election day. Imagine the disappointment, as we were 
all anxious to vote straight for James A. Jasper for supervisor. 
Luckily he was elected without our assistance.'' 

The picture of those ten patriots, torn by their anxiety to 
aid their candidate, left high and dry by the failure of their mail 
service is one to conjure with. 

Truly these days were of the pioneers! Probably not more 
than a score of persons spent the summer of 1900 or any con- 
siderable part of it in the Valley, and these were mostly workers 
employed in the preliminary details of organization. At this 
time the only water to be had for household and drinking pur- 
poses in that part of the desert which we must, from this time 
forward, refer to as the Imperial Valley, since it had been christ- 
ened ere this, was in the lakes filled in May and June by the over- 
flow of the Colorado into those sloughs and channels drained to 
the north by New River and Salton, or Alamo rivers. The 
southernmost of these lakes was Cameron, a short distance west of 
the present site of Calexico, Blue Lake, where Silsbee now stands, 
and Pelican, Bull-head, Swimming Hole, Badger, Diamond and 
Long lakes west of New River. There were also several water 
holes along the courses of the two rivers that were filled when 
water was in the rivers and that remained full for varying lengths 
of time thereafter. It was from one of these water holes that the 
town of Imperial drew its water for several months after organ- 
ization and from another, eight miles east in the Alamo channel, 
that a number of ranchers around McKim's provided themselves. 

The demand for a point of supply for the large numbers of 
persons who began to come in to look for land in the fall of 1900 
made it necessary for the Imperial Land Company to stake out 
townsites and this they did in October, locating the present towns 
of Imperial, Brawley, Calexico, Heber and Silsbee. 

Imperial was located in the geographical center of the irri- 
gated area and was designed to be the chief town of the valley. 
Brawley was to the north, Heber to the south, Calexico on the 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 69 

international line and Silsbee to the southwest. All were finely 
situated to develop trade, and later to these towns there was 
added Holtville and El Centre. 

The first general merchandise store in Imperial was erected 
and stocked by Dr. W. T. Hefferman, late in 1900, a tent hotel was 
built and opened by Millard F. Hudson, the Christian Church was 
built early next year and a printing office followed. These were 
the only structures of wood in the valley until the fall of 1901. 

With a point of entry established at Flowing Well, where a 
hotel was maintained, and a point of supply at Imperial, the in- 
flux of persons seeking land was largely increased and the Im- 
perial Land Company did a flourishing business. W. F. Holt, 
who had been in the banking business in Arizona, whose work in 
the Valley is described in another place, constructed a telephone 
line connecting Imperial and the telegraph station at Flowing 
Well, and several new industries were established in Imperial. 
Meantime work on the canal system, begun in early fall, was going 
forward as rapidly as possible with the limited funds available 
and hundreds of acres of land were being taken up every month. 

The vital part played by women in the making of this Valley 
really deserves a volume by itself. Let it be understood that the 
hardships described, the struggles recounted and the achieve- 
ments recorded throughout this history concern a heroic and noble 
band of women even more than that larger army of men, some of 
whom are named in these pages. Being less fitted for pioneering 
their work has been the more remarkable and to the end of his- 
tory it will be a matter of congratulation to the district that, 
from the first, its daily life was moulded and blessed by the com- 
pany of devoted wives, mothers, sisters and sweethearts who 
stood shoulder to shoulder with the men. Without them the 
reclamation of the Colorado desert might have been possible, but 
it would not have been a fact. 

In a graceful and charming paper read before an assemblage 
of club w^omen in Imperial in April, 1910, Mrs. Leroy Holt, a real 
pioneer, told something of the life of the early days. So val- 
uable is her contribution to the history of the Valley that a con- 
densation of that paper is given. Mr. Holt, now president of 
several banks in the district, came to the town of Imperial in the 
early part of 1901 and Mrs. Holt determined to visit him there. 
On June 28th of that year, with a baby in her arms, she arrived 
at the Southern Pacific station of Flowing Well prepared to enter 



Digitized by 



Google 







Digitized by 



Google 



IMERIAL ALLEY, CALIFORNIA 71 

the Valley. She tells of the experience thus: '^We started from 
Flowing Well, six passengers in a stage coach — not the Concord 
coach, but an ordinary wagon, with canvas cover. The driver's 
seat w^as elevated to about ten feet in the air and was shaded by a 
huge umbrella. The owner of the coach suggested that it would 
be better for me to ride on the seat with the driver. I did so and 
found 1 suffered less with the dust than those inside. I was the 
only woman passenger and accompanied by a baby — hence the 
seat of honor. When we reached the Salton we found there 
barrels of water left by the freighters. They had to carry water 
for the horses, as there was not a drop otherwise on the entire 
route between the station and Imperial. There was a lone mes- 
quite tree called *The Fifteen Mile Tree' (because it stood at 
about that distance up the Valley from the railroad) and here 
the sack of mail was hung up for the Bothwell camp on the East- 
side, and I never heard of Uncle Sam being robbed. It was an 
all-day trip and the poor horses seemed almost exhausted by 
three o'clock, and we did not reach Imperial until after five 
o'clock . . . There were only two men in sight — my hus- 
band and Henry Reid, the editor of the Imperial Press, the first 
newspaper in the Imperial Valley. The inscription at the top of 
the paper read: * Water is King: Here Is Its Kingdom' . . . 
My next visit to Imperial was September of the same year . . . 
This time I came to stay and am still staying. There was only a 
canvas hotel, the printing office building, the church, one store- 
room and a little building 10x12 used as an office room by the 
Imperial Land Company. . . The Chinaman at the hotel 
was the monarch of all he surveyed. There was no landlady to 
keep me company and the only woman I saw at the hotel came 
in on the stage to take up land and immediately went away. 
Mrs. Reid, her mother Mrs. Frost, and I were the only women in 
Imperial and for miles around . . . We did not have tele- 
graph communication in the early days and in company with 
others I have stood beside the track at Old Beach and waited 
expectantly every minute for the train from 4:30 in the morning 
until 4 in the afternoon. Imperial Junction of today holds no 
terrors for me . . . We commenced housekeeping this time 
in a tent house. It was a novel experience . . . The winds 
blew sometimes for days without ceasing, and the sand storms 
were blinding at times. We occasionally had to go hungry and 
wear our coats all day to keep warm. Our stove pipe would 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



72 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

blow away and a neighbor would get on our pony and run it down 
and bring it back. The canal traversed the town from southwest 
to northeast and anything that blew into the canal was gone; so 
we always made a run for the stove pipe. I remember one Sun- 
day when we did not have breakfast, luncheon or dinner. The 
dust was so thick that we could not eat in the tent-house. At 
half past eight the wind ceased its fury and we took our canned 
food and went to the house of our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. L. C. 
Vickrey. They boasted the only frame residence in town and 
there we ate for all day. I had kept the children in bed fully- 
dressed so if the tent-house should blow down they would be 
properly clothed. I kept my coat and bonnet on all day. Why 
did we stay? We loved the days that were not windy and dusty; 
we loved the bigness of our surroundings. We never felt hemmed 
in; we never felt lonely or homesick. I remember very well the 
first night I sleptout of doors. The stars appeared so near it 
seemed to me I could almost reach up and pluck them from the 
sky . . . We had the blessed privilege of helping with the 
first church service ever held in Imperial church. Rev. John C. 
Hay was the pastor. The congregation numbered six persons: 
W. F. Holt and my husband, two strangers, and a lady from Red- 
lands and myself. The Sunday School had three scholars that 
morning — Jessie and Jim (Holt) and my little niece Katherine 
Holt, of Redlands. She was visiting the children for a few days 
and stayed over to attend Sunday School that morning . . . 
In the evening the Chinaman (cook at the hotel ) again came to 
the front. He came over to church that night and I never shall 
forget how Charlie sang *Onwald Chlistian Sojers.' Jessie and 
Jim (Holt ) were the first children to live in Imperial, and Ruth 
Reid was the first baby born here." 

Here is a brief recital of scattered incidents, and yet how 
eloquent it is of the hardships of those early days, especially for 
women and children! Today it is hard to realize what they went 
through; it remains for us to know that they did it all uncom- 
plainingly, hardily and to the great good of the community at 
large. 

One more interesting sketch of those days is at hand. It 
comes from Mr. Reid who is referred to above as the first editor 
in the Valley. He was editor of the Press from May until October, 
1901, when he was succeeded by Edgar F. Howe and part of his 
communication follows: **If you will remove from the townsite 



Digitized by 



Google 




Digitized by 



Google 



74 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

of Imperial every conceivable building which you now boast, then 
place upon the site now occupied by the Imperial Land Company 
block (formerly that of the Citizens Bank ) a tent rooming house; 
. . . place upon the present site of the Hotel Imperial two 
large rooms also built of canvas, which served as a kitchen and 
dining room; upon the site now occupied by the New York store 
a small frame structure which was occupied by Dr. Hefferman 
with a stock of everj'thing that people would be likely to demand 
in the way of canned provisions and kindred wares; and upon the 
block bounded by Eighth and Ninth streets and by J and K avenues 
place a corral and feed yard, constructed of rough posts and cov- 
ered with brush and you will have a very accurate picture of the 
city of Imperial when we first saw it in the early part of March, 
1901. Material was on the ground for the erection of the home 
of the Imperial Press, together with living apartments for the 
editor and his family and through the untiring efforts of a jolly 
good bunch of * mechanics' led by W. F. Holt the Press building 
was very soon a reality. Leroy Holt, president of the First 
National Bank of Imperial, was also active in the construction of 
this building. In fact it was he who nailed the larger portion of 
the shakes upon the roof. The foundation and floor being in 
place, the printing machinery was set up and the walls and roof 
were built around while the first eclition of the Imperial Press was 
put into type and made ready for its debut . . . Our neigh- 
bors were very few indeed during the first summer. The fixed 
population of the desert city was made up of less than a dozen 
souls including Leroy Holt, A. W. Patton, H. C. Reid, Mrs. Reid 
and her mother, and Chinese Charley (Charley Nun ) who was host 
at the hotel . . . There were many who divided their time 
betw^een the Valley and their homes on the outside, including 
W. F. Holt, F. C. Paulin, H. C. Oakley, I. W. Gleason, Frank 
Chaplin, J. B. Parazette and others who later joined the pioneers. 
We also had frequent visits from T. P. Banta, the Van Horn 
brothers, Mr. Gillette, and others who were located farther south.'* 
One of the most picturesque characters of those early days 
was the freighter with his long string-team of mules who carried 
in to the settlement everything the people used. The growth 
of the use of automobiles and traction engines is fast displacing 
this character throughout the country and it will probably never 
again be the case that a great prospective farming district w^ill be 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 75 

served, even for a short time, by this slow, picturesque and out- 
of-fashion means of transportation. 

Preliminary work, looking to the sowing of seed under the 
irrigationsystem was not done to any extent until late in the spring 
of 1901 because it was then impossible to say just when water 
would be delivered by the California Development Company. 
The latter was successful, about June of that year, in bringing a 
small stream of water to a temporary head ditch near the boun- 
dary line and great was the excitement and enthusiasm in both 
the settlement at Blue Lake (from which, before this, the head- 
quarters of the Development Company had been removed to Im- 
perial, ) and at Imperial. In fact such was the glee at this im- 
portant event that Henry C. Reed, the new editor of the first 
newspaper in the Imperial Valley, which had been launched a 
few weeks previously, plunged into the subject editorially under 
a scare-head, ending his panygeric with these words: ''Imagine 
how pleasing to the eye the green fields surrounded by a barren 
waste will be to the eye.'* 

With this water, which was to have such a redundantly sat- 
isfactory effect on the eye, several crops of sorghum, milo maize, 
wheat and barley were irrigated that summer about Cameron 
and Blue lakes, and that same summer T. P. Banta experimented 
with cantaloupes with marvelous results, while the California De- 
velopment Company drilled in a few rows of Eg\7)tian cotton 
seed at the request of the government, to be rewarded with a 
showing that caused the government bureau some doubt that its 
oflScials were in their right minds. Wherever water could be 
gotten on to the land vegetable life resulted of such luxuriant 
growth, heavy bearing and excellent quality as to surpass the 
hopes, even, of the promoters of the enterprise, and hundreds came 
to see with their own eyes that which had been told them. 

In May a postoffice was established at Imperial with Dr. 
Hefferman as postmaster; in August Prof. J. E. Carr arrived froni 
Nevada City to take the first public school in the district. These 
two facts speak eloquently of the sort of progress made up to that 
time by the settlements. Prof. Carr's school was built probably 
more quickly than any of its capacity in the history of this coun- 
try, perhaps of the world. It was decided to place it in the cen- 
ter of population which at that time was about ten miles south of 
Imperial and the spot chosen was on the bank of the main canal, 
just south of where Heber stands today. The night before 



Digitized by 



Google 



76 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



school was to be opened, or September 8th, Prof. Carr and two 
others drove to the appointed spot, and erected a tent. Ad- 
joining it, in probably an hour, they built the school house — an 
arrow- weed ram ad a supported by eight poles. In this rude 
shelter 50 pupils the next day enrolled, many of them walking 
four or five miles and continuing to do this throughout the school 
year. It was not until the next spring that the district was di- 
vided in two and frame buildings erected. 

The great heat of summer time was past and with October 
came increasing population. Water was promised w-ithin a few 
wefeks then and great plans Were being made for extensive plant- 
ing of crops. In the previous spring the Imperial Land Company 
had arranged an excursion for the entertainment of the Southern 
California Editorial Association, and in April a party of news- 



• 


- 








j{ 


S^U«S^Sf^iS 




1 


i 


M*^' 


^^ 


^r^ ^ 


v^.i.wr-'^^— ^' ««- 


^ H — > >, t mA 


«r 



Such was the Irrigation System as it Came From the Builders 

papermen, mainly the editors of country papers, journeyed 
through the district by stage. The publicity they gave the work 
of development here had a great deal to do with the increase in 
immigration throughout the whole year and their visit was made 
so pleasant and profitable that for years thereafter many of those 
newspapermen remained staunch and loyal friends of the pro- 
ject^ — many of them in times when it needed friends. 

By the first of December, 1901, some 78,000 acres of land had 
been filed ot^Tn the Los Angeles Land Office, 30,000 of which had 
been covered with water stock. Of this amount of land work 
looking to actual reclamation was being done on probably 8,000, 
while formal proof work was begun on more than half of it. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 77 

Water was available for use of several hundred acres in the south- 
ern end of the Valley and land holders elsewhere in Number One 
water company district were advised that the system would be 
completed for their use early in 1902, so that many turned in 
that winter to prepare the ground. Bountiful yields where 
planting had been done, luxuriant growth of practically every 
vegetable, plant, fruit, tree and grain known to man, and aston- 
ishing fertility throughout the proven area, caused the greatest 
enthusiasm and the highest hopes. In the spring of 1902 there 
seemed no cloud on the horizon of the settlers in this new dis- 
trict and very few (so far as the public knew) on that of the 
long-tried and unhappy Development Company. 

It was about this time that the government announced the 
early issuance of a pamphlet containing a report of the findings 
of a soil expert in an investigation of the soils of the Valley. This 
report was eagerly awaited by settlers and prospective settlers, 
because it was believed that it would cast a great deal of light 
on the question of how extensive were the reported alkaline de- 
posits throughout the district. 

The famous *" Circular No. 9'' came like a prostrating blow. 
Among other showings — many of them so complicated and tech- 
nical as to be unintelligible to the ordinary reader — there stood 
out several bald and unverified statements, of which the follow- 
ing are samples: 

(P. 13) "The soil analyses show five grades of soil as to 
alkali content: 



Grade of soil 



From to 0.2 per cent... 
From 0.2 to 0.4 per cent.. 
From 0.4 to 0.6 per cent. 
From 0.6 to 1 per cent... 
Over 1 per cent 



Acres 


Per cent 
of the 
area 


42,220 
26.320 
23,040 
5.220 
12,300 


39.1 
23.4 
21.3 
4.8 
11.4 



*' These grades represent the average for the surface 6 feet, 
tests having been made for each foot in depth and the arith- 
metical mean taken. The to 0.2 per cent grade is soil that is 
practically free from alkali. No crops but the most sensitive 
would be injured by this percentage. Almost all -^ommon crops 
will withstand from 0.2 per .cent to 0.4 per ceBecK? Alfalfa will 
barely grow in the 0.4 to 0.6 per cent soil, even when well matured. 
If once a stand is secured it will struggle along. Barley will pro- 

* " U. S. Dept. of Agriculture — Bureau of Soils, Circular No. 9," (1902). 



Digitized by 



Google 



78 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



duce a crop, though not first class. All land that contains more 
than 0.6 per cent of alkali must be handled very carefully to pro- 
duce any kind of crops except the most alkali resistant. Careful 
and proper methods of cultivation may result in washing enough 
of the surface 2 or 3 feet into the sub-soil so that shallow-rooted 
crops, such as annuals, can be grown. But until this surface 
reclamation takes place only such crops as sorghum, date palms, 
and sugar beets can be grown. On all the soils that contain 
more than 1 per cent of alkali date palms and saltbushes are the 
only crops that will thrive.^' 

(P. 14) ''Aside from the alkali, which renders part of the 
soil practically worthless, some of the land is so rough from 
gullies or sand dunes that the expense of leveHng it is greater 
than warranted by its value. In the 108,000 acres surveyed, 
29,840 acres, or 27.7 per cent, are sand dunes and rough land. 
Of the total area level enough to permit profitable cultivation, 17 
per cent contains less than 0.20 per cent of alkali and 32 per cent 
contains from 0.20 per cent to 0.40 per cent. The remainder of 
the level land, or 51 per cent, contains too much alkali to be safe, 
except for resistant crops. '^ 

(P. 16) ''One hundred and twenty-five thousand acres of 
land have already been taken up by prospective settlers, many of 
whom talk of planting crops 
which it will be absolutely im- 
possible to grow. They must 
early find that it is useless to 
attempt their growth. On the 
bad alkali lands they should 
try to grow only crops suited 
to such lands. Test plots 
will be of very little value 
except for the year in which 

they are made. The land ^he Making of Brick Began Early 

may produce a crop for a year, or even two years, and then, 
having become thoroughly saturated, the alkali will rise and kill 
the crops. For the worst lands the best thing to do will be to 
immediately abandon them." 

( P. 17) * 'The claims for the fertility of this country are based 
upon the experience gained from irrigation along the Colorado 
River below Yuma. An examination of the country reveals the 
fact that the conditions below Yuma are very different from those 




Digitized by 



Google 




< 
•3 



'e 

O 

a 



08 



O 

O 



Digitized by 



Google 



80 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

in the Imperial area, and the agriculture of the two areas is not 
comparable. The soils of the bottom lands below Yuma are 
lighter in texture, more pervious to water, contain less alkali, 
and are, many of them, well adapted to alfalfa." 

The wide-spread circulation of this report had a far more 
dire effect in the spring and summer of 1902 than might at first 
be supposed possible. Not only did it frighten away prospective 
settlers and discourage many already in the district, but it under- 
mined the stability of the California Development Company very 
materially and caused financial men to look askance at the offer- 
ings of that corporation. The public at large were led to con- 
clude from their reading that the project in the Imperial Valley 
was hopelessly doomed and hundreds of newspapers seized on 
the opportunity to make a "story." 

Luckily not all editors were entirely convinced by this blight- 
ing report. 

Isaac J. Frazier, in the Oceanside " Blade," under the caption 
'* Alka-lie Report" wagged a merry finger at the episode thus: 

**The exaggerated report regarding alkali at Imperial calls 
to mind the Los Nietos farmer who, when interrogated regarding 
certain white spots on his productive acres, answered, *Yes, it 
looks like alkali, and tastes like alkali; in fact, is alkali, but on 
land that has raised a large family, lifted a big mortgage, and paid 
the taxes, it's only frosting on the pound cake of plenty.' 

'*Your scribe is no alkali expert, but he has served an ap- 
prenticeship prying pumpkins off * alkali spots' in the aforesaid 
Los Nietos; he has also seen five tons of sorghum raised to the acre 
at Imperial, and pig-weed as big as a government expert's imagin- 
ation; he played the role of Doubting Thomas in 1873 when River- 
side colony was a^quien sabe' question; and although it hampered 
the colony some we must admit that Riverside has survived." 

Many like the "Blade" refused to be quite convinced. The 
tilling of the soil continued, work on the water system was pushed 
as rapidly as possible and every effort was made by the promoters 
of the enterprise to keep it moving forward. As far as the settlers 
knew the soil report, was the only rock of stumbling and their 
faith in the promises of an early delivery of water was undisturbed. 
To those already located there was no cause for alarm and their 
industry never flagged. As a result the commercial prosperity 
of Imperial increased, Calexico was organized as a point of supply, 
railroads to San Diego and Flowing Wells were talked of as im- 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



81 



minent certainties, and by their very confidence the settlers 
themselves became a strong advertisement to the outside world 
of the security of the enterprise. 

Years later, Thomas Means, chief of the bureau of soils, 
visited Egypt, saw the same soil conditions as in Imperial Valley 
and coyly remarked that American soil experts would be obliged 
to correct their theories. 

But there was a storm brewing. A. H. Heber had returned 
to the company and taken the place at the head of the Imperial 
Land Company made by the resignation of S. W. Ferguson. 

Since the construction of the canals had been making great 
headway colonists had been pouring into the Valley and a large 
amount of water stock had been issued, part being paid for with 
scrip and another part being purchased with small cash pay- 
ment and the remainder in notes covering a series of years. 
In solving the financial problems it had become the practice 
of the company to dispose of securities at 50 cents on the dollar 
where possible, though the Los Angeles bankers would not 
touch them at any price. Some of the securities were sold 
for 50 cents on the dollar long after the Chaffeys retired. To 




Town Lot Auctions Held Forth for a Brief Time 



Digitized by 



Google 



82 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



facilitate the disposal of these securities, the Delta Investment 
Company was organized, all the prominent stockholders of the 
California Development Company being parties to the organ- 
ization. This new organization took over a large amount of 
securities at the prevailing discount. 

There had been growing up a feeling of antagonism between 
the original stockholders and Messrs. Chaff ey, the latter feel- 
ing that they had given to the property all the value it possessed 
and that other stockholders were not rendering the assistance 




The Lonely Irrigator is at Times Suggestive of the Famous Picture of the Angelas 



in financing the enterprise that was desirable. This difference 
led up to the payment to Messrs. Chaffey of $300,000 for their 
interest, whereupon they retired from the company. Mr. 
Chaffey^s sole compensation, other than salary, consisted of 
one-quarter of the capital stock of the California Development 
Company, and he therefore not only p;ave full value to the land 
scrip, which had been sold for 10 cents on the dollar, but for 
every dollar he made for himself he made three dollars for the 
other stockholders of the company. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 83 



CHAPTER VII 



THE VALLEY 

It can scarcely be said of the Imperial Valley at the middle 
of the summer of 1902 that it was longer a desert. Water was in 
the ditches, seeds were in the ground, green was becoming abund- 
ant, and the whole area was dotted with the homes of hopeful, 
industrious, devoted persons. The days of beginnings were past 
and so it may be timely to leave them toiling there at their task 
of reclamation and visit the district to see what manner of place 
it is. It is to be hoped that not all who scan these pages are 
residents of the Valley, or indeed have even been there: we could 
desire for this history a larger circulation in time to come. There- 
fore, for a few pages, we will look into the district as persons 
might who had come a long way to see it and beheld it here for 
the first time. 

Face the north and hold your left hand before you, palm up- 
permost, and slightly cupped. If your fingers and thumb are 
held together as you sit so you will have before you a very fair 
relief map of the Imperial Valley. The fingers will represent 
the Chuckawalla, or Chocolate range of mountains fringing the 
desert on the north and northeast, your thumb will represent the 
Coast range and the Santa Rosa mountains, with San Jacinto, 
San Bernardino and San Gorgonio (Old Greyback ) about at the 
end of your thumb. Then the very palm of your hand is the Im- 
perial Valley with the Salton Sea of the present day on the 
** mount" at the base of the first finger. If the lines of your hand 
are marked perhaps you can imagine that one known to palmists 
as the "life*' line is the course of New River. The Alamo channel 
runs in a generally northwesterly direction, starting at the south- 
east corner. 

As the palm of the hand, so are the general slopes of the Val- 
ley. With a great river flowing near at an altitude 50 feet above 
sea level where the floor of the Valley ranges in altitude from sea 
level down to 150 feet below it is easy to see the possibilities for 



Digitized by 



Google 



84 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

irrigation the early engineers saw. A railroad line crossed the 
desert, practically bounding the Valley on the northeast with 
its rails, and a ready market for all produce was thus assured. 
Although little was known at first of the absolute fertility of the 
soil the earliest comers were impressed with this; and the com- 
bination of desert heat, water-carrying land-enriching silt, and a 
soil of depth and quality worked themselves out to a conclusion 
almost mathematically certain. 

As early as January, 1901, William E. Smythe, a writer who 
had for years made a close study of irrigation and irrigation pro- 
jects, was quoted in the Los Angeles Times Magazine as saying: 
"Here we shall see small farms, very likely the smallest farms in 
the course of time, anywhere in the United States; since soil and 
climate are both favorable to this result. We shall see a won- 
derful diversity of production." In the same year, in Sunset 
Magazine he said: *^ Doubtless settlement will begin here on com- 
paratively large areas, but it must tend inevitably and swiftly 
to the very smallest farm units on the American continent." 

Clarence A. Shamel, associate editor of the Orange Judd 
Farmer, visiting Imperial Valley in 1903 said: ''Farming lands 
in Illinois are selling as high as $125 an acre, and on the basis of 
productive value I would not be surprised to see the Imperial 
lands selling for from $500 to $600 in the course of . . . ten 
years." 

Climate is a word much abused. It is frequently employed 
to describe all that is disagreeable in weather conditions when, as 
a matter of fact, climate relates to all those various phenomena 
which affect sensibly the tone and habits of the body. If climate 
means dust storms, extreme heat, a high percentage of humidity, 
sudden and violent rains, and biting cold, and these alone, then 
the climate of the Imperial Valley is such, as the ignorant and 
uninformed even now sometimes insist, that no human being 
can live in it. But since it does not there are grains of hope. 

Climate usually is governed in a large measure, according to 
human standards, by temperature and its close kinsman in the 
family of metereological phenomena — humidity. Let us see 
what they are in the Valley. 

It is obvious, first, that any region wholly surrounded by a 
belt of desert sand and then almost entirely by a ring of walling 
mountains, must be warm in the middle of summer time. Also 
the heat will be somewhat more intense in the lowest part of such 



Digitized by 



Google 




Digitized by 



taoogle 



86 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



a district than on higher ground, just as it will be colder in the 
winter time in the low places. Consequently there is a small 
variation in temperature between the towns — say of Calexico 
and Brawley, or the town of Heber and the railroad station of 
Bernice, much lower down. In order to obtain a fair mean the 
government observations have been carried on either at Imperial 
or Brawley. 

Below are given temperatures (average) for each month in 
1906 and 1909, in order to afford a fair basis for securing a mean: 



Month 


1906 


1909 


Maximum 


Minimum 


Mean 


Maximum 


Minimum 


Mean 


January. _ 


ojr 

96 

88 

103 

106 

107 

113 

116 

116 

110 

111 

98 

81 


24 
38 
36 
37 
60 
64 
62 
66 
66 
36 
28 
27 


op 

63.6 
62.4 
63.8 
69.2 
73.8 
83.2 
91.4 
91.6 
81.4 
73.6 
60.8 
63.6 


70.8 

71.2 

73.6 

86.2 

91.6 

103.1 

106.4 

102.3 

98.8 

90. 

76.6 

61.4 


op 

43. 

42.9 

46.5 

62.9 

67.2 

66.2 

72.3 

76.9 

67.6 

63.3 

43.6 

37.6 


56.9 


February . - 


57. 


March 


60. 


April 

May 


69.6 
74.4 


June. . _ 


84.6 


July 


89.4 


August 

September 

October 

November 

December . . 


89.6 

83.2 

71.6 

60. 

49.4 






Mean av. for year . 






71.6 






70.5 













Some persons believe it is very hot here on the hottest days 
of the year. Here are the oflScial records, showing the highest 
point reached in each month during the year of 1909, an average 
year: 



January 


80« 


April 


99' 


February 


84° 


May 


105' 


March 


82" 


June 


112« 



July 116° October 98° 

August 111° I November 93° 

September 106° , December 74° 



Highest: July 1, 116°. 

Others assert it is too cold for endurance in the winter time- 
Below are the facts — a table giving the official figure for the 
lowest temperature reached on the coldest day of each month 
through the same year: 



January 

February 

March 



33° 
32° 
35° 



April 
May 
June 



46° 
60° 
60° 



July 

August 

September 



61° 
72° 
56° 



October 46° 

November 34° 
December 24° 



Lowest: Dec. 19. 24°. 

The reader in or from St. Louis, Chicago or New York will 
look on the figures given in the second table above and shudder, for 
those high temperatures referred to, when they occur in those 
eastern cities, mean scores of fatalities and the most intense 
suffering. How can they be borne here with equanimity and re- 
ferred to with complacence? The answer is found in the defini- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 87 

tion of the term humidity and its application to Valley conditions. 
H. A. Jones, representative of the United States Department of 
Agriculture, who was stationed at a combined evaporation sta- 
tion and weather bureau in Brawley from 1908 to 1910, has made 
this point very clear for us. Humidity, says Observer Jones, is 
"the moisture contained in the air," but, as used with relation to 
weather conditions, is always a relative term and means the per 
cent of moisture in the air compared with what the atmosphere 
would hold if saturated. Suppose, he says, that there is a dense 
fog, with the temperature at 60°; the humidity is then in the 
neighborhood of 100%. But the sun comes up, raising the tem- 
perature to 80°, and materially increasing the capacity of the 
atmosphere to hold moisture; immediately the degree of relative 
humidity is lessened and we say it is 50% or thereabout. '*The 
humidity of the atmosphere exercises a strong control over our 
bodily sensations of the temperature of the air," he continues, 
and adds that that of the Imperial Valley is extremely low, and 
that therefore we do not suffer from the heat. Remembering 
these facts glance at this table of the relative humidity of the at- 
mosphere at its highest point in each month, for the twelve months 
of 1909: 



January 47 

February 40 

March 32 



April 18 I July 19 October 23 

May 15 , Augrust 37 | November 35 

June 14 I September 24 | December 44 



Average for year: 29%. 

A similar table prepared in one of the eastern cities above 
referred to or, for that matter, almost anywhere off the dry des- 
erts of the southwest, would show much higher readings, the tem- 
perature in the east in midsummer, of 90^ or thereabouts often 
being accompanied by a relative humidity of 65%. It is this 
heavy, or ''sultry" atmosphere that prostrates men and animals 
and that impedes all sorts of business often for weeks on end in 
the east and the Middle West. Comment on the table given above 
is not necessary if the reader will make his own comparisons with 
similar reports in any daily paper of weather conditions. 

Climate also depends on atmospheric changes and conditions 
due to storms and to rainfall. The latter averages less than 4 
inches annually, although many believe it is increasing in the 
Valley. Most of the rain comes in the early part of the year, al- 
though a slight fall is expected in August or September and 
showers in November and December. Concerning storms it may 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 




Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 89 

be said without fear of successful contradiction that no such thingr 
are known. Occasionally brief, hard winds blow from the west os 
southwest, carrying with them clouds of dust, but the cultiva- 
tion of increasingly large acreage will reduce the inconvenience 
caused by these winds to a minimum as time goes on. On rare 
days a sudden, quick storm of wind and rain, sometimes accom- 
panied by scattering showers of hailstones is experienced, but 
such an event has occurred but twice in the last three years of the 
first decade and is nothing but a relief from the monotony of eter- 
nal peace. To some persons there is one feature of the winds that 
is vexatious and that is the presence of a marked electrical in- 
fluence. This phenomena has been noted often and is worthy 
of study for the determination of its cause, which at present ap- 
pears to be a disputed point. 

We have, then, disposed of this climate of which so much is 
heard. The fact that, at the close of ten years, almost 20,000 
persons have come to make permanent homes in the Valley, very 
few of them spending more than a few weeks on the coast for a 
change and rest in the heat of summer, is eloquent of the true 
character of the climate. Whole volumes devoted to learned 
argument to the effect that metereological conditions are pleas- 
ant would speak with less effect. 

The Valley is an agricultural territory: on this it must stand 
or fall. Therefore, in connection with the climate, it may be 
profitable to take up at once the two other essentials to profitable 
farming — soil and the water. Of the former much has been writ- 
ten, some without knowledge of the facts, some with certain facts 
but no knowledge of practical conditions, some with both facts 
and practical demonstration but little appreciation of the im- 
portance of the matter. We will try to summarize what has been 
learned. 

In their ''Soil Report^' of 1902 the government students 
wrote that it was of five kinds, viz: dune sand, sand, sandy 
loam, loam and clay. They said that the first variety 
"is of a reddish brown color, rather rotten, and 
often mixed with particles of flocculated soil. When 
wet these particles break down, producing a sandy loam 
soil.'' This sand was blown into the desert from the old 
beaches on the west and northwest and, catching on one obstruc- 
tion and another — usually mesquite bushes, they gradually built 
themselves up into sand drifts, dunes or hummocks, and when 



Digitized by 



Google 



90 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

mixed with firmer soil, would, they said, form a good afable 
combination. The Imperial sand the experts reported was the 
same as the dune sand save that it was already spread out and 
more or less mixed with other soil. They recommended it highly. 
Of the sandy loam they said: *'It is formed by the coarsest sedi- 
ment of the Colorado river deposit, mixed with a little wind 
blown sand.'' They believed, also, in this mixture. The Im- 
perial loam, they averred " is the direct sediment of the Colorado 
river which has been deposited in strata when the area was under 
water. ... It is from 4 to 6 feet deep, underlaid by a clay 
or clay loam, and contains considerable organic matter, including 
an abundance of nitrogen and potash." They wrote that this 
soil would grow barley wheat and alfalfa. Of the last class they 
said: '*The Imperial clay as soil or subsoil is found throughout 
the entire area . . . This soil has been formed by the deposi- 
tion of the finest sediment of the Colorado river and is . . . 
a heavy, sticky, plastic soil, very much resembling the clay sub- 
soil found in the Mississippi river delta." 

These classifications are probably more or less accurate. The 
soil report, as has been stated in a previous chapter, worked in- 
finite harm to the Valley at the time because of its reiterated as- 
sertion that there was so much alkali in the soil that very few spots 
would prove amenable to profitable cultivation. That this was 
almost wholly untrue has been proven so often that the mere 
statement is sufficient here. Alkali has been developed in very 
few places: in those scattered and relatively small areas where 
it has always existed and where a struggle with it was anticipated 
from the first, surprising results have been obtained by patient 
and skillful efforts. Less than one per cent of all the land in this 
great basin has thus far been proven worthless for high cultiva- 
tion. On the other hand a large percentage has been found to be 
even better than the most sanguine had hoped and to be improv- 
ing year by year as cultivation is continued. Even the hard and 
slightly salty spots yield as vegetable matter is turned under, and 
in many places that not only the soil experts but skillful farmers 
characterized as worthless, luxuriant crops are being matured at 
the end of the decade. 

The irrigation of arid lands has proven a hard science to 
master. Although it has been going on for untold centuries each 
new addition to the irrigable territories of the world appears to 
present new problems to the husbandman; the search for a specific 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




George Chaffcy, Chief Builder of the Imperial IrriKation System / /^/-v/-«^Ti-> 

iigitized by VjOOvIC 



92 STORY OP THE FIRST DECADE 

formula expressing the relation between elements and results in 
irrigation continues. In this district there is no exception to be 
reported. The ranchers of the Imperial Valley have three con- 
ditions strongly in their favor: the generally uniform slope of the 
land and its excellent drainage, the fact that their sources of sup- 
ply yield most heavily at the season of the year when water is 
most needed, and the silt-impregnated character of the water sup- 
ply. In regard to the second feature it is to be added that, while 
the fountain heads of the Colorado are flowing most strongly 
during those periods in the summer when snows are melting in 
the Rocky Mountains, the Gila and Salt rivers are at flood during 
January and February, when the Colorado is low, early irrigation 
in the Valley is beginning, and there are falling throughout the 
water sheds of the two rivers named heavy and continuous show- 
ers of rain. Concerning the silt carried in the water, government 
experts working at the University of Arizona have determined 
that the Colorado at Yuma carries silt having a fertilizing value 
of $1.65 to each 3 acre-feet, allow^ing for a 50% loss in course of 
delivery to the land. This is a sound theoretical basis from which 
to figure but it must be remembered that at least part of this 
fertilizing value is off-set by expense of cleaning ditches and that 
in some cases fertilizing silt is not highly desirable in a field, 
especially where young and tender plants are seeking a foothold. 
In short, this quality in the water that revivifies the land each 
year in the course of irrigation, while undoubtedly of tremen- 
dous value taken the district through, cannot be figured as above 
and set down as net profit. 

Climate, soil, and water have been shown to be the substantial 
foundations on w^hich the agricultural hopes of the district are 
built. But one more factor is essential to productive value — 
a market; this implies the subsidiary requirement of transporta- 
tion facilities. For the past fifteen years the city of Los Angeles, 
200 miles distant from the Imperial Valley, has been consuming 
more than the territory immediately contiguous could supply. 
Within the last five years the demand has increased almost half, 
while the only large producing territory to be added to her sources 
of supply has been this Valley. The completion of the Panama 
canal means enormous increase in shipping and a resultant in- 
crease in demand for produce of every variety. In this year 1910 
the Secretary of Agriculture reported that population was in- 
creasing throughout the country faster than the production of 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 93 

marketable food-stufifs, and he added: "We must look to the 
West, especially the reclaimed West, to add sufficiently to our 
productive areas to care for the increased demand the next few 
years will see." 

To deliver produce the Valley has a railroad line with enor- 
mous capital and facilities, a road largely controlled, as far as its 
local policies are concerned, by men keenly alive to the possibil - 
ties of the Valley, and a road whose interests are inseparably 
connected with those of the Valley. Another road is 
promised as this book goes to press, but whether it will be 
a competitive line, with the advantages to the shipper that com- 
petition implies, is doubtful. Inter-urban service, at present 
limited to that furnished between Holtville and El Centro by 
W. F. Holt's line, promises to be extended early in the second 
decade, so that produce may be quickly and economically moved 
from field to retailer. 

To gain a useful conception of economic conditions in this 
Valley in the first decade one more item is important, viz: the cir- 
cumstances of living. With all early settlements it has suffered 
from high cost of living and many discomforts and deprivations, 
but these conditions are rapidly being ameliorated. In the first 
three years living expenses were very high because all supplies 
were taxed heavily for transportation overland by teams. At 
the close of the decade it may be generally said that living is no 
higher than in other country communities, for slightly increased 
rates on imports, necessitated by exorbitant freight charges, are 
compensated by the cheapness of dairy products, eggs and poul- 
try, honey, and a few vegetables. Conditions in these respects 
improve year by year. 

Water for domestic use and for drinking might be considered 
a serious problem in the midst of a desert watered by streams 
carrying marked alkaline deposits. As a matter of fact eight 
months in the year the water, after ordinary filtration, is sparkling 
and healthful. There are certain days in the other four months 
when floods, either in the upper reaches of the Gila or Salt rivers 
or in the Colorado, impregnate the water with silt, and when this 
condition obtains in the summer time satisfactory filtraticm is 
difficult. However, the water is never unhealthful, as far as can 
be learned from repeated tests and analyses; its principal fault 
being that it has a peculiar musty taste, especial!)^ when warm. 
A deep settling basin and a filter suffice to insure good water. 



Digitized by 



Google 



94 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

It has been necessary in the foregoing pages to ramble over 
a number of subjects, some of which bring the reader down to 
the close of the decade. These anachronisms, however, should 
not divert the mind from the purposes of the chapter — to show 
the economic and living conditions approximately as they were 
in the Valley in July, 1902, when the beginnings of settlement 
were over and the district had become a recognized factor in the 
scheme of things. At the close of our last historical chapter we 
found the towns of Calexico and Imperial well organized, settle- 
ment constantly on the increase and every condition on the sur- 
face looking to prosperity and peace. Underneath this, however, 
we found a condition of disorder and dissension that threatened 
the whole enterprise. The life of the Valley was then, as now, 
absolutely dependent on that narrow stream of water flowing 
from the Colorado to the distributing canals of the mutual water 
companies. Did any circumstance threaten the continuance 
of the even flow of this water, or the well-being of the corporation 
delivering it and extending canals and systems to enlarge the 
territory of its delivery, and the whole edifice tottered. 

Consequently the commercial progress of 1902 and 1903 was 
rapid. In the spring of the former year the "Imperial <k Gulf 
Railroad" was organized with A. H. Heber, W. F. Holt, J. H. 
Braly, F. C. Paulin, and others named as directors and with a 
plan for constructing a road to connect with the Southern Pacific 
at Old Beach. W. F. Holt undertook the work of grading for 
such a line, engaging George A. Carter as construction contractor. 
Holt being given water stock as a bonus for advancing the cash 




Rosetas Levee. Thrown Across the Alamo River 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 95 

required, by the California Development Company. It was freely 
stated in the offices of the Land Company that this grading was 
only a bluff to force the Southern Pacific to build into the valley, 
and in May, 1902, this ''bluff was called," for A. H. Heber was 
summoned to San Francisco by Julius Kruttschnitt, then general 
manager of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and an agreement was 
made to give the work then done to the Southern Pacific Company, 
the railroad to be completed to Calexico. This accomplished the 
Southern Pacific entered on the project, and on October 16, 1902, 
began work. The road was completed February 21, 1903, and 
although an event of primary importance to the settlers, com- 
menced operation without any flurry of excitement. 

The Valley's real ''boom" was witnessed in the spring and 
fall of 1903. In April of that year the total acreage in crop was 
about 25,000, of which 6,220 acres were in wheat, 14,423 in barley, 
750 in oats, 1,540 being prepared for corn, 573 in alfalfa and the 
remainder in grapes, fruit, garden stuff or melons. There would 
have been many acres more — in fact a large acreage was ready 
for crop that spring, but owing to the inability of the develop- 
ment corporations to raise money for extensions, the system, even 
with 700 miles of canals then built, or building, was wholly in- 
adequate to the demands put on it. There was another diffi- 
culty, but we must come to that. 

In the fall, by dint of scraping, borrowing and hypothecat- 
ing property the company had slightly enlarged the scope of its 
operations and water was turned into many new ditches so that 
in the winter of 1903 no less than 100,000 acres were cropped. 
The Valley was growing apace, the population at that time being 
in the neighborhood of 7,000, and although very little produce 
was being sold, the money brought in from outside for develop- 
ment work gave the trading posts and the country in general a 
prosperous look. The extension of the Southern Pacific branch 
line from Imperial to Calexico was completed in January, 1904, 
and Calexico which had been a thriving trade center became a 
bigger factor as the terminus of the railroad. 

Brawley and Silsbee, projected with Imperial and Calexico, 
were now reached by the canals and began to develop, and Holt- 
ville was staked out in this year and became a supply point for 
contiguous territory. Water companj' Number 4, in the fine 
land about Brawley, received its first water, and the systems in 
Numbers 5 and 7 were completed and cultivation begun exten- 



Digitized by 



Google 



96 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

sively in this year, although the water supply was somewhat un- 
dependable and progress in many sections was impeded as a re- 
sult. In order to encourage cultivation and to avoid complica- 
tions of book keeping, and particularly because most of the new 
settlers were poor men, no charge was made for water up to the 
middle of July, 1905, over and above the annual assessment on 
water stock, but even free water was not overly useful when it 
could not be had, as was the case in such portions of the Valley 
as were filed on in advance of the ditches. 

The town of Imperial grew rapidly, new business houses 
came in, residences of substantial sort were erected and a new 
hotel was opened June 19, 1904, with some ceremony, having 
been erected by the enterprising men of the Imperial Land Com- 
pany, of which F. C. Paulin was president. 

The impetus given the town by this company and by the en- 
terprising business men they drew to the town proved sufficient 
to carry it well through that weaning time which must come to 
all new towns in time, when the promotion company withdraws 
its support and the citizens are left to their own devices. 

But a cloud, no bigger than a man's hand, was rising on the 
eastern horizon of the Valley, a cloud none of the residents saw, 
and which, though it brooded over the Development Company 
night and day, appears never to have alarmed its oflScers nor to 
have distracted them from the dissensions again growing up in 
their midst. In the fall of 1902 it was thought that the headgate 
at Hanlon's, installed by George ChafTey during his regime, was 
not low enough to admit water when the river was ebbing; con- 
sequently the engineers dredged an opening around this gate such 
as is called by technical men a ** by-pass.'' Through this narrow 
channel it was possible to get sufficient water for the needs of the 
irrigators. The by-pass was closed in the spring before the ar- 
rival of the floods always anticipated in May and June and no 
harm was done, although it was apparent that such temporary 
expedients were dangerous and costly and that a permanent gate, 
large enough and deep enough to furnish the necessary water, was 
imperative. No money was forthcoming for this work. Plans 
that had been made for financing the company had been annulled 
because of the attack on the soil by the Department of Agriculture 
and because reclamation service officials then held that this valley 
had no right to use the water of the Colorado. 

But here is an illustration that shows on how slight affairs 



Digitized by 



Google 





Digitized by VjOOQIC 



98 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

big destinies turn. Long afterward the fact was discovered 
that the bed of the Chaffey gate was two feet lower than it had 
appeared. Sand boards two feet in width had been left in the 
gate, silt from the water settling against the boards and g'ving 
a false bottom to the gate. Had those boards been removed 
there would have been ample water, but they were hidden from 
view and the fault was not detected. 

The cutting of the by-pass was repeated in 1903 and again in 
1904. By the latter year, however, another cause for dismay 
arose to confront the engineers. The Imperial canal connecting 
the headgate at Hanlon's just north of the international boundary 
line, with the head of the old Alamo channel which was used to 
carry the water to Sharp's heading, ran for four miles almost 
parallel with the Colorado, through mud flats and having a very 
slight gradient. The result was that, in the course of those first 
four years so much silt accumulated in the canal that the diver- 




S njirli ^^lunvltifE the Laiitianipf^ l*.»ft M«-iir.'fi nn rh*- Hiffi+i 
liiji^J Ihf Lnite-i r^tatci on tbi' L*ft 

sion of much water from the Colorado was rendered impossible. 
It was found impracticable to dreilge out this silt in the fall of 
1904 in time to furnish water to the settlers, who by this time 
numbered 9,000, and whose crops covered probably 150,000 acres. 
There was but one alternative — to make an opening in the mud 
banks of the Colorado four miles below Hanlon heading, and in 
Mexican territory, connecting the river directly with the head of 
the old Alamo channel, or about there, and giving the river an op- 
portunity to flow directly, and with a good fall, into the feeder that 
supplied the Valley. The making of this cut was of monumental 
importance — it was the gathering of the cloud of trouble that 
blackened the years of 1905, 1906, and 1907 for the residents of 
the Valley. It was the beginning of the end of the California De- 
velopment Company, but not fifty persons in the Valley knew, 
or cared, that it was made — as it was — in October, 1904. 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 99 



CHAPTER VIII 



THE FLOOD 

In order clearly to impress the importance of the opening of 
" Intake Number 3" in October, 1904, in its relation to the history 
of the Imperial Valley it is necessary, even at the risk of being 
thought tautological, to call attention again to the physical con- 
ditions at the head of the Imperial canal. The Colorado river, 
it will be recalled, has been described as flowing along the very 
rim of the Valley — in a manner of speaking — and from 25 to 200 
feet above its floor. Had it been flowing through a channel worn 
in rock and had the cut been provided w^th suitable and adequate 
gates there would have been little danger. Instead the cut was 
made through 1600 feet of mud flats — the same formation as that 
in which the river meandered. The Colorado built those flats 
and for centuries had been changing its channel almost annually. 
Concerning the extreme delicacy of any work under such pre- 
existing conditions F. H. Newell, director of the Reclamation 
Service once said*: **If we go into this depression below sea 
level and interfere with natural conditions, or — as we say — * de- 
velop the country,' we are brought face to face with the great 
forces of the river and the uncertainty as to whether it will desire 
to continue in the channel in which we happen to have found it." 
To have made a cut — even temporarily and for the most urgent 
of reasons — without full preparation to confront the consequences, 
was poor engineering — desperately poor policy. 

No other man ever waged so desperate a battle for the 
rights of this Valley as did A. H. Heber. When the right to 
use the water of the river for irrigation was denied, Mr. Heber, 
who had influential friends in congress, caused to be presented 
to that body, early in the session of 1903-4, a bill making the 
simple and truthful declaration that the Colorado river is more 
useful for irrigation than for navigation. 

On March 21, 1904, a joint committee began a hearing of 

♦Smithsonian Report for 1907— p. 333. , V^^^^ I ^ 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 






C. R. Rockwood Had the Largest Possible Vision of the Valley's Buture i 

Digitized by CjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 101 

the question, Mr. Heber appearing in behalf of the bill and the 
reclamation service opposing it. The committee, accompanied 
by reclamation service officials, visited the scene briefly and later 
made an adverse report. 

It was during that hearing before the joint committee that 
Mr. Heber used the expression that if he was not granted the 
right to the use of the water, now become essential to thfe people 
of Imperial Valley, he would worship at another shrine and ap- 
peal to another government which would not stand in the way 
of reclamation. 

He was not slow in carrying out this plan after congress 
refused to recognize the rights of the people of Imperial Valley, 
for on June 10, 1904, he entered into contract with President 
Diaz for the development of the irrigation project on the basis 
of the use of one-half of the water in the canal, if so much was 
needed, being used on Mexican soil, and this contract was 
ratified by the Mexican Congress. 

Then Mr. Heber ordered the opening of the Mexican in- 
take. 

The cut was made in October, 1904. Engineer Rockwood 
was in command and on his shoulders has fallen much blame. 
He was justified in believing that high water would not 
occur in the Colorado before April or May of 1905, before which 
time he would have the gap closed. The intake was 50 feet wide 
at this time and 6 or 8 feet deep; the water in the river at that 
time was so low this was not deep enough and the dredger was sent 
through on three occasions to widen and deepen the channel so 
that water for irrigation could be had in the Valley. It was with 
difficulty that sufficient was secured throughout the months of 
November, December and January. 

Preparations were being made to close the gap when, on the 
afternoon of February 2, 1905, a telephone message from the 
heading conveyed to the California Development Company in 
Calexico the report that the first rise of a heavy flood had passed 
Yuma and was nearing the intakes. No damage was done — in 
fact the mouth of the intake was partially silted up. It was ap- 
parent, however, that a closure must be immediately attempted 
and material was being gathered, when, on the nineteenth of the 
same month, a second flood swept down. Eight days later a 
third rise occurred in the river, the cut was appreciably widened 
and the force of the current scoured the channel deeper. Sharp's 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



102 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



structure, the wooden gate near the international line and at the 
head of the canal system of the Valley, was standing the strain 
bravely; considerable water was breaking out of the canal above 
that point and flowing westward; but the danger of trouble was 
for the future, when, March 25, the first attempt at closing the 
break was made. The company's dredgers w^ere set to work pil- 
ing up ^ mud levee and teams were used to carry out material so 
that the closure might be expedited. This method had been em- 
ployed before and, under normal conditions, would undoubtedly 
succeed in this instance. 

Meantime another crisis had been reached in the internal 
affairs of the California Development Company where two fac- 
tions warred for supremacy. This internecine struggle is dealt 
with later: it must suffice here to say that it arose over a question 
of the expediency of seeking help from the Southern Pacific rail- 
road. The latter had agreed to loan the Development Company 
$200,000 on condition that the control of the corporation should be 
turned over pending the payment of the loan; but Rockw^ood 
and his friends and Heber and his following were unable to agree 
on many points connected with this transaction. There is no 
question but that this struggle so engrossed all concerned that the 
critical conditions at the heading were almost lost sight of. C. N. 
Perry, one of Rockwood's assistants at Calexico and a man whose 
technical ability and natural poise of judgment appear never to 
have been affected by the turmoil of dissension in the corporation, 
was one of the first to see the inevitable result of delay in effecting 




Even With Water the Desert ftt First Made One Homesick at Times 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 103 

a closure. On his own responsibility he went to the heading while 
Rockwood was in Los Angeles marshalling his forces for the an- 
nual meeting which was to be held in June, and arrived there 
just in time to see the mud dam at Intake No. 3 swept away by 
the fourth rise of the season. 

Perry was probably guilty of what, in the army, would have 
been termed insubordination, but it was a pardonable offense: 
he went to Los Angeles to protest. Temporarily, at least, the 
common danger was impressed on the factions there and a diligent 
inquiry into ways and mean was begun. A second attempt to 
close the crevasse by means of the mud dikes was started, but 
it was apparent this was a feeble expedient. Little argument 
on the point was needed, for on April 18 a warning cry was heard 
at the intake and teams and men withdrew from the dike just 
in time to see the mass of earth sucked into the channel and car- 
ried down toward the Imperial Valley by the fifth rise of the 
year! 

Perry's pleas thus received a forcible second. No money 
was available from the development company's treasury but the 
stockholders of Water company No. 1, aroused at last from a 
lethargy that seems inconceivable, raised a fund of $5,000 which 
they loaned to the former company to finance work and this was 
started under the supervision of Perry, with William Best 
as foreman in April, 1905. Perry planned to sink a large number 
of heavy brush mattresses across the cut from north to south, 
weaving them with wires and cables and pinning them to their 
places in the bed of the channel by means of piles. This work 
was advancing satisfactorily, in spite of the rising river (for it 
was now June and the melting snows of four states were filling the 
Colorado's channel ) when Rockwood returned from a victorious 
contest for supremacy at the annual meeting, and ordered the at- 
tempt abandoned. He gives as his reason the fact that all the 
surrounding country was under water and that success was 
practically impossible. There are engineers who believe the Perry 
mattresses might have proved a foundation on which to build a 
successful dam, as it was early then and the breach was not more 
than 500 feet wide. This is one of those many points in connec- 
tion with the fight with the river that will never be settled. 

The 3,000-foot jetty was the next plan broached. In the 
middle of the river's channel and opposite the break, which had 
been an intake, there was a long, low sand bar, partially covered 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



104 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

with weeds. This island divided the flow of the river, throwing 
a large part of the water toward the east (or Arizona ) shore and 
Rockwood conceived that a jetty of brush and piling connecting 
the northern point of this island with the mainland on the Mexi- 
can side would have to withstand little pressure but would, when 
completed, throw all the water of the river toward the east chan- 
nel. In order to reduce the strain he planned to make the jetty 
very long, more than 3,000 feet, in fact, so that the structure 
would form rather a bank than a dam. He started work on this 
plan at once with Thomas Hind in charge, and succeeded in con- 
structing all but about 100 feet of the jetty. But that was all. 
'*It was a simple matter," says Newell in the publication quoted 
above, "to bring the work of closure or diversion to a point where 
it seemed as though the river could be quickly turned, but the 
constriction of the channel due to any structure resulted in in- 
creasing the speed of the water and in adding to its consequent 
erosive force to an extent such that in a few hours enormous gaps 
were created." In the case of the Hind jetty the last few feet 
were filled with a torrent of water such that work in it was simply 
impossible and on August 3 it was abandoned. 

How that demoniacal river laughed as it tore with resistless 
fingers at the twigs laid across its path! How it roared with crazy 
wrath at this temporary check, how its increasing waters swirled 
and cut and eddied deeper and deeper into the soft mud wall be- 
tween it and the men who would curb it! It sucked the piles 
from their beds and hurled them to the shore, it flooded the is- 
land, it lapped the base of the government levies on the Arizona 
banks, it ran its own riotous course, defying the engineers who 
watched it gloomily from the bank, and at last, on the ninth of 
August, 1905, with a roar of crumbling earth, the whole great 
Colorado river turned from its bed and began flowing resistlessly 
to the Valley, toward that old Lake Cahuilla from which for ages 
it had been shut. 

The annual meeting of the California Development Company 
in June, 1905, had resulted in the entrance of a new factor in its 
affairs, the Southern Pacific Railroad. Rockwood and his friends 
in the company overcame Heber's forces and turned the control 
to the railroad corporation. Epes Randolph, a trusted lieutenant 
of E. H. Harriman, was made president of the company and gen- 
eral manager of its affairs, with Rockwood as his assistant and 
three Southern Pacific employees as members of the board of di- 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



105 



rectors. Randolph was particularly interested, for his corpora- 
tion, in turning the course of the river, for by this time it was 
eating its way up to the roadbed of the Southern Pacific along the 
shores of the Salton Sea. Some feasible plan was insisted upon 
and Rockwood came forward with his gate plan, first crystallized 
August 5, 1905. 

The original plan of the so-called Rockwood gate was simple. 
The engineer proposed going a few rods southwest of the crevasse 





1 


« 


'T*^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^H'" 
^^^M 


1 




!•«# 




^«n'^ 


I 




■^i^^M 








-2'^ 


n 1 =^^^^ 


►jdigj 


Srt\' 




-•H. 1^ 





Even a Box Car Depot was Welcomed With Joy When the Railroad waa Built 

in the river bank and there excavating a basin in which he would 
build a headgate, capable of carrying some 10,000 second-feet of 
water. When this gate was finished he would open her sluices, 
dredge a channel connecting her delivery side with the Imperial 
canal, and another connecting her intake side with the channel 
cut by the runaway river, and finally turn all the water of the 
latter through the gate. When these flood waters were pouring 
through his gate he would dam the then dry channel which had 
been cut by the flood, gradually lower the gates in his structure, 
and so eventually turn the Colorado into its proper channel. 
This plan met the approval of all concerned and its construction 
was ordered in the middle of August, 1905. Material was started 
from Los Angeles and subordinates began to make tests for a site 
for the gate. They found it would be impossible to build it any- 



Digitized by 



Google 



106 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

where without first sinking a foundation of long piles and, this 
being the case, Rockwood slightly changed his plan. As he would 
have to put down piles in any case he decided to dredge a by-pass 
from the flood channel to the Imperial canal, allowing the flood 
waters to take this course and then, in the dry channel afforded, 
to sink his piling and build his gate in the very course the runaway 
river had itself cut. The by-pass did not take all of the flood 
waters, however, but a dam was thrown across below the mouth 
of the by-pass in the flood channel and another was planned 
lower down in the same channel, the notion being to pump out 
the water between the two dams and afford the workers a dry bed 
in which to begin their construction. This was the plan of the 
Rockwood gate as it was perfect^ about September 1. 

Meantime Rockwood found the work of managing the af- 
fairs of the company in Los Angeles and superintending the 
closure at the intake ** was too much for one man" as he puts it, 
and he asked to be relieved from one set of duties or the other. 
Mr. Randolph agreed that Rockwood had too many responsibili- 
ties and the result was the appointment of F. S. Edinger, at one 
time bridge superintendent of the Southern Pacific railroad com- 
pany. Edinger was to have charge of the construction of the 
Rockwood gate, but, according to Mr. Rockwood, lost faith in the 
feasibility of the gate plan in October, very shortly after his ap- 
pointrrient, and persuaded Randolph to allow him to substitute 
for Rockwood's plan one contemplating the construction of a 
600-foot jetty on the lines of the 3,000-foot Hind jetty which was 
abandoned early in August. Randolph approved this plan and 
Edinger w^as in the midst of its consummation when, on Thanks- 
giving day, 1905, an unprecedented flood swept dow^n the river 
with a wall 10 feet high, carr}Mng trees, piling, wTeckage and dead 
animals on its crest and tearing the Edinger dam out by the roots. 

Meantime the waters of the Colorado river were flowing en- 
tirely through the crevasse into the Imperial canal, which is really, 
at that point, the old Alamo or Salton channel. This bed was not 
large enough to carry it at flood and the w^aters had spread out, 
inundating thousands of acres south of the boundary line, and so 
making their w^ay westwardly into and down the channel known 
as New River. The serenity with which residents throughout 
the Valley viewed the situation must have been largely due to 
ignorance of the real conditions. In March heavy rains fell and 
the whole district w^as almost a lake. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 107 

The farmers were becoming uneasy, and deputations from 
Numbers 1 and 5 Water companies were sent to Hanlon's 
to investigate in June. That these men did not even then realize 
the gravity of the situation is an unavoidable conclusion, for they 
returned with favorable reports. I. W. Gleason, one of those sent 
from No. 1 company is reported in a daily newspaper at that time 
as having said: '^ There is no danger at present,^' and in the same 
paragraph, "although the opening is now 100 feet wide and 3 feet 
lower than the original channel of the Colorado river.'' 

As a matter of fact the settlers in the Valley were so helpless 
in the circumstances that they left the river to the Development 
Company. That they did not allow themselves to be greatly 
alarmed in the early days of the overflow may be partly respon- 
sible, however, for the lethargy in the Development Company 
oflRces. Immediate, insistent and determined demands for action 
might have saved many weeks of time and many thousands of 
dollars later. But this was not foreseen. 

The destruction of the Edinger jetty was not a cause for 
great surprise to Rockwood and his assistants. He says that it 
was built without consulting him and he implies that the tem- 
porary abandonment of the gate plan and the loss of time on the 
hopeless jetty project, was a great piece of folly. However that 
may have been the damage was now done and in the winter of 
1905 the engineers turned once more to the gigantic task of curb- 
ing a river which had five times snapped its fetters and which 
was now bent on refilling Lake Cahuilla to pre-historic dimen- 
sions. 

Edinger dropped out and Rockwood again took the reins. 
More firmly convinced than ever that his only hope of victory 
over the rebellious river lay in the gate plan, he turned to that at 
once. The situation, however, had changed since that fifth of 
August when he had first outlined his scheme. Then the crevasse 
was less than 500 feet wide, there was a by-pass to carry the 
water around the spot in the channel where the gate was to be 
built, and the material for the structure was on the way. Now 
the island was gone, swept away in the Thanksgiving day flood, 
the crevasse was more than 900 feet wide, and much money had 
been spent that was badly needed. However, Rock wood's plans 
were accepted and on December 15, 1905, work was started. It 
was found necessary, as a preliminary work, to build what engin- 
eers call a cofferdam. This is on the same principle as a dr>'-dock. 



Digitized by 



Google 



108 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



in that a water tight wall is built up completely around the area 
in which work is to be carried forward and from the enclosure 
the water is pumped and the mud dredged. This cofferdam was 
constructed at a heavy expense, but every possible means was 
employed to expedite it and when it was finished the erection 
of the gate on three rows of 30 foot piles, sunk to their caps in 
the earth and faced with water tight planking, went forward 
rapidly. This gate was 240 feet in length, 10 feet through and 
25 feet from floor to the top of the frame- work; its cost was more 
than $130,000; it was completed April 18, 1906. The plans 
which were drawn by C. N. Perry, called for the dumping of con- 
siderable rock at either end of the structure both to give it sta- 
bility and to prevent erosion there, but this rock was never de- 
posited. 

The river was once more at flood. More than 20,000 second- 
feet of water was pouring down the channels toward Salton Sea, 
a volume of water such as few engineers would care to attempt 
to handle under the most favorable conditions, consequently ir 
was decided to postpone further operations until the summet 
rise had ebbed. In the interim Rockwood resigned as assistant 
general manager and H. T. Cory, a trusted advisor of Epes Ran- 
dolph, and an engineer of great technical skill was made general 
manager. Rockwood became, then, consulting engineer only. 




There Were a Few Inhabitants About the Desert Before the White Man Came 



Digitized by 



Google 




tf 

T3 



^ 
s 
^ 



Digitized by 



Google 



I 



110 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

and his connection with the work from that time forward was 
nominal. 

Some conception of the colossal task confronting them was 
now impressed on the engineers. From that Thanksgiving season 
when they had watched the muddy river rise from 6,000 to 102,- 
000 second-feet in three days their respect for the powder of the 
river and the realization of their own impotence against it at its 
height had grown. That no private enterprise could close the 
ever-widening gap was apparent: the only agency extant which 
could cope with the Colorado was a powerful and determined 
railroad organization. The Southern Pacific was now enlisted 
in the fight and it was evident that corporation would have to 
take the work seriously and concentrate its energies on the task 
or else abandon it. The latter was not to be thought of, and to 
that end orders were issued to close the break at any cost. The 
fall of 1906 was to see the finish fight. 

The time had come when the settlers in the Imperial Valley 
no longer viewed with complacency the flood waters that threat- 
ened them. For six months they had watched it eating its way 
through the district in two channels, vainly congratulating them- 
selves that it was not to harm them. But in the spring of 1906 
they awoke at last. 

Let us glance at the topography of the country into which 
the runaway river first came after leaving the old bed of the Colo- 
rado. As has been said the California Development company 
utilized as a main canal, as far as Sharp's Heading, the old course 
of the Alamo river. This heading was, in a way, a duplication of 
the Hanlon heading, inasmuch as it was built in the intake from 
the Alamo to the various canals of the Mutual Water companies, 
and there regulated the amount of water to be taken out. A few- 
rods below the mouth of this intake a gate was placed in the Alamo, 
known as the Alamo waste-way, which was really a wier used 
for raising the amount of water needed at Sharp's. These struc- 
tures, which are still used, are remarkable ones. For weeks they 
carried three and four times the water they were built to carry, 
an effort being made, of course, to use as much water through 
them as possible to lessen the floods about Calexico and the flow" 
down the New River, of which we shall speak. The gates were 
designed by C. N. Perry, and built under his supervision, the 
Sharp's gate to carry 800 second-feet maximum; the Alamo less. 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 111 

During the weeks of which we are now writing Sharp's passed 
1,800 to 2,000 cubic feet of water a second and in the spring of 
1906 there was measured running through it a stream of no less 
than 3,500 second-feet. 

The Alamo waste-gate also performed wonders. Perry had 
taken the precaution to sink the floor of this structure two feet 
below the channel of the river and it is well he did, for, during the 
floods, dirt was carried away from below so that a fall 30 feet high 
came into existence. A sloping floor was built from the bottom 
of the gate to the channel below to carry this water and both this 
gate and Sharp's stood the strain admirably. 

These structures were watched with unusual concern because 
from April, 1905, to the closure of the crevasse in the winter of 
1906, they stood between the floods and the crops of the whole 
Imperial Valley. Had Sharp's gone out the Valley would have 
returned to its desert state in thirty days; the loss in crops and of 
live stock would have been counted in millions, and the financial 
ruin of thousands would have been accomplished. But Sharp's 
did not go out; it remained fast, holding back the floods that 
pressed against it and dividing those which passed through into 
two streams, one a useful stream flowing evenly into the company 
ditches to be taken out by the ranchers on their fields, the other 
a stream of waste water that tore down the Alamo channel, turn- 
ing it into a river and accounting for the cutting of one of the 
great trenches traversing the Valley to this day. 

The other channel, New River, was cut by flood waters which 
left the old Alamo channel far above Sharp's, flowed out across 
the level country, largely marsh and slough, lying in the triangle 
formed on the north by the Alamo and small ditches along the 
international line, on the south by Rio Paredones and \^olcano 
lake, and on the w^est by the New River channel. The sloughs 
in this triangle are known as Beltram, Garza and Pink Mountain 
sloughs and are of indefinite size and shape since there is little to 
distinguish them from surrounding country when there is much 
water at large. The Paredones river carried from Beltram slough 
a great deal of water to Volcano lake. This lake has for its 
overflow waters two courses, the one south to the Gulf of Cali- 
fornia being Hardy's Colorado and the one north to the Salton sea 
being New River. A remarkable condition is this, but still more 
remarkable the fact that both these streams have their origin at 
the same point on the west side of the lake. At this point Cerro 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



112 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



Prieto, or Black Butte, juts out into the mud flats at the rim of the 
lake and forms a solid foundation. Incomprehensible as it may 
be the waters of Volcano lake overflow and break on this jutting 
bed-rock, part of them running north and part south. Of late 
years a concrete structure, know^n as the Bowker gate, has been 
installed just below this point in New River and it is now possible 
to shut water out of New River and to divert it on to land o\vned 
by the California-Mexico Land and Cattle company at this place. 
But this gate was not there at flood time and a heavy flow entered 
New river directly from Volcano lake. 

The great and dangerous body of water flooding the triangle 
described above, was, however, finding its escape mainly through 
Pink Mountain and Garza sloughs directly into New river. The 




The Desert Soon Took On a Wide Diversity of Architecture 

channel of the latter was a shallow, insignificant and winding one 
and it is easy to see that it would not carry off' a very great flow\ 
Between it, the Hardy and the Alamo channel, however, the flood 
waters of the year 1905 were accounted for, and it was not until 
January, 1906, that any considerable area in the Imperial Valley 
was overflow^ed. At this time the waters began to rise, covering 
the territory south of the Mexican line and a large part of Imperial 
Water Company No. 6. The new border town of Mexicali, a set- 
tlement which had grown as a sort of excrescence on the edge of 
the Valley, was threatened, Calexico was being approached ""and 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 




•3 

U 

> 



tf 
> 

u 
Z 



U 

Of 



Digitized by 



(^oogle 



114 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

it appeared! to be only a matter of a short time when ever\^thing 
south and west of the Main canal, two miles north of Calexico, 
w^ould be inundated. 

With some hope of at least delaying the evil hour citizens of 
Calexico determined to build a levee to protect their homes and 
stores and this they did, raising an earth bank 6 feet in height 
and a mile long between themselves and the flood waters. For 
weeks this levee held back the water and then developments near 
the mouth of New river awakened hope anew. These develop- 
ments consisted in the rapid cutting-back of the channels of 
both the New and Alamo rivers, the process being due to the fact 
that the soil was of a character easily dissolved and incapable of 
resisting erosive action. The gradient being very steep in both 
rivers rapids were formed that speedily ate back toward the 
source of supply. It was seen that, if this cutting-back process 
should proceed rapidly enough, a channel would be formed amply 
large not only to carry the flood waters that were coming in but 
to drain off the overflowed lands. It became a matter of a race 
between the cutting-back of the channel and the rise of the 
flood about their levees. 

It was a trying time. Toward the latter end of March both 
factors in the situation were making rapid progress; and the citi- 
zenry and Engineer Perry's men went to the aid of their ally, the 
cutting-back process, with dynamite, hastening the making of 
the great channel being washed out. The powder was effective 
but on the night of Saturday, April 1, with a gale blowing and 
rocking the flood waters until they lapped the very tops of the 
levees the alarm was sounded and volunteers rushed to the dikes. 
For three days, in such a wind as seldom has blown in the Val- 
ley, these men fought inch by inch and foot by foot against 
the rising waters. f]xhausted and w^orn, they carried forward 
the last few hours of the struggle while, a few rods away, volun- 
teers in rocking row boats risked their lives to deposit sacks of 
giant powder in the channel to hasten its progress. It was nip 
and tuck between the two forces but the channel won at last, 
and to the great relief of Calexico the flood waters began to 
subside, being sucked into the growing gorge and carried down 
to the sea. 

Meantime residents of Imperial and El Centro had become 
alarmed and were out in force adding to the height of the dit<jh 



Digitized by 



Google 




E 

o 



Digitized by 



Google 



I 



116 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

banks of the Main and Elder canals on the south and the Date 
on the west, which banks alone were protecting the two towns 
and their contiguous territory. El Centro was in the building 
then and workmen were called from their bricks and lumber to go 
to the levees with shovels and sacks. The fight was briefer here, 
for the same agency that saved Calexico drew off the floods from 
the district lower down. 

From this time forward no more Valley land was actually 
flooded but a new cause for dismay was discovered. Cutting back 
in New river was a means of salvation, but what if the process 
should continue back through the Pink Mountain and Garza 
sloughs and so to the Alamo River? What if Sharp's should be 
left high and dry and the channel should be deepened back 
through the Alamo to the very intake itself? What if victor}^ 
should be delayed at the heading until the deepening channel 
should pass Yuma and attack the foundations of the great Lagima 
dam, 12 miles above? These latter contingencies were not prob- 
able, but they were possible, as the residents and engineers soon 
had good reason to know. For the cutting-back continued rapidly 
and great crews of Indians were engaged to go down into the 
sloughs and there spread the water by means of brush and earth 
levees to prevent concentration of the floods. This means was 
successful, but had the fight been an indefinite one the settlers 
would certainly have lost. Luckily the summer of 1906 passed 
and with it the floods in the Colorado, so that, although the river 
continued to pour through the crevasse and to run on by the 
courses it had chosen and partly constructed to the Salton sea, 
it flowed harmlessly. 

With a certain exception. Chance chose for the New river 
a course running close to the Southern Pacific tracks and depot 
buildings in Calexico and directly through the town of Mexicali. 
Everything in its way was, of course, carried down to destruc- 
tion. Many frame buildings were removed in time, but the 
adobes of Mexicali were an easy prey to the voracious river. Of 
the hundreds of acres of farming land lost in the same great maw 
it may be said, even at the risk of being thought unjust and heart- 
less, that the losses of these farms were the greatest single gain 
ever made in the physical condition of the Valley. For the sac- 
rifice of these made possible the development of two drainage 
channels that answered the last question concerning the future 
of this Valley as an irrigated district. In an early chapter refer- 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



117 



ence was made to the two channels that always existed there. At 
the time the Valley was opened they were sufficient to carry off 
all wastes; but with the rapid development of later years the need 
of large waste-ways and drainage channels became imperative. 
If the land owners and the Development Company had seen fit to 
assess themselves pro rata for the loss those sustained w^hose 
ranches were swallowed up to benefit the whole community there 
would, indeed, have been a justice Utopian in nature and gratify- 
ing to recount. Unfortunately no such unselfish movement has 
ever been started: it is too much to hope it, or any similar one, 
ever will be until our natures and characters are changed by the 
refining fires of time. 

It seems incredible that, at such trying periods as the one 
just described, there should have been industrial prosperity in the 
Valley, but such was the case. Many there w^ere who became des- 
perately worried and a few sold out and left the Valley, congratu- 
lating themselves, for a few brief weeks, on their own perspicacity. 
But in the larger number of cases the settlers, both in the country 
and in the towns, stayed with the enterprise, firm in the confidence 
that eventually the Colorado would be conquered. As a matter 
of fact there was, even at the end of a year, comparatively little 
interest in the antics of the runaway river or the frantic struggles 
of the force at the intake. Save for those few days when the towns 




The Cement Intake Gate Came After the Valley Was Well Advanced in Reclamation 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



118 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

were threatened, or occasiormlly when sorre new rumor of trouble 
arose (for men fear the unknown and the uncertain), there was 
li ttle curiosity displayed. By the summer of 1906 reliable infor- 
mation was to be gleaned from the columns of the Imperial Daily 
Standard, started as a daily during this fight with the river, the 
Imperial Valley Press of El Centro, the Brawley News, the Calexico 
Chronicle and the Holtville Tribune. Exaggerated and absurd 
reports of the conditions in the Valley were published in outside 
newspapers and magazines but, although these stirred the wrath 
of th esettlers, they did no harm. Probably the most ludicrous and 
assinine blunder was that made by those directing the policies of 
the Los Angeles Examiner, when they accepted and published the 
report of some callow youth that an underground fissure had 
opened and that the waters of the ocean were flowing through sub- 
terranean passages into the Salton sea, threatening to engulf 
the whole Imperial Valley! In time this underground fissure, 
which had a considerable run of newspaper popularit\^ throughout 
the country, was effectually closed by the accurate and timely 
reports of special correspondents sent to the Valley and the intake 
by Los Angeles papers, the Associated Press, and by reputable 
and dependable magazines. 

So we have come to the fall of 1906, with the Valley going 
ahead busily, planting and harvesting, or building homes and 
stores, while at the intake or in the engineers' offices men pored 
over books and maps planning the campaign of the fall that was 
to win or lose an empire. The Southern Pacific railroad was in 
control: the orders read: ^'Stop that water!" 

If the historians had been as fortunate in all respects as they 
were in obtaining the matter for the remainder of this story of 
the closure, this volume would gain materially in value. But it 
was not possible to have all its pages written by the men who were 
most intimately connected with the story carried: in this case 
Mr. H. T. Cory proved a willing assistant. Mr. Cory was the act- 
ing head of the work of closure. While executing orders, in a 
large way, they were the orders of a field general from the depart- 
ment of war and did not enter into the details. Mr. Cory con- 
sented to tell the story, and only failed in one respect, namely, 
to tell truly his own part. That he was the spirit dominating 
every action, the motive force behind every concerted effort, the 
inspiration of all enthusiasm and the Atlas supporting the colossal 
task to its consummation ever>'one knows who followed that des- 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 119 

perate struggle with a river. Mr. Cory's modest narrative fol- 
lows: 

"In April, 1906, the Rockwood gate having been finished 
and it having been decided impracticable to close the crevasse 
until the summer flood had passed, at Mr. Rock wood's suggestion 
he was relieved as Assistant General Manager of the California 
Development Company and assumed the duties of Consulting 
Engineer while I became General Manager, the circulars of ap- 
pointment bearing date of April 19, 1906. The terrible San Fran- 
cisco earthquake and fire had just occurred and I at once went 
to Oakland to ascertain the condition of the machinery for the 
mammoth clam shell dredge which was deemed an essential factor 
in the operations along the river. Fortunately the damage the 
apparatus had sustained was not very serious, although the plant 
of the company which supplied it was practically wiped out of 
existence. At the same time President Epes Randolph had se- 
cured from Mr. Harriman an appropriation to complete closing 
the break, several times as large as any estimate which had ever 
before been submitted for the entire work. When it is remem- 
bered that Mr. Harriman had barely arrived by special train from 
New York to find himself surrounded by the still smoking ruins 
of the greatest conflagration in history; his railway facilities there 
terribly crippled yet taxed far beyond anything known to get 
away the hordes of helpless refugees; the key city of his gigant.c 
railway system possibly hopelessly crushed and thus the collapse 
of his life's work and personal fortune, one must feel the securing 
of such appropriation to be the most remarkable accomplishment 
of the entire matter. 

''The money end of the work being provided for, the building 
of the clam shell dredge at Yuma was at once begun (May, 1906, ) 
and hurried to completion with all possible speed. Arrangements 
were quickly completed and work begun the latter part of May on 
a railroad track from the Southern Pacific main line at Hanlon 
Junction via Andrade and Los Algodones to the break opposite 
the Rockwood gate. This spur passed through the rocky point 
of Pilot Knob upon which the concrete headgate was built, and a 
stone quarry was developed there with all speed. A short dis- 
tance to the west of the spur and immediately north of the Inter- 
national Boundary Line, it was found possible very quickly to 
get a steam shovel pit from which enormous quantities of dirt 
could be loaded into cars with maximum speed. 



Digitized by 



Google 




ot 



*2- 



s 
S 



Digitized by 



Google 



fl^f 



«/^ 






s 



o 



" >: 
#< 



i % I 







.i 



X 

X 



Digitized by 



Google 



122 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



"All of these preparations were entirely extraneous to all 
former plans for closing the break and in themselves alone repre- 
sented an outlay twice as great as the entire estimated cost of any 
previously suggested plan. Therefore some form of brush and 
pile dam or structure was assumed to be the only type of con- 
struction worthy of serious consideration. This was due in part 
to the great cost of six miles of railroad to be used for only a few 
weeks, but in far larger degree to the fact that w^ithout exception 
all the engineers, great and small, and all the old river men, wise 
and otherwise, did not think, but knew% that every rock thrown 
in the river was a thing almost instantly gone without leaving 
even a trace in the soft silt bottom of the Rio Colorado. Never- 
theless, I wanted plenty of rock to use in conjunction with brush 




Outdoor Life Tends to Develop Horsemanship, and the Bronco Plays His Part 

and piling, and besides the task seemed of such magnitude as to 
quite justify, if not absolutely require a railroad track to get ma- 
terials and supplies to the front if everything should go as planned, 
let alone the possibilities which would be presented by a failure 
of the Rockwood gate. Workmen, materials and supplies were 
in the meantime hurried to the scene by the company's steamer 
Searchlight and early in August, w'hen the discharge of the river 
had fallen to twenty-five thousand cubic feet per second, active 
work on the closing proper began. First the channel proper of 
the river was narrowed by jetties to six hundred feet. Next a 
brush mattress, consisting of fascines sew^ed by three-eighths inch 
galvanized iron rope to heavy three-quarter inch cables, eight feet 
apart, was successfully woven and sunk across this six hundred 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 123 

foot channel, the mattress reaching fifty feet both up'^and down 
stream from the center line of the dam to be. This work was com- 
pleted early in September. Then followed a very substantial 
pie trestle carrying an extension of the railroad spur already 
mentioned. Meanwhile teams had thrown up dikes over the 
sand bars exposed by the receding flood waters, from either edge 
of the water to the banks proper, which were over a half mi'e 
apart. Brush was piled under the trestle and sunk by rock ob- 
tained in the quarry at Pilot Knob, loaded with steam shovels, 
hauled thither by train loads and dumped from above by car 
loads. Similarly dirt was brought from the 'clay pit' and un- 
loaded along the earthen dikes at each side of the crevasse proper. 
At the same time levees were started running from the concrete 
headgate to the Rockwood gate and from the south end of the 
earthen dike across the break down along the river several miles. 

"Meanwhile, by the dipper dredger, hydraulic dredge, teams, 
and hydraulic erosion aided by dynamite blasting, the by-pass or 
artificial side channel in which stood the Rockwood gate, was en- 
larged and deepened, while the dam of brush, piling and stone in 
the crevasse reached its crest, until, on October 10th, all the water, 
practically speaking, in the river was passing through the by-pass 
and the gate and none over the dam. Weaknesses in the head- 
gate had developed soon after being strained to any extent and in 
spite of every possible effort the next day, October 11, 1906, at 
3:15 P. M., about two-thirds of the gate suddenly lifted up and 
floated down stream about fifty yards, where it grounded and 
hung. 

"Such result was a bitter disappointment to the loyal band 
along the river and caused consternation in the Valley. But the 
experience already obtained regarding the use of rock and the 
available possibilities of rushing tremendous quantities of stone 
rapidly to the scene, made it evident that putting rock in the 
breach faster than the rushing current could carry it away was 
more than a forlorn hope and Mr. Randolph at once ordered the 
gamble taken. 

" By exhausting the capacities of every quarry between Los 
Angeles and Nogales, four hundred and eighty-five miles to the 
east, in three weeks and one day, November 4th, all the muddy 
waters of the Yellow Dragon were again in their old time channel 
on their way to the Gulf of California. 



Digitized by 



Google 



124 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

"Nothing was left undone to hurry the completion of the dam 
across the break and the levees up and do^-n the river, but on De- 
ceml>er 7th. a sudden flood in the river broke through the un- 
finished levees a half mile south of the crevasse which had just 
been closed and in thirty-six hours the entire river was again flow- 
ing into the Salton Sea.* After over two weeks' negotiations and 
at President Roosevelt's request. Mr. Harriman gave orders, De- 
ceml^r 28th. to again make the closure. By practically closing 
the Los Angeles and Tucson Divisions of the Southern Pacific Com- 
pany and throwing most of their equipment upon the work; by 
running many special trains of piling and heavy timbers clear from 
New Orleans; and of rock from California and Arizona; by hazard- 
ous driving of piling and building of bridges across racing waters; 
by methods and work heroic and effective beyond precedent; by 
rushing in stone at such tremendous rate that Mr. Harriman con- 

♦The ^hoek that came to th*» p'^ople with the knowledge of the second break in the river 
is illustrated by the following di<«patch sent by one of the authors of this history to the Los 
Angeles Times: 

YcMi, Arif., Dec. 9 — [Exclusive Di-jpatch.] Once more that great chocolate colored 
dragon — the Colorado river — is triumphant. Three days ago it began to claw at the dike 
which had been thrown up to impound it. It got its head through Friday night, gained 
on it yesteniay and today its 5»Iimy body reaches all the way down to the Salton sink. 

The old channel of the Colorado is but a stretch of slipperj' mud. while the river itself 
is~tumbling down to the sink through the weird and fantastic canyon it carved for itself 
last summer. 

The battle is on once more. It is a struggle with this great repulsive brute that gathers 
the soil along its pathway for a thou-'iand miles and piles it up here that it can clamber 
down into the beautiful valley where a thou-^and farms deck the landscape. It is a struggle 
worthy of men. and the battle is being fought as men fight. 

I have been to the break again today, have seen the entire body of the great river 
once more pouring down toward Salton sea, just as it was before the closure was effected 
a month ago — just as bad but no worse than it was then. 

And now I must return to Imperial Valley to face those thouands of people who for 
two years had hoped against hope for the salvation of their homes, who a month ago were 
told that their land was redeemed from the menace of inundation, but who now must learn 
once more to fight a manly fight against discouraging fate. 

I am not going to attempt to paint a fancy picture. I am not going to hold out any 
false hope. I am not going to declare that success is a certainty. We may as well face the 
truth, and the truth is that no man can see five months into the future of Imperial and Coa- 
chella valleys. If the Colorado river is not mastered for all time, in five months the pros- 
pects are that these valleys, which constitute the main part of the erstwhile Colorado desert, 
will have ceased for a score of years to be a habitable part of the globe. 

I believe the conquest will be made. There is good reason to place hope in the money, 
the equipment and the engineering skill of the Southern Pacific Company, which now faces 
the greatest engineering problem ever presented to any railroad, and which must realize 
that it has a gigantic fight for the preservation of its main line. 

But if it fails in accomplishing this task before the floods come next summer, it seems 
inevitable that the canyon of New river will be cut back to the Colorado and begin to eat 
its way up the muddy bottom of that stream, cutting the water supply of the irrigation 
canals of Imperial Valley, carving so deep a bed at the break that the water can never be 
lifted to the old channel, leaving Yuma high and dry and eventually undermining Laguna 
dam. 

In this event no human power can prevent Salton sink filling with water to the point 
of overpour into the Gulf of California, about twenty feet above sea level. Which alter- 
native will be the result of the struggle no skilled engineer will say, but the very desperation 
of the situation will make the efforts of the men in charge rise to the level of the heroic. 

The fluctuations between hope and despair during the two years of struggle with the 
Colorado has been pathetic in the extreme for the thousands of people who have staked 
their all in the efforts to create homes on the reclaimed desert. So wonderful has been the 
advancement of that section in five years that it .seems almost incredible that even in- 
sensate nature could blast the hopes and destroy the achievements of these brave people. 

It takes time to formulate definite plans for the new work, and to this end General 
Manager Cory left this evening for Tucson to confer with President Epes Randolph of the 
California Development Company. That Colonel Randolph will make quick decision and 
act energetically is to be expected. E. F. HOWE. 



Digitized by 



Google 









^__ J* ?'#^M^^ 


-^ ^^^|M^m|^^^^^VK 



1905 




1910 
East Eighth Street, Imperial 



Digitized by 



Google 



126 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



sidered such, as well as the closing itself, the greatest achievement 
of his railroad career, on February 14, 1907, two weeks and a few 
hours after completing the first trestle across the waters, the Colo- 
rado River was again more or less peacefully on its way to the 
ocean. 

**The people of Imperial Valley and their descendants to the 
third and fourth generation will doubtless remember the coolness 
under severe strain, the ability, the unconquerable spirit and the 
absolute loyalty at all times displayed, not only by the leaders. 
President Epes Randolph, Thomas J. Hind, Clarence K. Clarke, 
Eulogio (Jack) Carrillo, William J. Best, E. H. (Pete) Gaines, 
J. Chester Allison, ^Scotty' Russell, C. R. Rockwood, but the pile 
drivers, carpenters, mattress men, trainmen, enginemen, quarry- 
men and even the Indians who often worked unquestionably in 
most dangerous situations. For while it was to all one of Life's 
Games, and an irresistibly fascinating one, yet it was also a des- 
perate one upon the winning of which depended, not only tre- 
mendous property interests and personal credit, but thousands 
of American homes and the absolute all of very many of the 
Valley's pioneers." 




The Meighboring City of Yuma Hugs the Bank of the Colorado River 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 127 



CHAPTER IX 



CALIFORNIA DEVELOPMENT AND MUTUAL 
COMPANIES 

We turn our attention in this chapter to the obvious and 
open history of the Company and its auxiliary corporations — 
the Mexican Company and the several mutual water compa- 
nies. We have already followed the Company from its organi- 
zation in April, 1896, to the time of the departure of the Chaff ey^s 
from its direction early in 1902. 

The struggles of the next two years to obtain money for 
development work were Herculean, although it did not appear 
difficult for certain members of the new organization to ob- 
tain money to line their own pockets, and on top of the dis- 
ingenious **Soil report" of the boy, Holmes, came an attack on 
the right of the Company to take water from the Colorado. 
Under the state law of California appropriation of water for 
irrigation might be made only by posting a formal notice of 
that appropriation near the point of diversion and by filing a 
duplicate of the notice at the county seat, but such water must 
be actually used for irrigation. In this case 10,000 second- 
feet, which means 10,000 cubic feet of water per second, were 
appropriated, but not nearly that much was either taken out 
or used. J. B. I^ippincott had later made a similar filing for 
the Laguna government project. Government officials stated 
that, as the Colorado was a navigable stream, and under the 
jurisdiction of the Secretary of War, it was necessary for the 
Development Company to get permission to make any appro- 
priation. This permission was accordingly sought and refused. 

The legal advisers of Heber and his associates counselled 
action, so Heber went to Washington and induced Senator 
Perkins of California and Representative Daniels of the Eighth 
Congressional district of the state to present bills in their re- 
spective branches of Congress declaring the Colorado river more 
valuable for irrigation than for navigation. These bills were 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



128 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



first read in January, 1904. In March of the same year an ex- 
tensive hearing was given the matter before the House com- 
mittee on the irrigation of arid lands. At this hearing the 
principal objection came from William E. Smythe, of San Diego, 
an irrigation expert, who represented himself as coming in be- 
half of a large number of settlers of the Imperial Valley, and who 
made a forcible and somewhat bitter speech against the fa- 
vorable consideration of the bill. 

This man Smythe had never been properly catalogued and 
put down to the satisfaction of the thoughtful in the Valley. 
He was a rank outsider, having no interests in the Valley and no 
apparent connection with any of its people. Possessing con- 
siderable reputation as an irrigation authority, he was heard 




The Soil Report Declared Cantaloupes an Impossibility 

with attention, however, when in the spring of 1904 he came to 
the district with a plan for the organization of a Water Users 
Association by the settlers and the purchase of the California 
Development Company's plant. From this time on he was 
so officiously active that he attracted attention and later 
developments in regard to him were watched with interest. 

The Daniels' bill was at length reported favorably, but 
Smythe's opposition had been noted by many and it was aug- 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



129 



merited by a mysterious but powerful agency which appeared 
immediately after the bill had been reported. This agency 
was supposed at the time to be the Reclamation Service. With- 
out much question the House laid the bill on the table and it 
was never raised. The only action taken by Congress was on 
April 19, 1904, when a joint resolution was adopted by House 
and Senate directing the Secretary of the Interior, the superior 
officer of the engineers of the Reclamation Service, to * 'inves- 
tigate and report on the subject of irrigation and irrigation 
rights on the Colorado river and to ascertain and fix the rights 




Dr. Oliver M. Wo«encraft 

of individual water users there.*' President Heber was tact- 
ful enough to express himself as pleased with this action, but 
it promised little. He asked for bread and they had given him 
a stone. 

Meantime trouble was brewing for the Development Com- 
pany in the Valley. Fomented by a few self-appointed cham- 
pions, of whom Smythe was the ring-leader, a rebellion against it 
was growing rapidly, being joined by the dissatisfied, of whom 
there were many. The gravamen of the matter was that the 
California Development Company had failed to keep its prom- 
Digitized by VjOOQIC 



130 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

ises in extending its system, had been dilatory in supplying the 
needs of the people, had been extravagant in its use of money, 
and was even then grinding the faces of the poor settlers. That 
there was much meat in this complaint is incontrovertible: com- 
ing when and through the agencies it did it lacked the ring of 
sincerity. Several years later when the affairs of the Company 
were dragged into the light of open court, items were found in 
the accounts of the Development Company showing the pay- 
ment of large sums to one William E. Smythe for "literary ser- 
vices,'* and there are those unkind enough to say that this ir- 
rigation expert and **friend of the people" was seeking to arouse 
the settlers against the water company for the sole purpose 
of bringing about a sale of the latter's property. 

However that may be, this was exactly what was urgently 
sought during that year 1904. Numerous mass meetings were 
held and at last, having resolved themselves to the extent of 
some four hundred closely typewritten pages, and made in- 
flammatory speeches ad libitum, the **people of the Valley'' 
appealed to the Reclamation Service to buy out the California 
Development Company. To this end they organized the "Im- 
perial Valley Water Users Association" in June, 1904, with 
F. G. Havens as chairman, appointed committees, memorial- 
ized Congress, and opened communication with Mexico and 
with the Department of State of the federal government with 
a view to finding out what could be done in the way of an in- 
ternational treaty in the premises. It was a great summer for 
meetings. The settlers counted it dull, indeed, when there was 
not one convocation to the week, and endless "minutes of the 
last meeting" and "We do therefore resolve" documents were 
entailed. I. W. Gleason, R. E. Willis and C. S. Lombard were 
appointed a committee to take up with the water corporations 
and the Reclamation Service the matter of a sale to the govern- 
ment in behalf of the settlers, and these men labored in season 
and out to accomplish something. 

The plan was to incorporate the Water Users Association 
for $12,000,000, and make an agreement with the government 
whereby the latter would purchase the property of the Cali- 
fornia Development Company, place the system under the man- 
agement of the Reclamation Service, and carry on the business 
of serving water by the method employed under any of its proj- 
ects. There was a deadlock, however, between the settlers' com- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



131 



mittees and the California Development Company as to how 
much the latter should receive as remuneration and this lasted 
until, at a much advertised and largely attended meeting in 
Imperial, July 25, 1904, President Heber offered to arbitrate. 
The proposition was received with the wildest enthusiasm and 
the people of the Valley were so worked up by the inflammatory 
speeches of their leaders that they believed all their economic 
and social troubles had been suddenly dissolved. 

One week later it was abruptly announced that the ^^deal 
was off.*' The rocks on which the ship had grounded were 
three: Heber insisted on a remuneration based on the value to 
his Company of its plant; the committeemen wanted impartial 
arbitrators chosen; and there was a difference of opinion as to 
who should pay the large amounts at that time being demanded 
as damages by settlers who had been deprived of water. The 
greatest gloom swept over the district. 

The passing of that week, however, brought forth another 
proposition from Mr. Heber which sent the spirits of the set- 
tlers skyward again. He proposed to sell out for $3,000,000! 

The settlers immediately accepted the offer and wired 
Congress to that effect. There was a grand celebration that 




The Dredges Played a Large Part in Ueelamation 



Digitized by 



Google 



132 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

included speech makings a barbecue, and fireworks. But the 
charred sticks of the rockets of that joyous occasion did not 
fall with greater speed nor strike with an emptier thud than did 
the $3,000,000 transaction. In the autumn the officers of the 
Reclamation Service, Senator Bard, the ubiquitous Mr. Smythe, 
and others visited the Valley and made a careful inspection of 
the situation: in January, 1905, Congress turned the proposition 
"down cold.'* 

Meantime a most bitter internecine warfare was occupy- 
ing the field. The officials and engineers of the Development 
Company were almost at their wits end for lack of money and 
because they saw their investments of years slipping away; 
the settlers were suspicious of the Company and suspicious of 
each other and the nerves of every person were worn to frayed 
edges. Factions grew up and spUt into parties; these parties 
quarreled among themselves and with each other. It was the 
outbreaking of the pioneer spirit of individual assertiveness 
in which leadership had not been established. 

The net result of the whole embroglio was the fomenta- 
tion of a bitter animosity against the CaHfomia Development 
Company. From that year forward it became an object of 
distrust, and many of its troubles in the spring of 1905 were the 
natural issue of this suspicion. It was at this time that the 
quarrel between Heber and his supporters and Rockwood and 
his friends, broke into open flame. Their friendship was dis- 
solved and from then until the tragic death of Mr. Heber in a 
fire in Goldfield, Nevada, they pursued different courses. 

The overflow of 1905 and 1906 forever dashed aside the 
hope these ambitious and faithful promoters had of making 
a profit from their investments of years of time and thousands 
of dollars. The resultant expense at the heading was only 
one item: the settlers who were deprived of water, whose lands 
were flooded, or whose ranches were cut and carried away by 
the cutting back of the two channels, filed heavy claims for 
damages, and, to cap the climax, the New Liverpool Salt Com- 
pany commenced suit for half a million dollars for destruction 
of its plant in the bottom of the Salton sea. 

It was on June 20, 1905, that a deal was consummated with 
the Southern Pacific for $200,000 with which to close the break 
in the river, this money being given as a loan and the railroad 
being assigned a majority of the stock of the California Devel- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 133 

opment Company in trust as security. The deal was made 
through necessity, and it was with no surprise that it developed 
later, in the words of the facetious- snipe-hunter, that the stock- 
holders of the California Development Company w«re ''left 
holding the sack." 

Hard things are said always of men who achieve. Hard 
things have been said of most of these men who labored thus 
to make the California Development Company a success and 
made possible the reclamation of the Colorado desert. But 
Rockwood sacrificed himself and his professional success ; Chaf- 
fey proved himself one of the great builders of Southern Cali- 
fornia; Dr. Hefferman lost his accumulated competence in a 
vain endeavor to stem the tides of misfortune which, again and 
again, swept against the frail bark that carried all their dreams. 

Heber devoted his energies to the cause with an enthusiasm 
and abiUty that were at times heroic. Up to the year 1905, 
when the control of the California Development Company 
passed into the hands of the Southern Pacific, no man was more 
closely identified with all the divers branches of reclamation 
in the Imperial Valley. He was in touch with the engineers, 
aided in colonization, faced numerous financial crises and strug- 
gled through them, served, both when he himself was presi- 
dent and under the leadership of George Chaffey, with unstinted 
zeal and undoubted loyalty. Time after time internal troubles 
threatened the safety of the whole edifice and Mr. Heber was 
too active in all things to be able to avoid his share in these 
embroglios. Yet today there is probably no man whose name 
is so honored by all those in any way connected with the com- 
pany from its inception as is Mr. Heber. 

The story of his connection with the Company from its 
organization until its decadence has been told in other chap- 
ters. That he made mistakes is indisputable, but it must be 
remembered that he, with all the other leaders, were perpet- 
ually subject to insidious attacks both from within and without 
the corporation, and that no single action was ever taken that 
was not denounced by some faction or other or opposed by some 
powerful agency. Some of those actions referred to as "mis- 
takes'' and others characterized as ''blunders" were so because 
of opposition that caused complications afterwards; others 
were wrongly impugned by interested or selfish persons and made 
to appear that which they were not. That Mr. Heber worked 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




9 



The Death of Anthony H. Heber was a Pergonal Loss 
to the Settlers 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 135 

always for the reclamation of the Imperial Valley has never 
been disputed and cannot be. And in the final analysis this 
was the desideratum. 

After his withdrawal from active connection with the 
California Development Company Mr. Heber, while retaining 
many interests here, extended his activities to other fields, be- 
coming particularly interested, early in 1906, in property in 
Goldfield, Nevada. Thither he and his son, Ernest, went on 
two occasions. On the second trip the two were guests in the 
Goldfield hotel, a newly erected and apparently substantial 
building that was the pride of the Nevada deserts. 

But on November 17 the place caught fire, and in a strong 
wind burned like tinder. Mr. Heber was in his room and there 
he was caught as in a trap and burned to death. The news of 
the calamity stirred the people of Imperial Valley with a sense 
of a great personal loss, for Mr. Heber's name had been cleared 
of all imputations of wrong months before and no person but 
held for his memory the highest regard. 

Rome T. Perry, an associate and friend, connected for 
several years with the office systems of the Development Com- 
pany and of Water Company No. 1, wrote shortly after Mr. 
Heber's death: *^To me it seems that in his case ^twilight 
and evening bell, and after that the dark' came all too soon. 
The reason for this I do not know. I cannot understand. 
But I believe that when the partisanship that has for years 
and is now rending the Valley has been stilled, and when the 
people understand, as understand some day they will, how 
he labored in their interest, how he sacrificed his own for their 
good, they will see that the prosperity they enjoy is the fruit 
of his labor and they will rise as one man and to his memory 
erect some fitting monument that through the ages will endure." 

At the close of the decade one issue of supreme impor- 
tance confronts the people. The beginning of settlement, re- 
clamation, organization, and improvement are passed : there re- 
mains the task of reaching an ultimate solution of the water 
problem. The California Development Company is doomed; 
in fact it may be said that it has already ceased to have 
entity. The acquisition of its property and the exercise of its 
functions by the Southern Pacific did not come about by 
purchase and will not, for the railroad corporation does not 
want an irrigation system. The Development Company has 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



136 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



been declared insolvent, and early in 1910 Col. W. A. 
Holabird, of Los Angeles, was appointed its receiver. Under 
authorization of Superior Judge Cole, of Imperial county, 
Receiver Holabird has issued more than $300,000 worth of 
receiver's certificates to pay for work done in improving the 
system and strengthening it against encroachments of the 
Colorado at flood. Meantime, however, this work is done 
over the vehement protests of the men who own the bonds 
of the Development Company, and of all those persons who, 
as judgment creditors of the bankrupt concern, hold claims 
for damages. It is unthinkable that those expenditures will be 
allowed to go on: it is quite certain the Southern Pacific will 
advance no more money to finance the unwelcome guest it 
has lodged in its corporate blue room. 




Just Across the Mexican Line is a 
Wonderful Mosquite Forest 

Another weakness developes. It is contended by able 
lawyers that the California Development Company had no 
right to exercise many of the functions it assumed. A clear 
notion of the line this attack is made upon may best be gained 
by a brief consideration of the case in the United States Dis- 
trict court at Los Angeles known as the case of **The California 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 137 

Development Company, et al. against Imperial Mutual Water 
Company No. 5/* In this suit the Development Company is 
seeking to regain possession of certain of the capital stock of 
No. 5 which, in 1905, was turned over to the officers of No. 5 
by President Heber with the agreement that it should be used 
for raising money to extend No. 5*s system. The Develop- 
ment Company asserts, in the complaint, that Heber had no 
authority to make this arrangement, that No. 5 has not used 
all this stock for the purpose for which it was turned to them, 
and that its officers have refused to pay the California Devel- 
opment Company a certain amount of money due for stock 
already sold by Water Company No. 5. The plaintiff corpora- 
tion asks that all the stock be turned back to it, that all 
money accruing from the sale of stock by No. 5 at any time 
be demanded of it, and that No. 5 be compelled to pay also 
certain arrearages for water. 

The line of defense established by solicitors for the No. 5 
Company brushed aside trivialities and localized questions and 
struck straight at the very heart of the California Develop- 
ment Company and at its rights, not only to the relief prayed 
in the bills of complaint, but to life itself. In a general way the 
case of the defense is presented in an able brief prepared by 
Haines and Haines, counsel for No. 5. After stating briefly 
the physical conditions surrounding the California Develop- 
ment Company and its Mexican associate the brief accepts 
the conclusion that La Sociedad de Yrrigacion y Terrenos de la 
Baja California is **a mere agency" of the former Company and 
'*is entirely controlled" by it, and that the organization of 
No. 5 Water Company was entirely at the instance of the Devel- 
opment Company and with its own officers the dictators of the 
mutual organization, which latter had no initiative, owned no 
stock, and profited nothing in any way through organization. 

They then set forth that, since the Development Company 
owned then and owns now no arable nor irrigable land, its ap- 
propriation of water from the Colorado was only to dedicate it 
to the public use; becoming, in other words, nothing more nor 
less than a common carrier of the water. But, they aver, 
"it is clear . . . under all the disguises of these written agree- 
ments, and beneath all the brave show of these successive con- 
tracts, . . . that the . . . company has, with relentless 
tenacity, clung to the holding in its own hands of the power to 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



Stroven Apricot Orchard 
8ix Months Old 



_.^_.^ 




One and a Half Years 




Two and a Half Years 
Wonders Can be Done in Horticulture 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 139 

dictate to what individual users it would furnish water, and at 
what lump price for the right to receive it; and that it has also 
established an annual rate of fifty cents per acre-foot, to be paid 
and collected for its use over and above the price exacted for the 
right (to buy water, i. e. No. 5 water stock) and that it 
has appropriated all moneys in any way realized, whether 
from the sale of stock, to which it has annexed the supposed 
water right, or the moneys received from annual rentals, to 
its own use and benefit. It does not change this fact that it 
used some part of the large sums obtained from the sale of 
stock, and from water rentals, in the construction of its system 
of works for diverting, conveying and distributing the water." 

Concerning the contract between the Mexican company, 
whose existence as an entity the defendant ridicules, and the 
No. 5 Ccompany, whereby the latter was to relinquish to the 
former all unsold No. 5 stock, the brief continues: ** . . . they 
(No. 5 stockholders) were left like lost sheep without a shep- 
herd, to be gathered into the corporate fold only after they had 
been well fleeced." 

Coming to what they conceive to be the '^fundamental 
question," counsel say: ''Under the circumstances the funda- 
mental question arises upon both these complaints, whether it 
was within the power of the California Development Company 
or of its agency the Mexican company, or of its creature the 
Imperial Water Company No. 5 or of all of them in concert, 
to bind . . . the unknown persons, who should there- 
after enter upon and settle these lands, to submit as condi- 
tions precedent to sharing in the public use of this water, so 
absolutely necessary to existence upon and improvement of 
their lands, to exactions which are not only not recognized by 
the constitution and laws of the state, but which are, on high 
grounds of public policy, excluded and penalized by the con- 
stitution and statutes." In brief, they conclude: "From the 
foregoing . . . the ownership of stock in the California Develop- 
ment Company itself, although it is the parent and paramount 
corporation in the whole enterprise, and holds control over the 
diversion of the waters from the Colorado, could, by no device, 
have been made of any value as giving a right to the use of the 
water diverted by it, because such right can be acquired only 
by each user for himself, by his own merits in making the bene- 
ficial application of the water to his land. It further appears 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



140 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



that, not only is the ownership of such stock worthless as a 
muniment of title to the use of water, but that, for a corpora- 
tion in charge of the public use, to make the purchase of stock 
in such corporation a condition precedent to the use of water at 
the annual rates, and to refuse the water for failure to purchase, 
is in violation of the constitution and statute of the state, and 




Imperial's High School is Imposing 

is visited by express provision of law with liabilities for damages 
. . . How could the purchase of stock in such a landless and 
waterless corporation (as the California Development Com- 
pany) have the slightest virtue to confer the right to share in 
the public use to which this water was d*^dicatedf^ 

More than one acute legal mind is now struggling with the 
problem of striking at the heart of the California Development 
Company, but most of them have, thus far, been foiled by the 
adroit interposition by the corporation's attorneys of the M exi- 
can company, with its rights and prerogatives, granted and 
held under foreign government. Several plans for beating 
down or going around this guard have been brought forth: 
perhaps no one has a more tangible case than that presented 
by Judge F. C. Farr, of Imperial, who alleges the California 
Development Company to be an involuntary trustee of the 
property of the stockholders in the mutual water companies. 
This rather novel view of the situation is^ brought out by Farr 
in his complaint filed in behalf of A. L. Story and others against 
the California Development and the No. 5 Imperial Mutual 
Water companies. 

Going for authority to that principle of law which sets 
forth that any person who holds or uses property unlawfully 
taken from another, or who holds and uses property which, 
by equity and law, belongs to another, that person is in reality 
a trustee of the property in question for the rightful owner. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 141 

Such trusteeship, Judge Farr asserts, exists in this case where 
the stock of Water Company No. 1, rightfully belonging to the 
stockholders of that Company, was voted from their control 
and custody and turned over in entirety to another corporation 
without any compensation being granted them. The Story 
complaint asks that the Development Company be declared an 
involuntary trustee, that an accounting be compelled for all 
moneys, stocks, and other property held for the rightful owners, 
the No. 1 stockholders, and that a receiver for the trustee cor- 
poration be appointed. 

It may be seen from these references that the attempt to 
cause the dissolution of the bankrupt Company is neither spo- 
radic nor ill considered. It is, on the other hand, determined, 
organized and well financed. Should everything stand as it 
is now with reference to the water situation the settlement of 
these questions of law might leave the people of the Valley 
without a parent company and with a hopelessly muddled 
group of local distributing organizations. 

Finally it must be recalled that, in the spring of this year 
of 1910, Judge Robert Lovett, the new president of the board 
of directors of the Southern Pacific railroad, declared that the 
California Development Company must be disposed of at once, 
so far as the railroad corporation is concerned. This means that 
it will be given to the sheriff for sale at auction. Gentlemen, 
who will bid? 




The Heart of the Industrial Section of the Valley is in El Centre 

Digitized by 



Google 



142 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



Will it be some strong financial institution, eager to gain 
possession of a business that might, with proper financing, be 
made a dividend payer equalled by nothing of its class in the 
history of finance? 

Will it be the Reclamation Service of the United States, 
with a costly dam and headworks at Laguna, anxious to saddle 
the expense of that system on any people, no matter what their 
previous investments in water stock and rights have been? 

Or will it be by the people of the Imperial Valley, organized 
at last, and at last brought to an appreciation of the fact that 
their lands aggregate a value twenty times that of any irri- 
gating system which may be operated for them, although their 
lands are worth nothing at all without such a system economic- 
ally managed and run in their interests? 

For the irrigation system of the most marvelous reclaimed 
district in the world, gentlemen, what are we offered? 




Graphic Illustration of Land Building by the Waters of the Colorado is Found 

in Some of the Ditches. In this Case the Two Mud Dams Shown in the 

Foreground Were Built Up in a Channel Eight Feet Deep and Rose 

Above Water Surface in Four Months. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 143 



CHAPTER X 



THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT AND ITS 
RELATION TO THE VALLEY 

Up to the year 1903 the promoters and people of the Im- 
perial Valley had little to do with the United States government 
in a direct way, save as regards the perfunctory acts performed 
in connection with filing on public land. On the other hand 
very few of the officers and agents of the government knew of 
the colossal enterprise being attempted here, and save on four 
points had no data concerning the great stretch of rich country 
lying in the region they called the Colorado Desert. These 
four sources of information in Washington were the reports 
of several early explorers of the region; the field notes of the 
surveys of 1856 and of 1890; the soil report of 1902, and the 
report of government engineers concerning the feasibility of 
irrigating the lands embraced in this area by use of the waters 
of the Colorado. The work of the early explorers has been 
touched on; the surveys of 1856 and 1880 and the soil report 
are referred to later in this chapter; and the findings of the 
third report are epitomized by Congressman Hitchcock, of 
Nebraska, who, in the debate in Congress (1904) on the passage 
of a bill to legalize the use of the waters of the Colorado for 
irrigation, said: "I am satisfied that if it had not been for the 
initiation of the California Development Company the Imperial 
Valley would never have been reclaimed. The government 
engineers went there, studied the situation, came back and 
reported it would cost $10,000,000 to irrigate this Valley. Act- 
ing on this report the government did nothing." 

Although this year of 1903 the Reclamation Service (then a 
part of the Geological Survey) was in its infancy the govern- 
ment, as regards both legislative and executive branches, was 
taking a growing interest in the salvation of arid lands in the 
West. The great work of Theodore Roosevelt, Senator F. J. 
Newlands, of Nevada, and of Congressman Frank W. Mondell, 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



144 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



Wyoming, was just beginning to tell and there was felt througii- 
out the nation a marked satisfaction in the birth of organized 
reclamation. That private enterprise was even then out- 
stripping public bureaus was little known until, in the spring of 
1904, a bill was introduced by Representative Daniels of River- 
side, California, in the national Congress, intended, in a general 
way to declare the Colorado river waters more valuable for 
irrigation than for navigation, and to confirm the rights of those 
now using the water for the former purpose under state laws, 
but specifically to legalize the appropriation of 10,000 second- 




Such Reclamation Interested the Government 

feet from the river by the California Development Company. 
The bill had an extended hearing before the House committee 
on the irrigation of arid lands. William E. Smythe*s activi- 
ties began at this hearing, but in spite of his objections in be- 
half of ''a large number of settlers in the Imperial Valley," 
President Heber's urgent requests for Congressional action to 
give stability to the finances of the corporation prevailed and 
the bill was reported favorably. In April of that year, however, 
it was defeated; the opposition arising, it is still asserted by 
many in the Valley, as a result of the activities of the Recla- 
mation Service, which saw in the measure a menace to its plans 
for the future on the river. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



145 



This aggressive attitude of the Service can scarcely be said 
to be an historical fact, yet so often is the charge made and so 
bitter is the feeling in many quarters over it that we feel scarcely 
justified in wholly ignoring it. The animus for the opposition 
of the Service, according to C. R. Rockwood, lay in the fact 
that '*the engineers of the Reclamation Service advanced the 
theory that no canal from the Colorado river could be a per- 
manent success except that a diversion dam across the river be 
constructed which would raise the water and would allow them, 
by means of the sluicing head that it would give, to wash out 
the silt that would drop in the canal. Not only, then, would 
the continuance in successful operation of the Imperial canal 
disprove their theory that a dam was necessary (and thereby 
question the necessity of the expenditure of the amount of money 
that the Laguna dam would cost) but the cost of the Laguna 
dam was to be so great that it would put too great a burden on 
the farmer unless they could gain possession of the Imperial 
enterprise, and by so doing carry the Imperial canal to the 
Laguna dam and thereby make the farmers of the Imperial 
Valley pay the major portion of the cost of that work.'* (Cal- 
exico Chronicle Magazine, May 1909, p. 21.) 




New ** 10-foot Drop" 



Without doubt if any jealousy ever existed it was due to 
this fact and to the other that the prior appropriation, under 
California state laws, of 10,000 second-feet, by the California 
Development Company might some day stand in the way of 
projects of the Service now embryotic. 

That certain high officials of the Service held hostile feel- 
ings cannot be gainsaid. George Y. Wisner, consulting en- 
gineer of the Service, was quoted by the Detroit Journal, early 
in 1904, as making a sneering attack on the integrity of the pro- 



Digitized by 



Google 



146 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

meters of the California Development Company, and in Sep- 
tember, 1905, before the Detroit Engineering Society, he said 
(according to Associated Press reports of the speech) : "Within 
twenty years thousands of people who have taken up govern- 
ment lands in the Imperial Valley will be driven out by water, 
their homes and fields forming the bottom of an immense in- 
land sea. The cause of the coming catastrophe is poor engin- 
eering in diverting the course of the Colorado for irrigation 
purposes/' 

In the Pacific Monthly (April, 1907,) L. C. Hill, another 
consulting engineer in the service, after writing that "it can 
serve no good purpose ... to criticise . . . the criminal 
act which today places the homes of thousands of our citizens in 
the shadow of impending ruin'' says, (p. 476) "No controlling 
works were provided (at intake No. 3) and this temporary 
expedient finally brought about a catastrophe which now spells 
bankruptcy to the Company and total loss of property to the 
settlers. It is said that Mexico was not informed of this new 
heading and it is to be hoped that this is true, for it was a crim- 
inal piece of work." 

In addition to these and other published statements, made 
voluntarily by engineers who might have been expected to at- 
tend more strictly to their own afifairs, there were numerous 
acts, a few overt but more covert, tending to increase the 
Valley settlers' distrust of the Service. That the ruinous soil 
report of 1902, the delay in securing a re-survey of the Valley, 
and the subsequent deterioration of the California Develop- 
ment Company, with other incidents that have served to im- 
pede the progress of this section, may be laid at the door of the 
Service, is not believed; but on the other hand, it is hard to 
avoid the conclusion that officials of the bureau have in very 
many ways striven to cast reproach on the private enterprise 
here represented. 

F. H. Newell, director of the Service, replying to a personal 
letter written by the editors and asking bluntly whether or not 
there is any feeling against the Imperial project, says: "Your 
letter has been read with considerable surprise. . . You seem 
to be under the impression that the Reclamation Service is 
something like a corporation, with an independent policy, able 
to initiate and proceed freely along lines of its own, and guided 
by likes and dislikes of its principal employes. On the con- 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 147 

trary it is more nearly comparable to the engineering branch 
of a large railroad system. It carries out the orders of 
higher officials ... is governed strictly by laws and 
regulations and, within the limits thus prescribed, there is 
relatively little latitude . . . There has been no feeling either 
for or against the California Development Company expressed 
by the officials of this service.'' 

On two occasions Mr. Newell has been a visitor to the 
Valley and some of the hopeful things he has said concerning 
its future will be found elsewhere. It has never been charged 
that he has been personally diligent in the apparent attempt 
to discredit the promotion enterprise here, but that men of 
his service have succeeded to some extent in so doing is hardly 
to be denied. 

The circular (Number 9, Bureau of Soils, Department of 
Agriculture) prepared by J. G. Holmes and Thomas Means after 
an investigation of the soil of the Imperial Valley made in the 
fall of 1901, has been repeatedly referred to and disposed of in 
previous chapters. That the boyish investigator. Holmes, 
was sincere in his work is no more disputed now than is the con- 
clusion that he was over-impressed with a sense of his own im- 
portance and not sufficiently impressed with the fact that soil 
analysis and practical soil cultivation cannot be depended on 
to bring one to identical conclusions. In the last ten years 
Holmes has gained a riper judgment and is now highly con- 
sidered by the men of his profession. 

Probably no factor has been so potent for the undoing of 
settlers in this Valley as the governmental delay of the re- 
survey of the lands here sought for entry and reclamation. 
As early as April, 1900, C. N. Perry, with a crew of thirty as- 
sistants started a survey for the California Development Com- 
pany, tying his work to known corner-stakes on the Southern 
Pacific railroad line near Flowing Wells and driving south. 
Mr. Perry had been through the desert before, in 1892-3, in 
fact, as assistant to C. R. Rockwood, and he was aware of 
some of the difficulties to be encountered. He did not, how- 
ever, reckon with the principal one, for no engineer knew of 
that : namely, the hopeless incongruity of the so-called surveys 
of 1854-6 and of Brunt in 1880. 

They say that the survey of '54 was made in the back room 
of a saloon in Yuma, but as a matter of fact, a number of the 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



148 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



stakes of that survey have been found. When James Gadsden 
negotiated the purchase, from Mexico, of a strip of territory 
along the southern edge of Arizona, his stipulations were that 
the south boundary of the purchase should be a line running from 
El Paso on the Rio Grande to the mouth of the Colorado River. 
It is probable that when the surveyors struck the dreary waste 
of sand and sand hills almost at the end of their journey they 
were too glad to accept the statement of some passing Indians 
that the mouth of the Colorado was many miles north of their 
course, at Yuma. At any rate they made a sharp deviation, 
fixing the international boundary line a few miles south of that 
settlement on the Colorado and then going in there to replenish 
their stores. Their contract specified the completion of their 
line to the ocean, but it is not inconceivable that one long look 
from the top of some eminence like Pilot Knob showed them, 
as they thought, the utter futility of a careful survey of the 
desert between them and the coast range of mountains and that 
after making a pretense at a survey, they put back and finished 
their field notes in executive session. 




C. N. Perry was the One Leader Who Never Lort Poise 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 149 

In 1880 the Brunt survey was of the country lying south of 
the fourth standard parallel. It was assumed that this survey 
was correct and that, in accordance with Brunt's statements, 
the corners established by it were tied to corners established in 
the survey of 1856. But when Engineer Perry began his at- 
tempt to reconcile the corners of the Brunt survey and the field 
notes of the survey of 1856, he discovered that something was 
radically wrong. Unwilling to abandon the task the surveyor, 
whose reputation for careful and reliable field work is the envy 
of many of his fellows in the profession, decided to carry it 
on independently of the former lines and in his report he so 
stated. At that time this survey; known as the Imperial Land 
Company survey, was authorized by the Imperial Land Com- 
pany to be used as a basis for filings and although this was 
patently unlawful and poor practice it was so readily accepted 
by the officials of the Los Angeles Land Office and any other 
standard would have been so difficult to secure, that it became 
the measure by which practically every filing in the Imperial Val- 
ley was made. 

In the spring of 1892 a petition was presented to the Sec- 
retary of the Interior and later to Congress, asking for a re- 
survey of this district, and in July 1, 1902, Senate Bill No. 148 
was passed and approved, authorizing the re-survey. The Sec- 
retary of the Interior was named as the responsible officer for 
the work but not until one year later was the contract let. 
Six months more passed before two surveyors, Henderson and 
Friel, arrived in the Valley and commenced operations- in the 
field. They remained about 60 days and after their departure 
the settlers could learn nothing of the progress of the all-im- 
portant work until November, 1904, when W. O. Owen, an ex- 
aminer of surveys, arrived. He was uncommunicative but on 
a second visit, made in February, 1905, he stated that the Hen- 
derson and Friel notes were to be accepted, adding the dis- 
heartening information that these surveys were only of town- 
ship lines and that a new survey of sub-divisions was yet to 
come. 

This was but a few weeks before the expiration of three 
years from the passage of the bill authorizing the re-survey and 
in the meantime all lands in the Valley had been withdrawn 
from final entry, which meant that no patents would issue. 
Washington was besieged with petitions and letters and that 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



I 



150 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



summer bids for completion of the work were advertised for. 
In September those received were rejected and a month later 
others were called for, resulting in the successful award of con- 
tracts in April, 1906, for surveys of the claims in the district 
'*by metes and bounds." This Commissioner's order was 
later revoked and it was not until 1908 that the survey was fi- 
nally made, the field notes accepted, and the plats drawn. At 
the time of writing some of the land within the district has not 
yet been re-opened for entry, and the issuance of patents has 
but just been begun. 

This delay is by no means the only unfavorable feature of 
the situation. Between the several surveys made are many 




Holtvillc Celebrates Each Christmas With a Barbecue and Fiesta 

important differences: excess strips of varying widths run be- 
tween townships; and in comparatively few cases is a ranch 
found whose area was exactly what it appeared to be on the 
records. To add to the resultant confusion the Los Angeles 
land office, under whose jurisdiction all questions of title origi- 
nate, has been administered by officials with widely varying 
views on important matters arising before them. The most 
notably inconsistent rulings made by this office were those 
handed down under the regime of Frank C. Prescott, who held 
the position of Register for five years prior to the spring of 
1910. Both Prescott and his predecessor, Register Cruik- 
shank, accepted the filings of applicants who used numbers 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



151 



under the Imperial Land Company survey; Prescott went 
farther and accepted assignments of entries without regard to 
the validity of the original entry; both of these acts were later 
discountenanced and repudiated by the general land office 
and by the courts. In addition to these complications and those 
arising from the mistakes in surveys were numberless other 
technical irregularities and it is small wonder that entrymen, 
a large number of them ignorant of the laws and unadvised, 
made egregious blunders in preparing their early papers and 
in their attempts to comply with the law. Had a firm and dig- 
nified oflficial been at the helm in the Los Angeles land office 
it is highly improbable that these errors would have occurred 
or that the endless tale of conflicts and contests over land and 
land boundaries now being counted by special agents of the 
government would ever have come into being. 




The Holtville Park is Imposing 

An act known as the Flint bill for the relief of many of the 
complications above, so far as they refer to assigned claims, 
was passed by the Congress of 1909-10 through the efforts of 
Senator Frank P. Flint and Congressman S. C. Smith. 

The Flint bill to relieve settlers was anticipated by several 
months by an entirely different project — that to relieve many 
of the settlers of their hard-earned ranches altogether. What- 
ever the land grabber and professional speculative contestor 
of land rights has to say for himself very little good can be said 
of him. In other parts of the West where government land 
has been ruthlessly stolen contests have been not only restrain- 
ing but punitive in their effect. But in the Imperial Valley 
practically no land has been dishonestly acquired by the men 
who are now engaged, or ever have been engaged, in the dili- 
gent attempt to reclaim it from its desert condition. Unlike 
other territories this district presented no rich field for specu- 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



152 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

lation or for hasty exploitation. Dishonesty flourishes but 
poorly in the midst of a desert waste and in the main the men 
who acquired lands for reclamation did so with the best of in- 
tent and with the highest motives. 

But when they had turned the desert into a garden 
there came a class of men whose technical knowledge rather 
exceeded their ethical sensibilities. The reclaimed ranches 
of the Valley were prizes rich enough to tempt these men to 
investigate titles very closely and, aided by the inconsistencies 
and blunders of land office officials, they found many ranches 
where technical errors had been made either in filing, purchasing 
from original entrymen, or making proof of work done. Con- 
tests were filed on the rights of many settlers to hold their land 
and for a time it appeared that many honest men would lose 
their homes which they had with difficulty and suffering wrested 
from the wastes. But very few of these contests were finally 
sustained. Neighbors turned in to aid those whose rights were 
attacked and comparatively few have lost in the final appeals 
of the cases. One Sigel Skinner, a professional contestor, had 
an oranized system, operating boldly; while others have been 
more sly, urging tools to the work or selling information concern- 
ing defects to newcomers that the latter might avail them- 
selves of the illy-gained line of attack. One of the most interest- 
ing developments on this line came when two of the contestors 
fell out and greatly augmented our knowledge of their methods 
in the course of their bitter attacks on one another. 

Many of the contests filed by these fellows are still in liti- 
gation, but decisions have been rendered on two important 
points: one that an innocent purchaser will be protected; another 
that the provision of law that a citizen cannot file on more than 
320 acres of desert land does not apply to the extent of denying 
him the right to assign his first entry without profiting at all 
thereby and to then file again. The former decision was reached 
in the case of Sigel E. Skinner vs. John E. Davis; the latter in the 
case of Harrington vs. Patterson. There is at present a very 
determined fight being made in Washington before the Land 
Commissioner to secure the reversal of a bad ruling by the 
Los Angeles Land Office in the case of Samuel C. Bone vs. 
E. H. Rockwood. In this case the Los Angeles Land Office 
ruled that, contrary to the usual procedure of local land offices 
to date, it is unlawful for a person to ffle on land, assign the filing 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




Digitized by 



Google 



154 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



to another, and file again; this under the provision of the Desert 
Land Act to the effect that no person shall hold more than 320 
acres under that act. A very large number of the best ranches 
in the Valley are now held by entrymen who took them on 
assignment from other persons who had made it a business 
to file on land, cover it with water stock and spll it, repeating 
this operation several times. If the local land office decision 
is allowed to stand it will invalidate the claims of the present 
holders above referred to. An organized attempt to secure a 
reversal of this ruling is being made at the present writing. 

It has been stated (and tenable ground for dispute of the 
statement has yet to be established) that there have been no 
extensive frauds perpetrated on the government by entry- 
men in the Imperial Valley. In 1908 it was asserted by the 
United States District Attorney for the Southern District of 




At One Time the Railroad at Salton Was Nearly Out of CommiBaion 

California, Oscar Lawler, later Solicitor-General for the De- 
partment of the Interior at Washington, that an organized 
conspiracy for defrauding the government lands bureau had been 
unearthed and, in pursuance of an investigation of this alleged 
conspiracy, indictments were returned against Frank N. ChapHn 
of Holtville, David Chaplin of El Centro, the Oakley brothers 
of Los Angeles, H. W. Blaisdell of Los Angeles, F. C. Paulin 
of Los Angeles, Arthur Kemper of Los Angeles, and Paul Mc- 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 155 

Pherrin of Los Angeles, charging them with engaging in con- 
spiracies organized with the intent to defraud. The complaints 
alleged technical infringements of the law; the meat of the 
charges being that the men named had hired ''dummy entry- 
men" to file on public lands in the Valley, had themselves cov- 
ered the lands thus obtained with water stock, and had sold 
them at a profit. 

Defendant Blaisdell pleaded guilty and was fined $5,000, 
the Defendants Oakley pleaded guilty, but asked clemency 
on the ground that they had been misled by the customs of the 
local land oflBce, and one of them was discharged while the 
other was fined $250. Defendant Kemper pleaded guilty and 
was fined $250. On the other hand Defendant McPherrin 
and the Chaplins engaged counsel and went to trial before 
a jury. The action was one of the most costly ever prosecuted 
before a Southern California court, and was quite the longest, 
being continually at bar from September 23 to January 20. 
The jury found the Chaplins guilty but disagreed as to Mc- 
Pherrin. They recommended extreme clemency and their 
recommendation was strengthened by a petition signed by 
practically every person in the Imperial Valley, praying a light 
sentence. United States District Judge, Olin Wellborn, sen- 
tenced the two brothers to pay a fine of $1,000 each and to 
serve nine months in jail. The case is now on appeal. 

While there was a patent case of infringement of the letter 
of the law it is contended by the accused men that their sole 
intention was to encourage settlement in the Valley and to dis- 
pose of water stock they had acquired in the course of work 
done for the promotion of the extension of the water system 
in the district. They were not allowed to show before the jury 
that the practices of which they were guilty, and which were 
characterized as criminal by the prosecution, were practices 
common enough under the lax rulings of the Los Angeles Land 
Office, but such was undoubtedly the case. 

Concerning the relations between the United States gov- 
ernment and the Imperial Valley there remains now but one 
point to be mentioned. This is a large one, but at the end of 
the decade it is one of the few large matters that are entirely 
unsettled and that the future must determine for us. It con- 
cerns the control of the headstrong Colorado. 

In his special message to Congress January 12, 1907, Presi- 



Digitized by 



Google 



156 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

dent Theodore Roosevelt said that in the Valley, a country 
where *'much of the land will be worth from $500 to $1500 an 
acre, or a total of from $350,000,000 to $700,000,000'' the set- 
tlers were dependent on the Colorado absolutely and that no 
private enterprise could permanently insure their safety and well 
being. He asked Congress not only to promise to return to 
the Southern Pacific railroad the amount of money that would 
be required at that time to close the second crevasse in the 
dikes at the heading, but to go farther and appropriate suflB- 
cient money that the great river might be forever restrained 
from its erratic wanderings. 

In his characteristic style the ''strenuous president*' went 
right to the heart of the matter. Not alone the Imperial Valley, 
with its great present and its illimitable future, but the town 
of Yuma and its surrounding country and the very Laguna 
dam itself, depend absolutely on the harnessing of the river. 
Neither the settlers in this Valley or in the neighborhood of 
Yuma, nor the Reclamation Service project engineer, nor the 
California Development Company, nor the state of California 
and the territory of Arizona, are responsible for the control 
of the Colorado. The vagaries of the river threaten the well 
being of thousands of citizens and the security of thousands of 
farms and homes in the country and that government which 
is organized to protect, as well as to rule, must face and solve 
the problem. 

An international commission, of which Engineer L. C. Hill 
is the member from the United States and Senor Fernando 
Beltram Y Puga the member from Mexico, was appointed 
on recommendation of President Roosevelt, to study the neces- 
sities of the situation, but no report has as yet reached the public. 
Private advices from Washington state that this commission is 
active, but it may be long before definite action is taken. Mean- 
while temporary protection is afforded by levees built by the 
California Development Company. 

[Just as these pages go to press, there comes the grati- 
fying news that on the last day of the session of Congress 
President Taft sent a special message to Congress asking for 
an appropriation to control the Colorado river, with right to 
carry the work into Mexico, and a bill authorizing the Presi- 
dent to use one million dollars for that purpose was rushed 
through both houses. Thus for the first time this river be- 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 




Previous Floods of New River at Calexieo had Remained at the General Level of the Ground 




When the Great Flood Came Upon the Valley it Spread Out Wide at Calexieo 



Digitized by 



Google 



158 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



comes a government charge, and that this act will restore abso- 
lute confidence in the future of Imperial Valley is taken as a 
certainty. — Ed.] 

The claim of the Southern Pacific for $1,500,000 for the 
closure of the second crevasse at the heading, was before Con- 
gress for three years. Considerable opposition developed and 
the claim was materially cut in committee, but in the summer 
of 1910 it was finally allowed. 




The Town of Calexico was Protected by a Dike 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 159 



CHAPTER XI 



THE COUNTY OF IMPERIAL 

It has been our endeavor, in carrying forward the many 
(and sometimes tangled) threads of our story, to preserve in- 
tact a chronological history of the development of the Valley 
along all lines. If this has not been done it is because the tan- 
gents circumstance compelled us to take have led far away 
from the main theme and we have stumbled in retracing our 
steps, but we have here to deal with a different factor in develop- 
ment. The most noteworthy step forward made in the Valley 
in those anxious months between the summer of 1905 and the 
closure, was the foundation of the town of El Centro. 

When W. F. Holt gained the townsite rights in the East- 
side districts it was generally supposed that the railroad he al- 
most immediately projected would be run directly to Imperial. 
Some business differences with the owners of that townsite, 
however, led Mr. Holt to purchase, by the use of government 
lieu scrip, a section of land more nearly due west of Holtville, 
(or Holton, as it was first called) at the Southern Pacific railroad 
flag-station of Cabarker. Mr. Holt projected a town there 
which the promoters of Imperial were anxious to forestall; 
they therefore made overtures to him which ended in an agree- 
ment that the Holton Interurban line would not stop at Ca- 
barker but would run over the Southern Pacific tracks four 
miles north to Imperial. After several months, the interurban 
line being then pratically completed, all negotiations were 
broken off and the original transaction nullified. Holt sold the 
townsite of Cabarker to a Redlands syndicate which imme- 
diately began exploiting it under the name of El Centro. The 
growth of El Centro was not phenomenal at first, but so sub- 
stantial was the construction of the earliest buildings, and so 
earnest were its promoters in their purpose to create a model 
town, that a high grade of residents formed the nucleus from 
which, later, a strong citizenry grew. The Holt corporations — 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




In 1906 El Centro Began to Take Form 




In 1910 it Was a Busy Young City 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



161 



Holton Power Company and Holton Interurban Railway 
Company, had their offices in El Centro and the ice and electric 
plants of the former and the shops of the latter were located 
there. 

In Imperial a notable event was the establishment at this 
critical time of the first daily newspaper in the valley, by Edgar 
F. Howe and his sons, Armiger W. and Clinton F. Howe. 

Throughout the Valley there had been, even at the most 
discouraging times, a steady development along almost every 
line. When it was assured, in the spring of 1906, that the South- 
ern Pacific railroad would close the crevasse, a new impetus 
was given this development and although there were crises at 
the intake which plunged the settlers into the deepest gloom 
and caused many to abandon, temporarily, all plans for improve- 
ment or progress, these were forgotten when the critical times 
were passed. When the Rockwood gate went out in October 
many thought the end of the Valley was in sight: the hysterical 
joy when the closure was announced early in November only 
accentuated the succeeding despondency of December 7 when 
the second crevasse was reported. In fact the real depression 
of the Valley occurred with that event. The great engineer- 
ing problem of turning the river had apparently been solved, 
at a stupendous cost and after repeated failures, in November. 




In the Left Forejiround of This Imperial Stroot Scene Stands the 
First Newspaper Office Building 



Digitized by 



Google 



162 STORY OP THE FIRST DECADE 

If the river could overcome the efforts of the best engineers in 
the Southwest, backed by unlimited capital and the facilities 
of a railroad corporation, what hope was there for the district? 
For a few weeks it was an unanswered question, even the most 
optimistic feeling the depression. 

But this protasis of despair had its logical apodosis. If 
a second break coidd be closed, within a reasonable length of 
time, it followed without argument that the future of the Valley 
was secure. Many doubted that it could be, but when it was, 
the enthusiasm of all concerned for the possibilities of coming 
years was unbounded. They ran the gamut of hope in the dis- 
trict as readily and rapidly as they had that of despair: in an 
hour after the closure of the second break was effected faith 
unbounded filled the hearts of the people. Values doubled in 
a day, merchants telegraphed heavy orders for stock, ranchers 
bought horses and implements, and added to buildings and 
fields. Characteristically American, they forgot the river in 
a week, and in a month few of them could remember the date 
of closure. 

The immense volume of business that had accumulated 
during the period of doubt went forward with a rush. A great 
many transactions had been held in abeyance pending results 
at the river and these were now consummated. Never before 
had the settlers realized so fully as now that they were suffer- 
ing from an inconvenience of government that would hamper 
the future of the district seriously. We refer to the great dis- 
tance by rail between the towns of the Valley and the county 
seat of San Diego county, the port of that name. 

San Diego was ever a large county but in the days of its 
organization it was exceedingly doubtful that more than a score 
of persons would ever live off the railroad line in the great desert 
territory east of the coastal mountains. With the opening of 
the Imperial Valley, however, a different situation was pre- 
sented. Less than 120 miles across the mountains it was, by 
rail, almost 300 miles from the towns to the official center of all 
legal and similar business. In older settlements this difficulty 
might not have been so serious — particularly if the lands had 
been private and could have been bought and sold by mail or 
through agency of others. But dealing as they were with the 
government the settlers of the Valley found themselves com- 
pelled to go to the government offices for many pieces of busi- 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



163 



ness that might have been transacted in a county clerk's office. 
On the other hand the county officials, to whom the residents 
must look for attention to their affairs, were outlanders with no 
interests here and with little appreciation of the needs of the 
district. Those of them who came to the Valley were quite as 
much inconvenienced by the distance to and fro as were the 
settlers. The County Superintendent of Schools, Hugh Bald- 
win, used to drive across the mountains to visit schools, stop- 
ping at many districts en route, covering the Valley and then 
driving on across the desert to the far away settlements at Pi- 
cacho, northwest of Yuma, in the mining territory. With such 
difficulties in the way it is not strange that the visits of the 
county officials, save just before election time, were few and far 
between. 




J. W. Belden's Herd are Thoroughbred Holsteins 

One other factor is entitled to consideration. The resi- 
dents in the Imperial Valley were so set away from the rest of 
the world, so cut off from it in every sense of the word, by desert 
wastes and mountain ranges, that there grew up among them 
a distinctive comradeship. No matter whence they came, 
a short residence in the Valley, in touch with its ambitions, its 
ideas and its enthusiasm, fused new comers with pioneers and 
there developed what may well be called the Imperial spirit. 
This predicated pride of section and its concomitant, ambition. 
Ambition to make this section a unit in government as well as 
in purpose was natural : it became a powerful force in the early 
movement for county division. 

Although obviously loath to lose the rich territory east of 
her mountains, San Diego county had no choice when ambitious 



Digitized by 



Google 



164 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



Imperial residents presented to her Board of Supervisors the 
petition provided for by law, setting forth all compe- 
tent facts in regard to the new country and its claim for sepa- 
rate government, and on July 9, 1907, the Board adopted a 
resolution calling for a county division election. The line of 
division between the two counties as proposed was the section 
line lying between Ranges 8 and 9 east of the San Bernar- 
dino meridain; the territory embraced in the projected county 
had an area approximating 4000 square miles, with a popula- 
tion estimated at 10,320. The date set for election was made 
August, 6, 1907. 

There ensued one of the most bitter contests for the loca- 
tion of the county seat in the history of the Southwest. The 
primal issue, whether or not the new county should be formed, 
became a secondary matter; in fact it was almost completely 
lost sight of in the struggle between two towns for the pres- 
tige and the business the location of the county^s offices was 
expected to bring. Imperial, the pioneer town, and the logical 
location of the seat, was anxious for the honor, but to El 
Centro, the new townsite four miles south, it meant practically 
life or death. With the advantage years had given Imperial 




Imperiars High School Auditorium Embodies the "Spirit of the Valley" 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 




IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 165 

augmented by the acquisition of the business of the county 
El Centro would have fared poorly. It was a desperate 
struggle on her part and she won, although by a margin so 
narrow that a re-count of the votes was asked and at one time 
a contest of her legal rights was seriously considered by those 
opposing her. This was dropped, however, and within a few 
weeks the excitement of the battle was forgotten in renewed 
commercial activities and in the boom of the winter of 1907. 

Meanwhile, on August 
12th, the Supervisors of San 
Diego county met, canvassed 
the returns of the election, 
found that the people of the 
proposed county were almost 
unanimous in favor of divis- 
ion, and officially declared 
the county of Imperial a unit 

of government. Two weeks E1 Centro Began with a Freight 

later the newly elected board 

of supervisors of Imperial county met at El Centro in the Valley 
State Bank building at 10 o'clock in the morning, and organized 
by electing Supervisor F. S. Webster, of the Third Supervisorial 
district, chairman. 

No more eloquent comment on the temper of the people 
of the county could be made than to recount that, after ten min- 
utes of routine business. Supervisor Clark moved the adoption 
of County Ordinance Number One, an ordinance prohibiting 
the sale or distribution, anywhere in the county, except under 
the most rigorous restrictions, of any form of malt or spirituous 
liquors. Ordinance Number 3, adopted August 28th, forbade 
all manner of gambling or betting. Two or three attempts 
were made later to gain concessions or exemptions under these 
laws, and many illicit places of business were and are open, 
but in the main the famous ''Imperial Lid'' has remained on 
from that day to this and promises to do so indefinitely. This 
prohibition enactment but carried on a policy adopted from the 
first, and it can be said that in all the territory now in Impe- 
erial county liquor has never been legally sold as a beverage. 

Temporary quarters were secured for the county officers 
and with such expedition as was possible (very few of the men 
in.stalled having more than a slight acquaintance wnth official 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



166 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

business) the routine of the new government was entered upon. 
As an illustration of the make-shifts used in those days of be- 
ginnings a story of the first county jail may be illuminating. 
Sheriff Mobley Meadows, one of the most efficient, experienced 
and valuable men the new county had' in its official family, se- 
cured for the detention and punishment of the wicked a small 
brick building opposite the temporary court house that had 
been used as a furniture warehouse, a real estate office and 
a dwelling, respectively. 

This edifice had two rooms, one of which was set apart for 
the desperate criminals and one for the "short termers." The 
place was a magnet for the curious and, since it was too hot to 
close it up, was continually overrun by passers-by, anxious to 
gaze on the fearsome faces of the prisoners, most of whom were 
Mexicans, sodden with sleep. Meadows drove scores of people 
away but with the press of organization on him found this un- 
profitable and at last, in desperation, caused to be painted and 
ung on the door this sign: 

^'COUNTY JAIL" 
'^Keep Out." 

Reference has been made to the great distance by rail 
which lay between the ranchers and business men of the Valley 
and the old county seat of San Diego. This distance continued 
to hamper the business of the new county but it soon be- 
came a secondary obstacle. A few San Diegans, exceptions to 
the general rule, began shortly to interpose obstructions in the 
path of the men who were trying to straighten out the old rec- 
ords of transactions and accounts in the Valley and to apply 
them to the new government. One of the most serious of these 
was met by the county treasurer whose demands on San Diego 
county for the share of moneys belonging to Imperial county 
were answered first with evasion and temporizing and later with 
frank refusal. In September, the Board of Supervisors in El 
Centro appointed its chairman, F. S. Webster and the District 
Attorney, J. N. Eshelman, a brilliant and aggressive young 
lawyer, as a committee to take up with San Diego the fight for 
the rights of the county. These men made several trips to the 
coast and after some delay succeeded in forcing the old county 
officials to a sense of the fitness of things and to a settlement 
satisfactory to Imperial. For a time there was some hard 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 167 

feeling manifested against the old county but this very rapidly 
passed away and there grew up a bond cemented by the demands 
of their mutual interests between the citizens of San Diego and 
Imperial counties that resulted most profitably and happily 
to both. 




H. E. Wilsie Was One of the Horticultural Commissioners 

Very early in the history of the county a strong sentiment 
made itself felt for a system and organization that would for- 
ever keep from the agriculture of the rich Valley such diseases, 
pests, varmints, and vegetable growths as have proved the de- 
moralization of older districts. One of the first acts of the new 
Board was the appointment of a Horticultural commission 
composed of W. E. Wilsie of El Centro, D. G. Aplin of Holtville 
and Francis Heiney of Brawley, and these men and their suc- 
cessors have labored in season and out to maintain a strict 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



168 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

quarantine against dangerous importations. Later live stock 
inspectors, a bee inspector and other oflScers charged with the 
tasks of safeguarding the clean and healthy development of 
the industries of the Valley were appointed and given author- 
ity to cope with precarious situations. The result has been 
most gratifying. The pestilential growths and ills that have, 
in other sections, turned profit into loss all too often are prac- 
tically unknown here and a constant war is being made on those 
few dangerous factors that have crept in. The two problems 
faced by the cautious and scientific ranchers of the Valley today 
are the extermination of Johnson and Bermuda grasses and the 
eradication of plant aphis, both of which are being studied 
closely and both of which already show signs of yielding. 

In the close of 1907 the county offices were moved to a new 
building, erected by the supervisors to be used temporarily. 
A substantial jail building had been completed several weeks 
earlier and, although never taxed as to capacity, solved the ques- 
tion of safe and humane housing for the unfortunates placed 
under arrest. In 1909 a site for a permanent court house was 
decided on in an addition to the townsite lying west of the Date 
canal. 

It has been a matter of grave diasppointment to many to 
find that the Imperial Valley is a respectable community. Not 
only city-bred youths with brand new Stetson hats, and ban- 
dana handkerchiefs flaming with their freshness, but magazine 
writers and adventurers have sought here to find traces of the 
*^wild and woolly West.*' Theoretically they should be suc- 
cessful, for this is a pioneer country, one of the ultimate front- 
iers of the United States. We should have gaming hells, 
drinking places, cow-boys ^^shooting up*' Chinese laundries, 
and those other prominent and popular marks of the border 
district. Alas, we have them not! 

There is one strong and consistent reason for this: no desert 
is a fit place for an idle or dissolute man. When the Valley is 
reclaimed in its entirety, when every road is tree-bordered, the 
towns are large and prosperous and the essential **hand-out** 
is easy to obtain, when work is scarce and living is a solved 
problem containing no unknown quantities or powers, then we 
may have loafers on the streets, thieves in the by-ways and the 
American luxury, hoboes, one to each tie. The few objection- 
able characters in the district as we write are dilettante tramps. 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



169 



beginners who take work occasionally and then move on, as con- 
trasted with the professionals who never work. These amateurs 
are welcome visitors many times, however, for when laborers 
are few and work is plentiful the rancher receives the worst 
specimen of the unwashed with open arms. Real workers are 
coming in in increasing numbers at the end of the decade and are 
rewarded with steady employment at good wages, and with 
many opportunities for self-help that they are denied in older 
communities. 

It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that a factor al- 
most equally potent against the two sins of laziness and law- 
lessness is the prohibition law. Of the comparatively small 
number of men * 'booked'' at the county jail in the first 
three years of the existence of the county of Imperial, more than 
one-half are Mexicans, and of these the officers say almost 
half were arrested as a result of drinking liquor illicitly sold. 
Of the whites confined four per cent were in trouble for selling 
liquor, and at least fifteen per cent were charged with offenses 
committed while the accused men were in their cups. So small 
a number were arrested on charges of deliberate lawlessness that, 
considered in relation to the total population of the county, 




From the First the SchoolH Were Permanently Conblruct mI 



Digitized by 



Google 



170 STORY OF THE - FIRST DECADE 

they are insignificant. These figures have to do with flagrant 
offenders against the law: the prohibition ordinances seem to be 
quite as discouraging to professional street loungers and loafers 
whose crime consists, not in doing wrong, but in doing nothing. 
Those creatures who, although frequently without "the price 
of a meal,'^ are seldom without '*the price of a drink,'' do not 
believe in prohibition. 

The third factor militating against disorder is the temper 
and spirit of the settlers. Coming, as they do, for business, 
and with all energies bent to the one end of reclamation and 
cultivation, the residents of the Valley have little time for the 
incompetent and the incapacitated. Press, pulpit and public 
have united without formality in upholding the standards of 
decency and the influence thus created has discouraged settle- 
ment by undesirables. 

The development of the county organization has been de- 
scribed. Concerning the towns and trading points of the 
county some reference has been made in other chapters of this 
narrative. Imperial was the first town and its beginnings have 
been studied. Calexico was really a camp for employes of the 
California Development Company, but grew apace with its con- 
tiguous territory and is now more important because it is the 
port of entry into Mexico by way of the Inter-California rail- 
road line through Baja California to Yuma. The vicinity of 
Blue Lake was settled by San Diegans very early in the his- 
tory of the Valley about the town of Silsbee. This town has 
had no large growth but is an important base of supplies. Braw- 
ley was a necessity when, in 1903, settlement became very ex- 
tensive in that vicinity and its growth has been natural and 
rapid. Holtville was the base of supplies for the districts east 
of the Alamo river. It grew steadily, although at first it was 
necessary to freight supplies for its merchants across country 
from Imperial. The completion of the Holton Interurban 
line however, changed that condition. Holtville's real boom 
came at the close of the decade when some of her citizens, who 
had great faith in the project, raised money enough to sink a 
well for water. To the great surprise, not only of residents 
of the Valley, but of geologists and scientists who had issued 
the ukase that no artesian water existed in the Valley, water- 
bearing gravel was tapped at a depth of little more than 800 
feet in January, 1910. Another well sunk nearby to a depth 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 





Digitized by VjOOQ IC 



172 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

of 1100 feet passed through the sweet water and entered a 
stratum of sand carrying water too salt to use, so that the lower 
part of this well was filled up and only the sweet water at the 
800-foot level used. This discovery gave the district a great 
impetus. The soil of the Eastside district is incomparably 
soft and fertile, and there are many land owners there cutting 
up their holdings into small acreage tracts. The demonstra- 
tion that artesian water is available resulted in a great demand 
for these small tracts and many wells were immediately started. 
Several have been uncapped at this writing and the future of 
the Eastside is very promising. In passing it may be said that 
an effort is being made to determine the extent of this artesian 
belt by drilling in widely scattered parts of the Valley but no 
law has as yet been established by these experiments that jus- 
tifies a statement as to how extensive the belt is. It is not im- 
probable that water will be found in many parts of the whole 
Valley. 

Heber was established near the point where, as early as 
1900, it had been planned to locate a town to be called Paringa. 
The latter did not materialize, but Heber is now becoming an 
important trading point. The Heber Collegiate Institute, 
an agricultural institution, is located here. 

In the closing years of the decade several new towns were 
laid out and beginnings were made in settlements. Some of 
them give little promise of being more than trading posts for 
several years, while others have a logical call for existence. 
Alamorio, four miles east of Brawley in Water Company No. 5's 
district; Westmoreland, eight miles northwest of Brawley in 
No. 8 district; Mobile, five miles west of El Centro on the line 
of the projected San Diego and Valley railroad; Weist, a settle- 
ment several miles northeast of Brawley; and Meloland, a 
flag station on the Holton Interurban, are open for business. 

Of these towns and settlements Imperial was named for 
the Valley of which it was the geographical center; Calexico 
was a name concocted for it, combining euphonistically the 
words ''California" and "Mexico"; while the border town of 
Mexicali was christened after employing the same method and 
reversing the order of the words; Holtville was originally named 
Holton to honor W. F. Holt, its promoter, but had to be re- 
christened because the postal authorities, as has been stated, 
expressed a fear that it would he confused continually with 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



173 



either Hilton or Colton, California; El Centro is Spanish for 
*'the center'^; Brawley was to have been called that in honor of 
J. H. Braly, of Los Angeles, formerly a heavy land owner in 
the vicinity, but because of a falling out between him and of- 
ficers of the land companies it was named instead for a Mr. 
Brawley of Chicago, a friend of A. H. Heber; Silsbee was named 
for Thomas Silsbee, former owner of the land on which it was 
built on the shores of Blue Lake; Weist was named for a con- 
tiguous land-owner; Meloland 




Holtville Boasts a Plunge 
of Artesian Water 



was called that because its 
lands are '^mellow*'; Westmore- 
land was called after the sub- 
urbs of that name in Chicago, 
Indianapolis, Los Angeles and 
Watts, because it carries a 
good tang; Mobile was so de- 
nominated because it is hoped 
to make it the center of a cotton- 
growing community and the title is suggestive; and Alamorio 
derives its appellation from the fact that it is located east of El 
Alamo Rio — the Cottonwood River. 

It must not be^ supposed these are the only settlements 
in the county, which contains" more than 4,536 square miles, 
and which extends fron the boundary line of Riverside county 
north of the Chuckawalla range of mountains on the north to 
the Mexican line, and from the Colorado river to the Coast 
range. It is frequently forgotten by the residents of the Valley 
(if, indeed, it is known to most of them) that there are within 
its geographical boundaries an Indian reservation and school, 
six valuable working gold mines and much of the apparatus and 
system of a $4,000,000 government reclamation project, together 
with a number of railroad flag stations. Such are the facts. 
The Yuma Indian reservation comprises 16,150 acres, of which 
6,500 were thrown open to entry under the Homestead Act 
March 1, 1910, and immediately taken up. The land remain- 
ing is to be alloted to the Yuma Indians. This tribe, compris- 
ing about 700 members, of all ages and both sexes, is entitled to 
this land, divided equally among them. However, 350 members 
of the tribe engaged in a revolt against the government of the 
Indian School about the year 1895, and after driving the Catho- 
lic sisters who were then in charge of the school, off the reserva- 



Digitized by 



Google 



174 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

tion, they fled to Mexico where they now live. It is thought 
that many of these will not return and it is possible that more 
of the land in the reservation made for them will be diverted to 
the use of the public and thrown open for entry. 

So much is said of the possibility of putting the water sys- 
tem of the Imperial Valley under the Laguna dam at some fu- 
ture date that it may be well to digress and outline the scope of 
the so-called Yuma project at this point. Twelve miles north 
of Yuma on the Colorado river the waters flow between two 
rocky headlands, Laguna on the Arizona side and Potholes in 
Imperial county. Between these rocks, which are one mile 
apart, the government has constructed a weir costing $1,650,000. 
This structure is not a dam in the sense that it is built to im- 
pound water, but rather forms a fixed spillway ten feet from the 
bed of the channel so that at all times water can be taken 
from the river through the sluice-ways at either end of the weir. 
These two sluiceways are built with the purpose of at least par- 
tially settling the water taken into the distributing canals, 
the water being skimmed off the top for the use of irrigators 
and the silt being carried back into the river with the surplus. 
As far as the project in Imperial county is concerned the total 




It Was a Great Event When the Imperial Creamery Opened 



Digitized by 



Google 




IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 175 

cost is something like $750,000 in addition to that of the dam. 
The latter is completed, as is most of the work in this county, 
with the exception of that on the California side of the syphon 
which is to carry water taken 
out at Potholes and sent 
through a main canal in this 
county, under the Colorado 
river itself and there distrib- 
uted in the canals in Yuma 
Valley and later pumped up 
to the Yuma Mesa lands. 
It seems strange that river a>. „ , « u i • ^ i* 

® The Brawley School is Built on 

water should have to be Mission Lines 

syphoned under the river but the reasons for this are, first: 
that the only available site for a diversion structure is at La- 
guna;and second: that the entrance of the Gila river on the 
east prevented carrying the water in canals in Arizona to the 
Yuma lands, which are below the Gila. 

Two plans have been suggested for putting the Imperial 
Valley system under this diversion weir. One comprises a 
canal to run in a southwesterly direction from the dam to Sharp's 
heading, or thereabouts, avoiding entrance into Mexico; 
the other proposes a canal connecting Laguna and the Hanlon 
heading, and the abandonment of the Chaffey gate. There 
is one objection to the first plan and that is that it cannot be 
carried out. Forty miles of sand hills make that certain. There 
are several objections to the second plan, the principal physical 
objection being that it is exceedingly doubtful that a canal can 
be economically built to Hanlon's owing to the physical struc- 
ture of the country. The work would have to be prosecuted 
along the base of Pilot Knob and it is reported that washouts 
from cloudbursts are of frequent occurrence there, making pre- 
carious the construction of any permanent ditch. Another 
objection is political: it would mean negotiations with Mexico 
for a continuation of the rights held by the Mexican Company, 
the California Development Company's other self. A third 
objection is that, at this time there are very few men in the 
Valley who will commit themselves to the plan of placing the 
Valley's water system under the United States Reclamation 
Service. The engineers of the latter have always believed that 
it is not feasible to divert water from the Colorado river as the 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



176 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

California Development Company does it, by gravity flow; 
insisting instead that some diversion structure is absolutely 
essential. The engineers of the California Development Com- 
pany still believe otherwise and point to the Valley's system 
for proof. 

The opening of the Yuma Indian reservation lands to set- 
tlement in March, 1910, above referred to, added 173 farms to 
those of Imperial county. These approximate 40 acres in ex- 
tent and are productive and under an excellent irrigating sys- 
tem. While each of the farmers in this newly opened district 
must pay $65 an acre for water rights under the Laguna proj- 
ect, it is thought that they will be able to do this easily because 
they have fertile soil and are on the main line of a railroad, thus 
being assured of good transportation facilities. Most of the 
173 new-fledged desert farmers have taken up their residence 
at this writing and in a year they will have added materially 
to the wealth of the county. 

The Yuma Indian school is built on a historic hill and is 
largely housed in buildings erected by the United States army 
as long ago as 1848. At that time Generals Fremont and Kear- 
ney made headquarters there on several occasions and for ten 
years there was a large garrison there. Several battles with 
the Indians were fought and there are still pointed out some of 
the marks of those conflicts. The Yuma is quiet and docile 
now, but he does not seem to absorb American civilization 
rapidly, even when young, and there has been found a most 
discouraging tendency among the tribesmen to return to their 
heathenish ways when once the heavy hand of the school-mis- 
tress is removed. 

Imperial county is largely desert waste and barren moun- 
tains, but it has been shown in this chapter that what it lacks 
in acreage it makes up in fertility and promise. It has reason 
to be proud of its government and hopeful for its future. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 177 



CHAPTER XII 



PERSONAL ACHIEVEMENTS 

"The truth is, that, rich as we are in biographies, a well-written *Life' 
is almost as rare as a well-spent one; and there are certainly many more 
men whose history deserves to be recorded than persons able and willing to 
record it." 

— Carlyle. 

It is not difficult to relate, even exhaustively, the chrono- 
logical order of the events going to make up a man's life. To 
say that the subject of a personal history was born in such and 
such country town, in this or that year, that he worked from 
early boyhood at one occupation or another, that he married, 
that he entered upon a certain vocation and that he was suc- 
cessful, may add a great deal to available data from which to 
publish his rating in the business world or on which to base 
the legend on his tomb. But one might, if one were stupid 
enough to care to do so, read many volumes of such cataloguing 
and still know very little of the true part played by men in the 
greater and more important history of the march of events. No 
man may say when or how he shall be born, none may choose 
but live his allotted time, and the manner and time of death is 
no more to be selected than it is to be forecasted. Wherein, 
then, lies the virtue of a recitation of facts that are generally the 
same in the life of every man? 

As far as possible, in this story, we have abandoned the 
beaten paths of biography and tried to give a few illustrations 
of successes achieved in Imperial Valley, as typical of the suc- 
cesses of the people as a whole. One of the shining examples 
is W. F. Holt. 

Mr. Holt is the most noted man who has grown wealthy 
through legitimate promotion in the Imperial Valley. He is 
commonly rated as a millionaire, although this may be slightly 
exaggerated, and his holdings in the Valley are more extensive 
than those of any single individual. If he were the most pro- 
saic figure in the world his achievements would win him a place 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



178 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

in these pages; but he is not. He is a virile, many-sided, able 
business man; a faithful and tireless worker in any good cause 
which interests him; a man of unusual clearness of vision, and 
an optimist to whom many persons have looked in the dark 
and stormy days for encouragement and advice and who never 
yet turned a man away who needed a friendly word to put him 
on his feet again. He is not a philanthropist of the library- 
giving or school-endowing sort, but his benevolence runs in t\ e 
more practical channel of keeping his money out in the sun- 
light where it can work for him and, in passing, touch the lives 
and needs of others. Holt has little to say about his theories 
of life, but it can be said of him that one is: ''Providence helps 
those who help themselves. '' His contribution to a tramp 
would be a pile of wood first and double pay afterwards; just 
as his contributions to the needs of the Valley have consisted 
mainly in generous and sometimes extravagant expenditures 
of money to give the residents what they need to promote their 
comfort, convenience and competence after they have shown 
their ability to utilize it. 

He made his beginnings in life on a farm in Mercer county, 
Missouri, about 1864, his father being a farmer. Young Holt 
stayed with the the job until he was of age, then he struck out 
for himself in a small business in Princeton, Missouri. Living 
neighbor to his father was Farmer Jones whose daughter, Fan- 
nie, was Holt^s playmate from the time they were old enough 
to play. Other beaus and girls came and went for both of them 
but when Holt went into business he asked Fannie Jones to go 
in as half partner and she did. They made a go of it from the 
first and at the end of five years sold out and opened a small 
bank in Newton, near their homes. This bank was successful 
but Holt wanted to go farther west into newer country, so he 
sold his interest and moved on to Colorado, working at one thing 
and another there until the opportunity was afforded to start 
a bank in the then little town of Safford, Arizona. This institu- 
tion was a success from the day the doors opened and it was 
only a few years before President Holt was offered a generous 
amount for his holdings. The chance to go on to newer country- 
was too good to be resisted and Holt sold, making more on this 
one transaction than he had ever dared hope, in the old days, 
would be his. 

This sale not only put Holt in possession of some capital, 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




W. F. Holt Looks Into tho Future with the Direct Ga«e 
of the Confident Mi.n 

Digitized by 



Google 



180 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

approximately $20,000, but it increased his confidence in him- 
self and his knowledge of business methods to an appreciable 
extent. He moved to Redlands in the winter of 1900 and im- 
mediately began casting about for investment. Many propo- 
sitions were ofiFered, several he discovered himself, but the coun- 
try was more or less settled up and, as the man says himself, 
his best fortune had always been in new country. It was in- 
evitable that he should become interested in the Imperial Valley, 
then the abode of not more than twenty people, yet offering 
opportunities and giving promise of a future no ordinary stand- 
ards would measure. 

He was one of the first patrons of McCaulley's stage line 
in the spring of 1901, going to Imperial from Flowing Well 
to see the country. Before the temporary hotel was reached 
Holt was an Imperial Valley booster. With the same bipoad 
vision that had enabled Rockwood to span a decade in his 
thought in 1891 and see cultivated fields in the midst of the 
barren waste of that time. Holt looked across the vista of years 
and saw a country teeming with population and rich in business 
possibilities. Indeed, in many ways the two men are alike 
in that both saw nothing in the present of risk, deprivation, 
self-sacrifice, nor discouragement, but everything for the fu- 
ture of assurance. Rockwood, the constructor, saw a garden; 
Holt, the business man, saw an empire. 

Holt thinks quickly when business is concerned and when 
he thinks he acts. He had business associates who ought to be 
interested, as he decided, and he wrote them telegrams within 
an hour after his arrival in Imperial. Then he went in search 
of the telegraph office. He was told that the nearest was at 
Flowing Well, 28 miles across the desert and that, when the 
dispatches were taken there on the stage, there was some chance 
there would be no one there to send them. Holt said, "The 
first thing I do is to build a telephone line." 

The Imperial Land Company, very busy at that time 
taking money from the incoming colonists, were overjoyed at 
the proposition made them by Holt. He told them if they 
would give him an exclusive franchise and a little block of water 
stock as a bonus he would connect them with the outside 
world in sixty days. He received his bonus and Holt, who 
didn't know a switchboard cam from a voltmeter at the time, 
rushed poles, wire and instruments to the Flowing Well and 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 181 

made good his promise. In the meantime he saw an oppor- 
tunity to start a newspaper and, on somewhat the same terms 
as he built the telephone line, installed a plant and engaged 
Henry Clay Reed, a printer and newspaperman of experience, 
to publish "The Imperial Press." 

This was in the early spring of 1891. Colonists were pour- 
ing into the Valley and Imperial was the center from which all 
lines of business activity radiated. Holt was a churchman, 
as he is today, and, at an early stage in the development of the 
town, he interested himself with a number of others in the pro- 
posed organization of a church. Holt approached the land com- 
pany with the project, laying particular stress on this point: 
that Imperial, as a town, and as the center of a growing com- 
munity with a big future, should be founded on principles that 
would secure for all time a civic healthfulness; and that every 
encouragement should be given any enterprise that tended to 
promote ethics, morality and education. The members of the 
Imperial Land Company were likewise religious men and they 
heartily approved of the proposal and told Holt they would 
furnish water stock to repay him for building the church and 
supporting the minister. The edifice was built under direction 
of officials of the Christian denomination and Holt secured a 
preacher for the new building, paying his salary for two years, 
that the flock might have a shepherd from the first. 

Some of the credit for this move belongs to the members 
of the corporation that furnished the stock that secured Mr. 
Holt but the idea and its consummation on concrete lines are 
his. Long afterwards he said of this incident: "The building 
of that church was of vastly more importance than any of us 
realized at the time. It was the spirit prompting such a work, 
at that early day, which is responsible in a large measure for the 
moral well-being of the Valley today. The organization for 
education and moral training was the foundation for greater 
things later and I firmly believe that the day we started to build 
that church, simple and poor as it may have been, we started 
to build here a civilization ahead of the times. I remember very 
well at that time riding out of the Valley on the stage with a 
number of residents of the Valley and a couple of well dressed 
men who had come down to look over the country. It was a 
hot day and the two city men were thirsty. They talked very 
loudly about their thirst and finally one of them remarked. 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



182 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

with an oath, that he wouldn't put one cent into this country 
until he was assured that saloons would be admitted at once. 
I could not restrain myself. I said: *Sir, we don't want you 
down here nor one cent of your capital, as long as you believe 
that way.' I didn't know what backing I would receive in 
this but somewhat to my surprise every man on the stage but 
the two I am speaking of applauded my sentiments. A pe- 
culiar thing about this is that today one of those two men now 
has thousands of dollars invested here and he has told me since 
that the best thing the Valley ever did was to prohibit saloons." 

Shut off from the rest of the world by a barrier of desert 
and mountains, the Imperial Valley early began casting about 
for railroad facilities. Holt was quick to see the possibilities 
if a road could be put through but he was in no financial con- 
dition to attempt such a colossal task. However, he went to 
San Diego, in the summer of 1891, with Col. S. W. Ferguson, 
then general manager of the Imperial Land Company, and en- 
deavored to interest the merchants there in the building of a 
road. The two were successful in getting a committee ap- 
pointed by the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and this 
committee obtained pledges of no less than $50,000 for begin- 
ning preliminary work. Surveys were run by an engineer named 
Richards, three possible routes being mapped. It was proposed 
to run the road through the Valley, crossing the main north and 
south artery of the district at a point about where Heber stands 
today and running thence on to Yuma. It was found difficult 
to obtain sufficient capital, however, and Holt proposed another 
tack. 

Conference with President Heber of the California Develop- 
ment Company and the officials of the Imperial Land Company 
resulted in a deal by which the two corporations undertook to 
provide Holt with 1200 shares of water stock if he would fur- 
nish the money with which to survey, grade and build a rail- 
road from the town of Imperial to the most feasible point on 
the Southern Pacific main line from Los Angeles to Yuma, 
which point was about 28 or 30 miles distant. Holt had the 
survey made, engaged George A. Carter of Arizona to do the 
grading and started actual work. The Southern Pacific officials 
in San Francisco summoned President Heber there and in thirty 
days had completed the purchase of the rights of way and of 
Holt's work, (,-onstruction gangs were sent down from Los 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 183 

Angeles and that winter the Southern Pacific sent its first train 
into Imperial. 

Holt made money on this railroad deal. About this time 
he entered into a contract with the California Development 
Company to buy all the water rights for a district comprising 
about 14,000 acres on the east side of the Alamo river, running 
eight miles north from the boundary line. Holt purchased this 
block of 14,000 shares pretty cheaply, built his system, and 
built it well, then put the stock on the land and sold out. F. N. 
and D. H. Chaplin, school teachers from Pasadena, handled this 
business for Holt and all three made money. Holt says that the 
work and the stock cost him in the neighborhood of $125,000 and 
that he sold it at from $8.50 to $10 per share. It is probable 
that his modesty leads him to make his figures a little conserv- 
ative and that, instead of $10,000 or $15,000 he cleaned up nearer 
$50,000 in cash with that much more due him in deferred 
payments and even now being paid him by the ranchers. 

But if a promoter deserved his profit Holt did on this deal. 
In the first place, as we have said, he built a good system, as 
good as there is to be found in the Valley today. The district 
is now known as Number 7 and has reason to be proud of its 
canal system and the annual showing on its books. In the sec- 
ond place Holt furnished the California Development Company 
with a good deal of much-needed ready money, and this money 
was used by the corporation in the extension of its own canals 
to other parts of the Valley where water was badly needed. 
In the third place Holt was a national bank to the settlers. 
Many of them had little or no cash and could not have settled 
in the Valley at all if they had to make the required deposit 
of 25 cents an acre on their land to the government, provide 
homes, stock and tools and cultivate the ground and in addition 
pay even $2.50 an acre for water stock. Holt allowed them to 
buy on easy payments and in many instances actually known 
to the writer he gave settlors their stock for nothing, taking only 
their personal notes for payment in the future. Of course he 
was sure of getting his money if the Valley held out, as he had 
mortgages on the water stock. But if the Valley had proven 
a failure * * * | 

It may be well to stop right here and sound the keynote 
to Holt's character and to his success in the Valley. It is faith. 
He believes in his country, he believes in this state, he believes 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



184 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

in the Imperial Valley, but what is more vital he has implicit 
faith in the rightfulness and righteousness and rightness of human 
nature. He has said repeatedly: **I can't help believing in p)eo- 
ple. It's easy for me to do it, not only because it is my nature 
but because long experience with them has taught me that you 
can trust them. I have never been cheated out of a dollar in 
my life, have never filed a lawsuit to collect damages or claims 
and have never foreclosed a mortgage. And yet I've been loan- 
ing money or selling on credit all my life. I've found that the 
way to get your money is to give a man a chance to pay you. 
Where most people make a mistake is crowding a debtor when 
he can't or don't want to pay. That's where I give him time, 
play him off a little line, loan him some more money if I have 
to. He gets his feet on the bottom, blows a minute and then 
starts over again and swims in, with my money in his teeth. 
I believe in people." With this implicit confidence in men he 
goes into a business venture with a good liberal head start over 
the average business man. When he decided that the Imperial 
Valley was bound to be a success he banked everything he had 
on it. When many others were throwing up the job, laying off 
employes, selling out stock, giving away land, and moving to 
the Coast or to Ypsilanti, Holt was buying, building, enlarging, 
improving, spending money. He saw that the Valley was too 
good to go back to desert and that some way the obstacles were 
going to be removed. What he bought cheaply at those try- 
ing times he has sold since or is selling now at great big profits, 
the profits some over-zealous souls would take away from him 
now and divide among the less perspicacious, forgetting that 
labor is only one form of work and that it is legitimate and 
ethical to buy what is for sale and to sell when a purchaser 
offers. 

Holt had better than his original $20,000 at the opening of 
1903, quite a bit better. When he was through irrigating Num- 
ber 7 district he had a little water left and it was running 
to waste in the Alamo channel. The promoter began to wonder 
if that water couldn't work, since everything else he had could, 
and he figured out a scheme for making butter, grinding meal 
and turning a buzz-saw with the waste. The only thing he had 
ever surveyed was the view from the top of a stage coach and the 
only thing he had engineered was a couple of banks and a rail- 
road deal. So he hired a man who knew something about 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 185 

technicalities and this man told Holt there was between 500 
and 1000 horsepower of electrical energy to be produced by the 
water if properly harnessed. Holt broached this scheme to a 
number of financial men of great astuteness and they laughed 
at him. No, they howled. So Holt bought a dinky turbine 
and a few feet of pipe, hitched a belt on to a dynamo and threw 
away his coal oil lamps. In six months a number of those smil- 
ing business men were hanging around the office of the Holton 
Power Company trying to buy some of the stock in that har- 
nessed waste water proposition, but there was none for sale. 
Holt had done the impossible, put a water power plant plump 
down in the middle of a desert as level as a floor and produced 
therefrom electrical energy enough to light the district from the 
International boundary to the Southern Pacific right-of-way. 
There was some cause for that preliminary laughter, it is freely 
admitted. 

The ball was rolling now. Holt couldn't keep out of the 
way of it and it rolled him up inside and went merrily forward 
without his doing much more than kick out now and then to 
guide its course. He bought a townsite near the power plant 
and another where the Southern Pacific railroad had put a water 
station and called it Cabarker (named for C. A. Barker of Red- 
lands), which point was ten miles west of the power plant. The 
Holton Interurban railroad to connect the two towns came next. 
Later this townsite passed to a Redlands syndicate, which or- 
ganized a new corporation with W. T. Bill as president, and the 
townsite was placed on the market under the name of El Centro. 
The name of the town of Holton was changed to Holtville be- 
cause the postoffice department was afraid the town would 
have all its mail sent by mistake to Hilton or Colton, other 
California towns, and it grew apace. Holt built an ice plant 
and some car shops at El Centro, and the Redlands people 
opened an aggressive campaign for a real town. In the course 
of events, since Holt had not enough to do and was standing 
around with his hands in his pockets most of the time, the Red- 
lands people made a deal with him by which he undertook to 
build a row of business blocks and a $50,000 opera house on lots 
provided by the townsite company. It required some con- 
fidence in people again, this building proposition, for at that time 
the total population of EI Centro could have been seated in the 
passenger coach of the Holton Interurban, which is a combi- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



186 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

nation baggage at that. But the county division and county 
seat elections put El Centro into place as the official headquar- 
ters of the new-born Imperial county and since that time the 
place hasn't stopped much. 

Holt is blamed with a lot of things. As he says himself 
**The public has had quite a lot of mean things to say about 
me; some of which are true.*' But his principal fault is that he 
is too full of business. He works too hard to have time to sit 
around the corner store stove and whittle with the rest of the 
fellows, so when they get out to work they find the Holt fields 
are all plowed and the weeds in fence corners are neatly stacked 
for the match. Lots of people don't like Holt ; lots do. One man 
has sold about $125,000 worth of property for him, making good 
commissions. This man says: **Since I have been doing 
business with W. F. Holt I have never had a written contract 
with him, never had a single dispute over money matters and 
in a number of cases where there was a difference in our figures 
he has accepted mine and paid me the balance. He is unques- 
tionably the easiest man to deal with I ever met.'' On the other 
hand a capitalist who once tried to sell Holt a gold brick says of 
him: *'Ever since my first deal with Holt I have had to watch 
him." 

Of the corporations in the Valley with which Mr. Holt is 
associated the most important is the Holton Power Company, 
capitalized for 81,000,000, and having the following director- 
ate: W. F. Holt, president; A. G. Hubbard, vice-president; 
W. G. Driver, secretary and auditor; M. M. Phinney and J. A. 
Shreck. All those officers live in Redlands and it is there that 
the principal lousiness offices of the corporations are located. 
This company owns the electric lighting plants in the five towns 
in the Valley, also the three power plants, being the two water 
plants at Holtville and the steam power plant at El Centro, 
also the ice plant at El C'entro, five cold storage plants in the 
several towns and numerous smaller pieces of property through- 
out the district. The capacity of the electric plants aggregates 
2,000 horse-power, and there are 35 miles of main transmission 
lines and about 25 miles of distributing Unes. The ice plant 
has a capacity of 25,000 tons a year. 

The Holton Interurban Railway Company, with the same 
board of directors, has a capital stock of $200,000, and at pres- 
ent operates the ten miles of road between El Centro and Holt- 
Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 187 

ville. At this writing it is announced by Mr. Holt that within 
a few weeks he will begin the construction of a gridiron system 
of roads connecting the various towns of the Valley in admir- 
able fashion, and bringing within shipping distance of a railroad 
practically every acre of ground in the whole district. The de- 
tails of this immense project have not been finally announced at 
this date, but sufficient is known to fill the hearts of many an 
isolated rancher with joy and to give added impetus to the 
booms on in most of the towns of the district. Whether all 
these enterprises will be merged into one with the Holton Inter- 
urban Company's project is not stated, but one management 
for all is probable. 

Two new enterprises are now receiving Mr. Holt's atten- 
tion: the Imperial Valley Gas Company, and the Inter-Cali- 
fornia Land Company. The former is now serving the towns of 
Imperial and El Centro with gas for fuel and has met with a 
most generous patronage and hearty appreciation. The Land 
Company promises to be of large importance to the district. 
It has purchased 32,000 acres of land from the California- 
Mexico Land and Cattle Company in Mexico, on the line of the 
Inter-California railroad, with Cocopah as its point of entry, 
and the plan is to colonize this land which is particularly fine 
soil. The irrigating system, unit of farms, prices, and so on, 
have not as j'et been announced but it is assumed that a large 
colonization scheme on very small farm units is planned. The 
company is capitalized at $3,200,000 and the executive com- 
mittee of the Board of Directors consists of Mr. Holt, chair- 
man, Harry Chandler and C?en. H. M. Sherman, of Los Angeles. 
The officers are: Mr. Holt, president and general manager, 
C. T. Wardlaw of Los Angeles, secretary, Charles Sayler, cashier 
of the Farmers' and Merchants' Bank of Los Angeles, treasurer. 
The board is made up of eleven financial pillars residing in Los 
Angeles and San Francisco. 

In addition to all these multiplex enterprises Mr. Holt is 
a director in several important Los Angeles and Redlands cor- 
porations and of banks in Redlands and in the several towns of 
the Imperial Valley. For the future he has many plans, most of 
them concerning the Valley. As he says in a letter to the 
writer: **I believe it is a man's duty to enter into the life of 
whatever community he finds himself linked with, and whatever 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



188 STORY OP THE FIRST DECADE 

he may do to better conditions of living in that community, it 
devolves on him as a duty to do.*' 

That W. F. Holt is doing his duty it remains for a future 
generation more fully to affirm. 

With all his energy, faith and constructive abilty, Mr. 
Holt would have been unable to accomplish what he has with- 
out competent and intelligent assistance, and it is a source of 
much pleasure to the writer to mention, in passing, the invaluable 
services rendered Holt's corporations by the General Superinten- 
dent, C. E. Paris. Almost from their inception the companies 
have been largely under the immediate care of Mr. Paris, and 
it is he whom the residence of the Valley deal with in the field. 
His tact, skill and technical knowledge are well known to all 
who have had business deahngs with him; socially and outside 
his work shop he is a man of unusually charming p)ersonality. 
Thoughts of the Holt corporations, or references to them al- 
ways carry with them an unconscious thought of Mr. Paris, 
also, and this digression is made purely for the sake of acknowl- 
edging his worth to the community on the one hand and many 
personal obligations on the other. 

Mr. Holt was a true pioneer. In this connection it is of 
value to turn back a few years and find the names of some of 
those who were with him. 

In November, 1902, the first Farmers' Institute was held in 
the new brick block of the Imperial Land Company in the settle- 
ment of Imperial and those present signed a roster. This 
book is now the property of W. E. Wilsie, of El Centro, and he 
very kindly furnished a list of the names of those present on 
that occasion. Comprising, as it does, a very fair roll call of the 
pioneers, the list is given below in full: 

C. A. Frederick, Ray Edgar, E. C. Utz, Mrs. H. N. Dyke, 
Jas. B. Hoffman, Robert Harwood, Mrs. Mattie Gardner, Mrs. 
Leroy Holt, Mrs. Annie Young, W. F. Holt, E. L. Eggleston, 
J. H. Free, F. H. Wales, W. J. Mitchell, S. A. Adams, John C. 
Hay, Mrs. L. E. Srack, L. E. Srack, R. W. Mclntyre, James 
Heathy, H. N. Dyke, H. E. AUatt, G. M. Young, Z. L. Gardner, 
James Boyd, W. E. Wilsie, John Elslee, O. V. Darling, D. D, 
Pellett, Emily Seegmiller, Mrs. Kate Brooks, John G. Brooks. 
E. A. Slane, Mrs. S. R. Adams, Rosalia Meadows, Olive Thayer, 
A. C. Gaines, Margaret S. Clark, Jean Grove, Walter Evans, 
Leroy Holt, Daisy Grove, Mamie Evans, Earl li. Banta, Mrs. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 189 

S. W. Mitchell, S. W. Mitchell, Fred Wales, Year Mitchell, 
W. A. Edgar, Mrs. W. A. Edgar, Wilton P. Holman, Frank H. 
Stanley, William Elmensdorf, Ralph W. Hughes, Thos. H. 
Hughes, Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Manning, A. C. Ensign, T. P. 
Banta, H. C. Griswold, V. K. Brooks, R. W. Still, J. W. Shenk, 
E. L. Ranney, John Clark, W. A. Van Horn, Mrs. W. A. Van 
Horn, Susie and Ora Van Horn, Alice Gillett, Augusta Gillett, 
Angle Mitchell, Emma Mitchell, Lottie, Hester, Edith, Ray- 
mond, Eva, Mandie, Walter and Alfred Adams, Hattie Gillett, 
Rena Van Horn, E. N. Adams, M. J. Starks, Mrs. Starks, 
Elsie and Mrs. E. M. Adams, Mrs. Alice E. Duman, D. NicoUs, 
W. H. Home, W. T. Home, Mr. and Mrs. M. P. Grove, E. L. 
Wales, L. M. Dougherty, E. S. Lyons, Mrs. L. C. Vickrey, 
L. M. Van Horn, Jessie and Jennie Holt, Rena Elliott, A. C. 
Ferguson, Mrs. Ethel Ferguson, A. W. Cook, Mrs. A. W. Cook, 
S. A. Smith, Mrs. Hector White, Roscoe White, Archie Priest, 
Edwin Irwin, Guy Irwin, Teil Stephen, Ray Stephen, Fred 
Miller, Ray Van Horn, Hubert Van Horn, Ernest Mitchell, 
Charles Gillett, DeWitt Young, George Harris, Evert Van Horn, 
John Gillett, Tom Beach, Justus Beach, Fred Van Horn, Ros- 
coe Beach, Romie Mitchell, Daniel Webster, J. R. Adams, 
Eugene Wales, F. Blackburn, J. F. Rutter, Carl Huddleston, 
Romaldo Barlage, Jean Irene Stacks, Frank Blake, Walter 
and G. W. Donn, Jno. Yount, W. A. Daggs, John Daggs, 
Ed. B. Moore, Ernest Van Horn, Mrs. Ed. B. Moore, Albert 
Hart, Mrs. D. K. Straight, Mrs. E. A. Dundon, J. M. and J. 

D. Huston, T. N. Kellogg, Charles Toney, Dr. and Mrs. J. C. 
Blackinton, F. T. Thing, L. A. Meredith, J. A. Williams, H. J. 
Cross, F. M. Chaplin, A. T. Plath, J. S. Snyder, J. H. Holland, 
L. F. Famsworth, L. E. Cooley, M. C. Mitchell, J. E. House, 
S. W. Utz, C. B. McCollum, Harry Willard, J. R. Harris, A. H. 
Carrier, E. K. Carriere, J. K. Thomas, Senator L. Adams, 
J. D. Dunovant, W. Busby, Mrs. D. C. Huddleston, Mrs. G. 

E. Miller, Rev. G. T. Wellcome, J. A. Hammers, W. H. Harts- 
horn, D. D. Copenhaver, C. J. Schenck, E. M. Guier, J. W, 
Mills, J. A. Bonsteel, J. Garnett Holmes, H. J. Wilson, Jas. S. 
Jacks, W. E. Hogue, H. C. Oakley, J. E. Heber, George Fish- 
baugh, Edwin Mead, Charles Palmer, Thos. Brock, Mobley 
Meadows and Marguerite Beach. 

The history of W. E. Wilsie is so full of achievement and 
activity, since his arrival in the Valley in October, 1901, that 
it is impossible to do more than touch on it, giving a sort of re- 
Digitized by VjOOQ IC 



190 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



sume of his important and unselfish part in the development of 
the desert. In a reminiscent letter to the editors he says: 

^'I first reached the Valley in October, 1901, from the Ojai 
Valley, saw the possibilities of the new country, returned to my 
former home and made arrangements to make a final move. 
On the second trip I reached Imperial on a bicycle from Old 

Beach on April 22, 1902, my 
team and wagon, driven over- 
land, having reached here a 
few days before, bearing all 
my possessions except my 
family. The latter I left at 
Compton until I should have 
a home ready for them. The 
first work I did in the Vaile,y 
was to clear the brush from 
the Silsbee townsite and haul 
the stakes from Flowing 
Well with which to stake out 
the lots. That spring I join- 
ed the Oakley-Paulin Com- 
pany in the organization of 
the Imperial Valley Farming 
& Milling Company, my 
part being to oversee the 
farming end. During the 
summer I hauled the rock for 
the foundation of the ice 
plant in Imperial and dug the 
first settling basin there. In 
August we gave a big w^ater- 
melon social at which 250 
people enjoyed a program 
and a feast of good things. It was the first large social event in 
the district. 

''During November, 1902, I cleared, bordered and ditched 
the streets of Brawley, the only residents then being Frank 
Stanley and T. H. Kellogg. The following spring the town was 
laid out on a different plan and I did the work again. 

During the winter of 1902 I farmed 300 acres on the west 
part of the Imperial townsite, and in May harvested and shipped 




The Wilsio Girl and tho Palm by Which 
She Stands are the Same Arc 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 191 

three carloads of barley and one of wheat, the first grain cut 
by a combined reaper and harvester in the Valley and the first 
ever shipped out by rail. We located in April on the place we 
now own, 640 acres three miles west of El Centro and have it 
now under a high state of cultivation.'* 

Mr. Wilsie's letter ends there. He does not go on to say, 
as he might have done, that he has, among other positions of 
trust, held the following offices: Director of the first creamery 
and the first stock breeders association in the Valley and presi- 
dent of the first cantaloupe association; director of the El Cen- 
tro Creamery Company, of the first cotton company, and of the 
Imperial County Fair Association,; clerk of the Eucalyptus 
school district, and secretary of the library board of the same 
district ; trustee of the Heber Collegiate Institute, first high school 
trustee in the Valley (Cuyamaca district) and for several years 
Horticultural Commissioner of the county. In the latter 
position he has performed most valiant and efficient service, 
for which the Valley people of the future will thank him more, 
even, than his neighbors do today. 

When the population of the Valley comprised a half-score 
of men pasturing wild steers in the neighborhood of the lakes 
in the southwestern corner of the district, George Nichols became 
a ''settler.'^ There are few pioneers who antedate him: P. J. 
Storms, Andy Elliott, Arthur Ewens, Wilkins, being among 
them. 

Probably no man has been more closely identified with the 
district from the first than Nichols, for he not only developed his 
own ranch but took a large hand in colonization, in aiding the 
newcomers and in all public affairs. Particularly in the neigh- 
borhood of the present settlement of Silsbee, he was among the 
leaders in all development work and in the organization of 
things so that co-operation and systematic development were 
possible. Under Supervisor Jaspar, who represented this 
section of San Diego county before the organization of Imperial 
county, Nichols was prominent in road and school district 
work, securing most of the rights-of-way for roads and laying 
out most of the old school districts for the supervisor. This 
work was highly important, but not remunerative and his fel- 
low citizens were very glad to turn it over to Nichols who was 
more public-spirited than many. 

His share in the colonization of the Imperial settlements 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



192 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

was large. He brought more than 100 persons into the Valley, 
most of them from San Diego and its environs and practically 
all of these became interested in property in the Valley to some 
extent. Much of the vicinity of Heber was colonized by Nich- 
ols, who had the first real estate office in Imperial. His partner 
was San Hastings and the two did a big business. It is char- 
acteristic of many of the men of those days, however, that they 
were so anxious to boom the country they thought little of their 
own commissions and it is not unlikely that many locations or 
sales were made without profit to the firm. 

In the spring of 1902 Mr. Nichols started work on his own 
place, an 80-acre ranch six miles southwest of El Centro. This 
piece is now highly improved and from the second year has paid 
dividends. Later Nichols obtained 320 acres in Number 12 and 
at the end of the decade is in a position to figure on adding an- 
other 160 acre piece which he says that he will do without de- 
lay. Having been in the land business since his arrival he knows 
as much, probably, as any man in the district about land values, 
and he is in a position to buy well for himself and to deal for 
others to their advantage. He is now in the real estate line in 
El Centro, with Ira Aten, another pioneer, as his partner. 

*'The first crop I know of in the Imperial Valley was a small 
patch of corn on the border of Blue Lake,'* Mr. Nichols says. 
*'It was planted by a man named Wilkins and yielded aston- 
ishingly. In those days there were a great many cattle pas- 
tured on the desert grass that came up on the fringes of these 
lakes or on ground overflowed during the annual rises of the 
Colorado. The first alfalfa I ever saw growing here was a 30 
acre patch on Diamond Lake grown by Arthur Ewens." When 
one goes about the Valley now it is hard to believe that ten years 
ago these scattered spots of green which Mr. Nichols describes 
as being the only thing of the kind when he arrived on the scene, 
were the first tilled acres where now there are tens of thousands. 

Not more than half a dozen men have served so contin- 
uously in capacities of trust and importance for the Imperial 
Valley as has R. D. McPherrin. From a time shortly after 
his arrival in 1902 until the close of the decade he has never 
been entirely free of some burdens of a public or semi-public 
nature: his knowledge of the inside conditions of the growth 
of the district is second to that of no other person. Employed 
by the California Development Company first in a clerical 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 193 

capacity he was early made secretary of Imperial Mutual Water 
Company No. 1 in which office he served for several years. 
Later, having taken up again the practice of law followed be- 
fore he came to the Valley, he was made attorney for the No. 1 
company and in that capacity has had much to do in moulding 
the policies of the company. 

An entire chapter might well be devoted to the stories 
Roy McPherrin tells of the early days. He arrived at Flowing 
Well about four o'clock one afternoon in the spring of 190- from 
Nebraska, with a young friend, and, as the two stood beside 
the tracks and watched the overland train disappear in a cloud 
of dust to the west and themselves turned about to look over 
a stretch of desert waste as far as the eye could see, they joined 
in a cordial and fervent wish that they were back on the train. 
This being clearly out of the question they turned toward the 
Imperial settlements, taking a McCaulley stage and reaching 
the camp of the California Development Company at dusk. 
**I remember well my costume,'* said Mr. McPherrin, when re- 
calling those early experiences. "Fresh from the city I was 
resplendent in dark clothes, low shoes, a high collar and a derby 
hat. The boys in the camp looked up from their tin plates 
and watched me as I took my seat at the table with them as 
though I were an importation from a foreign shore.'' 

The derby hat was soon discarded for a straw and the high 
collar quickly wilted but McPherrin cast in his lot with the 
pioneers and became a part of the force of unostentatious but 
picturesque men who were bent on taming the desert. Almost 
immediately the Development Company discovered that young 
McPherrin was too valuable a man for the field and they in- 
duced him to take up clerical duties, through which he shortly 
became familiarized with the inside workings of the entire de- 
velopment scheme. It is to be doubted that there is a more 
competent authority on the legal and business status of the 
several mutual water companies and the California Develop- 
ment Company, with its ramifications, than McPherrin. 

Trained to the law he later took up regular practice, being 
the first attorney in the Valley. With his brother, Paul, who 
followed him West in a few months, he secured a piece of raw 
land on the road between Brawley and Imperial and there to- 
day they have a highly cultivated ranch. In 1909 the famous 
Corwin ranch, west of El Centro and Imperial, passed into the 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



194 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

hands of a third brother, A. J. McPherrin, both places being 
managed by Roy MePherrin. Thus he has had a very impor- 
tant part in reclamation, as well as in the executive work of 
establishing a farming community in the midst of the desert. 

[For a careful and helpful perusal of the manuscript of this 
volume the editors owe grateful acknowledgement to Mr. Mc- 
Pherrin. — Ed.] 

A pioneer in the truest sense W. H. Hartshorn has a rare 
fund of stories concerning the early days, particularly those in 
which the town of Imperial came into being. Within a few days 
after the first tent house, a temporary hotel building and a frame 
store were erected, Mr. Hartshorn arrived from across the moun- 
tains to take a very important part in development. At the 
time the greatest single need of the district, after that of water 
was for ice, and Mr. Hartshorn was made manager of the plant 
erected by the Imperial Land Company to supply that want. 
Small as was the field and costly as was the manufacture of ice 
Hartshorn put the price to one cent a pound, at which price 
it remained for ten years, and the new comers to this then for- 
bidding desert had a means for making the summer of 1901 and 
1902 endurable. 

Piping the city for water came next and Hartshorn super- 
intended the work and turned on the first water used in the 
homes. One warm day in August, 1902, Superintendent Hart- 
shorn came upon a gang of men in the bottom of a ditch in Im- 
perial avenue struggling vainly with a connection which re- 
fused to be made. The *^boss'' climbed down in the trench 
and the ^'hands'* climbed out and mopped their brows and looked 
on. In a few minutes the connection was made and Hartshorn 
went over into the shade of the porch of the new **hotel." 
* 'Pretty hot down there, wasn't it?" the loungers asked. Hart- 
shorn said he hadn't noticed it particularly. They pointed to 
the thermometer, there in the shade. He looked and it regis- 
tered 126''. 'Then I did feel the heat!'' Mr. Hartshorn says. 

New residents began to pour into the little hamlet in 1902, 
particularly in the fall and there were many lines of trade and 
industry missing. One of the most important needs was for 
a transfer and delivery company and Mr. Hartshorn, with the 
water company, the ice plant, some real estate business and his 
own land to look out for decided he didn't have enough to do 
so he became the transfer company. The dray he bought was 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



195 




The Pioneer's Animals Were Friends 



ordered especially for him and when it arrived and he hitched 
a big bay horse up with a shining new harness he made an ap- 
pearance that attracted crowds (?) to the street. A few days 
later another gala event was marked by a procession down the 
street. The new churn 
for the Imperial 
Creamery Company 
arrived and Mr. 
Hartshorn in his ca- 
pacity as the transfer 
company and Mr. 
Hartshorn in his ca- 
pacity as agent for the 
Imperial Land Com- 
pany and manager of 
the light and power 
companies and the ice 
plant, drove proudly down Imperial avenue together, the new 
1500-pound capacity churn on the dray behind them. 

Meantime the work of colonization was becoming very 
large and Mr. Hartshorn took an important part in this. He 
had a very wide acquaintance on the coast side of San Diego 
county and scores of persons came into the Valley at his solici- 
tation, most of them to settle. He built one of the first resi- 
dences in Imperial, was one of the earliest real estate agents, 
the first notary public, and one of the first farmers, his 160-acre 
piece two miles east of the townsite being brought to a high 
state of cultivation under his direction. In fact this place en- 
gaged his entire attention for several years but when it was once 

in Mr. Hartshorn leased one- 
half and turned the other to 
his son, then returned to 
Imperial, and went again into 
the real estate business. 
There is no more interesting 
spinner of yarns in the dis- 
trict than this same pioneer 
and many a long evening he 
beguiles inimitably with 
reminiscences. 

In June of 1901, J. H. 




The First House Was Rude 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



196 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



rr^ 


..adi^ 


M' , . 




'/%-, 




i 

'_-^<< 


iM 


liBi 



But the Home Developed 



Holland made his first visit to Imperial, arriving in time to 

welcome the first water that flowed into the town. The fol- 
lowing November, he came to stay, having made a tedious 

trip overland from San Jose, California, with stock and farming 

utensils. 

For the first two years the 
time was spent in building 
canals, hauling freight from the 
railroad to Imperial, and in 
improving the farm. At the 
present time he has the farm 
well fenced, the greater part in 
alfalfa, and well stocked with 
hogs and cattle, besides a 
good dairy. 
In an early chapter reference was made to the harmful 

plants that crept into the Valley during the first few years 

of its history and among them Bermuda, or the so-called ''devil" 

grass was named. There is 

no disguising the fact that 

this grass is a curse where it 

is not wanted, but there was 

one man in the Valley who 

sought and found a use to 

which it might be put. He 

is D. W. Breckinridge, lord 

of 160 acres two miles west 

of Imperial. Mr. Brecken- 

ridge came from San Diego 

to the Valley in February, 

1902, and bought a school 

section. He tried barley for 

the first few years and was 

moderately successful, but he 

was convinced there was a 

better forage grass. Search 

brought him to Bermuda 

grass and he sent to Arizona 

for seed. 

On this pasturage he fin- 
ished what were pronounced 




The Hollands Live Now in a 
Bower of Green 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 197 

by buyers the best fat cattle of the season. Two years ago he 
bought a few sheep and these prospered exceedingly. In the 
winter of 1907 he carried 100 head of cattle and 300 sheep on his 
place and they turned off in the spring, when the grass began its 
early growth, fatter and better than any sheep or cattle in the 
adjacent country. For Bermuda grass Mr. Breckenridge 
claims a maximum period of growth each year, as much nour- 
ishment as in alfalfa, no tendency to bloat, minimum first cost, 
and heat and drought resisting qualities commending it in this 
climate. 

Aside from his bravery in essaying a crop most men counted 
a pest, Mr Breckenridge rendered a service to the Valley in 
facing and outpointing a cowardly conspiracy to rob him of 
his lands on a technicality, thus thwarting the hopes of the plot- 
ters to carry through several similar buccaneering enterprises. 
When Mr. Breckenridge bought his ground there were five 
years* delinquent taxes against it and a tax title to it was gained 
by a land sharper. This man attempted to frighten the origi- 
nal holder from his ranch, but Breckenridge stood his ground. 
The contestor went into the courts, the owner carried the war 
into the enemy's country and secured eviction papers. Later 
he found perjury and fraud against the real estate man and swore 
to information making the situation exceedingly warm for the 
contestor. Court decisions finally came out absolutely in 
favor of the original locator, and the city man who attempted 
intimidation on a plain old farmer retreated, badly scarred and 
with forces demoralized. He has tried no other contests. 

When one searches for the real pioneers of the Valley some 
honors in that regard must go to the Thing Brothers of Calexico, 
now engaged in the butcher and general merchandise business. 
Fifteen years ago they ran cattle up and down the floor of what 
is now the Imperial Valley, pasturing them, with hundreds of 
others, on the grass grown up after periodic overflows of the 
Colorado. They opened the first butcher shop in the Valley, 
a small market in what one of them designates now as a ''ninety 
dollar hut*', located at the California Development Company 
camp near the present site of Calexico. This was in the fall 
of 1902. Later they established a shop in the new town of Im- 
perial, and for several years furnished the residents of the vi- 
cinity with choice cuts. 

When Calexico began to grow they returned to the south- 



Digitized by 



Google 



198 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

ern end of the Valley once more and re-entered the same busi- 
ness, killing their own stock and buying and selling cattle and 
hogs. With the development of the business of Calexico the 
brothers reached out, taking an interest in a general merchan- 
dise business which eventually they bought out in entirety. 
Being pioneers in the district, thoroughly acquainted with the 
needs of settlers, and with a large acquaintance among citizens 
of Mexico who trade in Calexico, they have been able to build 
up a most important and thriving business. 

In 1907 they erected a fine two-story block in the business 
center of Calexico, one of the down-stairs stores being occupied 
by their meat market. The Thing block is the largest one in 
the southern end of the Valley. 

Considering the number of hogs now raised annually in 
the Imperial Valley it is hard to realize how few have been ship- 
ped into the district for breeding purposes, but as a matter of 
fact statistics, while meager, are sufficiently complete to demon- 
strate that probably less than 1000 hogs have ever been brought 
into the district. This means that the scores of carloads that 
are shipped out every season are Valley-bred hogs, and the 
fairly high standard maintained speaks well for the quality of 
the breeding. The first carload of hogs shipped in for breeding 
came to Imperial in the spring of 1902; of the second carload 
W. A. Young, a pioneer living three miles southeast of El Cen- 
tro, bought several to stock his new place. He has 320 acres 
of land, and from the small beginning in stock referred to he 
has worked up until he now carries 500 hogs and hopes by next 
year to ship 1000 a year. 

Young came to the Valley in July, 1901, driving overland 
from Newhall, 32 miles north of Los Angeles. July in any part 
of Southern California is warm and Mr. Young had to make the 
drive mostly at night, especially the last few miles, and ten days 
were consumed en route. Young was poor, ^'pretty near broke," 
he says, but the new country offered great opportunities to him 
for he was an experienced farmer and a hard worker. It was 
several months after his arrival before he could get water but 
he went to work putting the place in shape and when water 
came he was ready for it with some 100 acres. He now has 160 
acres in alfalfa and 80 acres in cotton, the balance of the piece 
being put in gradually. 

When they first arrived the Young's lived under a ramada 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 199 

made of arrowweed shoots laid thatch-wise on a frame eight or 
ten feet high. These ramadas are familiar objects in the Valley, 
very few ranches being without one or more. It has been dem- 
onstrated that there is no better means of keeping off the direct 
rays of the sun and even the men who could afford to put up 
frame shades find the weed structures more satisfactory. How- 
ever, even a good ramada will scarcely do for a permanent 
home and when they were able, which they were after a few 
months, Mr. Young put up a substantial dwelling house. The 
Valley has been a good friend to Mr. Young, who has made him- 
self a competency in less than 10 years. 

When there was much uncertainty in the Valley as to what 
agricultural lines would prove profitable, Dr. H. J. Fuller 
arrived from San Diego. Some thought wheat and barley were 
the only crops that would be feasible; alfalfa and hogs in 
combination struck others. 

Dr. Fuller was thoroughly convinced of the possibilities 
of dairying. He returned to San Diego for a crack herd of 
Jerseys, and a business partner with whom he would start a 
creamery. He found his man in W. B. Hage, and in the cool 
of 1902, when the first crops of the district were being harvested. 
Dr. Fuller and Hage returned with the cows and Dr. Fuller's 
family, and began to preach dairying again. 

It was slow work at first. Fuller had the dairy concession 
from the Imperial Land Company and they brought a small 
churn with them. But when that was installed, at consider- 
able trouble and expense, there was no cream with which to 
make butter save that which Dr. Fuller supplied. In the first 
week of its existence the Imperial Creamery, from which the 
present establishment grew, made 37 J^ pounds of butter! 
Today they make 25,000 pounds in the same time. 

Dr. Fuller handled the cream end of the work and he had 
his troubles. Day in and day out he preached dairying to the 
settlers. Meantime he drove his own string of 30 from place 
to place herding them and letting them forage. In the winter 
he rented a few patches of sorghum and on this they thrived. 
It was not until several months later that he had pasturage on 
his own piece of land, 200 acres west of Silsbee. 

In 1904, Dr. Fuller organized the Imperial Dairyman's 
Association, the nucleus from which grew the present strong 
county organization. 



Digitized by 



Google 



200 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



Having seen this firmly established Dr. Fuller could turn 
more attention to his own affairs. He had started in with 
$1,100 and his dairy string; now he had a growing young ranch 
demanding attention and money. With large faith in the fu- 
ture of the country he put every cent of his little capital in 
the ranch and made it blossom. He bought town lots, 
dealt in things other people wanted, and made money. In the 
course of time he saw an opportunity to buy a drug store in 
Imperial, which he did. It made him money and in 1907 Dr. 
Fuller returned, in a way, to his first love, dairying, opening 
the Dairymen^s supply house in Imperial as a side line to his 
other interests. The side line made him $5,000 last year! 

Probably it was his faculty for seeing things coming that 
put Dr. Fuller where he is. He has side stepped disaster and 
fallen on the neck of good fortune. When he and his wife drove 
in here from San Diego the first time they slept in the present 
Imperial avenue under their wagon. Now they travel in an 
automobile and rarely ever sleep on the ground. Quite rarely! 

Let the man who believes the frontier is gone and that pio- 
neering died with our forefathers, read this brief story of some 
of the experiences of W. C. Raymond, a rancher owning a sec- 
tion of land seven miles north of Holtville. Raymond is a 
Canadian who went to Arizona several years ago and roughed 
it there until he heard of the Imperial Valley in 1903. He im- 
mediately saddled up and rode to the new district, keeping on 
the road after his arrival until he found the place he wanted, — 
a fine 320-acre piece in No. 7 water district. When he saw 
what he wanted he stopped and camped, beginning the work 
of improvement almost immediately. 

Just when he was getting the place in shape the river came 

in, washed out the 
headworks of his sys- 
tem and cut him off 
from his base of sup- 
plies by tearing out 
the channel of the 
Alamo river. Ray- 
mond forded the river 
several times for sup- 
plies, in fact he and 
a neighbor were the 




"A Time For Resting" 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 201 

first to brave the flood and ford it with a team. Shortly after- 
wards he sold his place and moved up into No. 5 where he 
bought his present land. The property he sold is known today 
a^ the Painter and Ott ranch. 

Meantime Raymond had worked for others in order to 
keep going, helping build a great deal of the No. 7 ditch system, 
levelling or helping with more than 2,000 acres of land, and run- 
ning the first harvester ever operated on the Eastside. The 
first supplies he ever took to his No. 7 ranch were purchased in 
Imperial, at a cost of about $100, loaded into a wagon and taken 
around by way of Calexico and so to the ranch. Later Cal- 
exico and still later Holtville, were his supply points. 

On the new ranch Raymond had many hard experiences, 
but he had by this time learned about all there was known at 
that day about the country and he was able to utilize his ex- 
periences in No. 7 to good advantage. He put 320 acres into 
barley and alfalfa, fenced it and began to raise hogs, proving 
this to be a staple industry. He handled 600 head last year 
and sold $7,000 worth in less than twelve months. In 1910 he 
put in 80 acres of cotton, which promises very well, and at this 
writing is getting ready more of his land for corn and for high 
cultivation this fall. 

Much of the Valley had grown two or three crops before 
the Eastside district was reached by water, so that the develop- 
ment there began even later than the beginning of the decade. 
One of the first men to go on to that side to farm was W. K. 
Shrode, whose son, Lee, wa« the first child born there. Mr. 
Shrode took up 80 acres three miles northeast of the present 
site of Holtville, which was then nothing but a dream. He was 
not equipped to operate, however, and so rented a part of the 
Silliman ranch, one of the oldest in that section, and for a year 
conducted operations on that leased ground. With this start, 
both in money and experience, he went on to his own ground 
in 1904 and has made there a valuable and beautiful ranch and 
home place. 

Shrode^s experience is similar to that of hundreds in the 
Valley in that he came to the district with very little in the way 
of assets. Few had less. He drove across the mountains from 
Los Angeles in January, 1903, with a good team and wagon, 36 
chickens, and one pig; very little more. In those days there 
were no supplies to be had nearer than Imperial and at least 



Digitized by 



Google 



202 8TORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

twice a month it was necessary to drive across countrj'', fording 
the AlamO) and buy a stock of groceries and other provisions. 
It was a day of bad roads, worse even than they are today, 
since in many places they were mere trails across the waste, 
and many hardships were undergone by the devoted pioneers 
of the Eastside. When the baby came there were more frequent 
trips to be made, but shortly afterward a store was established 
in Holtville and that center grew rapidly, greatly to the relief 
of the settlers of the contiguous territory. 

Mr. Shrode's place is in alfalfa, pasturing cows and hogs, 
with the exception of 20 acres which are set to vines. These are 
coming into heavy bearing now and promise to prove exceed- 
ingly profitable. The best of care has been given them and the 
vineyard is a beautiful sight. Shrode says that his years of 
hardship and privation are discounted bj"^ his success: he counts 
his property worth at least $8,000 today. 

The real pioneer of the great Eastside was William Lind- 
sey. He pitched the first camp in that particular section of 
this wilderness of 1902, broke ground for the first ranch and saw 
the first settlements grow up around him. He was a cigar and 
tobacco manufacturer sojourning in Arizona when he heard of 
the Imperial settlements. He induced an acquaintance to 
join him in a search for the Golden Fleece in this new country 
and together they outfitted themselves, bought sixteen head of 
mules, with wagons and supplies and started across the desert. 
Arrived they immediately located land, Mr. Lindsey taking 
his piece seven miles southwest of the present site of Holtville, 
although at that time his nearest point of supply was Imperial 
eighteen miles away. Between him and his grocer was the Alamo 
channel, even then a gorge of considerable proportions, and the 
only crossing was on the old Rose levee, northwest of the site 
of Holtville, a levee built for the purpose of serving the Mes- 
quite lake country with water directly from the channel of the 
Alamo. At that time water for District No. 5 was taken 
out by means of a dam some two miles above the site of 
Holtville, this dam creating a lake more than two miles in length. 
It was from the upper end of this lake that Mr. Lindsey secured 
water for himself and his teams, driving back and forth to the 
ranch each day to prosecute the work of reclamation. 

In the spring of 1904 the Colorado overflowed, raising the 
water in the Alamo and causing the dam of No. 5 Company 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 203 

to go out. The impounded water swept on down the channel 
in a wall several feet high and when it struck the Rose levee, 
that, too, went out, leaving the Eastside cut off from its sup- 
plies and leaving both the Mesquite Lake district and No. 
5 without water. Newspaper reports were exceedingly 
sensational concerning this happening and Mr. Lindsey heard 
very shortly that reports had been published in Los Angeles 
papers to the effect that those few men in No. 7 would die of 
thirst on the desert or starve to death unless they either 
swam the raging stream or else walked across the desert to 
Yuma. As a matter of fact no one in No. 7 was frightened 
but Mr. Lindsey knew that his family, then living in Po- 
mona, would be panic stricken so he determined to cross the 
stream in the Alamo and go to Imperial where he could tele- 
graph news of his safety. With Frank and Bert Chaplin he 
finally forded the flood, although at times they were almost 
swept away in the deep and swift stream. 

It was several weeks before conditions became settled but 
when they did Mr. Lindsey returned and for a year worked his 
ranch, putting it into fine condition, and sowing it all to alfalfa. 
Shortly he sold half of it, but bought an adjoining 160 and put 
that in. That 160 acres of the old place which he retained is 
now leased but he and his brother, Mr. Josef Lindsey, are oper- 
ating a 70-head dairy on the newly acquired piece, one of the 
best ranches in the district. 

A pioneer in the strictest sense of the word was D. H. Coe, 
who rode into the Valley on a bicycle in 1901. All the trials 
and hardships of the early day were his, but he conquered the 
desert, with hundreds of others, and today, the bicycle is dis- 
carded and Coe drives from his 200 acre ranch, six miles north- 
west of Holtville, in a high power automobile. There is no 
more enthusiastic booster of the country now than Coe, whom 
the Valley has helped make wealthy. 

While living in Kansas several years ago Mr. Coe became 
acquainted with A. H. Heber. W^hen Heber interested himself 
in the Imperial Valley he recommended it to Coe and the latter 
who had just come to Colton, California, and bought an orange 
grove on installments, mounted his bicycle and started up over 
the grade and down across the desert to the Imperial settle- 
ments, arriving there in midsummer with the thermometer at 
117°. The bicycle proved a great help in getting about the 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



204 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

country and on it Mr. Coe rode to the very site he selected for 
a ranch. He filed originally on 120 acres, but this was not 
enough and later he bought 80 adjoining, giving him a good 
sized ranch today. It is sowed to alfalfa and barley, although 
this year 50 acres were set aside for cotton. On the pasturage 




Coe carries 64 head of dairy cows, 30 head of young stock, and 
200 hogs, beside making hay or raising grain for consumption 
on the place. Coe is essentially a business-like rancher, keep- 
ing books on every transaction, so that he is able to tell just 
what the place is doing month by month. His records show- 
that he has cleared up, over and above all expenses, and allow- 
ing for his own labor, more than $3,700. It is of interest to 
note in passing that the orange grove he bought at Colton be- 
fore coming to the Valley, afforded him revenue enough to put 
his ranch in shape here, and that now both places are paid for. 

^^When I rode down into the Valley,'' says Mr. Coe, *'ten 
days passed when I did not see a soul, except from a distance. 
On my arrival in Imperial the first man I met and spoke to was 
a Chinaman, cook at the hotel, I believe, but even he looked 
good to me. Those days were different from today.'* 

You can count on the fingers of one hand the ranchers in 
the Valley who have literally ^ 'grown up" with the country: 
F. E. Van Horn is one of them. Mr. Van Horn owns a good 
ranch of 160 acres three miles east of El Centro. He made his 
start in the first school ever held in the Valley, the one referred 
to in a previous chapter, convened under a ramada on the bank 
of the main canal south of the present site of El Centro. Van 
Horn tells many interesting stories of those days in the pioneer 
stage when the young folks walked from one to eight miles a 
day to and from school, when books were hard to get and the 
methods of teaching were necessarily exceedingly primitive. 
He himself walked three miles each way, but he says he was 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 205 

seldom late to school and really enjoyed the experiences, young 
as he was. On one occasion a visitor laughingly remarked that 
theirs was the **first weed knowledge box" he had ever seen, 
but that it seemed to be turning out good material. On another 
occasion County Superintendent of Schools, Hugh Baldwin, of 
San Diego county drove across the mountains to visit the school 
(the law requiring that he visit every district in the county at 
least twice each year) and in a little talk to the pupils he en- 
couraged them in their crude school by telling them of their 
good fortune in being able thus to look out across the desert to 
the mountains without an obstacle to mar the view. Young 
Van Horn leaned strongly toward geography and natural his- 
tory and to him this suggestion was very timely. On occasions 
he says the rain drove the children and their teacher into a small 
tent erected near-by, but this was only at rare intervals. 

Van Horn^s training in such an atmosphere had its effect. 
He grew to love the country and to understand it. When he 
left school he went to work on his ranch and now has there 60 
milk cows on fine alfalfa pastures, a large vineyard, abundant 
shade trees and a comfortable farm house. Coming as he did 
from a semi-arid country (Arizona) and receiving the training 
he did he was well fitted to make a success. The Van Horn^s 
were one of the first families in the Valley, arriving here in 1900 
and remaining here practically every day since. 

L. E. Srack, a true pioneer, who arrived in the Valley from 
Riverside in 1901, was one of the first men to be impressed with 
the value of cotton as a staple industry in the district. In his 
early days here he chanced to be on a ranch adjoining one on 
which J. C. Nichols, an experimental farmer, was raising a small 
patch of cotton. When Nichols' experiments were abandoned 
the cotton kept on growing and Srack saw it, neglected and al- 
most forgotten, grow to maturity year after year. Mr. Srack 
became a cotton enthusiast in time and when the industry be- 
came a matter of public interest he was among those who ad- 
vocated extensive planting. 

After the surprising success of the first year a plan for in- 
stalling plants for caring for the by-products, oil and cotton-seed 
meal, was broached by him and he is the father of an organiza- 
tion perfected in February, 1910, to build mills and to care 
for these by-products. This company, made up of the growers 
themselves,will build the mill for oil and meal and in addition 



Digitized by 



Google 



206 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

will operate the several gins in the Valley which are to be built 

in the cotton producing communities. All the profits will 

thus remain in the Valley. 

Mr. Srack^s first home in the Valley was in a tent 

on a new ditch 2)^2 miles south of Imperial. For a few years he 

engaged in grading and land leveling, but later secured a piece 

of land, 200 acres, of which 140 is now in alfalfa, with a dairy 

string of 90 cows on it. At present this property is leased as 

Mr. Srack is now secretary of the Imperial Valley Oil & Cotton 

Company, and has no time to farm himself. 

"Out of the night that covers me 

Deep as the pit, from pole to pole, 
1 thank whatever gods there be 
For my unconquerable soul." 

There is a group of men in No. 6 water district who could, 
without egotism, breathe this prayer every day of their 
lives. In a previous chapter the flooded condition of Xo. 6 
for weeks, in 1906, has been described, but it was not possible 
at that place to mention the exceptions to the rule of inunda- 
tion, for there were a few men who owned "unconquerable 
souls" and fought the water back victoriously. 

In the forefront of this band was B. F. McDonald. Mc- 
Donald had 160 acres in a high state of cultivation four miles 
west of Calexico when news came that the river was in and that 
the whole of No. 6 was certain to be flooded. Most men would 
have moved, in fact most of his neighbors did. But McDonald 
said to his closest neighbors, **We have put that water where 
we wanted it on the land; we can surely keep if off when we don't 
want it. Let's try/' 

So they fell to and built a strong levee around six ranches, 
aggregating 1,800 acres, in the very heart of No. 6. Scrapers 
and wheelbarrows were used to add to the levees and, as Mr. 
McDonald says: "The war cry in those days was, Till 'em up 
and roll the wheels'!" Night patrols were necessary to guard 
against the breaks and constant vigilance was the price of their 
salvation both night and day. But in the end they won; the 
waters receded and their ranches and stock were saved. 

Hard as was this strain, however, it was worth the efi'ort. 
The McDonald ranch is highly cultivated and well stocked. 
Mr. McDonald came to the Valley in December, 1903, and took 
up 160 acres in No. 6 immediately. Although for the two 
years when the river was in very little headway was made on 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 207 

the ranch he has managed to put money away for the improve- 
ment of another ranch of 320 acres which he later acquired in 
No. 12. On the latter ranch McDonald has spent more than 
$14,000, all of which he has taken from the No. 6 place. 

Being originally a Louisiana cotton man the growth of the 
new industry finds him an enthusiatic convert to its merits and 
he has planted 160 acres of cotton this year. 

Fred Fuller's part in the history of the first decade in the 
Imperial Valley has been an important one — too important to 
omit. He was one of the real pioneer farmers, driving over 
with his brother from the neighborhood of El Monte, in 1900. 
Two 3'ears later he and the brother Arthur, came a second time 
with all their belongongs, to stay. For five years they had all 
the ups and downs of the average farmer, although their hard 
work and good management brought them rather more success 
than was vouchsafed to some. The story of those years can be 
found in more detail in the pages devoted to the history of Ar- 
thur Fuller, in another place in this book. 

In 1907 Fred was elected county assessor of the new county, 
a position which brought him in touch with almost every resi- 
dent of the district and makes him one of the best known men 
in it. But his real claim to undying fame lies in the fact that he 
is one of the first men who ever brought an automobile into the 
Valley. He is the pioneer agent selling the machines and much 
of the phenomenal growth of the business of trading in automo- 
biles in the Valley is due to his energy in the first few months. 

The precarious condition of the melon market has deterred 
many from raising cantaloupes for the last two years of the dec- 
ade, but Fuller appears to have hit on the psychological moment 
when, in 1910, he planted 100 acres. The pictures shown are 
of scenes in his great field just west of Heber where, in the mid- 
dle of June, the Japs were picking and packing 1,000 crates of 
melons a day. 



Fuller Plunged in Cantaloupes 

Digitized by 



Google 



208 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



CHAPTER XIII 



THE SPIRIT OF THE VALLEY 

Reference has been made throughout this story to the 
Spirit of the Imperial Valley: that intangible quality which 
sets the community apart and gives it individuality and entity. 
It is a hard thing to define, to put into words at all, in fact; but 
it seems possible, without any purpose of being either flattering 
or narrow, to give it a meaning in this volume best by taking 
one man as a concrete embodiment of this Spirit. There are 
several such men named in this book, many young men of ster- 
ling character, strong purpose and notable ability, who might 
serve well, but perhaps no one fills the bill better than Steve 
Lyons. 

Coming from a hard working family of Irish folk, and 
reared on a ranch in Salinas, Lyons had the advantages also 
of city school life and social intercourse with cultured and edu- 
cated people such as many farmer bo^'s never meet. In a family 
of seven boys, working together with a common purpose from 
the time they were quite young, the spirit of co-operation and 
communism was acquired early, and the dependence of each 
on the other illustrated graphically. Finally he brought to 
the life in the new country some capital and a good business 
judgment, invaluable assets in the struggle with an unde- 
veloped frontier. 

In 1904 only scatterino; development had been achieved in 
the Valley. The No. 6 territory, west of Calexico, was 
barely scratched although the work of extending the ditch 
S3^stem throughout the entire Westside was progressing. Lyons 
saw at once that land was to be king and he filed on a half- 
section in No. 0, leaving to the future plans for culti- 
vation. In the meantime demand for skilled team work was so 
great as to make it a profitable field and Lyons became a grad- 
ing contractor, with his brothers to aid. Between them they 
built more than fifty miles of the main ditches and laterals of 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



209 




'Let But a Little Cot Be Mine" 



the California Development Company, mainly in the No. 6 
district.. 

The leveling of land on the desert is a fine art, nothing less. 
Steve Lyons studied the game and mastered it: he and his 
brothers put in more than 8,000 acres for others with their 
crews and those ranches are today among the prettiest in the 
entire district. It was this faculty and this willingness for do- 
ing things well the first time that made contracts easy for them 

' to get. In a few 
months Steve was 
ready to start work 
on his own place 
where he had, at odd 
times, done the initial 
bordering and level- 
ing. By the fall of 
1907 the Lyons bro- 
thers, with their own 
outfits were baling 
more hay and thresh- 
ing more grain than any one combination in the district. They did 
everything together and on a large scale. They took some long 
chances and when the river was in and most people were pro- 
ceeding cautiously they were going ahead with high courage and 
unshaken nerve. 

With his nearest brother, E. J., Steve recently bought 565 
acres in Mexico, three miles west of Calexico, and this ground 
will be used either for a model stock farm or a cotton planta- 
tion, depending on the results of 1910 in the cotton business. 
That is what Steve said about the piece and there you have him 
again: he is an opportunist, to use a political term. He doesn't 
guess at things nor experiment at them. They never catch 
him short, either in crops or work or time to play a game of base- 
ball or arrange a dance. Never for a minute a piker, he is not 
a plunger. When it comes to ranching he has a happy faculty 
of hedging his bet. 

All this is to give one an idea of the man. The application 
of the sketch is this: these characteristics go to make up the 
spirit of aggressive, yet conservative and sensible business 
agriculture. If there is a movement to organize some league 
of farmers for more effectual marketing Lyons is there; but he 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



210 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



is quite as prominent if the movement is to organize a baseball 
club. He is old enough to understand business and young 
enough to understand a good time, so that he is not continually 
oflF balance either with the commercial heartache or the con- 
vivial headache. He has unlimited faith in the Valley and a 
generous confidence in himself, so that his view of the 
future is not circumscribed by mental edifices of worry. 
The horizon of the Valley has imprinted itself on his brain and 
his own horizon fits itself to the other picture; this leads nat- 
urally to a good appetite and the sound night's sleep. 

This is the spirit of the Imperial Valley. There is ability 
coupled with willingness, abounding health, mental, moral 
and physical, faith in the district leading inevitably to faith 
in one's self, and a cheerful optimism that makes life worth 
something. There is a sane and boyish enthusiasm, expending 
surplus energy in hard labor, baseball, clean living, and the 
shirt-waist dance. Whether he knows it or not, the fact re- 
mains that Steve Lyons is a living example of the abstract 
Spirit of the Imperial Valley. 

There are other notable examples of this Spirit for whose 
stories we have found space. One who claims our attention is 
Phil W. Brooks. 

It is doubtful that any man has done more toward the social 
organization of the Valley than Brooks, whose ranch, half way 
between El Centro and Holtville, has been the scene of many 
happy gatherings and whose hospitality is known from Yuma 
to Cuayamaca. He came to the Valley in 1903 fresh from a 
New England agricultural school, that at Amherst College, 
with a small amount of capital and a large amount of the en- 





h ^ite 













Phil Brooks' Home Breathes Hospitality 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



211 




He Has Succeeded 



thusiasm and exuberance of youth and health. His first ranch 
was northeast of Heber. It developed rapidly and in less than 
two years he sold it and moved on to conquer another piece 

of desert. His second place was 
a school section six miles east 
of El Centro and this ranch, 
consisting this year of 400 acres 
of alfalfa, 100 acres of canta- 
loupes and 160 of barley and 
corn land, is his home now. 

That such a busy rancher 
could find time for promoting 
social development in this new 
communit}'^ seems impossible, yet too much credit cannot 
be given him for his work in this line. He keeps open house 
and hundreds of lonesome and some times homesick young fel- 
lows have renewed their courage there. He enters into any 
movement for social organization. He belongs to most of the 
fraternal orders of the Valley as a charter member, not 
because he is a stereotyped ** joiner" but because these insti- 
tutions go to make up a vital part of community organiza- 
tion. He plays baseball on the Holtville home team, not 
because he has nothing else to do, but because the baseball 
league has done an immense amount of good in promoting 
social intercourse between the several towns of the Valley. 
In short he is a powerful factor for good in the community 
through his influence in helping to break the monotony of front- 
ier life with an occasional smile. 

Guy C. Bear (affectionately known to two-thirds of his 
acquaintances as ^'Teddy Bear") is another of that coterie of 
young men of city breeding and some backing who may be de- 
pended upon to raise standards of living and improve general 
conditions more than any other 
one agency in the Valley, is 
beginning the improvement of 
570 acres east of Imperial with 
the aim of making them ulti- 
matelj'- model farms. One 
piece comprising 240 acres, is 
six miles, the other a half sec- 
tion, two miles east, the former An orange orchard Comes Next 




Digitized by 



Caoogle 



212 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 




piece being the one on which Bear makes his home. The second 
piece is only partly cultivated and a large amount of work is to 
be done on it this fall. 

Bear comes of the right stock to make a model ranch where- 
ever he ma}'^ be. His father, Clinton Bear, is a retired stockman 
of Muscatine, Iowa, where he owned some of the finest horses 
and hogs the state ever produced. Starting at the age of ten 
with a brother, slightl}'^ older, Mr. Bear, the father, has been in 

the stock busi- 
ness for almost 
half a century. 
His first stock 
consisted of one 
runt pig, he and 
his brother hav- 
ing been given 
one each by a 
relative. The 
brother, being 
older and prob- 

He Has Broken the Ranch to Barley ^{^jy stronger, 

took the best pig of the two, leaving Clinton with a rather 
sorry specimen. However, the younger partner in the concern 
was a skillful manager and brought his pig to maturity, whereas 
the older brother's property turned ungrateful and died. From 
such small beginnings do great things grow! 

Guy Bear, operating a 680 acre farm in Illinois and 1350 
acres in Kansas, heard so much of the Imperial Valley that in 
1908 he came west to see the country for himself. Save to in- 
terest his father and pack another suit case he never went back. 
No person in the district probably ever left so much to come 
into this new country, and Bear's testimonial to the future of 
the Valley is worth a good deal. ''I like the life here, the people, 
the air of independence that characterizes the country, but par- 
ticularly I like the possibilities for building a ranch from noth- 
ing to perfection." That is the reason he gives for his move. 

More than $10,000 have already been spent in improving 
the 240 acres six miles east of Imperial, and more is coming. 
It is Bear's plan to build there a model stock farm on a small 
scale, expanding as he is justified by results. For the first two 
years he lived in a temporary Valley house, half canvas and 

Digitized by VjOOQIC * 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



213 



screening, but in the fall of 1910 there will be built a $4,000 
home on this place. The half section nearer Imperial is ideal 
for fruit raising but it will be put into alfalfa for the first three 
years. Bear's idea being to let the present extensive experiments 



- 




^ — 




W^^j^^^^^^^^^^S^SS^i^P 


•'_". 


^9SLm|^ 


yjyf^g^- 




^ "^^^^ -*u * ' *'^S*» 




■ -^i^'v • . 


v-ik\*.i*^% w ^ 


■5£^"'^ " 



Guy Bear is Building up a Model Ranch 

in the Valley show him just what is the best thing to do. His 
leanings are so strong toward stock, however, it is probable that 
is what he will handle to the exclusion of everything else. 

Bear has proven a great acquisition to the social world of 
the Valley. His training and habit of mind give him a tendency 
toward taking life as it comes, and his gospel includes a certain 
amount of good times, so that to the group of young men who 
are trying to develop a spirit of good fellowship and promote 
social intercourse he is an invaluable addition. His ranch has 
for two years been an open house to his friends and in the fall 
of 1910, returning with his high power motor car he will be able 
to put its cheer and hospitality within a few minutes travel of 
Imperial. 

Dave H. Williams is the father of the Christmas Fiesta 
idea that has made Holtville famous. He is the man who or- 
ganized, financed and managed the Imperial Valley Wild West 
Shows that drove dull care away for so many thousands in the 
winter of 1909. He is one of the staunchest supporters of the 
Valley baseball league. He is the one man who never fails to 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



214 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 




Dave is Never So Happy a« When He is 
Making Others Smile 



respond when a call is issued for assistance of any sort to promote 
the best interests of the district or to give it publicity. Such a 

man ought to be 
a financier or a 
retired capitalist 
but Dave is just 
a plain rancher, 
who takes time 
to enjoy life and 
make others join 
him. 

Mr. Williams 
began ranching 
in Canada, rais- 
ing several crops 

of wheat in Chatham, Ontario, as far north as wheat will 
grow, then moving to Washington and ranching for nine years 
out of Olympia. In 1907 he heard of the Imperial Valley so 
frequently that in the spring he made a trip to the new country 
and bought a ranch. This he devel- 
oped, having now 560 acres of alfalfa 
on the Buena Vista ranch, five miles 
southeast of Holtville on the High- 
land boulevard, the finest nine mile 
stretch of road in the district. This 
year there were on the ranch 27 
stacks of hay, aggregating 900 tons, 
and making a fine showing for a new 
ranch. On one field Mr. Williams' farmer found one stalk of 
alfalfa measuring 7 feet, 8J^ inches from crown to blossoms. 

While others struggle to make money Mr. Williams* prin- 
cipal occupation is living. He enjoys outdoor sports and be- 
lieves in them. When there is ''nothing 
doing" Dave starts something. When 
people talk of the attractions of the 
Eastside they name Dave Williams as 
an asset and they are not far wrong 
for he has added more than any one 
man to the joy of living on that side 
of the Alamo river. 

The stories of four of the presidents 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 





IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



215 




This Farmer's Whole Family Aids When the 
Haying Season Comes 



of the several mutual water companies are to be given space in 
this book: H. J. Messinger of No. 11, W. P. Mansfield of No. 
4, Dr. E. E. Patten of No. 12, and F. S. Webster of No. 1. H. 
J. Messinger is essentially a pioneer. For more than a quarter 
of a century he has been engaged in frontier work, sometimes 
as Indian trader, teacher or reservation superintendent, again 
in territorial legislatures or in public service assisting in the 
formation of 
government, 
again breaking 
ground or re- 
claiming the 
desert. It was 
natural that 
news of the 
opening of the 
Imperial settle- 
ments, reaching him when in Northern Arizona, trading with 
Indians, should draw him like a magnet. Without question- 
ing what sort of country he would find he gathered a carload of 
work stock and came, arriving in 1903 when the Eastside was 
just beginning to come into its own. Thither he directed his 
train and there he went to work, leveling land, building ditches, 
and sowing seed. Operating on leased land to a large extent, 
he made a small fortune raising grain and this naturally led him 
into the grain commission and the seed business. In 1904 he 
settled finally in Holtville, opening up a livery and feed busi- 
ness but continuing to level land for others and to farm large 
areas of rented ground. He also owned outright quite an ex- 
tensive acreage, buying and selling to good advantage. 

It was in 1908 that Mr. Messinger became a public figure 
in the Valley, for in that year he succeeded, almost unaided, 
in bringing to the front the district east of Holtville known as 
the **high line^' country and later organized into the No. 11 Water 
Company. This district is all above the present ditch system 
of Water Companies 5 and 7, but is composed entirely of a high 
grade of soil and is not far distant from markets and the rail- 
roads. Messinger filed there, induced his friends to do the same 
and eventually had practically every foot of ground taken up. 
Then he began work looking to the organization of the land hold- 
ers. By the fall of 1908 they had a definite basis from which 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



216 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

to begin operations. Messinger was elected president and 
characteristically fell to scheming for a water system. 

He addressed a request to the Reclamation Service for 
water from the Laguna dam to be carried across the desert be- 
tween Laguna and the upper head of the No. 11 dis- 
trict. In reply the land holders were assured that, if they would 
construct their own canals, water could be furnished them at a 
fair rate per acre foot. They found bond buyers who would 
handle the bonds if the law would allow them to be issued on 
unpatented land. Messinger took the matter to Washington 
this summer and is endeavoring, as this book is written, to get 
authorization for bonds covering work on unpatented land. 
He has every assurance of success. 

After his achievement in the organization of this 28,000 acre 
tract of undeveloped land Messinger^s neighbors turned to him 
when seeking for a nominee to run for the state assembly from 
the district on the Democratic ticket. Having many friends 
in San Diego county and a host in Imperial Valley he was 
earnestly urged to make the race and consented. The issue is 
in doubt as we go to press but the ability and aggressiveness of 
Mr. Messinger can never be doubted and his success is enthusi- 
astically prophesied by his many friends. 

When William P. Mansfield came to the Imperial Valley 
in May, 1903, he came with some capital and a business experi- 
ence that would have enabled him to hire all his ranch work 
done by others. But Mansfield had always believed in the 
adage that the most competent man to do his work is himself 
and although he had never seen raw land broken he put on a 
pair of brand new overalls and went out on the hummocks 
with a team. 

There were plenty of hummocks and when Mr. Mansfield 
was through with the place, leaving only a few of the dunes 
that were most thickly covered with a mesquite growth, he had 
put a good deal of money into improvements. He estimates 
that his expenditures totaled $22,000, without figuring in his 
own time and work. 

His net result, however, was a ranch that up to date has 
been as satisfactory a producer as any piece of the same acreage 
in the Valley. Some of the remarkable yields that have made 
the district famous have been harvested on this ranch and it 
has paid good dividends on the investment; in fact it has fur- 
Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 217 

nished a sinking fund of such size that Mansfield has taken 
from it his original investments in entirety and besides has a 
good margin of profit to figure for each year of the seven. And 
it is worthy of comment that Mr. Mansfield has seen fit to put 
all this money back, either into this place or into some other 
interest in the Valley. 

All communities have their leaders, who are as indispens- 
able to the life and growth of the neighborhood as are eco- 
nomic and physical advantages. One of the leaders in No. 
4 water district has been Mr. Mansfield, who brings to the busi- 
ness in hand (whatever it may be) a good judgment, excep- 
tional enthusiasm and executive ability. For several years he 
has served on the directorate of his water company, one which 
its stockholders look upon with pride. For two years Mr. 
Mansfield has been president of this board. In him also 
the First National Bank of Brawley finds an able and active 
director. Very much as a result of his arguments there was 
organized recently in Brawley the Creamery Association of that 
town, a company taking the products of Brawley dairies and 
handling it for the farmers. Mr. Mansfield is president. 

It was not strange that when the Republicans of the county 
were casting about for a candidate for the position of As- 
semblyman for the district of which Imperial county is a part 
that they should fix unanimously on Mr. Mansfield and he has 
consented to stand for the nomination and carry on a charac- 
teristically vigorous campaign for election. It would be hard 
to find a more acceptable candidate for this nomination for Mr. 
Mansfield is not only a farmer, with a thorough knowledge of 
their needs, but he is also a business man. As an executive 
and the director of quasi-public corporations he has proven 
eflScient, he also stands with his party chiefs and has for many 
years been an important factor in partisan government. Prob- 
ably most important of all to the Valley he is an Imperial Valley 
booster and enthusiast and no less a person can properly serve 
the district in any public capacity. 

At the head of Water Company No. 1 at the close of the 
decade is a man peculiarly fitted for responsibility in this con- 
nection. President F. S. Webster has been a pioneer all his 
life, although born in the quiet New England town of Woburn, 
Massachusetts. In fact it may have been because it was so 
quiet that Webster's father, Daniel, left it many years ago 



Digitized by 



Google 



218 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

and moved to Kansas. In the course of time this country, 
too, became settled up and with the pioneering instinct strong 
in him F. S. Webster moved on again, going into Arizona when 
the Santa Fe was building there. A stay of a few years in the 
growing city of Los Angeles, after Arizona was exploited, was 
followed by the final move of Mr. Webster, who, with his mfe 
and son, Roger, came to the Imperial Valley in 1903. 

Mr. Webster took hold with a thorough appreciation of 
the conditions he must grapple with. He and his father filed 
on a half section of fine land west of El Centro, cornering with 
the piece that in late years was platted and opened as the town- 
site of Mobile. Until his duties in official capacities became 
too pressing Mr. Webster conducted this ranch, but when he 
was elected to the board of supervisors and later to the di- 
rectorate and presidency of Water Company No. 1, he found it 
impossible to manage the ranch, so rented it. It is a remark- 
able commentary on Mr. Webster's business ability and integ- 
rity that his neighbors have, from his first appearance among 
them, entrusted so many important missions to him. He had 
the honor of being the first chairman of the board of super- 
visors of Imperial county, being also the first man from this 
end of the district to be elected to a place on the board of San 
Diego county before the division of the unit into two coun- 
ties. 

President Webster is the father of the suggestion that the 
land in the county of Imperial be organized into an irrigation 
district under the provisions of the so-called Bridgeford act, 
a state law, approved in 1897. The act provides that if a ma- 
jorit}' of the land holders in any given territory in the state pe- 
tition their board of supervisors to hold an election on the ques- 
tion of forming an irrigation district of the territory, such pe- 
tition is mandatory. In case such an election is carried by a 
two-thirds vote of all the land holders in the district the latter 
becomes an irrigation district, with a board of five directors, an 
assessor, treasurer and tax collector. This district becomes a 
body politic, empowered to own, purchase, and control irri- 
gating systems, buy and sell water, issue and sell bonds, and 
tax all land within its bounds to raise revenues for paying in- 
terest on bonds, and for funds with which to extend or maintain 
its system. It is not improbable that Mr. Webster will con- 
vince the settlers of the merits of this proposition and if he thus 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



219 



solves the great water problem for them his name will indeed 
go down in history. 

The **cattle king'' of the Imperial Valley is George A. Long. 
Mr. Long modestly disclaims any right to a title of this sort, 
but he is the man who fattens more steers in the Valley annuall}^ 
than any other and his recent building of a sanitary meat pack- 
ing house in Imperial clinches his title. The plans for this 
structure were furnished by the government. 

Raising beef cattle can only be made profitable by a few, 
because it is necessary to carry on the business on a large scale 
to make it pay. The average rancher cannot aflFord to put 
fattening steers on his place at his own expense, if he wants to 
pay interest on the capital invested in the property, but one 
who can ship or drive in large herds and fatten them on leased 
land cheaply is on the road to success. George Long has this 
business systematized. 

For several years he traveled for packing houses, but all 
the time he was watching for a location so that he could go into 
business for himself. In October, 1906, he concluded that the 
Valley was going to be an ideal district for the operations he 
planned to carry on and he bought 320 acres about midway be- 
tween the towns of El Centro amd Imperial. The purchase 
price was $37.50 an acre: four years have not passed and Long 
has already refused, more than once, offers of $150. It is all 
in alfalfa, stock fenced and divided into pastures of suitable 
size. In addition to the home place he leases annually almost 
1,000 acres, mostly adjoining his own ranch, and it is on these 
lands that he fattens the Arizona and mountain bred steers 
he brings in. 

It is surpris- 
ing what can 
be done fatten- 
ing stock on al- 
falfa in this 
Valley when 
one knows as 
much about it 
as George Long 
does. They 

come in looking as though nothing short of the bloat would 
ever make them any bigger, but a very few weeks changes 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




George Long's Home Smiles a Welcome 



220 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

them entirely. But with proper precautions these feeders 
can be brought to a condition rivaling that of eastern corn- 
fed steers. One of the most interesting places in the Valley 
is George Long's, where can always be found from 1,000 to 
3,000 head of steers in various stages of preparation for the 
abattoir. 

George Liong says "the Valley is the best place in the South- 
west for fattening and conditioning stock," and his exi>erience 
qualifies him to judge. In the four years he has been in the 
district he has handled approximately 40,000 hogs, carrying on 
his own place at one time as high as 2,750 head. In the same 
length of time the range cattle he has brought in, fattened and 
sold off will aggregate 15,000 head. Long's is one of the few 
places in the Valley where you can see Simon-pure cowboys 
at work, and some of the best cow ponies in the district are to 
be found in the bunch of 100 or more on the ranch. 

Two years ago Long bought out R. H. Benton's meat 
market in Imperial and the investment was such a good one it 
led the cattle man to consider enlarging the business. As a 
result, after a year of planning and figuring, he announced in 
the spring of 1910 that he would build a packing house. Work 
was started immediately on his fine plant in Imperial, near the 
Southern Pacific tracks, and before this book is published Long 
will be slaughtering 30 head of cattle a day and as many sheep 
and hogs. A complete refrigerating plant in connection t^411 
afford unusual facilities for handling dressed poultry, filling a 
long felt want in this district. The dressed beef and other stock 
will be for home consumption, but thousands of pieces of dressed 
fowl will go out of the Valley from Long's plant annually. The 
packing house will be operated under the watchful eye of a 
United States government meat inspector. 

Long has been a constructor and has done much for the 
Valley. He has been successful from every point of view. 
Coming to the district with something under $6,000 he admits 
today that he has cleared $70,000, without figuring the increase 
in value of his land and real estate. 

In substantial and permanent improvements Long has 
spent more than $35,000 up to date, and the plans he is now 
carrying out call for much more than this amount. These sums 
stay in the Valley. The moral is pointed. 

Big in ambition and spirit as well as body Mr. Long has won 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



221 



the confidence and esteem of his neighbors and is trusted by 
them with some of their responsibilities. He has been several 
times director of Water Company No. 1 and on many matters 
of vital importance to the district his word has been awaited 
by the other directors as final. Were it not that he has refused 
to enter politics it is more than whispered that he might be asked 
to take work of wider scope for the county. But he says that 
he has enough to do to take care of business for awhile. 

There is a touch of romance in certain stories of Valley 
pioneers. 

An absorbing desire to fight Indians tore Thomas O'Neill, 
a rancher living on his own place adjoining the townsite of Im- 
perial, away from his quiet home in a peaceful settlement in 

Pennsylvania many years 
ago and sent him West. 
He came full of great 
ideas of the fun he would 
have but with a rather 
hazy notion of the hard- 
ships. He found plenty 
of both fighting and dis- 
comforts, not to mention 
dangers, for he followed 
the intrepid Custer 
through the campaign in 
the Yellowstone in 1873 
and the roundup in the 
Black Hills in 1874 which 
started the blood feud 
leading to Custer's fatal 
engagement on the Big 
Horn in June, 1876. 
O'Neill, however, had left the service after the Black Hills cam- 
paign and had gone pioneering on his own account, finding his 
way at last to Phoenix, Arizona. Thence, in the winter of 
1902, he came to the Imperial Valley, the last frontier of the 
nation. 

This man O'Neill is one of those fortunate mortals who 
have found the happy medium which means contentment. 
A home, good friends, a fair day's labor, a pipe and a night's 
sleep that refreshes are luxuries to him. He leased 64 acres 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




Thomas O'Neill Was a Pioneer 



222 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

near the southwest corner of the town of Imperial when he first 
came to the Valley and there he established a little dairy. There 
he has ever since **pursued the even tenor of his way." For 
a long time his only companion in which he confided was Snip, 
his cow-pony, one that every cow-man in this part of the state 
knows and covets; but 40 years of bachelordom became mo- 
notonous and even Snip fell short. 

So O'Neill went into partnership. His partner was for- 
merly Mrs. Mahata Adams. O'Neill laughs now when he tells 
where some of his most successful wooing was done but his wife 
doesn't think the joke is a good one. Having been three years 
in the Navy when young and then for several years in the army 
O'Neill understands handling powder. When they were blast- 
ing in New River he did a large amount of the hauling and on 
the long rides from the railroad to the river with enough powder 
on each load to blow the entire population of Imperial Valley 
to bits the driver took his friend Mrs. Adams with him. 

*'I drove pretty carefully," says O'Neill, sententiously. 

It is deplorable that there is not room in this volume for 
more of this romantic and anecdotal side of the history of the 
first ten years of the Imperial Valley, but it is crowded out 
largely by more prosaic matter. There is another little story 
of sentiment, however, which tells the experience of so many 
that it is given here. 

Harry Van den Heuvel came to the Valley from Riverside 
in 1903, borrowing $25 to reach here and bringing along little 
besides the memory of several bills remaining to be paid. He 
began to work for others and in the course of a few weeks had 
enough money with which to buy a team. One of this t^am was 
a grey mare, old at the time he bought her, but still strong and 
willing. To this old mare Van den Heuvel became singularly 
attached. She was faithful, contented, and a hard worker; 
she pulled him through a number of tight places, and in the 
years that followed never failed him when called upon for help. 

The young man had filed on a quarter section five miles 
w<»st of El Centro and after working for others awhile he found 
himself able to put this ground in, which he did in 1904, sowing 
barley. The grain came up beautifully but when threshing 
time came there was no one to do the work. Van den Heuvel 
took a long chance, harnessed the old grey mare and drove to 
Imperial where he negotiated deals for several teams, threshing 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



223 



machine and men to work it. It was a piece of sheer nerve, 
but it stood. Owing several hundred dollars more than he cared 
to think about, the gritty young farmer went back to his ranch 
and threshed his barley. His next door neighbor had a big 
field and Harry threshed that. The neighbors came to him 
by the dozens and begged him to help them out. He made 
enough from that thresher to pay for it — and then some. And 
the old grey mare pulled a little more than her share of every 
wagon load of grain carried to the warehouse, just to show her 
interest. 

Van den Heuvel had made something more than a start — 
he had established a line of credit that stood him in good stead 
later. For in 1905 the river came in and not only on his own 
ground but on 320 acres he had leased there was a dismal water 
shortage and crop failure. Van den Heuvel says that he owed 
every business house in Imperial, but he **kept a plugging*' and 
in the end the river was turned back, the floods receded, the canal 
system was re-established and the young rancher began to catch 
up again. From that time forward things ''came his way.** 
He paid his bills, including a loan of $800 bearing interest at 
15%, and he and the old grey mare stayed with the ranch and 
brought it through. There were days in those hard times when 




The Old Mare Will Never Work Again 



Digitized by 



Google 



224 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

both man and horse did more than they should have done, but 
they managed to make it and now Van den Heuvel is not wony- 
ing about bills and the mare. 

That old grey mare is out in a broad, level meadow of al- 
falfa, bordered by ditches and shaded by trees. For months 
she has not known the feel of a shoulder pad or the tug of a rein : 
her owner says she will never again stretch a pair of traces. 
An old grey mare, worn by years of hard work may not be a 
poetic figure, but there is something irresistibly heroic about 
this mare, who saw a man through the hard years and now 
grazes in a field of unbroken green, pensioned. One's faith 
in men is somewhat restored when one looks at this instance of 
the reward a faithful servant, even though a dumb one, is en- 
joying. 

Harry Van den Heuvel has good cause to be grateful to the 
fates that sent him this way. His debts now paid and his fu- 
ture assured, he can let down a little and watch his property 
grow in value as the months pass. He now controls 600 acres, and 
the ranch is worth at a conservative figure $60,000 free and clear. 
But, in the words of the race track tout, it was ^*no cinch." 

Romance has its place but there is something stirring in the 
more prosaic stories of the plain men who achieve quietly and 
without doing anything out of the ordinary. W. H. Poole is 
a typical American farmer. He is one of those energetic, power- 
ful, untiring, hopeful men who go plodding and pushing ahead 
through every sort of luck and over every sort of obstacle and 
who get what they want. He is not widely known, because he 
attends too strictly to his own business to be much concerned 
in that of other people, and yet the *'Poole place" is a landmark 
on the road from El Centro to Mobile because of its high state 
of cultivation, its fine trees and the big new home place. Poole 
came to the Valley in November, 1903, with practically no 
capital: now he is one of the most prosperous ranchers in his 
vicinity. 

The story of how this came about is told in the first line 
of this sketch: Poole is a typical American farmer. He took 
the raw land and with his own hands or directly under his own 
supervision he put in his crops. The piece he secured comprises 
220 acres, three and one-half miles west of the present site of 
El Centro, a town unthought of when Poole located. In those 
days he purchased his supplies in Imperial. He was fortunate 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



225 




Side by Side the Old Poole Home and the New 



and skillful; the combination always produces a ^'bumper*' 
crop. What he made went back into the land and for six years 
he and his large family lived in the temporary shelter they built 
on arrival; too busy and too much interested in future possi- 
bilities to think of a new house. 

As the crop returns came in and more stock grew up Poole was 
handicapped by lack of acreage and finally he leased 320 acres 

nearby, put- 
ting surplus 
energy into 
that ground. 
In the summer 
of 1909, while 
the family were 
taking a vaca- 
tion and Mr. 
Poole was 

away from home a fire occurred that cost him dear, con- 
suming 60 tons of fine hay and a barn, and with them a 
young stallion of which Poole was very proud and which was very 
valuable. Characteristically the family accepted this piece of 
ill fortune resignedly and went on with their work. It was at 
about this time that plans were being discussed for a new house : 
the fire did not change the plans and in the spring of 1910 the 
little old house that had been home so long was left for a $2,000 
residence as fine as any country house in the Valley. The pic- 
ture shows the contrast. 

While writing of the plain ranchers it is natural to recall 
the time when the comic paper pictures of a farmer with long 
whiskers and oats in his hair were not so far-fetched, but that 
time, particularly in the Imperial Valley, is now past. It 
takes a keen and sagacious business man, up-to-date in all his 
methods, to bring a ranch in this district to its highest grade of 
efficiency and make it pay dividends as it should. J. H. Blod- 
gett, owner of a full section five miles northwest of Holtville, 
is a type of the new rancher; he would be considered fully as 
perfect a type of a business man. In fact it is by combining the 
two that he has brought his place to the high state of cultiva- 
tion that marks it now. 

Blodgett came from Nebraska in the fall of 1904. Start- 
ing with sufficient means to provide a proper foundation he built 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



226 STORY OP THE FIRST DECADE 

on permanent lines, putting in alfalfa and reserving plenty of 
ground for grain, hay and annuals. Like most of the heavier 
land holders Blodgett put on hogs and they proved a good in- 
vestment for him. Later he added a dairy string and he is now 
a firm believer in the combination of dairy and hogs. In fact 
he says that he will not run a ranch without a dairy string hence- 
forth. In spite of the fact that he has a large and expensive 
piece of property to care for, his string has for the past two years 
more than paid expenses of operating, leaving as clear profit 
all revenues from hogs, grain, hay and so on. 

There is every prospect that Mr. Blodgett will win heavily 
this year of 1910, for he has 250 acres of cotton, and a very good 
stand at that. With cotton prices high he is promised a gener- 
ous reward for his industry and faith. 

But the mainstay of the rancher is his hog business. He 
believes in keeping books on his ranch and is enabled, as a re- 
sult of his system, to tell just what his expenses and incomes are 
in this line. Surprising as it may seem he has figures to prove 
that, even with a large bunch of hogs, he receives $1 per month 
a head for pasturing his hogs, even when they are as low as Q14 
cents a pound. At 10 cents, of course, his profit is enormous. 
At the latter figure he says that his barley brings him revenue 
at the rate of $4 a hundred, which is more profitable than selling it 
to others at 80 cents to feed their hogs. 

Besides the increase in hogs they bought 500 additional 
later, giving them a good start in this line. With plenty of 
skimmed milk, alfalfa, corn and barley, he has been able to turn 
off some of the best looking and best paying stock that has ever 
been sold in the Valley. 

Mr. Blodgett was the first man in the north end of No. 5 
to drill for artesian water and he was rewarded, at 580 feet, 
with a strong pressure flow, which he has now piped into the 
house and to hydrants about the ranch. 

If those anaemic youths, with immaculate shirt fronts 
and hair parted in the middle, who stand behind the counters 
or copy figures in the books of the large cities and bemoan the 
fact that the days of opportunity are gone, could read these 
pages they might find here some very striking lessons. The 
story of the efforts of James M. Potts, now 26 years old, would 
be full of meat for them. 

Potts came to the Valley with nothing but his determina- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



227 



tion to make a home. He was 21 years old but had learned 
enough in the school of hard knocks to know that he would not 
win by sitting down under a cotton-wood and whittling sticks. 
In 1905 it was not so hard to find a piece of ground that was un- 
occupied and he found one 43^ miles north of Holtville. He 
borrowed $100 for a start and got a grip on things. After that 
you could not stop him. A man with that sort of stamina 
goes ahead and it is not necessary to chronicle the steps. 
Potts traded, worked for others, tilled his farm, put in a little 
brains with every crop he sowed and made good. 

He is a good trader and a hard worker. Very early in the 
game he found there was a shortage of work stock so he went to the 
coast, picked 
up a carload 
of horses and 
mules cheap, 
brought them 
to the Valley 
and gave them 
a few weeks 
rest in his al- 
falfa patch. 
They renewed 
their youth and 
he sold out at a 

good profit. He has tried this plan several times, at the oppor- 
tune minute, and has made a comfortable sum this way. The 
money has gone into the improvement of the ranch which now 
has 60 acres of alfalfa and 20 acres of cotton. There is a small 
dairy string on the place, hogs enough to keep the feed and 
skimmed milk cleaned up, and a few extra horses so that if 
a trade looms up on the horizon Potts will be able to keep his 
end up. 

Talk about the examples of Carnegie and Rockefeller; 
what are they compared with the example of James Potts, who 
has put himself out of reach of grubbing care by industry, pa- 
tience, attention to business, and faith? It is well enough for 
callow city youths to sigh because the days of opportunity for 
budding genius are no more. If Potts had been of the sighing 
sort he would be working for $4 a week now. 

More than passing attention should be given those men 




And Such a Dairy! 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



228 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



who have born the brunt of the pioneering in this Valley, but 
who might escape notice because of their modesty and the 
humble nature of their toil. And yet the men who have changed 
the face of nature in the district and made its wonderful achieve- 
ments possible are those who, with mules and a scraper, have 
made ready for irrigation. 

G. L. Dutcher, better known throughout the whole dis- 
trict as Lee, is a typical member of this class. Lee came to the 
Valley in January, 1905, when the largest amount of grading 
that was ever done in one year was beginning. Posses.sing 
capital aggregating $35 he went to work by the day **bucking" 
a Fresno, as he says; and at this work he stayed for several 
months. But he was too ambitious and too good a manager 
to be held down to a job. One by one he bought an outfit of 
teams and scrapers and in two 3'^ears was doing a large contract- 
ing business, leveling some of the finest ranches in the Valley. 

Being a good 
trader and an 
expert horse- 
man, Dutcher 
kept his stock 
coming and go- 
ing and by this 
means accum- 
ulated a small 
savings ac- 
count "on the 
side" so that, 
in 1908, he was 

able to buy out his brothers, M. V., and Claude, who owned a 
livery stable in Imperial. His dealings with his neighbors 
inspired them with a great deal of confidence in Mr. Dutcher 
and in 1910 he was elected a city trustee in Imperial. 

Lee understands grading from first to last and his work has 
always been in demand. Consequently he has not entirely 
given that branch of pioneering up. He has 12 to 20 head of 
stock at work on contracts of one sort and another all the time. 
Tlie livery barn is modern and well equipped, with 25 head of 
good livery stock and outfits for 50, with tally-hoes, surrej^s, 
single rigs and accoutrements. Recently Dutcher purchased 
an automobile for his own use but there proved to be a demand 




Lee Butcher's Crews Leveled Thousands of Acres 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 229 

for it for renting purposes and this has led him to arrange for 
a further excursion into this field in the fall. 

Meantime Dutcher has not allowed all his opportunities 
to slip: he has a farm of 320 acrts in No. 7, all under cultivation. 
Thanks to the Valley his $35 has grown, in roimd numbers, to 
a sum approximating $15,000. 

And this brings us to another story that is best introduced 
by the following figiu'es: 

Trial balances, (annual) W. S. Moore, El Centro. 

1903-Cash on hand $45; roll of blankets $5 $ 50 

1904-One team, part interest in hay baler, cash $200 700 

1905-Two teams, equity in 160 acres near El Centro. . . 1,500 
1907-Teams, more equity in land, implements, etc.. . . 3,000 

1908-Teams, hogs, land and other assets 5,000 

1909-Teams, hogs, cattlej land, comfortable house, etc.. 9,000 
1910-Ranch 16,000 

The above figures are not from Mr. Moore's books. They 
are our figures, compiled after hearing his story of seven years in 
the Imperial Valley. They are so nearly correct that they are 
sufficient. And they tell very eloquently of what this man has 
done since coming to this district. 

Moore came from western Pennsylvania \vith the roll of 
blankets and $45 above referred to, in the fall of 1903. He 
did not sit down in front of a poolroom and wait for an easy 
job to hit him; he went out and hit the job. That sort of man 
is a good worker and is worth money to any employer, so that 
Moore commanded good pay and the confidence of the man he 
worked for. In a few weeks he made a payment down on a 
team of horses and with them he was able to make twice as much 
every day and in the spring of 1904 he bought an interest in a 
hay baler. His first job with the press was on the present site 
of El Centro, but he had other jobs all that summer and fall 
with his machine. By the summer of the next year he was in 
a position to meet the census enumerator and be set down as 
''rancher" instead of ''laborer," for in July he made the first 
payment on 160 acres of land 3J^ miles south of the present 
town of El Centro. 

After that, although the work was harder and responsi- 
bilities greater the element of worry was removed, for the future 
was clear. The piece was put to barley amd alfalfa and in 
another year was ready for a few liead of stock. By ,1909 it . 

Digitized by VjOOQlC 



230 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



was almost a ranch, there were 150 head of hogs growing into 
money rapidly, a dairy string of 27 good cows, plenty of feed, 
hay up for the winter and things moving. Moore lost a little 
in one year's experiment with cantaloupes but recouped on hogs 




Cantaloupe Shipping is an Art 

at $8.50 a hundred pounds and forgot the melons. Recently 
he sold 6 head of hogs for $117, which is even better than canta- 
loupes, especially at a net profit of nothing per crate. 

Fifty goes into sixteen thousand 320 times. 

Another of those remarkable personal stories of achieve- 
ment that mark the history of the first decade in the Valley 
is that of I. J. Harris, who came here in 1904 with a sick wiie 
and his bare hands. His story was different somewhat from that 
of many in that he did not take up government land, but bought. 
The Harris' came from Louisiana in search of relief for Mrs. 
Harris, who suffered from a bronchial affliction. They arrived 
in Imperial with nothing and Harris went to work by the day. 
He put in three ranches for others meantime buying his first 
land, a small piece just north of Imperial. By economy and 
industry he accumulated enough at last to buy an additional 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 231 

80 acres and with the experience he had gained while working 
for others he was able to pick out as good a piece of ground aS 
there is in the Valley, a sub-division 6 miles northeast of Imperial 
in the Mesquite Lake country. 

Here he has alfalfa, barley, grapes and eucalyptus, in the 
latter of which he is a great believer. As it is, the six years of 
his residence has brought him a sturdy little girl, renewed health 
to his wife and has changed his assets from nothing to a ranch 
worth $12,000 in the Mesquite country and the small place near 
Imperial. 

When President Babcock, of the University of Arizona, 
was a visitor to the Valley in May, 1910, he addressed a gather- 
ing of college men in Imperial at an informal luncheon, and called 
their attention to one particularly vital necessity of the district. 
He said in brief that the conclusion that our farm unit is going 
to be 15 or 20 acres eventually is unavoidable and his recom- 
mendation was that the people of the Valley begin building en- 
tirely with that idea in view. The resultant dense population, 
of course, will mean large central towns, heavy business of all 
sorts, but more important still, intensive farming methods. 

There are a few men in the Valley who anticipated the presi- 
dent in this latter regard; one of them is S. C. Tompkins. Mr. 
Tompkins owns 40 acres four miles southeast of Holtville and 
on this he plans to make a fortune. To that end he is compelled, 
of course, to make every foot of ground count and every ounce 
of feed bring the maximum returns, but this he is rapidly find- 
ing himself able to do. One 

of his first experiments was 
with balanced rations. He 
runs a small dairy, milking 
30 cows, and when they pas- 
tured on alfalfa alone he got 
the same results as his neigh- 
bors. But he experimented 
with mixed feed, hay, and 

VI J , . / , Found Dairying Pays 

balanced rations and he re- 
ports now that his findings have been remarkably encouraging. 
Convinced of his ground he went to the expense of erecting 
a small alfalfa mill on the place, building large enough to do 
his own work and that of his neighbors also. Tracks run from 
the mill to the feed stanchions, so that a minimum of labor 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




232 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



is required in caring for the herd. Ranchers who do not be- 
lieve a man can make money with less than a half section of 
land should visit Mr. Tompkins' place and see what he is 
doing with an eighth of that. He asserts that he can feed a 
dairy cow to the acre the year through and leave besides 
room enough on his ground to do considerable truck garden- 
ing, raise fruit and poultry and make, in fact, a model ranch, 
capable of bringing in a handsome yearly revenue always. 

Tompkins is a business man, as his efforts at ranching 
demonstrate clearly. He came from Los Angeles two years 
ago, after a long experience in commercial lines, and from the 
first has made a success of running his place on business lines, 
building always for the future. 

*'He saved others; himself he could not save." 
It might not be inappropriate to put some such epitaph on 
the tombstone of J. M. Cardiff, a man whose cheery front, 
hopeful outlook and encouraging word saved many of his neigh- 




Cardiflf Sowed For His Family to Reap 

bors in the Mesquite Lake country, 4 miles northeast of Im- 
perial, from despair and surrender in the Jiard years of the early 
history of the region, but who, when he had built up a prosper- 
ous ranch from bare desert in two years, was himself the victim 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



233 



of a fatal accident. Mr. Cardiff was killed by a horse in 1907, 
but not until he had prepared the way for his family to sustain 
themselves and to be well on the way toward a competence. 
His oldest son, J. L. Cardiff, became manager and he, his mother 
and brothers are holding together a handsome ranch of 320 
acres. 

The Cardiff's came from San Bernardino when everything 
in the Valley looked discouraging. Having lived for several 
years in a country wholly dependent on irrigation they knew the 
value of the headworks of the California Development Company 
to the Valley and they foresaw the ultimate ruin of the district 
if it proved impossible to stay the course of the vagrant Colo- 
rado. But Mr. Cardiff decided that it was safe to throw in 
his lot with the hundreds already here and with the rich and 
powerful corporations whose property would be ruined if the 
break in the river was not controlled. Going on this principle 
he invested every cent he had in the Valley and tried to en- 
courage others to do the same. He never lost faith or hope and 
many a man testifies today that the cheery optimism of this 
rancher enabled him to get a new grip on things and induced 
him to stay with what looked for awhile to be a forlorn hope. 
Mrs. Cardiff's place in this story is, of course, a large one. 

There are other women, too, who play important roles, one of 
them being a great lover of flowers. It is a well known fact that 
there are no flowers in the world so rich in hue and so perfect 
in coloring as those raised on the deserts of Southern California 




Four Generations at the Scott Home 



Digitized by 



Google 



234 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

and it is a wonder that there are not more here. One of the few 
places where desert grown flowers may be seen in profusion is 
the ranch home of D. B. Scott, north of Imperial less than five 
miles. Mrs. Scott is the mistress of the home in every sense 
of the word and she has carried her ministrations outside the 
walls and into a garden of rare beauty. She has had unusual 
success with all the flowers commonly grown in the Valley, but 
not content with these, she has gone on and reared to maturity 
rare roses, chrysanthemums, oleanders, hyacinths, tulips, 
gladioli, calla lilies and California poppies. In every case she 
has been able to bring the tenderest buds to perfection and her 
knowledge of the tricks of the trade would be purchased gladly 
by many a housewife who misses the flower garden of some 
other-land home. 

The Scott place throughout is of interest. Scott came to 
the Valley from Michigan in 1903 and took a piece of raw land. 
One of the first things done was to plant trees, one experiment 
being with four date palm seeds. The palms came through 
very speedily and today, at six years old, are marked for their 
size, symmetry and beauty. 

The Scott^s believe thoroughly in the hog industry. Mr. 
Scott started with two shoats, but his aim from the first was to 
prepare for an extensive excursion into that branch of stock 
raising. On 60 acres of alfalfa he is able to carry some 300 hogs, 
today, devoting the remainder of his place to barley for fatten- 
ing. By building on business-like lines he has made a good 
success and the future promises well. 

The breeding and raising of hogs has been repeatedly re- 
ferred to in this volume as probably the most staple industry 
of the Valley. Other lines of agriculture and general ranching 
have come and gone, but, taken year by year, it may safely be 
said that there have been no failures in hogs. There are a very 
large number of these animals in the district at the close of the 
decade but they are not of good breeding. This may be accounted 
for by two reasons: first, that prices have been so good, almost 
without exception, for pork that there has been a great haste 
made to breed, raise and fatten, at whatever cost of careful 
breeding; second, that comparatively few men have made any 
effort to furnish hog men with good breeding stock. 

This is one of the things that has led several breeders 
recently to turning their attention more and more to registered 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



235 




Peace and Plenty are McCollum's 



hogs. One of the men planning to raise blue bloods exclusively 
from this time on is Arthur McCollum, a rancher 2V^ miles 
north and a quarter of a mile west of Imperial. McColIum was 
raised on a farm, although for twenty years, and until his health 

broke down, he was a 
postal clerk, residing in 
San Jose, California. 
He came here two years 
ago with little capital 
and poor health but he 
has improved in both 
regards rapidly. He 
tells an interesting 
story of his condition 
financially when he arrived. McCollum preceded his wife by 
three weeks with sufficient money to tie up a small piece of 
ranch land. When Mrs. McCollum reached the Valley she had 
to hire a liveryman to drive her to the ranch and, after paying 
the driver, she turned to her husband with the capital on which 
they were to start in. It amounted to $2.15. 

On the forty acres they have since succeeded in paying for. 
and stocking they will raise Ohio Improved Chesters, a white 
hog, and Poland Chinas; and according to present plans there 
will be nought but registered stock on the ranch. The best 
of care, clean water, plenty of shade, and thoroughbred stock 
will make a model breeding farm. It will be McCollum's aim 
to sell everything he grows to breeders and not to sell the hog 
buyers anything. Building on these lines it is certain he will 
be able to do a great deal toward improving conditions in swine 
breeding in the Valley. 

J. R. Sturgis is 
another who is labor- 
ing to improve stand- 
ards. His plan is an 
ambitious one, but it 
promises to be of ines- 
timable value to the 
district, as he has 
both the means and 
the ability to give 
the matter of good 



^ 


. -J.^ 


^ 





' ■ 


■s! 




.^ _ , ♦ " ^ 






i 



The Sturgis Home Suggests Comfort 



Digitized by 



Google 



236 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

breeding a thorough test. On the 160 acres which he owns 7J^ 
miles southeast of Holtville he has every opportunity to give the 
problem close study and satisfactory test. The ranch is in alfalfa, 
barley and wheat, with plenty of room for corn and with ample 
fencing, pens, etc. Sturgis has only thoroughbred stock, Poland 
China and Berkshire, and the young stock coming on make a won- 
derful showing. It is the owner's contention that thoroughbreds 
require one-third less for feed and care, and fatten one-third 
quicker than ordinary stock; this contention he is now in a po- 
sition to prove satisfactorily. 

The plan is to breed for the market, although there will 
always be breeding stock for sale. One carload every two 
months is about the rate at which the rancher believes he can 
turn the stock off, after the first few months of experimentation, 
and he is amply equipped to do this if his figures work out cor- 
rectly. It is a well known fact that, everything else being 
equal, hog buyers prefer well-bred hogs, both because the qual- 
ity of the meat is better and because the hogs are smoother, 
stronger, and better nourished, and Sturgis expects to top the 
market with every hog sold. 

Mr. Sturgis came from Ventura county in 1908, being fol- 
lowed later by his father and brother, both of whom have since 
become interested with him and have also purchased land for 
themselves. 

J. M. Prim is the largest breeder in the Valley. He came 
in March, 1905. Born and raised on an Illinois farm and for 
ten years working with and owning hogs Prim naturally knew 




Prim Built Model Pens and Feeders 

Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



237 



something of the business. A friend who came west for his 
health wrote enthusiastically of the desert and urged Prim to 
come out. After some correspondence the hog raiser came, he 
and his friend taking a lease on the C. C. Manning ranch of 
320 acres four miles northwest of Holtville in the rich No. 5 
district. Prim's partner was an invalid and after a few months 
sold out to Jim, who plunged into the game with enthusiasm. 

There were times in the next two years when it looked as 
though he had "gone it too strong.*' The river came in about 
the time Jim did and the foundations on which the reclaimed 
desert stood were tottering for several months. But Prim held 
on and after the closure his hogs were worth a good deal. He 
recouped in 1907 heavily and put most of it back into the lease 
or into other property. In 1908 hogs went down, down, down, 
and barley up. Prim had miscalculated his distance, fed barley 
into the hogs up to the very breaking of the market and in 1908 
it is not improbable that he lost from $10,000 to $12,000. 

But he did not quit. He bought cheap hogs, when the fat 
stock market was floundering around four cents and feeders 
could be bought from three and three and a half. His neigh- 
bors felt sorry for him but not so sorry but that they gladly 
unloaded on him, then sat Imck to watch the crash. They are 
still watching. By May, 1910, the hog buyers were fighting 
each other to pay $10.35 a hundred. Jim Prim sold three car- 
loads about that time for $5,500! 

With 3,200 hogs Prim needed more land so he bought 80 
acres of the Powers ranch and raised barley and Filipino wheat. 
The latter was expected to yield ten bushels to the acre: Prim 
got 30 sacks 
This he feeds 
in automatic 
feeders: no 
waste, no dirt, 
no sore-mouth- 
ed stock. In 
passing let us 
note that self- 
feeder cost all 
the profits 
from a carload 
of hogs. No- 




A Reservoir Covering an Acre 



Digitized by 



Google 



238 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

body but Plunger Prim would have built that and a row of 
model, high-priced farrowing pens when hogs were at five cents. 
Yet those pens and the feeder paid five for one in tow years. 

Prim has a system! He does everything as well as he can. 
The scrubs are weeded out; thoroughbreds take their places. 
The work stock he uses are big well-bred mules. He believes 
in clear water and plenty of it, so he built a reservoir covering 
an acre of ground from which he could irrigate his whole place 
once in case of necessity. He always has a little feed to spare, 
consequently he never has any spare-looking feeders. The 
pictures show something of what he has done in seven years. 

No one in the Valley, particularly if he raised hogs, could 
well help knowing something of the success in that line achieved 
by the Fuller brothers, of which Arthur Fuller, of Imperial was 
senior partner. When the river was in and all stock was being 
sold at any price it would bring the Fullers bought hogs. They 
spent one-third of their time fighting the water, which finally, 
in the spring of 1906 stood eight feet above their ranch against 
a level formed by the north bank of the Main canal. The re- 
maining two-thirds they divided evenly between caring for 
their stock and buying more. Some people thought they were 
crazy and predicted ruin for the brothers. But Arthur Fuller 
had it figured that the water was going to be corralled and sent 
back where it belonged. He had infinite faith in the Valley, 
has today, and when hogs were offered cheaply enough he 
bought them. In the spring following the flood hogs began to 
soar. Everyone wanted them: Fullers had them. It is 
probable the two brothers cleared up between $12,000 and $20,- 
000 that year. 

They came here in 1900 first and filed on a half-section of 
land each. That was a very early day indeed, and as they had 
land in the neighborhood of El Monte, east of Los Angeles, 
they went back there and stayed until -March, 1902, when, 
with six head of horses, their furniture, implements and sup- 
plies, they drove across the mountains and entered the Prom- 
ised Land. It was hard sledding in those days. Mr. Fuller's 
first crop was barley, half of which he lost because of the rank 
growth of weeds in it. The balance he threshed out by driving 
horses over it and then winnowing it in a fanning mill. He had 
about the best seed barley in the fall of 1903 that there was to 
be had in the district and he sold it at a good profit. That year 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



239 




he started to sow alfalfa and now his half section is all a pasture. 
It was in the spring of 1905 that Fuller started the hogs, 
beginning with four sows. Since then he and his brother have 
carried as high as 2000 head at a time, and have farmed not only 
their own ground but from 500 to 800 acres leased land besides. 
It was while leasing a large acreage near Brawley in order to 
avoid the necessity of buying feed for their hogs that Arthur 
Fuller overdid. It is as easy for some men to work too hard 

as it is for others not to work 
at all and Arthur Fuller is one of 
the former sort. His health 
broke down and today he is tak- 
ing it easy and gradually re- 
gaining the strength that for- 
merly enabled him to work 18 
hours of the 24 day in and day 

When Grapes are Ripe! 

Not satisfied with being idle, however, Mr. Fuller is now 
attending to the business of securing more land in the district. 
Less than a year ago he and his brother bought two 160-acre 
pieces, one 23^ miles west of Imperial, the other three miles 
south of El Centro. Arthur Fuller's half-section west of Heber 
is worth $40,000 today and not really on the market at that. 

Jim Prim, whose story has just been told, said one day* 
"A man has recently come into the Valley who can teach us 
more about hog breeding than anyone who has ever been here. 
His name is Bliss." 

So we looked up this man Bliss. He is a member of the 
firm of Bliss & Colson, real estate brokers, and is reputed to 
be wealthy. But he wasn't in a mahogany chair clipping bond 
coupons. He 
was cultivating 
cotton, riding 
behind a big 
team of mares, 
with the sun 
coming straight 
down, and a 
truly Blissful 
smile was on 




He Was Not Cutting Coupons But Plowing 



Digitized by 



Google 



240 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

his face. He said: "Well, I have studied hogs a good deal 
back east. I come from Illinois, was secretary of the Illinois 
State Swine Breeders Association one year and president 
one, and have raised considerable fine stock. We once 
owned an $8,000 Poland China boar. But that's no sign 
I know everything about hogs. I think this is a country with 
a great future for the swine industry but I wouldn't want to 
advance theories about them until I get acquainted with the 
new conditions here.'* 

Mr. Bliss reached the Imperial Valley in the fall of 1909 
with half a notion to buy 40 or 80 acres for experimentation. 
He ended by buying 640: one half section abutting on the north 
city limits of Holtville in No. 5; and another half section east 
of El Centro, with 160 acres inside and 160 outside the city limits 
of the county seat. The country was so much better than ad- 
vertised that he stayed a few days — and is still staying. He 
was raised on a farm, but when a young fellow went to school 
teaching and followed that profession in capacity of teacher, 
superintendent and school trustee for many years. Now he 
is back at farming when he can afford to do it on a large scale. 

Mr. Bliss' partner, Mr. Colson, is an expert real estate 
man and an indefatigable Valley booster. He is particularly 
interested in the movement for good roads for the farmers and 
the firm is lending a hand to promote every movement 
looking to that end. Fancy roads for automobilists at the ex- 
pense of decent highways for the countryman are opposed, 
however. Mr. Colson is dealing with farmers and he knows 
their needs. 

Colson came to the Valley from Redlands in February, 
1908, and immediately became a '^booster." Abandoning 
large opportunities elsewhere he settled in El Centro and took 
up the realty and investment business more for what the future 
offers than for what is assured for the present. Making first 
a thorough study of soil conditions, crops and the needs of the 
farmers Colson got into direct touch with the vital points in 
connection with the land business. Now he is looked upon 
as an authority on those points of relationship between the 
farming community and the investor or speculator that are 
most vital. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 241 



CHAPTER XIV 



MAKERS OF EMPIRE 

There are those in the cities and towns of the Valley whose 
part in the reclamation and organization of the Valley make 
them worthy of a place in this history. For example, the close 
of the decade the towns of the Imperial Valley are, broadly 
speaking, a sort of standing monument to the persistence, 
courage, and industry of one man, H. H. Peterson. That doesn't 
mean at all that the towns would not have been built had it 
not been for this one man. It simply means that he is the 
brick maker and contractor who furnished the materials and did 
a large part of the work of erection: without him it is very prob- 
able many of the buildings now standing of permanent and sub- 
stantial character wpuld instead have been wooden structures 
falling to pieces, or doome^ to do so Vithin a short time. 

This man Peters$h Has made money in the Valley, proTDably 
a large amount of nioney, although he refuses to confess the sum. 
But for the first thifee years after his arrival in December, 1903, 
he had a hard time. , In 1901 "B. A. Harbour and George Carter 
owned a small **hand*' yard east of Imperial where they turned 
out a small amount of brick. But it was difficult to get labor 
and although brick was in demand it was expensive to make. 
When Peterson came he did not look around very long before de- 
ciding that general contracting in brick work was about his size. 
He had come from Los Angeles where he had been foreman for 
Paul Haupt, a big contractor, and where he had worked on most 
of the large down-town buildings of his time, and he knew the 
business thoroughly. So he bought out Carter. 

Harbour and Peterson burned a kiln of brick at Calexico 
and started the Calexico hotel. Work crowded in on them. 
But it was not so easy to make brick as it was to sell them. 
It was hard work, warm work, and particularly it was difficult 
to get labor. However Peterson and his partner opened another 
yard at Holtville (before there was a frame building in the town) 



Digitized by 



Google 



242 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



and started on a slightly larger scale. This was not easy? 
especially since they had to haul all the water they used from 
the Alamo channel in barrels, and to lay off about every third 
day because they couldn't get men enough. 

Peterson practically built the town of El Centro, in the 
meantime sending up buildings in Brawley, Holtville, Calexico 
and Imperial and in the end things began to turn and the money 
came rolling in. Mr. Peterson was ambitious to keep abreast 
of the demand and this meant double and triple work for him, 
but he stayed with it until he had the thing systematized. The 
result is that he, working almost without assistance, has been 
able to build 95% of the brick edifices of the Valley, not only 
making and burning the brick but taking the contracts for the 
buildings. 

Probably the most important buildings he put up are the 
Hotel Oregon in El Centro and the new High School building 
in Imperial. His own building, at the corner of Eighth and Im- 
perial avenue, Imperial, is one of the best office buildings in the 

Valley, and of 
course has more 
interest for 
Peterson than 
those he put up 
for other own- 
ers, now that it 
is completed. 
He has burned 
10,000,000 

brick since he has been in the district and estimates 
that the value of the buildings he has built for himself and 
others aggregate $750,000. In the season from the fall 
of 1909 to the middle of summer, 1910, he will have com- 
pleted contracts aggregating $100,000 in Imperial alone, in- 
cluding the High School building, the Carnegie library, the 
Broadwell building and others. He has plans completed for 
the installation of a $10,000 plant No. 2 at Imperial, duplicating 
that now in operation at Holtville, and this second plant will 
be built within a few months of this writing. 

It may be considered affectation for a man of such achieve- 
ment to complain of his troubles, but as a matter of fact Peter- 
son is facing a pretty serious problem. In the first place skilled 




Now Peterson Owns His Own Buildings 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 243 

labor, even at the high wages he pays (from $2.50 to $9 a day) 
is hard to get and keep. In the second place it is a long way to 
the base of supplies for building materials, save brick. Mill 
work, glass work, paints, cornices, hardware, and all must come 
from Los Angeles or San Francisco. To add to these burdens 
there are long hauls of sand and gravel, troubles with power at 
the brick yard, the heat of the three summer months that makes 
quick building work impossible, and other features that do not 
enter into the calculations of a builder anywhere else. Peter- 
son says that it is 40% harder to build in the Valley than out- 
side, and he ought to know. His pay roll has from 45 to 50 
men on it through nine months of the year. 

Mr. Peterson owns two pieces of land in the Valley, one of 
400 acres west of Imperial on the bank of New River, where he 
has immense sand and gravel deposits in addition to a big barley 
field and the other 160 acres in No. 12. 

As we have observed, much credit has been given to the 
men who have reclaimed a desert and built an empire: there 
is not less glory for the men who have developed cities, building 
them up from clusters of tents to centers of industry and busi- 
ness rivalling those of districts that were old when the civil 
war was fought. The city of El Centro was composed of half . 
a dozen buildings moved over from Imperial in the fall of 1906; 
today the improvements are worth two millions of dollars. 
J. L. Travers effected the change. 

Contractor Travers, **The Pioneer Contractor,'* did not 
do it all, but he was the first man on the ground, his buildings 
were substantial, ornate, complete. When others built they 
kept one eye on the models, those of Travers. Here's the story. 

When a Redlands syndicate bought the townsite of El 
Centro Travers was a member of the contracting firm of Fair- 
childs and Travers in that orange town. El Centro was a spot 
of desert ground at that time, nothing more, but it had the 
right sort of men behind its future and Travers decided on a 
move. He brought Charles Nelson, a trusted foreman, w^ith 
him and the two dropped off the train in the midst of a waste 
in November, 1906, half a mile north of the present depot of 
El Centro. The town was made up then of the Franklin Hotel, 
moved from Imperial, a couple of small residences owned by 
Dr. Anderson, and also moved in, and a little real estate office 
on Main street. A ditch brought water from the canal west 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



244 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

of the townsite to the hotel and that was all there was to start 
with. 

The first contract Travers had was for the construction of 
the El Centro hotel, at that time considered a wild dream by the 
pioneers who were used only to shacks and tent houses. But 
when the ground was broken the promoters asked Travers if 
he could handle more than one building, and with character- 
istic promptness he responded: "Sure!'' So they asked him to 
build the Holt Opera House. Considering that the town had 
not more than ten permanent residents in it at the time it is not 
strange that the idea of an opera house was greeted with con* 
sternation. Travers wasn't excited, however, for already the 
settlers were beginning to come in and the town of El Centro 
began to be more than a name. He started work on the opera 
house under difficulties for the hotel contract was a big one 
and materials and help were not easy to get. 

Two barrels sunk in the ground beside the ditch were the 
basis of the water supply, one being filled first and then the 
other filled from the first so that the water was settled. Water 
for use in construction was pumped from the ditch by use of 
a force pump. A good deal depended on that small ditch. 

Long before those two first buildings were completed 
Travers had more work than he could take. The whole block 
on the south side of Main street was to be improved and Travers 
took the contracts. From that time on he was not only the 
pioneer contractor but he was the biggest contractor in El 
Centro and one of the two largest on the deserts of the South- 
west. Residences all over the townsite came under his super- 
vision: in fact he contracted almost $1,000,000 worth of sub- 
stantial buildings of one sort and another during the four years 
to the close of the decade. He was the builder of the Oregon 
hotel, the finest hostelry on any desert in America, of the El 
Centro hotel block, the El Centro ice plant, and (when the first 
building burned down) the present plant, the Blackington build- 
ing, and practically all the business buildings and most of the 
fine residences of El Centro. Finally a building that has been 
referred to by architects and experts who have seen it as the niost 
appropriate and handsome structure in the Valley, has just 
been completed under Travers' hands, the El Centro National 
Bank building, a picture of which is found in this volume. In all 
the pictures of El Centro his work will be seen prominently. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 245 

With a force of 70 men he is working as this book is written 
on the five ice and cold storage depots that are being built 
respectively in Brawley, Heber, Calexico, Imperial and Holt- 
ville, and in a large one for El Centro; also a $3,500 residence 
for L. H. Scott; with several lesser contracts; and most impor- 
tant, 1,000 feet of arcades for the Holt buildings of Main street. 
These arcades will add more than any one thing to the appear- 
ance of El Centro. Travers is building them with concrete 
pillars, galvanized iron roofs and steel ceilings, and will light 
them with electric lights both in the arches and in clusters in 
the roof. The effect will be to make Main street a brilliantly 
illuminated thoroughfare rivaling those of many larger cities 
in older districts. 

Real pioneering was done by Travers when the water was 
in and things looked veiy uncertain. In the midst of a busy 
day late in 1906 a call for help was sent up from the levee on the 
Main canal south of El Centro where an earthen bank was 
holding back from two to eight feet of Avater, protecting the 
whole country of which El Centro was the center. Travers 
called off his men, left all the buildings as they were and for 
hours this great crew stood shoulder to shoulder with the farm- 
ers who were gathered there and built up the levees inch by inch 
so that the water could not overflow thousands of acres and 
destroy tens of thousands worth of property. They kept the 
water back and when it began to recede they returned with 
Travers and went back to their task as though nothing had 
happened. But it had happened nevertheless. Travers and 
his great crew had added the last few shovels full that saved the 
day. 

There is a lot of credit due to the men who reclaimed the 
desert and made it fruitful. There is also a great deal due the 
men who, like Travers, made the cities places to be proud of 
and about which to build up a great civilization. 

Those other men on whom have fallen the care of these 
cities are also important characters. No wiser choice could be 
made of a man to guide the affairs of a young municipality in 
a frontier community than a physician. The town of Imperial, 
struggling toward recognition as a center of homes and trade, 
was exceedingly fortunate, in 1908, in the election of Dr. Elmer 
E. Patten to a place on the board of trustees, where he was 
shortly made chairman. Dr. Patten was the first health officer 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



246 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

and county physician in Imperial county, receiving that ap- 
pointment shortly after his arrival in the Valley. So ably were 
the affairs of his offices managed that Imperial saw her oppor- 
tunity and profited by it. Largely through Dr. Patten's ef- 
forts a thoroughly dependable water supply was secured in 1909, 
with fire protection in connection. Later he and his associates 
called the people to consider the crying need of a sewerage 
system and bonds were voted for this purpose, the sewers being 
installed in the summer of 1910. A new city hall was built 
during his regime, as was a Carnegie library building and the 
$55,000 high school building. In fact Imperial graduated from 
the village class and it was Dr. Patten's fortune to have a hand 
in the exercises. 

Enthusiastic for his community Dr. Patten takes time from 
a large practice to enter into other affairs of importance in addi- 
tion to his civic duties. He is president of the No. 12 Mutual 
Water Company, which is building up a model system in the 
wedge of the Valley situated west of New River and between 
No. 6 and No. 8 companies. Here he owns a half section of 
land which will be made a thriving ranch in a few years. 

A chemist and pharmacist Dr. Patten took his degree as 
doctor of medicine only four years since, graduating at the 
University of Southern California College of Medicine. His 
welcome to the Valley was spontaneous and generous and since 
that time he has gained a high place in the profession. He was 
one of the first to take cognizance of the fact that no locality 
in the world surpasses the reclaimed desert for healthfulness. 
This doctrine he is preaching abroad as well as at home and it 
is having a result. Dr. Patten asserts that there is no place more 
healthful for children, that children's diseases are not requisite 
parts of their lives here, that the general plane of health is 
higher than normal, fevers and contagious diseases being in- 
frequent and scattering. His doctrine of life in the open and of 
activity and freedom from worry is a specific for most of the aches 
and pains of life and as he practices what he preaches he is a 
potent influence for health, indeed. Dr. Patten has done a 
great deal for the district and this appreciation of his work is 
very gladly written. 

Another maker of empire is the merchant. 

We have tried to picture in these pages the remarkable 
progress made in every line of human endeavor in the Imperial 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CAUFORNIA 247 

Valley in less than ten years. In reclamation, settlement, 
education and other lines the growth has been described and it 
is interesting to turn for a moment to the business world, and 
see what progress has been recorded there. 

The second oldest general merchandise firm in the district 
is an excellent example of what the needs of the people have 
developed. Hauling a $2,500 stock of supplies from Flowing 
Well, George and L. J. Varney entered Imperial in the fall of 
1902. They erected a small building on the main thorough- 
fare, which was not a crowded one in those days, and put in 
their shelves. Their floor space was 1,500 square feet and they 
were their own clerks, book keepers, buyers, managers, and, 
for the first few weeks, housekeepers, too. Business was good. 
For several weeks it amounted to more than $100 a day and a bet- 
ter and bigger stock was demanded. They ordered and received 
the first carload of goods ever to come down over the newly 
built Southern Pacific branch. At that the road was not far 
enough completed to bring the car clear to Imperial and the 
brothers hitched up a freight wagon and drew their carload of 
supplies the last four miles overland. 

For the sake of what artists call contrast let us pass over 
eight years and note the change. In the business year of 1909- 
10 the Varney Brothers & Company, Incorporated, has five 
stores, with an aggregate floor space of 28,000 feet, there are 
32 employes, a stock valued at more than $85,000 is carried, 
the company buys more than 160 carloads of goods each twelve 
months, and has actual sales totaling $45,000 a month or more 
than $540,000 a year. The company owns its building in Braw- 
ley, all but that housing one department in Imperial, and has 
long leases on stores in the other towns, Heber, Holtville and 
Calexico. In Calexico W. F. Holt is, at this writing, construct- 
ing a building for Varney Brothers, which will give the firm there 
one of the finest stores in the Valley. 

In all fairness it is necessary to add that this phenomenal 
business achievement is not due wholly to the natural develop- 
ment of the Valley; a firm that has made such strides in eight 
years must have done something to conserve patronage and add 
business beside merely dealing squarelJ^ As much as anything 
the success of the Varneys is probably due to the policies they 
adopted early — to back the goods they sold and sell the best, 
to *^boost'' for the Imperial Valley in every legitimate wm^^ld^p 



248 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



admit to an interest in the firm the managers of the several stores. 
In 1905 the firm was incorporated with a capital stock of 
$75,000, but this was not sufficient to handle their business 
and they reorganized in 1908 with a capital stock of $200,000, 
of which $110,000 is paid up. With plenty of capital available 
and a strong reserve of stock for future growth they are no 
longer worried by petty troubles and look forward to rapid 
continuous development. The men who are co-operating with 




They Built for the Future 

the two brothers for the success of this big local institution as 
managers are: L. A. Potter, Calexico; L. A. Biggs, Holtville; 
William Buckmaster, Brawley; M. H. Cavin, Heber, and A. C 
Gaines, M. O. King and Grant Booher, department managers, 
Imperial. It is to these men that the brothers give a large 
share of the credit for the size and stability of the house at the 
close of the decade. 

George Varney, the head of the company and the largest 
stockholder, owns a ranch four miles east of El Centro, 220 
acres in extent and all under cultivation. It is at present leased. 

To C. N. Perry, one of the first engineers on the Colorado 
desert, and, throughout the history of the organization of the 
Imperial settlements and the reclamation of the district, a 
faithful, tireless, and non-partisan leader, the people owe more 
than they know. Engineer Perry has been referred to frequently 
as the one man who, throughout all the turmoil and dissension 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



249 



of the years between 1900 and 1908, was never swerved from his 
purpose, drawn into petty quarrels nor stampeded into a sel- 
fish partisanship. He is the one man who attended to the en- 
gineering necessities of the district from the first and was as 
zealous in watching the tricky Colorado and averting disaster 
from that source wherever possible as a dozen or more other 
leaders were in the noble and unselfish pursuit of ruining each 
other at any cost whatsoever to the Valley. 

Mr. Perry was kind enough to go over the parts of this 
history referring to the technical work done from the earliest 
times to the close of the decade, and to him the writer of these 
lines owes grateful acknowledgement. 

The permanent success of the Valley, as of all communi- 
ties, depends upon the financial foundations on which it rests: 
these foundations depend more largely than we are sometimes 
inclined to believe on the stability and business integrity of our 
banks and bankers. Let us see how one of these, a typical 
Valley bank, guided by a representative Valley banker, has 
measured up in the last few years of the first decade of which 
we are writing. 

Take the El Centro National Bank as an excellent example. 
Its President, F. B. Fuller, came to the district from Herford, 
Texas, where, as cashier of a leading bank, he had established a rep- 
utation for sound judgment, integrity and ability. In the 
spring of 1905 
he made a tour 
of the western 
part of the 
country seek- 
ing the best 
available op- 
portunity for 
the future and 
after a careful 
study of condi- 
tions in Idaho, 
Oregon and the 

whole of California, he was convinced that the Valley offered the 
greatest inducements to a business man. In spite of the fact 
that the Colorado river was just then beginning its long attempt 
to ruin the Valley, Banker Fuller saw the future with a. bkri 

igi ize y g 




President Fuller Built with Faith 



250 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

vision and he purchased one of the best corners in the young 
townsite of El Centro with a view to opening a banking busi- 
ness. Conditions were such, after he had added to his purchase 
that of a 160-acre ranch 2 miles northeast of El Centro, and a 
residence lot in the townsite on which he built the first per- 
manent residence, that he decided to postpone his plans for a 
bank and at the urgent request of oflScers of his old institution, 
the Western National of Herford, he returned there and took 
up his former duties. 

In 1907 his business instincts told him that the psychologi- 
cal moment had arrived and he returned to El Centro with his 
family and opened the doors of a new bank in modest quarters 
in a rented building. His success was instantaneous. Within 
a few weeks deposits had come in in suflScient quantities to make 
permanency certain and in 1909 work was begun on a handsome 
bank building on the lot the sagacious banker had selected 
four years previously. As the picture used in this volume 
shows, the El Centro National Bank building is one of the most 
appropriate and handsome edifices in the Valley. 

Particularly in a new country no subject could be of more 
vital importance than that of land titles. Much of the delay 
in the development of the Imperial Valley found its origin in 
a popular misconception in regard to the validity of titles here. 
This deplorable condition cannot be accounted for reasonably 
save that there was no authority in the Valley on titles and no 
accredited standing could be furnished. For six or seven years 
this condition hampered development. Then the farmers awoke 
to the real situation and proceeded to organize the Imperial 
County Abstract Company. In the meantime the People's 
Abstract & Trust Company, of Riverside county, had long bpen 
planning to extend its operations to the new territory on the 
south and in the course of events came into the Valley, and ab- 
sorbed the first organization. The result is a strong and capable 
corporation, in plant and equipment equal to any title company 
in Southern California. 

Concerning this all important title matter Manager W. E. 
Morton of the company, a competent authority, says: 

*The matter of titles in Imperial county has been an in- 
teresting one from the days of the earliest settlers and probably 
no subject is more misunderstood than this same one. Im- 
perial county titles at the present time, are perhaps in better 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 251 

shape than in most any other county in the state of California* 
This, owing to the fact that the government has given each ranch 
an arbitrary number and has set posts at each corner of each 
ranch, in addition to the usual quarter section stakes and 
corners. Thus, every ranch in the Valley is actually doubly 
marked, a condition which does not exist in any other part of 
the state. This double marking was made necessary by reason 
of the faulty survey made by the government in 1856. At that 
time this county was known as the Colorado Desert and was 
supposed to be absolutely barren and valueless, and the sur- 
veyors making the survey thinking it would always remain 
so, made a hasty survey and made a mistake of something like 
two miles north and south and one and one-half miles east and 
west. 

*Trom 1898 to 1901 settlers began coming into the Valley 
and in locating the lands, the discrepancy in the early survey 
became apparent and in 1900 the Imperial Land Company made 
a new but unofficial survey which changed the description of 
many of the tracts of land and this survey and others which 
followed in an endeavor to straighten out the various claims 
caused all of the subsequent confusion in the titles. In July, 
1902, Congress passed an Act to relieve the settlers of the con- 
fusion incident to the many surveys that had been made since 
the survey of 1856 which Act provides, among other things, 
as follows: 

'* ' Provided, that nothing herein contained shall be so con- 
strued as to impair the present bona fide claim of any actual 
occupant of any of said lands to the lands so occupied.' 

'^Therefore, discrepancies can be corrected so that even- 
tually the record title will conform to the land actually occupied. 
Thus, providing that the settlers should retain the land that they 
actually occupied and providing for a resurvey which would 
definitely locate such tract of land. This survey has now been 
completed and patents are being issued." The excellent work 
being performed by this company is most heartily to be com- 
mended. 

Not all the empire builders are reclaiming land or engaged 
in business in the Valley : there are men in the offices where the 
affairs of these reclaimers must be attended to, whose part is 
just as important. Consequently it may be well to turn to 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



252 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

some of them and see what their share has been in the making 
of the present Imperial settlements. 

Phil D. Swing, deputy district attorney, has been a potent 
factor for development. The district attorney's office in this 
county has had to deal with big problems of organization and 
legalization that not only had to be solved but that largely 
without any precedents on which to base action. Conditions 
in the Valley were unique and it is greatly to the credit of the 
office that there has been so little confusion and litigation. 

And in a certain sense reference to the district attorney's 
office, especially in the last year of the decade, has been to Phil 
Swing, the deputy, as important legal matters have made neces- 
sary the absence of his chief from the place. That the deputy 
did not fail the county in this time of need is greatly to his 
credit, the more so because Mr. Swing has served from the first 
without any remuneration from the county. This unfortunate 
condition has not deterred Mr. Swing from doing his full duty 
and a movement is on foot at this writing to promote him to 
the district attorneyship in recognition of his ability and de- 
votion. 

Mr. Swing came to the office he holds with an excellent 
training. A native son, he attended state institutions, grad- 
uating from the high school in his home town, San Bernardino, 
and from Stanford University in 1905. In his senior year at 
college he was elected president of his class and was class orator. 
His scholarship earned him election to the honorary societies 
of Phi Beta Kappa, and the legal organization. Phi Delta Phi. 
Shortly after leaving college he was admitted to the bar in San 
Bernardino, but when the new county of Imperial was organ- 
ized he decided to move on to the ultimate frontier of the state 
and here he came to make his home in October, 1907. He 
immediately became law partner of J. M. Eshleman and later 
his deputy. In April, 1908, he became the first city attorney 
of Brawley, but was forced to resign later because of the pres- 
sure of business at the county seat. 

Swing is energetic, popular and efficient; his ability being 
recognized by his fellow citizens who have made him secretary 
of his Masonic lodge, director of the El Centro Chamber of 
Commerce, secretary of the board of Library Trustees (in which 
capacity he was active in securing a building through the Car- 
Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 253 

negie foundation) and looking upon him most favorably in his 
campaigns for higher honors. 

The first deputy district attorney in the Valley was George 
H. P. Shaw, a very able lawyer, who came from the office of 
the District Attorney in San Diego in 1904 to represent that 
official in the rapidly growing settlements on the desert. Mr. 
Shaw found a great deal of work and it is to him that credit is 
due for the first briefs on those intricate and delicate questions 
which have since concerned the legal officials of the county. 
In those days it was exceedingly difficult to practice law, even 
in behalf of the county, because the courts were almost 300 miles 
distant by rail and frequent and tiresome journeys, with great 
loss of time, were necessitated. After two years Mr. Shaw was 
recalled to San Diego but the lure of the desert was strong on 
him and he returned to take up private practice in Imperial 
June 1, 1907. 

While Mr. Shaw was a native of Manchester, England, 
where he was born in, 1869, his mother being a native of that 
country, his father was aii American, and the young man took 
naturally to American ideas, and came early to this country. 
He graduated at the George Washington University, City of 
Washington, taking the B. L. degree in 1887 and was then ad- 
mitted to practice his profession in Massachusetts in 1892, com- 
ing to California in 1892, where he was admitted to the Cali- 
fornia bar in San Francisco. 

Two years later he removed to San Diego and while prac- 
ticing his profession there he became greatly interested in Im- 
perial Valley, which was then a part of San Diego county. 

In 1904 Mr. Shaw came here as deputy district attorney. 
He served as city attorney from the spring of 1905 to 1906 and 
was again chosen to fill that office in August, 1907, and has con- 
tinued in that position to the present. 

Mr. Shaw is a member of the directorate of the County Bar 
Association, which organization he represents in the California 
State Bar Association, being a member of the grievance com- 
mittee of the latter organization. His thorough acquaintance 
with law, and particularly that portion of the law which relates 
to local conditions, has given to Mr. Shaw a foremost place 
at the county bar and has won for him the confidence of the 
public, as illustrated by the extensive practice which he has won. 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



254 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



During the last year, the construction of many municipal 
works, including sewers, water system, city hall and Carnegie 
library, has added to the duties of the oflSce which Mr. Shaw 
fills, and so carefully have the requirements of intricate laws 
been followed that no act once taken has been rescinded or ques- 
tioned. 

G. W. Donley of Imperial, is another city man whose hand 
is to be seen in the development of the district. 

In 1880 the great Southwest was virtually unknown coun- 
try. It was about this year that Mr. Donley became impressed 
with the future of the country lying west of the Missouri river 
and he began to study it and to advertise it. It was the begin- 
ning of a thirty 
year career of 
colonization for 
him. Helping 
with the settle- 
ment and^ex- 
ploitation of 
Western Kan- 
sas he moved 
later to Color- 
ado where he 
had an impor- 

J. W. Donley'8 is a Real Home ^ant part in Up- 

building the famous Grand Valley district. In 1886 he moved 
farther on and for almost twenty years he helped in the coloni- 
zation of San Diego county, being particularly interested in the 
growth of the now beautiful community of Escondido. It was 
inevitable that, when the Imperial settlements began first to 
attract attention, one of the first visitors to the desert was Mr. 
Donley. 

Since his earliest visit, in September, 1901, until the close 
of the first decade, he was closely connected with the building 
up of this Valley. He brought scores of people into the country 
and interested hundreds. With an unbounded faith in the fu- 
ture of the district he finally moved across the mountains in 
1907 to make Imperial his home. In the town of that name he 
has since conducted an important real estate business, directing 
from his office the affairs of a highly improved ranch of 320 




Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 255 

acres two miles north of Holtville, considerable town property 
and a school section 33^ miles southwest of Holtville. 

Mr. Donley is not a promoter, he is a propagandist. His 
energies have been bent toward the successful advancement of 
the best interests of the Valley, and the many persons who came 
here as a direct result of his efforts, have been persons who added 
to the prosperity and high character of the whole population. 

The Stahl Brothers of Brawley are also inherently pioneers. 
America and Westward! That was the old time cry. 
Probably the same spirit that caused the grandparents of the 
Stahl brothers to cross the AUeghanys and settle near Canton, 
Ohio, in 1828, when there were but two log huts to mark Mc- 
Kinley's famous town, caused these boys to locate in the Im- 
perial Valley in the spring of 1903. It was the spirit of oppor- 
tunity, the call of the desert; to help in building up from a wild 
and barren waste a great and good country, that lured these 
boys from their pleasant homes in the east, and how well they 
have succeeded is shown by their fine ranches, homes, aild mer- 
cantile business in and around Brawley. Their success is the 
result of combined efforts and hard work. 

In farming, they had remarkable success, each year net- 
ting them greater returns and each year adding their portion of 
development to the country. 

Not being satisfied with farming alone they ventured into 
the mercantile business, investing thousands of dollars in a 
stock of merchandise, when the turbulent Colorado rushed un- 
fettered to the inland sea. 

Their friends cried "fools;" wholesaler said "pay cash;'' 
customers said, "give us credit." Thus with capital, prudence, 
judgment and hard work they entered into the new venture and 
today people cry, "what success!" 

The intelligent public appreciates their efforts and recog- 
nizes the successful part they have performed in the develop- 
ment of the Valley. 

The Imperial Valley has called men of many professions to 
herself but no man in her borders has made a more remarkable 
change of vocation probably than Edmund Welch of Brawley. 
Mr. Welch was for many years a professional athlete, having a 
record as a wrestler that was unsurpassed. Fortunately (al- 
though it may not have seemed so at the time) Welch soon 
found himself unable to get matches because he was for a long 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



256 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



time undefeated, and in this predicament, while in Southern 
California, he began casting about for some other business. 
He was irresistibly drawn to the Imperial Valley and in 1906 
came into the district, arriving with a total capital of four dol- 
lars. 

Very few men would have considered that a start but Welch 
had wrestled with a good many stronger antagonists than a 
mere lack of money and he went to work teaming. Inside of a 
few weeks he had enough saved to purchase a team for himself 
and in the course of a few months had more stock and was con- 
tracting for himself. He found a piece of unoccupied land in 
the north end of No. 5 district and filed on that, then went to 

Brawley and established him- 
self in the real estate business, 
becoming vice president of the 
Teasdale & Pound Company. 
In 1910 he left this company to 
go into the business for himself, 
in the meantime having con- 
tinued his grading crew and 
having entered into a partner- 
ship in that line with Robert 
Sexsmith. Today they have 26 
head of work stock and several 
men busy all the time. 

In the real estate business 
he has made a specialty of ranch 
property, particularly in the 
fine sandy country within No. 
8 water district and has been 
exceedingly successful. He esti- 
mates that his holdings at 
present are worth $15,000 and so enthusiastic is he that he 
has almost persuaded his two brothers and three sisters to Ieav€ 
their homes in New York state and join him in the Valley. 

Not only every calling, but almost every nation has con- 
tributed some one of its children to the population and pros- 
perity of the Valley, and the resultant cosmopolitan character 
of the people here has hastened development. Much as we 
know in this country about farming the old world can still 
teach us about horticulture and arboriculture and it is to France, 




Edmund Welch Has a Strangle-hold 
on Success 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



257 



Spain, Armenia and Italy that the Valley owes much for its 
early success in grape raising. 

One of the men who came to the district from the continent 
because of his knowledge of vineyards was A. Caillaud, who was 
engaged to do some important grafting on the Corwin ranch in 
1907. M. Caillaud knew the grape business thoroughly, and 
had had experience with conditions in this semi-arid country 
while in Riverside, where he worked for several years prior to 
coming here. He was employed for a few short weeks, origin- 
ally, but, like many others, he became enamoured of the country 
and — didn't go back. 

With a keen appreciation of the possibilities of this new 
section, and knowing full well just what sort of soil is best suited 
for grape raising, his specialty, Mr. Caillaud did not locate at 
once, but began look- 
ing about to see where 
conditions were best 
suited to his exac- 
tions. There were 
many parts of the 
Valley, he says, where 
he found that grapes 
would thrive, but 
after a careful study 
he decided on an 86- 
acre piece seven miles 
northwest of Holtville. Still cautious he did not immediately 
put the whole piece to grapes, but chose part only for that pur- 
pose and on the rest of the ground sowed barley and alfalfa. 

There could be no reasonable expectation of profit from the 
grapes before the fourth year, therefore Mr. Caillaud decided 
to take out an insurance policy on his place, in a manner of 
speaking, investing in something which would yield returns 
against the time when the grapes came in. He was thus led 
into dairying, and with a string of 30 cows is able to show a 
clean profit net every month from them. In the meantime his 
grapes are thriving past all belief and a bountiful yield from them 
will soon make it possible to turn the forage crops under and de- 
vote the whole ranch to his specialty, a vineyard. 

In the cities are found many professional men of unusual 
ability. Judge F. C. Farr, of Imperial, who has been mentioned 




And Yet the Caillaud'8 Find Time for Pleasure 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



258 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

in a previous chapter in connection with a case attacking the 
legality of acts of the California Development Company, be- 
came enamoured of the Vlalley and settled here from choice 
when he might have been just as well in any one of many places 
where there was no pioneering to be done. The attorney came 
here from Kansas City, Missouri, in 1903 because of illness, but 
he became so interested that, when his health was fully restored, 
as it was very shortly, he decided to make a permanent home 
here. He was one of the friends and advisers of A. H. Heber 
when the latter was president of the California Development 
Company and it was Farr who suggested to the corporation 
officer the doubtful validity of some of the privileges Heber had 
come to look on as rights. One of these was the appropriation 
of water from the Colorado river, which was then generally 
considered a navigable stream and as such was not subject to 
appropriations save with the consent of the War Department. 
Judge Farr made his point so strong that Heber asked him to 
go, with others, to Washington, to aid in securing permission 
to use the water. No such permission was granted but this 
was the beginning of an earnest search made by the Develop- 
ment Company for firmer legal ground on which to stand. 

Judge Farr was not satisfied to confine himself to his law 
practice so purchased three ranches, at different times, which 
he and his wife still own and which are being put under a high 

state of cultivation. 
One of these is 160 
acres in extent in Mes- 
quite Lake district, 
another 175 acres two 
miles east of Imperial 
on which the Farrs 
make their home, and 
a third 80 acres near 

The BoHt is None Too Good CalcxicO, pUrchased 

late in the decade. The combination of legal business and 
ranching has thus far proven beneficial but as values increase 
it becomes more apparent that law will have to abdicate event- 
ually in favor of agriculture. 

Service on the bench of the superior court of the state of 
Missouri gives Judge Farr good right to his title; a particularly 




Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 259 

proud one to him who has been for 37 years engaged in the prac- 
tice of law. 

In 1905, when the district was only sparsely settled, a 
rancher paid Dr. A. G. Toprahanian of Imperial, the compli- 
ment of walking 18 miles to have him pull a tooth. The dentist 
has had many good patients since that time, and many grateful 
ones, but he says now that, as he looks back on that occasion, 
he thinks no one was ever quite so complimentary as that old 
timer. 

Dr. Toprahanian, whose unusual name grew on him in his 
native country of Armenia, has been a resident of the United 
States for 20 years, and of the Imperial Valley for five. The 
dentist, shortly before coming this way, had spent considerable 
time in the San Joaquin Valley, and when he saw the Imperial 
settlements he decided that the future of this district would 
be even brighter than that of the rich river lands in the central 
part of the state. Consequently, after his graduation from the 
dental college of the University of Southern California, and a 
four years practice in Colton, he moved to Imperial, being the 
first of his profession in the Valley. 

A small ranch in the rich Mesquite district was purchased 
by the doctor some time ago, but several attempts to operate 
it and to keep up with his growing practice at the same time 
proved failures and he now has a leasor on the place. There 
are 80 acres in the piece, all under a high state of cultivation, 
and it has increased in value materially since its purchase. 
To Dr. Toprahanian, by the way, the authors are indebted for 
many of the excellent pictures used in this book. 

W. D. Conser, of Imperial, once saw more than 200 miles. 
He was in Phoenix, Arizona, at that time, and what he saw he 
describes as **the opportunity of a life time," the Imperial Val- 
ley. That was in October, 1903, and in November Conser was 
in the new settlement of Imperial, taking his place as one of the 
leading merchants. 

There have been many changes in the town in that time 
and he has helped make most of them, for he is one of the most 
public spirited of citizens. Conser (whom everyone in the dis- 
trict knows, or ought to) is a firm believer in his town and the 
Valley, not only because he is a good citizen but because every- 
thing that helps the city or the Valley indirectly helps him. 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



260 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

There are only a few men who can see that, and they are getting 
to the top fast. 

Conser brought with him a stock worth probably $2,500, 
he says. He started in with honest business principles, fair 
dealing and plenty of advertising for his foundation and built 
up a substantial, growing trade. He occupied first a store built 
for him next the Imperial Land Company oflSce, that brick 
building at the corner of Ninth and Imperial avenue in Imperial. 



■- ''j^i^OSS^wt£^ ' 






Such Field* as Children Love 

Conser^s store was in the frame structure belonging to E. E» 
Pascoe, and was 25 feet by 50 feet in area. Business grew 
steadily from the first and when the merchant had, with the aid 
of his family, who are all members of the firm, so to speak, 
weathered several storms which affected the whole district, 
such as the floods of 1906 and 1907, he found himself crowded 
for room and had another store building erected, one door 
south, 25x100 feet. In this he has today a stock worth $15,000 
and a business that is worth so much the firm doesn't want to 
sell. 

Mr. Conser, his wife, his sister and his son, are the principal 
agencies which keep the company to the fore. They are as 
much a part of Imperial as the postoffice or the board of trustees, 
and have done as much in their way, for its success as either. 

Another Imperial merchant and business man has an in- 
teresting story, which is told by a friend in the following pic- 
turesque sketch: 

''The day before Christmas day, 1901, a wagon well stocked 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



261 



with goods and drawn by four horses, was to be seen wending 

its way through the little village of Imperial. The owner, 

though not a strong looking man, has since proved that he had 

grit and determination which have carried him through many a 

rough place. He had been told in Los Angeles that Imperial 

was going to be a great country and he believed it, and staked 

his little all on the future. 

**He and his hired man had been nine days crossing the 220 

miles from Los Angeles to Imperial, most of the way being 

rough and thirsty desert. Although it was his first journey of 

the kind, Mr. W. J. Mitchell always speaks of it as a pleasant 

and successful one. He put his horses to work on the ditches in 

Maston's Camp and shortly afterwards went to work on his 

own ranch northwest of the town. He bought 10 sows and other 

stock and tried ranching for a time, but, 

'Ranch work and he 
Did not agree.' 

*'He then went to Imperial city and started at his own trade* 
watchmaking, and soon worked up a good business. He then 
began to buy town lots and build and he is now, with the assist- 
ance of some of 
his friends in 
England, build- 
ing in Imperial 
one of the most 
substantial and 
u p -t o-date 
hotels in the 
Valley at the 
corner of 
Eighth and J 
Streets, where 
he o w n s a 
choice 100-ft. 
frontage. 

"Mr. Mitchell was one who was not ashamed of his religion 
when he came to the rough desert. When he had been here but 
a few weeks he and three others started a Sunday School in the 
dining room of the old adobe hotel at Calexico which was the 
beginning of the Congregational church there now, and after- 
wards was a good help in building up the Methodist church 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




When Completed Mitchell's Hotel Will be a Monument 



262 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



at Imperial, he being the leader of the adult Bible class for 
nearly four years. The Rev. H. C. Mullen was the minister, 
through whose energy the church was built and got out of debt 
during the hard times of the early days." 

Going back to the country again let us visit more of the 
ranches and find out how and why these hardy men came and 
succeeded. 

A peculiar saying is often heard in the Valley to the effect 
that a new-comer who has farmed all his life ''back east'' stands 
a much poorer chance of succeeding than does a man who never 
saw a farm before. This is true in a measure, for old standards 
do not measure up here, and old methods will not suffice. These 
facts are hard for an experienced farmer to grasp, consequently 
the tendency for him is to go ahead under old rules and — fail. 
On the other hand an inexperienced man starting with no pre- 
conceived notions of how things ought to be done, is much more 
amenable to reason and more to take advice from men who 
understand conditions and so to succeed. 

There is a third class of men, however, who are better 
equipped than either of the others and who, as a usual thing, 
make a success from the outset. These are the ambitious 
young men with agricultural college training, who are well 
grounded in the science and practice of farming. One of these 
men is J. C. Chalupnik, a graduate of the Agricultural College 
at Ames, Iowa, who came to the Valley in April, 1907. Chal- 
upnik worked his way through college and on his graduation 

was sent to the 

coast to take 
charge of a 
large dairy near 
Los Angeles, 
but heard of 
the Imperial 
Valley and at 
once turned his 
steps this way. 
He wanted 
some exper- 
ience before 

taking up the new country and so joined himself to a threshing 
crew. In this humble and democratic guise he learned more about 




Here Was a Practical Theorist 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 263 

the Valley in two months than a prouder man would have learned 
in as many years: this also brought him to his destiny. In the 
course of events he met J. H. Blodgett, a well-to-do rancher 
living north of Holtville and Blodgett immediately took a lik- 
ing to Chalupnik and induced him to abandon the thresher. 
The two became fast friends and as each had something to con- 
tribute to the common cause went into partnership. 

Chalupnik decided that hogs and a dairy run in connection 
were the staples destined to pay most consistently, and he 
started with 80 of the former and a dairy string of 60 head. 

As a final evidence of his interest and belief in the Valley 
it may be stated that Chalupnik has encouraged his younger 
brothers and sisters to come to this section to live and that ten 
of them are now located here. In the aggregate the family 
has acquired 320 acres of land under the irrigation system and 
800 acres on the Eastside under the high line canal. 

Too much cannot well be said of the men who have pio- 
neered along various lines of agriculture and horticulture in 
the Valley and have determined for the benefit and information 
of their neighbors no less than for their own, what things will 
best be raised here to make the district yield the largest re- 
turns. The early comers had high hopes and the colonization 
officials and agents made large promises for the district but it 
remained for a few men with faith and experience to experi- 
ment and make suppositions certainties. 

E. H. Erickson in Brawley believed from the first that all 
manner of fruits would grow here and he set out a large orchard 
to ascertain which varieties and what kinds would succeed best. 
It is a pleasure to record that practically everything he set out 
came to an early maturity and has born fruit and proven a suc- 
cess. His place at Brawley is one of the most interesting and 
profitable to visit in the whole Valley. Mr. Erickson is a thor- 
ough horticulturist and his success is, of course, largely due to 
his methods. But he is a genial and helpful man and his se- 
crets of success are available for the use of such of his neighbors 
as care to profit by them. 

It is the dream of most young men to make a fortune some 
day through owning a gold mine. The dream is shattered for 
some; a few realize; a few pursue it all their lives without suc- 
cess; and some enter upon it with the same care and good judg- 
ment they would use in any business, so that they can make it 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



264 STORY OP THE FIRST DECADE 

steadily and increasingly profitable. But the life of the mining 
man is hard, he is usually located in a frontier camp and he is 
exposed constantly to dangers, privation and hardship. It 
is not strange that, after making a competency, most mining 
men abandon active work in that line and enter some other. 

H. H. Pollock, a rancher owning 120 acres northwest of 
Imperial is one of these. Mr. Pollock followed mining for sev- 
eral years, his last location being in Manhattan, Nevada. In 
the fall of 1907 he decided to try some other calling, chiefly to 
get into a dry, warm climate, and to get away from the dust 
and gases of the mines, realizing that these things were under- 
mining his health. Being somewhat familiar with conditions 
in the Imperial Valley he came this way, purchased a ranch 
and entered with great spirit and interests into the life. 

*'I gave up the make-and-lose game of mining,'' says Mr. 
Pollock, **and took a permanent job, and I have never regretted 
the change.'' Purchasing his ground as he did for $4,000, he 
has spent three happy and prosperous years on it and now says 
he would not sell for less than $8,000. As a matter of fact no 
reasonable offer would probably tempt him, as he is enamoured 
of the country and the work. 

It may seem strange that Pollock was able to make a go 
of it from the first, as he has, but as a matter of fact he was 
raised on a farm **back east" and only took up mining when he 
was grown. He is a careful business man, but, like many min- 
ing men, when he is sure of his proposition he is a plunger. He 
is ready to stake all he has on one turn of the wheel and it so 
happens that here, as it frequently does, the wheel has turned 
favorably for him. So far, to change the figure slightly, he has 
drawn no blanks. 

A large flock of chickens is one of the things Pollock is 
pleased and satisfied with. He believes this is a great country 
for poultry because it is so dry and is planning an extensive 
addition to that branch of his farm. Later he will set out an 
orange grove, having satisfied himself that the industry is a 
comer in the Valley. At present the 120-acre piece is in alfalfa, 
grapes, and corn land. 

That it may not appear that every man in the Valley has 
found his road strewn with gold it is of value to turn here to the 
story of one man who has, from the first, met almost uniform 
ill luck and yet who, by persistence and courage has won out 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



265 



and made for himself a competence. C. H. Walton is a skill- 
ful farmer, a hard worker, and a good manager, but circum- 
stances have conspired to make his nine years experience al- 
most discouraging. During the first year after his arrival in 
1901 Mr. Walton worked on the irrigation company's ditches, 
taking up a piece of land in an unfavorable location where the 
soil was not good. When he was ready to farm he found this 
out, so abandoned the piece and took a lease 1}4 miles south of 
the present site of El Centro where he remained for two years. 
When his lease expired he went to the Eastside and in the winter 
of 1903 he located and began work on 160 acres in the south- 
eastern corner of No. 7. 

When this ranch was beginning to pay the river came in. 
Water was scarce, the whole system of No. 7 was threatened, 
times were hard and Walton was forced to sell to save himself. 
Most men would have left the country but he saw beyond the 
troublous times and stayed, finally purchasing 160 acres ad- 
joining his old ranch. Here he 
put in as fine a ranch as there 
is in the district. But his trou- 
ble were not over. After six 
years of unremitting toil spent 
in helping to reclaim this 
desert, he fell a prey to un- 
scrupulous men who found a 
flaw in the title to his land 
and filed a contest. The 
heart breaking struggle thus 
begun lasted through three 
years, but it begins to look, 
at the close of the decade, that 
Walton would win out, his 
good faith and intentions 
being patent. 

With all these difficulties 
the Valley has proven a friend 
to him. At this time he has 
500 head of hogs, several fine brood mares and colts and a place 
that is marked even in the rich and highly developed neighbor- 
hood in which he is located. 

The magazine cowboy who is pictured as long on revolvers 




c. 



H. Walton Faced Down Adversity 
and Won 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



266 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 




Hog Breeding Fays 



and broad hats 
and exceeding- 
ly short on mor- 
als is a thing 
of the past if, 
indeed, he ever 
existed. In his 
place you will 
find the aver- 
age cow puncher of the Southwest quiet of speech and manner, 
businesslike in his work, civil in his deportment and really quite 
unpicturesque. He has all the qualities of strength, endurance, 
agility, courage and humor accredited to the ilk but he keeps 
books just like a banker, smokes ordinary tobacco and is in- 
variably a respectable citizen. His picturesqueness lies in his 
capacity for hard work, his quickness with a rope and his sure- 
ness on a horse. 

One of these modern stock men is W. L. Manahan of Braw- 
ley. He rides with his punchers, attends to the details of his 
business himself and when it comes to cutting out yearlings, 
or branding a maverick he is as good a hand as there is in the 
outfit. Manahan has been with stock all his life, handled them 
and traded in them in New Mexico and came to the Valley in 
the fall of 1903 to enter into the business of buying and selling 
them. Since that time he has turned off more than 1,000 head 
each year, leasing land on which to run them and at the same 
time doing an extensive commission business in steers, hog? 
and sheep. 

At an early date he secured a half section in the north en^ 
of No. 5 and there, with the place now under cultivation an^ 
all in barley and alfalfa, he runs from 1,000 to 2,000 hogs. B}^ 
thorough fa- 
miliarity, not 
only with the 
ranch end, 
breeding and 
raising stock, 
but with the 
business end, 
buying and 




Manahan is Not a "Picture" Cowboy 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



267 



selling them, gives Mr. Manahan a marked advantage over 
many ranchers and he is thriving at his old game. In the 
pictures is shown a bunch of steers just being driven in to be 
put on good Imperial Valley pasturage and turned off in six 
months as fat as corn-fed stock. 




He Brings in Feeders 

R. M. Fuller is the third of the Fuller brothers who came 
into the Valley from across the mountains to develop this district 
in 1902. He was a strong, willing and competent farmer boy 
and while his brothers took up land he contented himself with 
working out, either for them or for others, making such good 
wages that his savings at the end of eight years amount almost 
to what a good farm would have brought in. 

In 1900 he leased a large piece 
of land from his brother Arthur, 
taking charge of the remainder of 
the place in addition, and put cot- 
ton in 130 acres. Starting with an 
excellent piece of ground, and hav- 
ing paid close attention to the 
experiments of the year of 1909 he 
went to work to make his field a 
banner one and at this writing his 
place promises to break all the great 
records made in 1909 for Imperial 
Valley cotton. 

In the picture Mr. Fuller is 
shown hoeing cotton in the good 
old fashioned ''down-South'' way. 



T 


p> 


-:?- 


r^ i ..;.: 


:^M^^ 



R. M. Fuller is Proud of 
His Cotton 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



268 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 




Proud of His Horses! 



essentially a 
him strongly. 



At the time the photograph was made the plants were six 
weeks old and from six to fourteen inches high. The Fuller 
ranch is three miles south of El Centro. 

The eyes of a people follow a successful man: everyone in 
the district knows something of Nels Jacobson. Jacobson 
belongs to the honorable society of the pioneers. In the fall 

of 1902 he came 

in from High- 
lands where a 
14 acre orange 
grove was pay- 
ing a handsome 
income and 
where an ordi- 
nary man would 
have been con- 
tent to sta3^ 
But Jacobson is 
pioneer and the future of the desert appealed to 
He filed, as did his wife, on land six miles east 
of Imperial, at the upper end of the justly celebrated Mesquite 
Lake country, and now they 
have a splendid 720-acre ranch. 
Two of his stallions, the Per- 
cheron and the Clydesdale, are 
shown in the pictures, and 
their get may be found scat- 
tered about the Valley and in 
the hands of well satisfied 
owners. Jaco])Son has given 
most of his attention to horses 
and hogs. In the past eight years he has handled something 
like 43 carloads of hogs, receiving for them prices ranging 
from five dollars to $10.35 a hundred. 

The ranch is a model: not gaily decorated with painted 
fence posts and a maze of costly corrals and barns, but built 
for utilitarian purposes, built strongly and well, kept clean and 
brought to its highest efficiency by attention to details. Two 
hundred acres of alfalfa furnish grazing for the horses and 1,000 
head of hogs, the balance of the piece being devoted to corn and 
barley for fattening and finishing. With such a ranch it is not 




The Clyde Stallion 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



269 




surprising that 
the charms of 
living in the 
center of a 
rodolent orange 
grove in the 
d e 1 i gh tf u 1 
country at 

Highlands are Small Wonder the Jacobson's Prefer Their Valley Home 

not suflScient to draw the Jacobsons from their Valley ranch, 
nor that Nels Jacobson's address is still Imperial. 

If ever a man was deliberate about making a start at ranch- 
ing Francis Heiney of Brawley is. Since 1903 he has been ob- 
serving how other men raised 
their crops, what they planted 
and when, what success they 
had and if they failed why it 
was. For five years he has 
been experimenting for himself 
on two small pieces of acreage 
in the city limits of Brawley, 

Francis Heiney is a Thorough whcre hc nOW haS nO leSS than 

Horticulturist 

17 varieties of figs, 40 varieties 
of grapes, specimens of almost every 
tree or shrub or plant that promises 
well for the Valley including several 
St. John's Bread trees, rows of roselle 
plants, several varieties of berries 
and tomatoes, all known kinds of 
melons, orange trees, several kinds 
of eucalyptus and the best looking 
and most thrifty date palms in the 
district. 'Tor seven years I have 
been trying to find out how,'' Heiney 
says. *'Now I am going to ranch 
for myself." 

Mr. Heiney is a remarkable 
man in many ways. He has studied 
horticulture and agriculture in Eu- 
rope, Central America, Alaska and 





He Has the Prize Young 
Date Palms 



Digitized by 



Caoogle 



270 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



many parts of the States, settling in the Valley in October, 
1903. He was one of the first horticultural commissioners 
of the new county and before that time was inspector 
for San Diego county. Without doubt he has the most interest- 
ing and instructive piece of ground of its size in the Vallej'-, 
possibly in the entire Southwest. Certain it is that experi- 
menters and scientific men from all over the country have been 
to see the Heiney place and most of them have gone away mar- 
veling. In the fall of 1910 Mr. Heiney will begin active develop- 
ment work on his ranch, a piece of ground comprising 44 acres 
one mile west of Brawley. When he really settles down to farm- 
ing it will be worth while to watch his achievements. 

Among the show places of the whole Imperial Valley there 
is no one that has more of interest, either for the proud resident 
who wants to see evidences of what things are possible in the 
district, but to the outsider who has heard and comes to be shown, 
than is the ranch of D. G. Whiting. This beauty spot is two and 
one-half miles south of El Centro on the Dogwood ditch, where the 
county road to Heber crosses the Southern Pacific tracks at an 
angle. The place will be easily found from this description but 
if it were in the middle of hundreds of others and unmarked by 
other signs, it would be easily found because of its tall and grace- 
ful trees, the solidity and permanent character of its buildings, 
for its orchard, deep reservoirs, straight, strong fences and other 
indications that the owner is a rancher and not a beginner. 

Mr. Whiting came to the Valley when it was not yet defi- 
nitely settled which of the hundreds of crops possible to be grown 
there would prove the most satisfactory. There were as many 




Here D. G. WHting is Growing Prosperous 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



271 



theories as there were crops and several adherents of each theory. 
There was no one, however, who could offer any arguments why 
dairying should not pay and Mr. Whiting decided to put his 
place in with that future for it. More than that he decided 
that nothing short of the best stock available would suit him 
and so he went to a great deal of expense and trouble to secure a 
fine string of thoroughbred Jerseys. Mr. Whiting began with a 
good herd but he was not content with that alone, he has, since 
that time, bent every energy toward improving the strain. 
The result is that, today, he has one of the finest dairy strings 
in the Southwest and by far the best Jersey string in the Valley. 




Here is the Woman's Investment 

His first standards have been raised and he is still building up 
the herd by the most scientific methods, combining with these 
theories of dairying and breeding, a lot of good common sense 
and hard-headed ranch and business reasoning. He has done 
a great deal for the dairy business of the district by encouraging 
and aiding every movement looking to the raising of standards 
of breeding. 

It is a well known fact that the demand for dairy produce, 
poultry and eggs has, in the past few years, very much exceeded 
the supply, especially in the large cities of the land. The Im- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



272 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

perial Valley, ideally suited to production in these lines, is also 
well located in proximity to Los Angeles to make economic 
shipping possible, and it follows that those who have had the 
foresight to engage themselves in the dairy and poultry indus- 
tries have done so with great profit and success. With many 
poultry raising is nothing but a side line, but J. D. Conrad, two 
miles southeast of Imperial, has combined this line with a dairy 
and is making good. Mr. Conrad carries a string of good dairy 
cows, some 500 hens and half as many turkeys. The latter 
have been a source of revenue averaging $400 a year, and, as 
there is little expense attached for feed, this is practically profit. 

The keynote of success in such lines is, of course, good 
stock. Conrad is an enthusiastic supporter of the theory that 
blood tells as surely in raising turkeys as in rearing race horses 
and he has constantly endeavored to raise the standard on his 
ranch. The importation of fancy Mammoth Bronze and Oregon 
wild stock has had visible results for good. Making a specialty 
of these lines he has learned just how to handle them for the 
best results in size, quality and breeding propensities. Within 
a year his plans call for 2,000 turkeys, every one from thorough- 
bred stock; this will put him in a position to sell to other breed- 
ers and will have much effect in improving the strains raised 
in the Valley, the profits and credit increasing proportionately. 

Conrad came to the Valley from Wisconsin in June, 1903, 
and filed on 180 acres of land. The biggest mistake he has made 
since his arrival, he says, was when he sold 120 acres of this 
piece. However, by improving the remainder to the highest 
possible point he has put himself in a position to make a com- 
fortable fortune in a few years even with the small unit he farms. 
The dairy herd pays expenses and allows him latitude so that he 
can experiment with the poultry and learn as nearly as possible 
what method will insure a maximum return on the investment. 
His ranch is well kept and his poultry worth seeing. 

The Valley is frequently spoken of as an excellent place in 
which to regain health: Edwin Mead found it salutary in re- 
gaining a fortune. Mr. Mead gravitated in his early life from 
New York state to Illinois, thence to Kansas, thence to Southern 
California, in all his migrations adding a little to his store of knowl- 
edge but arriving in the Imperial Valley in August, 1901, with 
little beside his personal effects. He realized the value of land 
holdings and located on 320 acres five miles northwest of Holt- 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL- VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



273 




Here the Mead's Made Their First Home 



ville. In order to get capital for the development of his place 
he worked for the No. 5 Water Company, building in all more 
than 30 miles of ditch for that corporation. He was thus able 
to put his land into 
excellent shape and 
to transform it, in the 
course of a few years, 
from a desert waste 
to a real ranch. 

Practically the 
entire piece is now in 
alfalfa, pasturing 
some 200 head of 
hogs, a herd of beef 
cattle, 15 or 20 head 
of work horses and poultry enough to supply the ranch. To 
facilitate handling his work Mr. Mead has divided his piece up 
into small fields of 20 or 40 acres each so that he can irrigate 
at any time and still carry on a diversified stock pasturage 
without interruption. Nothing is more harmful to a crop of 
any sort than pasturing it while the ground is still damp, as 
many farmers in the Valley have found to their sorrow and 
Mead's plan is one now generally in favor throughout the 
district. 

In the very early days of the town of Imperial a hotel was 
a great boon to those tired and dusty travelers who arrived in 
wagon loads daily from Flowing Well by stage. Mrs. Mead 
was the hostess of the hotel at the first, and to the pioneers she 
was better known than any woman in the Valley. Her interest 
in them and her anxiety to add to their comfort and to proffer 
them such conveniences as the country then afforded are remem- 
bered by many with great pleasure. Mrs. Mead now owns an 
80-acre alfalfa ranch of her own near her husband's and she 
laughingly threatens to beat him at his own game in a few more 
years. Between them they estimate their holdings to be worth 
$50,000 today. 

To many persons in Soiithern California, strange as it may 
seem, the California-Mexico Land & Cattle Company, and the 
Imperial Valley are synonymous names. So closely connected 
has been the development of the two. The model ranch of 
the Valley, owned by a stock company of Los Angeles business 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



274 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



men, comprises 1,100 acres of highly developed ranch land in 
California and 876,000 acres just across the line in Mexican ter- 
ritory. It raises more stock 
than any ranch of its kind in 
Southern California and has 
recently come to be known for 
the high character of every- 
thing produced. Of the large 
acreage in Mexico 15,000 acies 
are now under cultivation, 
water being furnished by the 
same system which supplies 
the settlers on the California side of the line. 

Marvelous fields of grain and alfalfa and corn are raised on 
the Mexican land. The largest single irrigated barley field, 
5,000 acres, ever known in the history of irrigation is one of the 




Bowker Believes in Ample Barns 




The California-Mexico Corrals in 1903 Were Rude But the Stock 
Was Thoroughbred 

interesting sights on the C. M. ranch property and across the 
road is a 5,000 acres alfalfa field. The company raises steers 
in Mexico, pasturing them on the overflowed lands there wher- 
ever forage is available and sending them into the fenced fields 
on the American side to be fattened and finished. 

Thoroughbred horses, cattle, hogs and sheep are special- 
ties with the C. M. ranch, and four times each year auction sales 
are held at which this stock is disposed of. Barbecues make 
these sales a sort of Valley picnic and hundreds gather for a 
holiday whenever there is a C. M. sale. Walter Bowker, the 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



275 



manager of the great ranch, is a man of ability and force of 
character who has impressed himself on the life of the community 
by his interest in public affairs and in the development of the 
whole Valley. 




The Largest Irrigated Barley Field 

Henry Stroven, five miles north of Holtville, will go down 
in history as the first farmer in the Imperial Valley to sink an 
artesian well. He has other claims to greatness, but that one 
is indelibly stamped on him that all who run may read. He 
was prompt to see the advantage an artesian well would give 
him when, in January, 1910, water was tapped in flowing quan- 
tities in Holtville. He was still more prompt in acting, for he 
signed a contract within a few days, calling for the sinking of a 
well on his ranch. The water in Holtville had been struck at a 
depth of almost 900 feet and this was supposed to be the minimum 
at which artesian water would be found. But greatly to the 
surprise of everyone and to the joy of Mr. Stroven, who was 
footing the bill, the well began to flow when the drillers were 
down only a little over 800 feet. To add to his luck it was 
found that the well flowed more heavily than the Holtville hole, 
something over 100 gallons a minute being measured. The 
well cost Stroven about 
$1,100, but was cheap 
at twice that, since it 
gives him the best 
drinking water to be 
had in the Valley, and 
considerable water to 
be impounded and used 
for irrigation. 

With or without 
the well Stroven would 




stroven Sunk the 



First Ranch ^'eH 

Digitized by 



"Ci'oogle 



276 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



have made a success in the Valley. He is a crack horticulturist, 
coming here from San Bernardino to file in 1901 and to make 
his home in 1905. He believes this is one of the finest fruit 
countries in the world and backs his belief by planting a large 
orchard. He already has grapes, apricots and several other 
fruit trees rapidly coming to fruition. 

Joseph Hanson, a prosperous rancher now four miles north- 
west of Imperial, started with a friend from their Middle West- 
ern homes to go to Alberta, Canada, in 1902. Their trunks 

were packed and 
they were about 
to purchase 
their tickets 
when a friend, 
Pierce Coy, an 
older man, asked 
them what they 
had heard of the 
Imperial Valley. 
They had heard 
little. Coy had 
made a trip to 

The Desert Hanson Obliterated this mUCh dis- 

cussed region and had located some land and he urged the 
two friends to visit the desert. They decided to take his 
advice, going around to Canada by way of Southern Cal- 
ifornia, but they never got past the Valley. Stopping for 
the summer of 1902 in Highlands, near San Bernardino, 
they came to the Valley in September and Hanson located 
200 acres, his present ranch. Coy gave him work and 
as Hanson was a thorough farmer and a man of frugality and 
industry he soon had enough to go on to his own piece and de- 
velop it. 

There is no better barley and corn land in the district than 
that in the neighborhood in which Hanson lives. He raises 
bumper crops every year. The hog business interested him 
and as he believed in it he cast about for means to raise green 
forage. Forty acres on his ranch was available for alfalfa but 
it was not enough; consequently he obtained 120 acres half 
a mile north of him, of fine clover land, and sowed this. Today 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



277 



it is practically all in and Hanson has an ideal combination for 
hogs, carrying more than 500 head. 

To look at the ranch at the close of the decade one would 
think it had been all plain sailing and that Hanson only had to 
sit back and watch it, but this is not a fact. Like his neigh- 
bors Mr. Hanson had his ups and downs, some of the latter com- 
ing pretty frequently for a time. After eight years, however, 
most of his troubles are past and he is beginning to know what 
it is to reap a harvest, after some discouraging years of sowing. 

The stallion shown in the photograph is only a colt of 26 
months, but has attained unusual size and strength. He is a 
Belgian, imported from the Middle West, and from him Hanson 
and his neighbors will have some thrifty colts. 




The Most Contented Man 

John Larson, four and one-half miles northwest of Imperial, 
is the most contented man I ever saw. Blessed with a good 
nature and satisfied temperament he has, by hard work and 
temperance, built himself a competence while still a young man 
and he looks out on life with smiling cheerfulness awaiting what- 
ever may come with the most unruffled calm. He came to the 
Valley in 1902 with his friend Joseph Hanson, his nearest neigh- 
bor now, and took up 160 acres of land. He began by working 
out, but when he was able went on to his own place and reclaimed 
that. Content to let life come to him, he did not start out with 
great plans for making a fortune in a few months, but sowed 
barley and threshed it; made hay; bought a few brood mares; 
and waited for the big things to come gradually. Of course 
they will: they always do for those who do not hurry them. 

When his own place was completely reclaimed he looked 

Digitized by VjOOQ IC 



278 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

for other fields to conquer, leasing 160 nearby and finding him- 
self well able to attend to the barley crops on both, with little 
expense. A bachelor, with the passion for neatness of a man-of- 
warsman, he has a home place scrupulously clean; so that one 
instinctively looks about for the woman who keeps it so. But 
Larson is responsible. His whole ranch is kept with the same 
attention to neatness and it may be one secret of his success, 
that he does the small things so well. 



gjmnin 


Snmim^^^ 


s*'^'^ 




m 





Larson Raises Fine Colts 

The characteristic of faith in the future of the Valley is a 
big asset of many of the men who have made a success in the 
district. Without confidence in the ultimate possibilities of 
Imperial it would be hard for any man, whether a rancher or a 
business man, to see the future with a vision sufficiently large, 
but those who have this confidence have been enabled to make 
their own future assured as well. There are many examples 
of this in these stories of personal achievement: another of in- 
terest is that of Charles E. Guest, a trader, rancher, contractor, 
speculator, breeder of fine horses, broker, constructionist. 
Mr. Guest has been interested in the Valley since September, 
1900, when he came in and saw with certainty what the future 
of the district was to be. Guest worked for wages that winter 
and for two or three after that, but in 1905 he brought his bride 
to the Valley and prepared to remain. 

Guest is a natural trader, a sort of genial David Harum 
without David's peculiarities, and he has an unerring instinct 
that tends to lessen the usual natural chances a trader takes. 
He has bought, sold and traded everything from horses to ranches 
and while doing something thus to help those who were reclaim- 
Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 



279 




Has Threshed 50,000 Sacks of Barley this Year 



ing the desert he has incidentally helped himself. In addition 
to this avocation, however, Guest has played a very important 
part in the harnessing of the waste places. For five years he 
has had a grading outfit in the field, turning the men and teams 
in the summer 
time, whenf 
there is little ' 
land grading 
done, to har- 
vesting grain. 
With two com- 
plete **com- 
bines" (a great 
machine that 
cuts, heads, 
threshes and 
sacks the grain 
as it moves 
through the 

field) he has handled the crops of a good many ranches. In the 
summer of 1910 his machines covered more than 3,300 acres, 
and threshed more than 50,000 sacks of barley. 

At the same time he has owned ranches in the Valley, his 
plan being to take them in their raw state, level and crop them 
and then sell. It is a large question whether any person could 
make a competence for himself in less than ten years, starting 
on wages, and at the same time have a larger share in the general 
improvement of a great farming region on the desert than had 
Mr. Guest. The fact that he is totally oblivious to having done 
anything besides '^the day's work'* does not change the obliga- 
tion of the future Imperial Valley to him and those like him. 

It is a well known fact that there have been many years in 
which the close organization of the commission and general 
selling business and the almost unorganized condition of the 
farmers of the country have resulted in the annual loss of mil- 
lions of dollars to the producer. In the Imperial Valley this 
condition has been felt and the farmers early began to discuss 
ways and means to systematize their selling to such an extent 
that they could make their produce pay them. However, it 
was not until August, 1909, that definite action was taken and 
the Imperial Valley Farmers* Union was brought into being. 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



280 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

This organization is truly named. Its purpose is to enable 
the producers to co-operate, both in buying and selling, but 
particularly the latter. They employ a business agent who 
has an office in Los Angeles, where most of the produce of the 
Valley goes for sale. They conduct their affairs on a purely 
business-like basis, although there are certain social possibili- 
ties in a well organized branch of the Union that commend it 
to a people living in a scattering country district. Another 
marked advantage the organization has is that its several lines 
of produce are handled by as many different branches of the 
Union, there being 12 divisions, concerning themselves, for 
instance, with dairying, with grain, with poultry, with fruit 
and so on. Thus men familiar with the details of any given 
branch of production are gathered together in a mutually help- 
ful division of the Union, to the vast benefit of all. 

The Imperial Valley Union is a part of a national organiza- 
tion. Its president during the first year was H. W. Morehouse, 
its secretary John McKinney, and the other directors J. E. 
Hodge, D. W. Tyler, J. H. Holland and G. M. Holloway. The 
Los Angeles sales manager is J. H. Tyler. Great good has al- 
ready accrued to the members of the new organization and its 
progress and development are reported as exceedingly favorable. 

The secretary, John McKinney is the pioneer rancher of 
the Mesquite Lake district, having gone there in 1902 when 
there was but one ranch being put in. Since that time this 
first ranch has changed hands so that Mr. McKinney is the real 
pioneer. He owns a handsome 160 acre ranch five miles north- 
east of Imperial where a large dairy engages his attention, 
when he is not at the office of the Farmers' Union. 



Digitized by 



Google 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 281 



CHAPTER XV 



RESUME AND ONLOOK 

The temptation to turn from these details of organization 
and growth and revel for awhile in the romance of this desert 
reclaimed is well nigh irresistible. Surrounded by the mys- 
teries of Nature, by the picturesque tasks of reclamation, by 
the phenomena of a great metamorphosis, one has to shut him- 
self in a very tight closet, indeed, to concentrate thought and 
effort on the sordid details of two-penny business transactions. 

Were ten volumes available for this story of a marvelous 
decade instead of one there would be space for some feeble 
excursions into realms more entrancing. Then we might sit 
together at dawn on the Mesa land east of the Valley or on a 
sand hill on the west and look out across the desert, marveling 
at the insignificance of the work of reclamation compared with 
the stretches of sand still untrodden waste. We might watch 
the sun splash the eastern horizon in bold colors, lighting up 
the western mountains with fern-like sketches in purple bas- 
relief. We might turn our eyes to the southwest and south 
and watch a great city take shape beside an emerald lake, 
watch boats rock idly on its placid surface or great birds sail 
through the mists above it; might see houses tall as trees, and 
trees high as hills, and hills stretch up and out and assume awful 
proportions. There we might see the wraith of an ancient 
fortress take form, with black cannon protruding over massive 
battlements; then see the fortress change to a ship, then to a 
great hay-stack, then to a mushroom, then to a humble cot, 
then subside and disappear completely as the sun came higher 
and melted the illusions of fortress and lake and city and birds, 
and pierced through the ghosts of things, dissipating the mirage. 

We might wander through several chapters, studying the 
strange animal and vegetable life we would find, wondering 
at the provisions of Nature that give all the wild plants little 
glossy leaves to combat the rays of the sun, and long roots to 

Digitized by VjOOQ IC 





^^M 


Wmt 






^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^H j^^^^^l 




T^^^^g f 1 j^^^^^^^j ^^^^^H^J 


rl 




fti' 1 


H 



c 
t 

c 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 283 

reach down where moisture may be found; noting the purple 
shadows cast by bush and stone on the staring groimd; observ- 
ing with increased comprehension that all the live things wear 
the habit of Nature herself and are scarcely to be distinguished 
from her dress when they lie quiet. We might take an excur- 
sion into some of the foothills surrounding the Valley and find 
there groves of majestic **Washington'' palms, indigenous to 
this desert as is. the cactus to the Arizona, the yucca to the 
Mojave, the Spanish needle to the New Mexican, and the 
Joshua tree to the Nevada deserts. 

Returning again and going northward we might perch our- 
selves, like the giant pelicans, on a rocky headland of one of 
the little islands of the Salton sea, and amuse ourselves by try- 
ing to calculate how many different birds there are upon the 
land and water about us, and how many thousands of each. 
Assuredly we would never know but we might find it gopd fun 
to guess. We would see, if we chose the right time, thousands 
of brant, geese, ducks, snipe, sea-gulls, ^'hell-divers," silver 
herons, black herons, white herons, curlew, pelican, and mud- 
hens, and we would take pleasure in dreaming for awhile of 
their various birth-places and the extent of their travels from 
summer to winter homes. Thanks to the rapacious pot-hunters 
who make frequent excursions during the hunting season to 
the Valley, the time may come soon when these sights will not 
be so common; it is too bad we cannot take the trip today. 

In the Valley itself we could spend much time enjoy ably 
watching the work of reclamation still going forward. With 
the contractor's crew we would be up at dawn moving in a 
gypsy-like procession across the desert, carrying everything 
with us that we needed for sustenance and work; we would 
pitch camp with the bunk tent and mess-wagon in the center, 
the feed racks for the stock a few yards off, and with a temporary 
reservoir on the nearest ditch. Then we would go out with a 
**log'' or ^'railroad'' iron 20 to 50 feet long and drag it broadside 
on across the ground to break the brush, would pile and burn 
the growths and would turn the scraper hands on to the hum- 
mocks. As Tom Yaeger, of Lee Butcher's old crew, used to 
say: 'It is a big game of seven-up, the Game being for Jack to 
drag the High places into the Low places.'' When the ground 
is rough-leveled with the scraper the border-lines are marked 
with two furrows five feet apart to each border, and the teams 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



284 STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 

begin their monotonous course too and fro across the field, 
raising parallel banks of earth four rods or so apart to confine 
the water when a crop is in. A few days with a long drag, the 
buck-scraper, and the Fresno, and the ground is ready for ditches, 
crop and water. 

The first crop will be barley if it is winter and com if it is 
spring. The seed is put in with little ceremony and the mini- 
mum of expense, then the water is turned on. It would take 
a chapter to describe the sensation one experiences, after seeing 
the desert broken and harnessed, and after putting the dry 
seed into the ground, as one stands on a dusty ditch bank and 
watches water trickle down from the gate for the first time, 
possibly in a hundred centuries, on to the parched sand. It 
would take another chapter to follow the development of the 
ranch from those first beginnings, until, hog-fenced, cross- 
fenced, gated, cropped, tree-encircled and finished with a sub- 
stantial home, it becomes a factor in the new Valley that is no 
longer a desert. 

It would be interesting also to spend much time visiting 
the country and watching the changes going on there rapidly 
now, at the end of a decade, as the settlers accommodate them- 
selves to their improved conditions. We would see new homes 
taking the place of rude cabins; roomy bams and milk sheds 
taking the place of weed-covered shades; better stock pasturing 
the fields; better animals drawing stronger wagons; newer im- 
plements breaking less stubborn soil; improved methods crowd- 
ing aside antiquated ones; bold strides forward shown in every 
line and the circumstances surrounding living and work being 
bettered just as rapidly. 

It would be interesting again to go into the towns and spend 
much time there, noting the remarkable resemblance between 
communities of five and ten years of existence and similar 
settlements with fifty years history behind them. There we 
would see modern stores, fresh stocks, places of amusement, 
libraries, churches, educational institutions ahead of the day, 
the modern conveniences of gas, electricity, sewerage systems 
and water plants par excellence. We would get in close touch 
with a spirit of progress and development that would teach us 
much: we might discover some things that would help us to 
help ourselves. We might even see some things, if we took time 
in our search, that we had not noticed before, even if the towns 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 285 

are familiar places to us and we have seen them grow. Certain 
it is that we would become more than ever imbued with the 
pride of province. 

We would have, then, much leisure and space to devote 
to the growth of business and the increasing amount of capital 
available in this district for new enterprises and for the exten- 
sion of old ones. We would devote* ourselves^ throughout 
several pages, perhaps, to the railroad facilities offered today, 
comparing them both with those of earlier times and those that 
are promised for the immediate future. We should find out 
as much as we might about the plans for lateral lines to be run 
as feeders to the main valley line of the Southern Pacific, which 
plans are already fixed. We might be astonished to find the 
volume of business done by the railroads in the territory today; 
it is certain we would be if we could learn what the officials of 
those carriers hope for the future. 

So we might go on through many chapters, expanding and 
enlarging on the meager details we have found room for in this 
single tome. Since we cannot encompass the whole it were 
useless to mar the subject by making a sketch. 

What, at the close of the decade, have we found concern- 
ing the possibilities of the district? Not much, to be sure; but 
something. The possibilities are unlimited: thus far we have 
touched their rim. More than $1,500,000 was the value of the 
products shipped from the Valley in 1909, these including barley, 
hogs, sheep and cattle, dairy products, honey, wool, asparagus, 
horses, hay, cotton, wheat, cantaloupes, alfalfa meal, grapes, 
eggs and poultry, including more than 10,000 turkeys, corn 
and small consignments of other produce. A diversified list, 
truly! In two years more it will include raisins, oranges and 
grape fruit, nursery stock, vegetables, dressed meats, probably 
(mirabile dictu!) ice, broom corn, gold bullion, hollow tile, 
rolled grain, com meal, cotton-seed oil, patent chick food; 
and in five years, among products that can now be seen among 
the future certainties, eucalyptus for hardwood building mate- 
rial, pineapples, dates, canned goods of every sort, dried fruits, 
sugar, hemp, thoroughbred poultry, horses, swine, cattle and 
dogs, and wealthy retired ranchers! Ship us a carload of phono- 
graphs, a few bolts of silk and a company of play-actors and, 
so far as existence is concerned, you may leave us then with our 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



286 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



half million settlers, cut off your railroad communication, 
tear down the telegraph wires, and whirl on your way! 

In truth you would be the losers. Southern Calfornia 
needs the Imperial Valley : in a few years her people will be more 
or less dependent on it. The great demand for those staples 
of life the Valley is so luxuriant in makes the district indispen- 
sable, although not so much now as will be the case in ten years. 
Citrus and small fruits, vegetables, hay and grain are supplied 
the city of Los Angeles by the territory contiguous to her sub- 
urbs, but this territory is being more and more encroached on 
by building extensions. Moreover land is becoming so val- 
uable because of its future possibilities that it is poor economy 
to buy it for agriculture. It is impossible to avoid the con- 
clusion that the ultimate supply of food-stuflfs must in a large 
measure come from the Imperial Valley. It is safe to prophesy 
that, in five years, ninety per cent of everything shipped from 
the Valley will go to the towns of Southern California or to the 
city of Los Angeles. 

Whether that percentage is, at the same time, a large per- 
centage of everything consumed in the way of produce in South- 
ern California is quite another matter, but in the final analysis 
it depends a great deal more on the capacity of the Valley 

ranchers than on the possibilities 

of the district itself. In an earlier 
chapter the positive opinions of 
men in a position to prophesy 
that the farm unit here will event- 
ually be the smallest anywhere in 
the United States, were quoted, 
and the trend in that direction at 
the end of the decade is very 
rapid, indeed. Small farm units 
mean intensive cultivation, scien- 
tific methods, and large margins 
of profit, but more important they 
mean a dense farming population. 
There has been a marked 
change in the sort of ranchers 
tilling the soil of the Valley from 
the first. The earliest comers 
were of three 'classes: poor men 




The First Child Born in Imperial 
waH Ruth Reid 



Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 287 

with nought but courage and strength and determination? 
wealthy men who took up land as a speculation, and 
adventurers who had little of either strength and courage 
or money, but who had vague notions of reaping more than 
they sowed. The shock of disillusionment in the cases of 
the latter class did much to hurt the district, for the man 
who desires something for nothing is the loudest and most 
persistent howler in the world when he does not get it. But it 
was well the community got that class out of its system at an 
early date and it has never reappeared. It is also well, perhaps, 
(although it may not have seemed so at the time) that the early 
days were days of testing, a trying in the fire, culminating 
in the flood seasons of 1905 and 1907. For the old law of the 
survival of the fit prevailed here as elsewhere, and the weak 
and faltering were crowded out, leaving the battle to the strong. 
The result is a strangely homogeneous but competent people 
working to one end. At a Sunday school convention held in 
1908, at which 50 persons were present, a roll call by native 
states was suggested and carried out. In that handful of peo- 
ple there were represented 28 states and 5 nationalities! 

Another feature of this population of ours is that a large 
number of eastern and city bred youths of some means and large 
faith are in our midst. Men such as Phil Brooks, G. W. Belden, 
Jeff Patton, Roy Breedlove, Clarence Gage, Alexander Ingram, 
Clarence Conant, George Peacock, Winthrop Pier, the Lyons 
Brothers, Guy Bear, Harry Cuthbertson, Sid Otter, (there are 
scores more) are the leaven that will lighten the whole lump, 
bringing their breadth of view and culture to touch elbows with 
the courage, determination and provincial loyalty of the plain 
farmer-folk. That there will grow up here from the union of 
these two forces (which will fuse so easily and certainly as time 
goes on) a civilization ahead of its time, making the Valley a 
good place in which to live just for its own sake, is certain. 

A second irresistible force for community uplift is the ex- 
cellent system that has grown under the watchful care of par- 
ents, like Enoch Arden, who 

"* * * Fixed a purpose evermore before his eyes 
To give their child a better bringing-up than hia had been, 
Or hers * * * " 

Not only in substantial and even imposing school buildings, 
but in character and ability of teachers, does the Valley excel 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



288 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 



many older communities. The important practical training 
needed by farmer boys to increase their efficiency is afforded in 
well arranged courses in scientific agriculture, while the girls 
are taught cooking and sewing, if they so elect, or may learn to 
garden under those who know the reasons why vegetables and 
flowers grow. Although this theoretical knowledge is worth 
little without practice the field for the latter is unlimited and is 
close at hand. 

The work of these public institutions is paralleled and some- 
what augmented by the work of a private school, the Heber 
Collegiate Institute, located at Heber, financed by aid of the 
Congregational Church of Southern California, and made possi- 
ble by the generosity and broad-mindedness of Mrs. A. H. Heber, 
who thus goes on with the task her respected husband, the late 

Anthony H. 
Heber, set for 
himself. He 
aided in making 
the Valley fit to 
live in: Mrs. 
Heber is doing 
what she can to 
make citizens 
fit to live in the 
Valley. Prof. 
H. W. More- 
house, a gentle- 
man of refine- 
ment, education 
and marked 

ability, is at the head of the teaching and administrative 
force of the school. 

The growth of church movements in any community is 
of importance, for the time is passed, happily, when it is con- 
sidered a mark of scholarship to scoff at the power of religion 
in moulding character, whether it be that of a person or of a 
community. The first church in the Imperial Valley was built 
by W. F. Holt, at his own suggestion, but with the financial 
backing of the Imperial Land Company. It was completed 
early in September, 1901, and on Sunday, September 29, was 
dedicated to use by Rev. J. C. Hay, of the Christian denomina- 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 




The Heber Agricultural College is a Monument 



I 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 289 

tion, who was its pastor for more than a year. This pioneer 
church was unfortunately burned in the summer of 1909, but 
the spirit of churches did not die with the building for there had 
risen all about it, meantime, many church buildings and con- 
gregations. Practically every denomination of importance is 
represented in the Valley by some society at the close of the 
decade, and that most of them are practically or quite self- 
supporting speaks eloquently of the character of the communi- 
cants and the size of the congregations. 

The social life of the community took form in the first year 
or two, as it will in any American settlement. The first re- 
corded social event of any size was a general picnic on July 4, 
1901. It was held at Cameron Lake, near the present site of 
Calexico, but dinner was eaten in the shade of the trees about 
the Salton gate at Sharp's Heading. It was a jolly affair. 
Fish for the dinner were caught in the canal and the 50 or 60 
persons present had as much pleasure in the event as though it 
were in a less-out-of-the-way place. 

The first dance of which record was kept was in Septem- 
ber, 1901, in a mess wagon owned by W. W. Hasten, then grad- 
ing east of Calexico. It was exceedingly informal, but was the 
precursor of many events since that have made the blood of the 
young tingle and the blood of the staid and settled beat some- 
what faster to watch. 

These feeble beginnings of a social intercourse developed 
a strong feeling of comradeship in the pioneers and had a great 
influence for good. 

The very last year of the decade saw a sudden turning of the 
tide in favor of the automobile and the number now owned in the 
Valley, compared with that number in the winter of 1908, is 
astonishing. There are two reasons why the automobile is 
welcome: one because it means modernity and insures progress, 
and the other because automobiles mean good roads. A motor- 
ist will not tolerate bad roads, as has been demonstrated else- 
where; moreover he is usually a man of some means and an ag- 
gressive character, else he could not summon the nerve to drive 
one of those go-devils to the dismay of every self-respecting 
farm horse in a belly-band. He gets good roads. No one thing 
is needed more in the Valley today. 

The ranchers have still much to learn. The most impor- 
tant, when the question of water supply is settled once and for 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



290 



STORY OF THE FIRST DECADE 




El Centre's Cirammar School 
is Typical 



all, is how to remedy the evil of silt in the ditches. Cleaning 
canals and laterals costs annually enough to install a series of 
settling basins through the Valley to handle this unruly ele- 
ment. Ways and means must be found. In the meantime 

the irrigators must learn how 
to handle water. Ten years 
had taught only a few of them 
that they use too much water. 
Ten thousand years would be 
needed to teach some of them 
when to irrigate. They nmst 
learn, also, and must teach 
their water companies, how to 
measure water, fixing some 
standard which will be nearly absolute. Surprisingly little 
progress has been made in this regard. 

What to raise with profit is so easily answered here that 
it seems a superfluous question, since everything will grow. 
But within a few years there will be some formula by which 
it will be possible to determine the high eflSciency of a ranch, 
given the quality of soil, location, slope, size and age. The 
success cotton growers met with in 1909 was phenomenal, all 
things considered, but it was not surprising in the light of early 
developments. In May, 1902, a small patch of cotton was 
planted near Calexico for experimental purposes and in 1903 
samples of the product were sent to Washington, whence the 
seed had come. Concerning this Thomas H. Kearney, Physi- 
ologist of the Department of Agriculture, wrote (June 4, 1903) 
**Results obtained in ginning the cotton grown there last year 
showed that the fibre produced was very nearly, if not quite, 
the best Egyptian cotton grown in the United States, although 
we have experimented with this variety at more than a dozen 
different points in the South and Southwest.'' A most cred- 
itable organization of the cotton industry was perfected in the 
spring of 1910 and another staple was added to those of the Valley 
almost in a day. It would not be surprising if others were de- 
veloped in the same abrupt manner. 

Physicians the world over are just awakening to the health- 
giving potentialities of the reclaimed desert. It is not too much 
to believe that within another decade organization and pub- 
licity will combine to build here retreats for the sick, the tired. 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



IMPERIAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA 291 

the nervous, that will be sought by hundreds. That the re- 
vivifying influence of pure, dry air; the tonic properties of the 
low altitude; and the nourishing elements of simple, natural 
food, will work wonders against any disease has been proven 
in the Valley too often already to require argument. 

The petty misunderstandings and quarrels of the early 
days are being rapidly forgotten. Peace, industry, prosperity 
and a diligent search after the best means for promoting the 
welfare of all have taken the place of bickerings and a strong spirit 
of local pride is being fostered by circumstances and tendencies. 
The ruflSanism of many frontier settlements has never had place 
here, and the cosmopolitan nature of the population precludes 
any possibility of community feuds. It is hard to interest a 
busy stranger in a family quarrel, and where would be the fun 
of a feud between less than fifty men to the side? 

The onlook is hopeful. It will not be all plain sailing, 
but many of the rocks and shoals are passed and, like the care- 
ful mariners we were, we made charts of those diflScult passages 
and will not fear them again. The unknown we do not dread, 
for one does not shrink from an open highway when one has 
come unscathed through a trackless forest. The desert is 
doomed! In a few short years there will be no arid land on 
the Colorado and those who know the tug of the call of the 
desert will have to seek it afar. '*In order to make good, a 
desert must have sand, solitude and dreariness, with neither 
past, present, nor future." 

We close these pages as we close the days of the first dec- 
ade. What have we achieved? We have builded an empire 
in an unfit place. What are the acquisitions of conquering 
warriors compared to those of the pioneer who sets his cabin 
in the midst of a desolate waste and spreads a fruitful green 
about him? What is territorial expansion compared with 
desert reclamation? Let marines and soldiers add to the 
country's domain acquisition by discovery: our contribution 
has been acquisition by recovery. May these simple annals 
serve to perpetuate that succession of incidents and the labors 
of the men which together go to make up the true story of the 
first decade. 

THE END. 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 



Monotyped and Printed by 
GEO. RICE & SONS 
Lob Angelee, Cal. 



Digitized by VjOOQlC 



Digitized by 



Google 



Digitized by 



Google 



Digitized by 



Google 



Digitized by 



Google 



Ji^C 2$ - 




?l.. 



f 



y 



Google