The irrigation of the Shasta Valley near Montague, Siskiyou County, California was begun in 1913, when the Shasta River Water Association was incorporated and several thousand acres of land were purchased by Dr. G. W. Dwinnell, who in association with A. L. Harlow, installed a pumping plant to take water from Shasta River and lift it an average of eighty-six feet by electric power. The next year another pumping project was promoted by Messrs. Dwinnell and Harlow, under the name of the Big Springs Water Company, six miles east of Grenada. The land was subdivided and sold in small tracts to dairymen who have been almost invariably successful. The Grenada Irrigation District was later formed, following in 1926 by the Montague Irrigation District, which is now being settled and where farm lands may be procured at most reasonable terms. Irrigated land in the settled irrigation districts sells for from one hundred and twenty-five to two hundred and fifty dollars an acre, with water charges higher than in the new district, while superior land in the new district may be purchased for from fifty to one hundred dollars per acre. We quote an article which was published in the Shasta Valley Echo and Dairy News of January 20, 1928: “Thirty-five years ago a doctor came to Siskiyou County, California. This may seem a strange way in which to introduce the subject of the Montague Water Conservation District, yet it is the correct way. This doctor came to the then frontier group of false front wooden structures, by courtesy named Montague, and here, impelled by something in the atmosphere, in the view of, or guided by some sixth sense, he elected to stay. Soon after, he was met at all hours of the day and night on his errands of healing. Month by month the professional orbit of Dr. George Dwinnell increased in circumference while, in like measure, his knowledge of the country increased. Every cattle ranch, every farm house, every road and creek and cut-off became known to him—every family, almost, came to know him, and he in turn came to know how, and why, so many were able to live in a section where the rain gods refused to give the land enough water with which to farm. The Doctor rode over thousands of acres of fertile soil used as cattle range only, while, here and there, small parcels of land yielded in abundance. Why could not of these thousands of acres produce equally with the small parcels where his patients and friends dwelt? Wherever springs flowed or small streams ran, there lay the little farms—the other thousands of acres went untilled for lack of water to produce crops.
“Lack of water! And only a short distance away water in abundance tumbled its way down through forested slopes from snows still higher in altitude, then into the Shasta River and away toward the Pacific Ocean, with no use of it to make the fertile, but too dry, lands of Shasta Valley give forth of their fertility for the benefit of man. These things the Doctor saw—and because he was no sentimental idealist, but a practical man of ideals, he invested his money, earned in Shasta Valley, in land in Shasta Valley—he developed small amounts of water, planted alfalfa and made more money. By both practice and precept, he pioneered the way. Slowly at first, but surely, the more substantial people of the valley came to see what the Doctor had seen and out of the community of interest and spirit thus engendered Montague Water Conservation District was born.
“Read what Dr. Elwood Mead, who needs no introduction, said at a meeting of the international irrigation congress a few years ago: ‘One of the most gratifying experiences I have had since my return (from Australia) is, however, to find in California an exhibition of its old and lovely spirit of hospitality to the stranger within its gates and the demonstration of the feasibility of organized aid and direction in settlement. It owes its existence not to the conscience and wisdom of the public but to the sagacity and humanity of an individual. The pioneer in scientific land settlement in California is Dr. George Dwinnell of Siskiyou County.’ Later Dr. Mead writes: ‘If it were not that the work you are doing has a social importance so great that the public ought to have full knowledge of it, I would not feel justified in calling on you for this information; but, as it is, I feel that the work you are doing for a few people in a restricted area is going to blaze a trail all over the western third of this continent in a short time’—and finally, on July 18, 1927, Dr. Mead again writes: ‘Some day there will have to be a monument erected to you, rewarding you for your fine, unselfish service to that country; and when that happens I want to contribute a stone or two.’
“The late Georgia Graves Bordwell, writing in Sunset Magazine said: ‘Dr. Dwinnell made money out of the Montague project. He sold at a time when ninety-five per cent of the far west’s real estate men were not able to find buyers for farm lands. And he was able to sell at a reasonable profit because he helped the buyers dig the purchase price out of the soil.’ Further on in the same article this writer touched the key-note upon which the initial success of the Montague project is founded. She says: ‘I had heard about John Ballestin in Montague but I wanted to hear what he himself had to say. This is what he said: “Oh, no, I no got a verra good house. Nex’ year I maka new house for my wife, you betcha. My wife she work purty hard, she getta new house to live in til he die. Oh, yes, my cows he purty good, my hay he good, too. Verra good luck in America, but you know that Doc, yes? That Doc, my verra good frien’; I lika heem,” and his black eyes melted into soft brown as he said: “That Doc, he just helpa me like hell, by gosh, you betcha.” ’
“And now, let Dr. George W. Dwinnell, president of the Montague Water Conservation District, tell what the district has to offer the practical, industrious dairyman. He says: ‘Our climate is very healthful. We have no malaria. Elevation twenty-five hundred feet. Summer days are warm, nights cool. Cold spells occur in winter but they are never extremely severe and they seldom last longer than a few days at a time. Milch cows are turned out of doors every night during the year. Our annual average rainfall, less than fourteen inches, occurs mainly in winter.
“ ’We have two main types of soil. One was made by deposit from an old ocean formation that lies on the east and west of the valley. This type of soil has a good percentage of lime and is especially adapted to alfalfa. The second type is a heavier soil excellently adapted to potatoes, sugar beets and alfalfa. None of the soil is acid.
“ ’Our water rights are approved by the state division of water rights, the state engineering department and the state bond certification commission. The water possessed under these rights is stored in a reservoir of seventy thousand acre feet capacity located on the Shasta River, and it flows by gravity from the reservoir to the land. The estimated cost of water is between five and six dollars an acre, annually, until the bonds are paid; after which time the cost will be about one dollar an acre. Good domestic water is obtainable at an average depth of twenty-five feet. “ ’This is a natural alfalfa country. Land never needs the application of lime. Four crops of alfalfa are grown each season where irrigation is practiced. One planting lasts many years. Annual production is from three and one-half to six tons depending upon the soil and the care taken in irrigating. Forty acres will produce feed for the entire year for from twenty to thirty-five cows. All pasture, hay and other forage crops have a high feeding value. Beef are fattened for market on alfalfa hay and pasture usually; no grain or other concentrates are fed. On this feed, cream checks average from one hundred dollars to one hundred and fifty dollars per cow per annum. Hogs fed on skim milk are a source of profit to our dairymen.
“ ’This county has many sawmills, box and sash and door factories, and gold mines, making a large local market for butter, cheese and ice cream. The creamery at Montague is paying at present (October 25, 1927) fifty-five cents a pound for butter fat, allowing the dairyman to keep the skim milk; the Kraft cheese factory is paying sixty cents a pound for the cream in the whole milk. Last year California imported twenty-nine million pounds of butter and nearly twenty-three million pounds of cheese. Produced here at home, this would keep busy one hundred and eighty thousand additional cows each giving six thousand pounds of milk annually. The lowest price butter fat sold for at our local creamery during the summer of 1927 was forty-five cents per pound for sour cream and forty-seven cents for sweet cream. All of our surplus dairy products find a ready and profitable market within the state and the more we can produce the greater our ratio of profit will be.
“ ’Two of the largest pine lumber sawmills in the world are located in this county. Many smaller lumber mills are also being operated. No. 1 and No. 2 common lumber can be purchased locally at from twenty dollars to thirty dollars per thousand feet. This low cost for good substantial lumber makes building costs lower than in many less favored sections.
“ ’Within two hours drive from Montague are very fine hunting and fishing grounds. Hundreds of deer are killed every year and quail, duck and goose hunting are favorite sports. Klamath River, one of the world’s famous trout and salmon fishing streams, is fifteen miles away. Mountain trout are in all the smaller streams.
“ ’Montague is on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, midway between San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. Mount Shasta, from which the railroad route takes its name, lies to the southeast and is a never-failing source of water, derived from its fields of perpetual snow. Mount Shasta is, equally, a source of beauty which never grows less and never palls on the observer. The Pacific Ocean is reached after a beautiful and interesting trip of one hundred and twenty miles through our giant Redwoods. Surrounding the District are forests of pine and fir—Crater Lake in Oregon, wonderful hot springs and ice caves, are all within easy traveling distance by auto stages or train. A population of five million people to the south and of two million more to the north, scatter through many large cities and hundreds of smaller thriving communities, offer every outlet which can be desired along social, economic and educational channels.
“ ’Forty acres is the favorite size for a diary farm. At present, our dairy farmers of this size are producing incomes of from twenty-five hundred dollars to forty-five hundred dollars a year. Land here can be bought for what it will produce in one year, as soon as the dairy is established. The land now being planted to alfalfa, before irrigation, was used for growing grain. Also, usually it was owned in large tracts. Before the bond commission certified the bonds of the District, they asked that the land owners sign an agreement not to ask more than seventy-five dollars and acre. This was done to prevent land selling booms which usually interfere with orderly agricultural progress and so entail losses to both buyers and sellers. Land can be bought for this price now.’
“A staff correspondent of the ‘Country Gentleman’ wrote as follows of Siskiyou County and Shasta Valley: ‘I have neither kith, kin nor friends in Siskiyou . . . I simply nosed my way around and asked questions, feasted my eyes on scenery, drank into my lungs tonic ozone that set all the bubbles in my blood dancing a breakdown. The best looking dairy herds and the best looking hogs that crossed my line of vision in California I saw in Siskiyou. I confess I didn’t go over into Humboldt County on the coast, and there were several other counties that I skipped, but I did look around in Siskiyou and I sure did like what I saw—livestock, fruit, grain, truck, nut, folks . . . Before making any purchase, I would suggest, though, to those who have the opportunity—go in and look around.’
“Finally, Dr. Dwinnell says: ‘We like to have folks drop in on us—we are eager to have them see what Shasta Valley and Siskiyou County have to offer sober industrious husbandmen and their families. Out latchstrings are always out to them and on behalf of the Shasta Valley Chamber of Commerce, or Montague District, and our citizens, I extend to all such people a cordial invitation to visit us—we will try to interest them buy they will not be importuned to buy.” ‘
Dr. Elwood Mead, quoted above, whom Dr. Dwinnell characterizes as “one of the greatest settlement engineers of all time,” is at present commissioner of the United States Reclamation Service and is now building the Hoover Dam at Boulder Canyon. Dr. Dwinnell is personally acquainted with President Hoover and his friends are legion.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
Source: Wooldridge, J.W.Major History of Sacramento Valley California, Vol. 2 Pages 448-452. Pioneer Historical Publishing Co. Chicago 1931.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.