STORIES OF STANISLAUS
A Collection of Stories on the History and Achievements of Stanislaus County
Sol P. Elias
Other Stanislaus Districts
With the final success of the districts in the central portions of the county, the way was pioneered for projects of a similar character not only throughout the state but also in Stanislaus. These other organizations have met with none of the difficulties encountered by the older districts. They have been uniformly fortunate in profiting by the examples of the Modesto and the Turlock Districts and have added materially to the prosperity not only of their respective communities but also of the county at large.
The Oakdale Irrigation District was the first in the county to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Wright act after the transcendent success of the interior districts. This district, situated in the extreme eastern portion of the county in the midst of a most fertile area and superb natural environment and scenery, was organized on November 1, 1909, the vote in favor of the formation of the District being 349 to 27. The first directors were W. A. Patterson, Ed Rodden, J. B. Sterns, Robert L. Thompson and Dr. E. Schneller. The first officers were: W. A. Patterson, president of the board of directors, M. P. Kearney, secretary and assessor, E. N. Moulton, treasurer, D. E. Lee, collector, and Harry S. Crowe, chief engineer. The district contains 74,246 acres of land peculiarly adapted to irrigation and susceptible of a high degree of cultivation.
In July, 1910, the Oakdale and the South San Joaquin Irrigation Districts jointly purchased the so-called Tuloch System for $650,000, each district paying one-half of the purchase price. As soon thereafter as possible plans were formulated for the construction of a dam on the Stanislaus river and the building of canals and laterals. The dam was located on the Stanislaus river about sixteen miles east of Oakdale and about five miles above Knight's Ferry.
The contract for the building of this dam named the Goodwin Diverting Dam was let to T. K. Beard, former director of the Modesto Irrigation District, in September, 1911. It was finished in December, 1912. It is 80 feet high and 466 feet long, of the double arch type. The water courses to the ditches of the district by gravity flow. Its cost was $166,482. The construction of this dam was accomplished with that degree of stability and efficiency that has characterized all of Mr. Beard's engineering work. It is a substantial structure. The contract for the canals of the district was awarded to the Utah Construction Co. on January 4, 1912. This company completed the contract in April, 1913, having constructed about 52 miles of main canals and tunnels and 242 miles of laterals. The contract price was $1,235,000. With the completion of these contracts the Oakdale Irrigation District possessed as fine a system of irrigation as could be found in California, thoroughly suitable for and commensurate with the needs of that country. Bonds were voted for this system without difficulty July 1, 1910, in the sum of $1,600,000; January 1, 1913, in the sum of $400,000; July 1, 1915, in the additional sum of $400,000 total bonded indebtedness - $2,400,000.
The lands of the district have gradually gone under irrigation. The following is the advance made in intensive irrigation in this district: 1913, 4,246 acres; 1914, 7,639 acres; 1915, 11,257 acres; 1916, 12,920 acres; 1917, 18,791 acres; 1918, 18,928 acres; 1919, 19,082 acres; 1920, 19,473 acres; 1921, 20,976 acres; 1922, 19,200 acres; 1923, 19,300. The area irrigated in 1922 was distributed among the following crops: alfalfa, 8,818 acres; garden, 798 acres; trees, 3,458 acres; corn 2,032 acres; grain, 328 acres; melons, 49 acres; vines, 1,560 acres; clover, 196 acres; beans, 263 acres; rice, 446 acres. The valuations of land of the district have measurably increased in the last ten years as the following will indicate: 1910, assessed value of land of the Oakdale Irrigation District, $2,160,355; 1913, $2,564,000; 1916, $3,991,000; 1919, $3,642,100; 1922, $4,027,500; 1923, $2,991,000. The number of assessment payers in 1910 was 705. In 1923 the number has risen to 2,424 the Oakdale Irrigation District more than trebled its number of taxpayers in ten years and its taxable wealth has doubled during the same period.
This indicates remarkable progress and a solid and substantial, prosperous and growing community.
During the past few years considerable of the acreage of the Oakdale District has been set out to figs, almond, apricot, peach, olive and walnut trees and grapes for which the country and the lands are peculiarly adapted. The Oakdale District has become famous as the home of the almond in California and possesses the largest pea cannery on the Pacific Coast. Kadota fig orchards are numerous.
The present officers of the Oakdale District are directors, H. S. Crowe, president of the board, H. B. McMath, Fred Merrihew, Geo. L. Magneson, and E. N. Moulton; R. E. Hartley, superintendent and engineer, T. M. Maxwell, treasurer and collector, Miss M. E. Robinson, auditor, M. P. Kearney, assessor and secretary. P. H. Griffin has been the attorney for the district from its organization. The district has been fortunate in not having had any litigation.
The Oakdale District is now contemplating the construction of a storage reservoir and electric power plant at Melones on the Stanislaus river. The design of this project is to furnish water for late irrigation and also to supply the inhabitants of the district with electric power and light.
The Waterford Irrigation District a district containing 14,110 acres adjacent to the Modesto District was organized on September 15, 1913, with the following officers: directors, J. L. Prouty, A. E. Ketchum, and Al Gatzman, collector, C. C. Horsley; treasurer, Guy Laughlin; and assessor, J. M. Finley. The bonded indebtedness of this district is $670,000. It contains 42 miles of district ditches and 53 miles of private canals. The lands of this district are advantageously situated as regards drainage, lying as they do between the Tuolumne river and Dry Creek, which affords natural drainage facilities. This district has a capital investment of over $650,000 in its system of irrigation.
The water supply of this district is diverted from the Tuolumne river to the amount of 250 cubic second feet and in addition has purchased for the sum of $170,000 a perpetual right to six months' use of the prior water right on that stream, which supply affords it an abundant water supply for late summer and fall irrigation so advantageous for fruit and alfalfa growing.
The Waterford District paid the Modesto District the sum of $254,000 for the perpetual right to run the waters of the Waterford District through the main canals of the Modesto District. It is therefore amply supplied with water and the facilities for placing it on the lands contained within its boundaries. The upper main canal was constructed by Willison & Carmichael and E. C. Wood at a cost of $48,700. The lower main canal was constructed by W. C. Price & Co. and Hoskins Bros. at a cost of $33,500.
The progress of this district has been steady during the last six years. In 1915 the assessed valuation of the lands of the Waterford District was $702,115; in 1916, $732,020; in 1917, $709,858; in 1918, $701,758; in 1919, $705,698; in 1920, $851,018; in 1923, $1,101,633. The acreage devoted to irrigation has also measureably (sic) increased during the same period. In 1918 it was 300 acres; in 1919, 1,023 acres; in 1920, 2,400 acres, and in 1923, 3,786 acres. The number of assessment payers has more than doubled in the past six years. In 1915 there were 104 assessment payers in this district; in 1916, 106; in 1917, 103; in 1918, 120; in 1919, 154; in 1920, 212; and in 1923, 318. It is thus apparent that the Waterford District though small in acreage is rapidly filling with population and will in course of time become as important relatively as the larger districts of the county.
From the fact that this district possesses an abundance of excellent soil and natural drainage, a late fall and abundant supply of water, and that it lies within the famous citrus belt of the San Joaquin valley, it will in a short time become one of the most important fruit and alfalfa producing areas in California. The present character of its crop acreage is alfalfa, all varieties of fruits, nuts, beans, berries, corn, cotton, grain, melons, nursery stock, Kadota figs, etc. Alfalfa produces six cuttings the year. The Waterford District is traversed from east to west by the main concrete thoroughfare of Stanislaus county and from north to south by the Oakdale highway and by the Southern Pacific Railway.
The present officers of the Waterford District are directors, J. L. Prouty, A. E. Ketchum, E. F. Perry; secretary, collector and treasurer, J. R. Browder; assessor, W. A. Cooper; chief engineer, Wm. Lehmkuhl.
When the Oakdale and the Waterford Irrigation District have received their full development there will be no portion of Stanislaus county on the east side of the San Joaquin river not under the beneficent influence of intensive irrigation from the waters that course through the two rivers that fertilize the county. These two latter districts are yet in their infancy. They present wonderful prospects for county development and growth.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Elias, Sol P., Stories of Stanislaus A Collection of Stories on the History & Achievements of Stanislaus County. Modesto, CA. 1924.
© 2012 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.