STORIES OF STANISLAUS
A Collection of Stories on the History and Achievements of Stanislaus County
Sol P. Elias
Progress Under Irrigation
The 3,757 acres of land that went under irrigation in the Turlock District in 1901 rose to 21,000 in 1905, and the 6,905 acres of land in the Modesto District that were placed under the influence of the water of the canals in 1904, rose to 10,500 in 1905. The year of 1905 is thus arbitrarily fixed as the beginning of the irrigated era in these two districts for the purpose of marking their growth as well as that of the county, for the reason that it required two or three years to secure the fruition of this irrigated area in the county returns. The statistics for the previous years are to be found in previous chapters from which comparisons may be made, if desired. It is now purposed to trace the development of the county under irrigation. It will prove an enlightening illustration of the utility of water on the lands as well as of the value of harmony in the affairs of the districts to the growth, the progress and the development of the irrigated area and to the county at large. In viewing the figures the reader should note the statistics of previous eras and years.
The area of the county in 1905 was, as it had always been, 1,486 square miles or 965,900 acres. The number of farms was 2,970. The acreage assessed was the entire area. The value of county real estate was $8,394,460 of improvements thereon $900,585, city and town lots $578,225, improvements thereon $843,630, personal property $1,802,130. The total value of all property in the county was $12,655,980. There were 625 miles of public roads. The amount expended for bridges was $27,995.92, and on roads $43,896.00. The value of the county buildings was placed at $70,000. The 300 miles of irrigation ditches was valued at $587,900. 120.18 miles of steam railroad were assessed at $1,628,445.
The three electric plants were assessed at $18,000. The sixty-four miles of electric power lines were assessed at $18,560. Including the area devoted to irrigation outside of the districts there were 46,080 acres under irrigation.
In 1910 the acreage of the Modesto District devoted to irrigation was 28,197 acres; that of the Turlock District 64,798. The number of parcels of land in the Turlock District had risen from 1,009 in 1905 to 2,900 in 1910. The assessed value of the county property in 1910 was as follows: real estate other than town and city lots $13,481,695, improvements on the same $1,406,175, city and town lots $1,401,205, improvements on the same $1,364,440, value of improvements on real estate $621,220 – total value of all real estate and improvements $18,274,735. Personal property $2,705,490, money $153,970, solvent credits $49,810. The total value of all property in the county in 1910 was $21,184,005. In the five years the county values had increased $8,528,025. The increased acreage of irrigated land in these five years in the Modesto district was 17,697 acres, in the Turlock District 43,798 acres – total increase in the two districts 61,495 acres. These five years were years of influx of population, of development, of settlement, of increasing values due to water, of productivity and of progress in the cities in these districts. Modesto and Turlock moved onward by leaps and bounds in their effort to keep pace with the development of the surrounding country.
The assessed value of the county in 1915 was as follows: real estate other than city and town lots $16,486,790, improvements on the same $2,632,085, city and town lots $2,295,740, improvements on the same $2,693,970, value of improvements on real estate assessed to other than owners of real estate $627,335 – total value of real estate and improvements $24,735,920. Personal property $4,295,025, money $66,855, solvent credits $55,045 – total value of all non-operative property $29,152,845. Operative roll – real estate $92,250, improvements $466,955, personal property, including money and solvent credits $617,720 – total value of operative property $1,176,925. Total value of all property in the county $30,329,770.
The increase for this period of five years from 1910 to 1915 was $9,145,765. In 1915 the acreage under irrigation in the Modesto District had risen to 51,915 acres and in the Turlock District it had increased to 95,698. The prosperity and advancement of the county under irrigation are reflected in the enhanced values.
In 1920 there were 58,823 acres under irrigation in the Modesto District. In 1920 the net area irrigated in the Turlock District was 103,407 acres. This acreage is reflected in the property valuation of the county which is as follows: real estate inside incorporated towns and cities $3,593,855, improvements on the same $3,991,415, real estate outside incorporated towns and cities $23,884,895, improvements on the same $3,547,300, value of improvements on real estate assessed to others than owners of real estate, inside, $21,490, outside $834,355. Total value of real estate and improvements $35,873,310. Personal property, inside $3,142,185, outside $5,828,590; money, inside $93,295, outside $58,565, solvent credits, inside $37,180, outside $10,050. Total value of non-operative property $45,043,175. Operative roll: real estate $243,215, improvements $569,955; personal property including money and solvent credits $971,325. Total value of all operative property $1,784,495. Grand total of all property of the county $46,827,670. The total increase from 1915 to 1920 in the county valuation is the sum of $16,497,900. The total assessed value of the county in 1921 was $53,689,355. In 1922 the total assessed value was $53,514,230. In 1923, it was $54,285,170. As the county valuation in 1905 was $12,655,980, it is apparent that the county's assessed valuation more than quadrupled during the period of the fifteen or sixteen years from the beginning of the irrigation era in 1905. The reader should contrast these figures with those indicated under the epoch of litigation and stagnation when, under the baleful influence of these two causes, the valuations yearly decreased. Surely water and harmony are the twin precursors and accompaniments of progress and wealth and prosperity.
The growth of Modesto as reflected in its increased property valuations from period to period is an excellent index of the result of the successful irrigation movement to the city that early in its career became the cradle of the communal irrigation idea in which all the plans and expedients were threshed out from which the Wright act evolved.
In 1910 this valuation rose to $2,295,425. In 1915 the assessed value of the property of Modesto was as follows: real estate $2,290,855, improvements thereon $1,412,480, personal property, money and solvent credits $617,505, deductions $25,440. Total value $4,295,400. In 1920 it was as follows: real estate $3,895,810, improvements thereon $2,178,265, personal property, solvent credits and money $1,865,885, deductions $47,540; total value $7,892,420. Total valuation for 1921 is $9,768,005. The assessed value in 1922 was as follows: real estate $4,167,875, improvements $5,425,675, personal property $2,023,870. The total is $11,617,420. From 1905 to 1922 the increase in Modesto was over seven fold. Turlock, Oakdale and Ceres show the same steady increase in assessed values from year to year.
The increase in the county's population has been phenomenal during the decades from 1880 to the present time. The population of the county in 1880 was 8,751; in 1890, 10,040; in 1900, 9,550; in 1910, 22,522; in 1920, 43,557. The population of Modesto in 1880 was 1,693; in 1890, 2,402; in 1900, 2,024; in 1910, 4,034; in 1920, 9,241. Turlock, which in 1880 possessed a population of 175, rose to 203 in 1890, to 1,573 in 1910, and to a magnificent city of 3,394 in 1920. Oakdale rose from 1,035 in 1910 to 1,745 in 1920. Newman from 892 in 1910 rose to 1,251 in 1920. Ceres is given a population of 637 in 1920 and Patterson, a new town, the population of 694 by the same census. The population of other cities is not reported in the 1920 census reports. Hughson, Denair, Waterford, Riverbank, Valley Home, Salida, Montpelier and Empire have received additions to their respective populations during the past ten years and have become thriving communities.
In every line of human endeavor – public, private, collective or individual, - the county under irrigation has made most remarkable strides. Chapter after chapter could be written of this progress in the various spheres of agricultural, industrial, commercial and educational activity. The application of the water to the soil had produced industries and brought into existence beneficent conditions that were undreamt by the pioneers who strove so zealously in the infancy of the irrigation movement. It has filled the county with prosperity – the evidences of which are visible on all sides and in every portion of the county.
In the no distant future – Stanislaus county – now important – will become one of the most populous counties in California. It will rank among the first in industry, in agriculture, in wealth, and in civic progress. Its career has just begun. Its future is boundless.
In concluding this history of the irrigation movement in Stanislaus county the writer desires to pay his humble tribute to the irrigation pioneers who in the county's infancy beheld its future greatness and with indomitable pluck and energy, despite all opposition and difficulties – though the way was long and sometimes dark and apparently impenetrable – accomplished the full fruition of their vision. They were men of stalwart mould – truly pioneers who blazed the way in the transformation of the pristine wilderness into an empire of fertility and prosperity and progress. They had faith. They were not dreamers but workers. No toil was too severe – no tribute too great – no sacrifice too heavy for them to endure for the place in which they had made the home. The Stanislaus of today – the Stanislaus of the future – is their living, everlasting monument.
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.