Saturday, September 22, 2012

New York Canal & Government Dam

Below are a couple more old photo post cards from among my parents belongings. This one is a photograph of my grandpa and grandma (well I guess a ways to go yet before they get that title) Julian, (sometimes aka 'Bill') Steunenberg and Francis ('Fan or Fannie') Beardsley Wood up at Big Creek Idaho in 1906. Grandma Francis probably wrote that note on the front. 
Julian Steunenberg & Francis Beardsley Wood.
"Big Creek Idaho 1906 Not married yet" JTR Collection
They aren't married yet here but would be soon on October 16th, 1906 in Caldwell, Idaho. Julian had left Walla Walla College after his fathers assassination on 12/30/1905 and did not return. Francis was one of the few bright spots that could bring happiness back into his life after that dreadful day. His mother, my great grandma Belle Steunenberg, gave her blessing to their getting married as she no doubt could see it would help pull Julian out of his doldrums. Gramps would have been about twenty years old and grandma eighteen or so. I can see the glint in their eyes as the love is blossoming!  

Now married for about 2 1/2 years, the following two postcards were written by Julian to Francis. The are postmarked April 18, 1909 from Pocatello, ID and mailed to Mrs. J.P. (Julian Pope) Steunenberg in Roseburg, OR. Gramps was actually staying in Twin Falls, probably for work, but had come to Pocatello to get a "piece of steel" removed from his eye. Or he may have been working on the NY Canal project and hence these postcards. Grandma was likely staying in Roseburg, Oregon where much of the Wood side of the family had settled. Ralph Maxson Wood and Eva Beardsley Wood were her parents. Grandma Francis would have been pregnant by now with their first child, my Aunt Doris, to be born August 7th, 1909 in Caldwell, ID where the family would remain for a few years.
From JTR Collection
I actually can't read the day of the postmark on one of the cards but they were marked No. 1 and No. 2 by Julian with continuous writing from one to the other so no doubt were written on the same day. Julian's writing is a tough read but here is what I have been able to transcribe. Thanks to my wife Cindy for helping out. I have taken a few liberties with spelling, punctuation and making my best guess here and here. 
From JTR Collection

"Dear Francis – I got back this morn(ing). Got your 3 letters also one from May. I wish both of the girls I mean May and Gertrude would go down—Eona is gone and its awful lonesome here now and am not able to work yet so may come down and stay for awhile. The weather is fine here.  I hope it is the same there. I was going clear to Shoshone but got a (continued on No. 2 postcard) piece of steel in my eye and could not get it taken out at Twin Falls so had to come here. It was worse than the time I had last Summer. Dr. (?) took it out this morning. I got 2 doctors in Twin Falls and neither could see it. I will write again before I make up my mind about the trip. Forever Bill."

Why Twin Falls and/or Shoshone?  Perhaps Julian was working on the Magic Dam/Reservoir under construction in 1909 on the Big Wood River near Shoshone? Or maybe other reclamation projects nears Twin Falls? All speculation but he was going wherever work could be found. I need to research further to nail town who he is taking about in regards to the names May, Gertrude and Eona.

Here is what Tony Lukas had to say in Big Trouble about the changing Idaho landscape:
    "If the town still had to reckon with dust and mud, at least it had beaten back the dammed desert. Nothing had contributed more to Caldwell's startling prosperity than reclamation of the parched wasteland through a host of irrigation projects. As early as 1864, individual settlers had channeled Indian Creek's waters onto their land. The town's network of roadside 'ditches' got under way in earnest in the 1880s. Later, water was drawn from the Boise River into larger system of reservoirs and canals, dug the hard way with hand plows, scrapers, and shovels. Frank and A.K. Steunenberg, often led by Harry Lowell, invested in many of these projects; recently they'd participated in a more massive scheme to reclaim 250,000 acres in the Twin Falls area, 130 miles to the southeast."

    "The week before, under the heading 'Musings on Our Material Progress,' a Tribune correspondent had extolled the lush cultivation along Caldwell's own Sebree Canal. 'One is favorably impressed,' he wrote, 'with the belief that this country is fast improving in all lines of farming industry when he rides along the canal, as compared with what it was a few years ago. In the haying season, it is no uncommon thing to see from three to eight hay derricks going at once...All we desire is for the Government canals to start, and we will truly be living in 'God's own country.'"
"gov. Dam, Boise River" from JTR Collection
     "The earth was volcanic ash, dry as sawdust but immensely rich. As water seeped into the parched cinders, it turned the landscape from ghostly white to vivid green. Alfalfa, timothy, clover, sugar beets, apples, peaches, an pears all flourished in the fertile new soil. In 1890 alone, Caldwell had planted more than four thousand trees. Seemingly overnight, sagebrush and greasewood gave way to cottonwoods and box elders, Lombardy poplars and catalpas, black willows and elms. Nobody was more thrilled by this transformation than Frank Steunenberg who had ached for the luxuriant foliage of his Iowa youth."
Big Trouble by J. Anthony Lukas

Soon the government canals would begin construction and water would flow from the New York Canal into Lake Lowell, named after Frank's and A.K.s business partner Harry Lowell. The Idaho desert was transforming into lush fertile farmland.
"Opening of New York Canal, Feb. 22, 1909" from JTR Collection 
More info:

The Idaho and Oregon Land Improvement Company
An interesting letter compliments of Ben over in Eagle, ID

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